It’s a tricky one to place if I’m honest. For the last week or so I’ve been pummeling zombies with the various weapons you can find or craft, but I can’t help but feel I’ve done it all before. There is an overwhelming sense of déjà vu about Dead Island: Riptide. Once again you’re stranded on a tropical island that’s been over run with the rotting undead, you’ve got a story that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and the gameplay is basically Dead Island 1.5, oh, and there’s a ton of bugs and glitches. So pretty similar to Dead Island, wouldn’t you say?
For starters, the story. I’m a big fan of story telling in video games (I’m one of the rare folk who play the Call of Duty games for the story and then dip in the multiplayer later) and it’s a shame to see that Dead Island: Riptide doesn’t seem to make the effort to present a story worth telling. It starts out meaning well, but once you’ve gotten past opening sequence where you learn how the survivors come to be stranded on yet another island, you’re suddenly missing two of your party and nobody seems to give a damn. Seriously, it’s not even mentioned that they’ve spontaneously disappeared, they’re just gone and nobody cares. Maybe that’s the world these characters live in now, people are expendable and once they’re gone they’re gone, or maybe it’s a bit of an oversight by the writers. I’m going with the latter.
Characters aren’t fleshed out either, they’re just your average NPC that constantly asks you to do them a favour. Little is done to make us care about whether they live or die, they’re just part of the expendable cast unfortunately. That being said, they are voiced very well, although some are a little bland and sound as if they’ve been practising their lines for weeks and then it’s their big moment and BAM! – they balls it up with a monotonous performance. That pretty much sums up the characters, but if you really want some great character interaction, get some mates to play with you. Co-op is back and is great fun with people you know, you can have a laugh, plan ahead, shout out enemies etc etc. I’m not really big on multiplayer within single player campaigns, but Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide are prime examples of why they are a good thing, though that’s not to say every game should do it.
It’s not all bad, how could a game that lets you turn zombie heads to mush be all bad?! The gameplay is pretty much identical to Dead Island in the respect that it’s an open-world RPG/action zombie game, but there’s been little done to change the core gameplay. For some this won’t be a bother, just means you’ll be instantly familiar with what’s what, but for others like myself, it just feels like a bit of a let down. In the weeks and months running up to the release of Dead Island: Riptide we were all told there’d be new gameplay mechanics, new missions to engage in and new enemies to tackle and for the most part, they were pretty spot on.
You’re able to import your character from Dead Island and get yourself a nice big boost, saving a few hours of grinding to fill out the skill tree whilst the new missions (or quests if you prefer…) are a bit of a let down.
One new mission sees you acting the hero and saving stranded survivors from mobs of the unruly dead whilst they are stranded. Pretty simple and straight forward, just go in and bash the zombies, job done. And that’s it. The potential for fun is there, but they just feel a bit like filler missions that were put in to bump up the playtime, not that it needs it as you’ll definitely get your monies worth if it’s play time your after. The usual quests from Dead Island make a return, help other survivors find this, find that, save him, save her as well as the main story quests.
The next new mission is the siege-type missions which are pretty fun to be fair, but are relatively rare in comparison to the “survivor in distress” side missions. You’ll need a bit more tactical prowess rather than just running in and smashing the undead mush out of the zombies, which make a nice change of pace. Gearing up and making sure you’re well equipped is vital and really makes you think “shit, it’s about to kick off.” I personally liked them and saw them as a highlight, the feeling that you might not come out of it alive is what makes it a thrill, something missing in a lot of the games of today. It’s just a pity that they aren’t as frequent as the other missions, because we all know that going off and finding something for someone is pretty much standard in any RPG, but using your head in combat, that’s the real rarity.
It’s not all bad by any means, just a bit too much has come over from Dead Island, which, as I said before is both a blessing and a curse. The biggest curse is the sheer amount of bugs and glitches present. You’d think that after Dead Island and its numerous bugs which prompted thousands of angry forum posts and tweets, Techland and Deep Silver would make sure their product made it out of the gate in the best possible condition. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Graphical glitches are abound and zombies spawn in front of you. Seriously, you just kill a group and turn around and they’ve miraculously appeared as if they’ve been beamed down from the U.S.S Enterprise, giving you little room to breathe or room to move, resulting in more than my fair share of cheap deaths.
The world you’re free to explore is well done, despite the occasional graphical hiccups. The lush vistas and colourful, vibrant island seems like such and odd place for zombies to be, you could actually imagine it as a proper paradise if only the undead weren’t mooching about for brains. Them zombies…
Word of warning, if you’ve got a weak stomach and can’t handle blood and guts even in digital form, there’s plenty here. Zombies fall and die by your hand in the most spectacular ways. Chop off the head, slice of an arm or two, maybe cripple the legs and do in the head whilst they flail around helplessly on the ground, it’s up to you. If you’re a gruesome bugger (I am) you can then start hacking away at their dead-again body and really make sure they will never come back. It’s disgusting and I did get a stern telling off from my partner as she walked in to see me giggling like a maniac whilst chopping away at the legs of a dead-again zombie. Women… (Not all women, just my one.)
Whilst it’s infuriating, there is some fun to be had. To be honest, there’s a lot of fun to be had. If you enjoyed Dead Island, you’ll enjoy the grind and combat in Dead Island: Riptide, but be warned: the games got bugs. I expect there will be some patches deployed over the first few weeks after launch, so it may be worth holding off on putting your $60 or £45 down just yet, though if you really want to get back into the tropical zombieland, go for it.
Dead Island: Riptide manages to retain the feel and gameplay of Dead Island, but changes little in the process, you’ll get the feeling you’ve been there and done that all before. Still, the game’s rich in detail and plays well, despite the numerous glitches and bugs, some of which force you to restart the game or worse, crashes the console. If it’s a zombie slasher you’re after, you could do worse, but maybe re-visit Dead Island and wait a while before investing in Dead Island: Riptide, simply due to the amount of polish it really needs.
Gameplay: Combat is still gruesome, yet still unnerving and satisfying, especially when you land the perfect “head-chop.” Greater emphasis on melee combat rather than gunplay, dependant on the player this could go either way. 7/10
Sound: Don’t be afraid to admit to being scared of the zombies that scream and run at you, I was too. They sound terrifying and made me jump a few times. (Lots of times.) Bones breaking and flesh being slashed all sounds too real for comfort whilst characters are voiced well, if a little on the bland side. 7/10
Presentation: Navigating the skill tree can be a bit of a pain in the arse, as can organising your group, but it’s pretty simple once you’ve had a mess around. 8/10
Story: In a word: Lacking. Lots of plot holes, daft writing and simply confusing. 5.0
Graphics: The world is densely populated and well detailed, though graphical anomalies seem to thrive on the island of the dead. 7.0
Replay Value: Maybe once some patches have been released you’ll want to play through again, but the first time round was just about enough for me. You can easily get more than 20 hours if you spread out and explore a bit whilst taking on some side missions. 8.0