Dead Island: Riptide Review: “When there’s no more room in hell, this game will walk the earth”
Authored by Andrew Esposito
Dead Island: Riptide is the follow up to Techlands 2011 zombie-romp, Dead Island. The game takes place immediately following the events of the original game and has our returning four heroes (plus a new hero, John) surviving on a new island after they’re shipwrecked in a storm escaping Banoi.
For those of you that have never played the original, Dead Island is an open world action role-playing, survival horror game. (Wow, that’s a mouthful). While the story is a continuation from the first game, I believe you can pick up Riptide and understand exactly what’s going on without playing its predecessor (if you’re inclined to do so).
Zombie outbreak on a tropical island, again.
Well, it’s actually the same outbreak from the first game, which has just spread to another one of the islands of Banoi. Right after the end of the first game, our heroes are safe and are being transported back to civilization. However, Frank Serpo and co have a different plan for them.
After some opening dialogue and a brief tutorial, you find yourself on a sinking boat trying to survive in the middle of a deadly storm. Long story short, you wash up on the shore of a new island, and your adventure begins.
Dead Island: Riptide follows the same quest structure from the original game. There is a series on “main quest” missions as well as a multitude of side missions. I will talk a little bit more about the side missions in the “gameplay” section of this review. As for the main quest, you are given a variety of different things to do throughout the game.
Most of these quests have you running from point a to point b, scouting new locations, or finding a necessary item for the group. The story is nothing to marvel over. It’s there to lay a foundation for the game. Ultimately, you will want to see it out to the end to understand what the heck is going on with this zombie outbreak.
This is where the “meat” of Riptide lies. The Dead Island franchise is all about intense, hand-to-hand, melee combat. Riptide continues to deliver on this front. Each one of the five characters specializes in a specific area. One character excels at firearms while another can hit a target a mile away with a throwing knife. I chose to play as my main man; Sam B. Sam B is a one-hit wonder rap artist who excels using blunt weapons.
A neat part about Dead Island is that each one of these characters feels and plays differently. Although this is the case, at the end of the game I found myself leaning towards blades and guns instead of my specialty because they did the most damage.
Dead Island: Riptide allows you to import your save from the original Dead Island. This means that the hours and hours you put into making sure your Xian was the best, will not go to waste. You don’t have to do this however. I played the original game on the PC, so I began a new Sam B for Riptide and it was just fine.
Early on, melee weapons are key. I nicknamed myself “the hammer” at the beginning of the game because my “main” weapon was a high-damage hammer. While you might begin favoring one weapon over another, balance and variety is key. Each weapon in the game has a durability rating. This rating dictates how much a particular item can be used before it becomes “blunt” and useless. If this happens, don’t worry. There are conveniently located, workbenches littered throughout the island where you can repair your weapon. It’s at these workbenches where you can upgrade and mod your weapons as well. Do you want an electrified police baton? Well, you can have it.
What makes Riptide’s combat different is the stamina bar. You cannot just go in there and swing away like a madman. This is because your stamina will run out and you will be left for dead. This leads to a clever balance of running in, making a few calculated swings, and then backing up to let your stamina recharge.
Each character also has a fury ability that they’re equipped with. This ability is different for each character and can help get you out of a sticky situation. Sam B’s haymaker fury lets him go berserk and use his fists to smash some zombie brains.
You’re able to upgrade all of your abilities through the use of the skill tree. Throughout the game you will gain experience for each zombie you kill and quest you complete. This experience will let you level up. Each level you gain garners you a skill point. You can use these skill points in one of three areas; survival, combat and fury.
The quests in Riptide are what make up the experience. I have already talked about the main story missions but the side missions are what will keep you busy for hours. Many of them are rescue missions, where you will have to kill a bunch of zombies for a tourist stuck on top of an RV. There are a lot of RV’s on this island. While the side quests are bountiful, after a while I just didn’t find them to be that beneficial.
A nice thing about Dead Island: Riptide is that the difficulty scales with the player. For instance; at the end of the game I was level 45, so the final boss was level 45 as well. This will obviously be different for each player.
Another type of side mission is what I call a “character quest.” There will be times when you have to fight with the rest of the characters from the game, defending a base from a horde of zombies. You’re able to go on specific missions that will level-up these other characters so when the time for those horde missions, they will be more than capable of putting up a fight. You don’t have to do these missions, but I recommend them.
Speaking about those horde mode moments, there are a ton of them. I have nothing against these types of missions but Riptide does it way too often. I counted about seven times when I encountered this. Each time the environment might be different, but it’s the same thing over and over again. It got really tedious during the late game.
Dead Island: Riptide is best with friends. The game supports four-player drop in/drop out online co-op. It was easy dropping into my friend’s games and vice versa. We loved just goofing off in the world and killing some zombies. The game is also a blast with strangers. Whenever you are playing solo, if a player is near, the game will inform you of this and with a push of a button you’re in that player’s game.
I encountered a lot of bugs throughout my time with Dead Island: Riptide. Now, it’s nearly impossible to find every bug in an expansive, open-world game like this, but I encountered way too many for what is the final version of the game. Many of these were geometry based; however one that I encountered wouldn’t let me progress further in the game. I was in an area during the last 10% of the game and I went through a door. The game glitched and put me in this “limbo” state. When I went to reload from my last checkpoint, everything was fine, but I lost some of my progress, which made me upset. A finished, “AAA” game should not have these problems.
The game looks decent…for the most part. In game, the graphics are good. The environments look nice, they’re detailed, and you feel like you’re right there on this tropical island. It’s the cut scenes that I had a problem with. The characters look stiff and their mouths sometimes are out of sync with what they’re saying. I know that might be nitpicking, but it was enough to take me out of the story at specific moments.
Overall, Dead Island: Riptide is a decent game. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not. At its core this game is just more Dead Island. To some people this is a good thing, for others they will stay far away from this game.
If you enjoyed the original game or are a fan of the zombie genre then I advise you to give Riptide a try. You will be getting hours of entertainment. (Especially if you play with your friends).
Dead Island: Riptide could have been so much more. With a lackluster story, too many bugs, and repetitious quests/gameplay, Riptide falls short of being a great game.
Dead Island: Riptide was given to us by Deep Silver to review; The campaign took me about 10 hours to complete (doing all side-missions as well). I played the campaign solo as well as co-op with some friends. I hacked and slashed my way through many of zombies…..they were no match for Sam B.