After logging some 25+ hours with Dead Island: Riptide, one thing becomes abundantly clear: this game is more expansion than it is sequel. Instead of a trip back to the drawing board, developer Techland seems to have just kept on working, delivering similar content within the same framework.
As a result, reviewing Dead Island: Riptide becomes more of a challenge than it should be, because most of the criticisms that can be raised at the original Dead Island (check out our review of that game) apply almost in cut-and-paste fashion with Riptide. But, for as much as the game retreads and rehashes the same ideas, is it still worth a purchase at its $50 price tag? Read on to find out.
The story in Riptide picks up shortly after the events of the first Dead Island. Our four previously playable characters (and one new, melee-focused character) have seemingly been saved. They’re headed away from Banoi Island on a military freighter when things take a turn for the worse, and before long the characters are on Palanai Island.
Palanai is eerily similar to Banoi, even if it lacks the trademark tropical resort. Instead, the landscape consists of a dense, shanty town-filled jungle, a rather small Ferry station, and a seaside village. All in all, the landmass available for the player to explore (on foot, by car, and now by boat) is diverse, and large enough to make the game’s setting feel substantial. However, while the game’s map feels fully fleshed out, the remainder of its offerings feels oddly hollow.
Combat in Dead Island: Riptide is still as satisfying as ever. Strategically dismembering zombies, micro-managing the horde through well-placed kicks and attacks, and mixing and matching a variety of weapons is still Dead Island‘s bread and butter. And Techland seems to recognize that. Unfortunately, the combat hasn’t evolved in any appreciable fashion since Dead Island. Most of the weapons are carbon copies of those featured in the first game, and many of the problems with combat are still present.
Techland has honed in on something unique with their combat — it’s hard to deny that — but at times the combat gets really clunky and imprecise. When zombies can take players out with one or two swipes, players need to be able to trust that their attacks will hit, and know when they are safe from damage, but often that becomes a guessing game. If nothing else, you would hope Techland dialed in the combat for Riptide, but that’s just not the case.
Additionally, the missions in Dead Island: Riptide come across more as fetch quests than anything else. Few of them feed into the storyline — especially the side quests — and most lack anything resembling innovation or variation. Some of the main story missions even send players into similarly designed, self-contained areas seen in the first game (i.e. the prison, the jungle). As a result, getting through the game’s rather long campaign feels more like a slog than anything else.
The game’s one genuine addition is a series of missions whereby players most hole up in a specific area and outlast a relentless undead attack. Players can fortify key entrances with electrified gates, set traps and mines while preparing, and then they must do their best to survive either until every enemy is dead, or until a specific action is completed. Yes, these are more or less Dead Island‘s version of Call of Duty‘s Zombies mode, but at least it’s something new for this particular franchise.
That being said, the tedium of it all is eased with a co-op partner, and luckily Riptide makes drop-in and drop-out co-op very easy. On the PC, players get a prompt anytime a player is in a similar area, or they can invite players at will in all 3 versions. In some respects, Dead Island is an experience built for multiplayer, as evidenced by the game’s ensemble of characters. The game’s design also seems to support that idea with plenty of missions feeling a little too overwhelming for one player, but wholly manageable with a partner. Playing solo is fine, but co-op leads to far less repetitive actions and a lot less deaths.
Gamers who enjoyed Dead Island‘s unique first person combat will find a lot to like with Riptide. And the game deserves props for scaling enemies and experience based on the player, meaning the challenge is persistent and the next level is always within in reach. But when all is said and done, Dead Island: Riptide doesn’t work hard enough to justify its existence as a standalone title. It’s a repetitive rehash that feels more like Dead Island 1.5 than anything else. In fact, players can load up their previous character, and continue along the same skill tree without missing a beat.
Combat still needs work, but is unique enough that players will still find some entertainment in the limb chomping and weapon customization/upgrading. But don’t be surprised if, just like with the first Dead Island, Riptide starts to overstay its welcome after a few hours. In a lot of ways, it feels like Techland doesn’t know what they have with Dead Island (who it appeals to, and why people might find it appealing), and so they ended up sending out a similar product in the hopes of getting back a better result.
Have you had a chance to check out Dead Island: Riptide? What do you think of the game? Let us know in the comments below.
Dead Island: Riptide is available now for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Game Rant was provided the PC version of this game for review.
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