Dead Island: Riptide Review
Zombie slaying fun, weapon and character upgrade system, 4-man co-op
Lack of original ideas, poor visuals, unlikeable and shallow characters, poorly written story
By Elle Garza
I was one of those people who desperately awaited the arrival of the first Dead Island. I anticipated an emotional story with polished RPG elements and satisfying zombie slaying action. What I got, instead, fell quite short of all my expectations. The story was practically non-existent, the gameplay was repetitive, and the combat was frustrating. When Dead Island: Riptide was announced, I got excited all over again. Theyâ€™d obviously fix things, right? If they did things right, this could be the zombie game weâ€™ve always hoped for. Unfortunately, Riptide failed to manage that.
The survivors, after the events of the previous title, are awakened on Palanai, the sister island of Banoi, and soon find themselves in a very familiar position. The story canâ€™t quite make up its mind, and it plays out like a cheesy b-rated zombie film. Said films are usually great, but Dead Island: Riptide takes itself too seriously to enjoy the comparison. Government conspiracy, scientific endeavors, and survival all intertwine to leave players with a messy and rather boring story. The ending seems to be the most exciting part, if only for the fact that, after forcing your way through the entire campaign (and probably zombifying yourself in the process), youâ€™ve finally finished it.
The poorly represented characters from the original are back, and this time, joined by John Morgan, a Navy cook who specializes in hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately, the characters still suffer from the same shallow writing and tokenism as they did in the first game. John Morgan receives additional background with journals that can be picked up while exploring the island. Other than that, there is little to no development to be found, and the characters still manage to be unlikeableâ€”so unlikeable, youâ€™ll probably find yourself snickering as you watch them die (at least the first few times). Xian Mei, Purna, and Sam B remain horrible reminders of failed diversification. As if their horrid personalities werenâ€™t enough, they also suffer from poor voice acting that has a tendency to resemble a poorly dubbed kung-fu movie.
The missions are time consuming and generally forgettable. The majority of them are fetch quests, with other fetch quests tossed inside, and most of the time, youâ€™re completely unaware of who youâ€™re actually fetching for. The NPCâ€™s are made distinct by a sentence or two, much like MMO quest-givers, and their reasoning behind giving the missions generally seem a bit silly. As a plus, Riptide brings in defense missions, which is arguably one of the biggest changes to the sequel. Players are encouraged to lay mines, build electric fences, and slaughter the living dead in order to defend their base from the undead hordes. These missions are not a significant game changer, however, and these, too, grow stale after the first few times.
The combat remains unchanged from Dead Island. Each character specializes in different weapons. Logan specializes in thrown weapons, Sam B in blunt weapons, John in unarmed, Xian Mei in bladed weapons, and Purna in firearms. The bulk of the combat revolves around melee weapons, though firearms are available. In fact, theyâ€™re available earlier in Riptide than in the original, making Purna significantly more useful. Weapons can be upgraded by scavenging around the island and by finding blueprints for even more designs. Upgrades add a layer of fun to the combat, and thereâ€™s always some sort of pleasure to be found in lighting zombies on fire with your machete. New zombie mutations have been added, too, like Wrestlers and Screamers, and each time comes with unique abilities, helping to spice up otherwise routine combat. Ultimately, though, the combat remains just as bland and frustrating as ever. Targeting issues make even melee combat tedious, and characters spend a good deal of time aimlessly flailing. A stamina bar, meant to give combat a more realistic feel, limits the characterâ€™s combat ability and ultimately does little more than slow an already painfully slow process. While guns are available, theyâ€™re difficult to aim and arenâ€™t particularly easy to use.
It would be preferable to avoid combat altogether, but Riptideâ€™s RPG elements make that impossible. For participating in the repetitive, broken combat system, the player is reward with experience points that will eventually lead to their player leveling up. Each character has various trees and skills that can be explored. Zombies are leveled according to the game, not the player, so leveling is a necessity. In addition, those who have played Dead Island will be able to import their characters into Riptide, bringing their skills along with them.
Surprisingly, the lackluster graphics from the original make a return appearance in Riptide. Screen tears are a common sight on Palanai, and textures (and the occasional lack thereof) are regrettably common, too. The new tropical setting has a lot to offer in terms of visuals. Sadly, though, none of it is there. While the new setting attempted to diversify the visuals the player would experience, theyâ€™re all equally as boring as the one before it. In addition, character models remain largely untouched, meaning the flawed appearances in things like clothing havenâ€™t been fixed, either. They remain incredibly unexpressive and glassily stare as much as their undead foes do.
While co-op exists, it doesnâ€™t do much to make things to more interesting. It tosses a few more missions into the mix, makes combat faster, and playing with your friends always manages to make things more fun. Zombies are scaled for individuals, making the challenge fair across the board.
Dead Island: Riptide doesnâ€™t do anything too terribly new or exciting, and its entirety seems strangely familiar. With so few new features, it feels and plays more like a downloadable expansion than a full game. Fans of the first will find a lot of satisfying, zombie slaying action, but thereâ€™s not much more to like beyond that. Riptide is full of plenty of ideas that never came to fruition, and the final product has become little more than a rehash and repeat of the first.