When it comes to Dead Island there seems to be no true middle ground, you either liked it or you detested it. From the moment the perception bending video went viral to the moment I put down the controller for the last time with the original Dead Island, I was in love with the concept, the style and the attitude the game purveyed.
Yes it was flawed. Yes the acting was laughable, gameplay bugs would occasionally find you trapped inside scenery, and lag spikes would give you more of a jump scare than most of the in game attempts to do the same, but when all was said and done, this game did more right than it did wrong in my opinion. A burgeoning Zombie infested world to explore at your own pace, side quests a plenty, entertainingly flimsy vehicle mechanics, an RPG levelling system, but most of all a loot system that would put many an MMO to shame. True, the similarities between Dead Island and Borderlands for its loot, reactive npc levelling system and skill trees are blatant and quite honestly downright identical, but just like Borderlands, Dead Island had a special something. Its Multiplayer.
This was in all honesty, not a single player game, although it could be played that way. This was a game to enjoy with like minded individuals who also liked the idea of running around like lunatics crushing/slashing/shooting zombies with custom modified weapons, or just relaxing on the beach playing Stomp the Zombie to see who could get the biggest critical kick. This was made to be played with friends. Dead Island’s drop in, drop out co-op system was praised for its simplicity and stability, and it still stands the test of time today.
So, you may be wondering, why exactly am I going on about Dead Island like some rampant fanboy? Well the answer is simple, and comes straight from the developers mouth. You see, Dead Island : Riptide is NOT a sequel. Its does not have a revised engine, improved graphics or major gameplay changes. Dead Island : Riptide is Dead Island version 1.1. When Deep Silver announced that this was not meant to be a follow up to the original, a lot of people dismissed this game, or believed this statement was just a red herring to keep people off guard. This was not the case. For all their flaws, they were honest and up front with the everyday punter who buys their games and they are fully aware we are out there, having been quoted stating that DI : Riptide is a developers love sonnet to the overwhelming amount of gamers who fell in love with their first outing.
Now Dead Island Riptide has been taking a beating from reviewers all over, but reading so many say how disappointed they were with the graphics or gameplay does take me aback. The fact that Deep Silver blatantly confirmed that this was a follow up story using existing tech quite some considerable time before release has conveniently slipped the mind of many a reviewer or, just as likely, they weren’t aware of the fact in the first place.
So now that I confirm that I am aware this is on the existing tech, and is built with existing assets, I can tell you why I found Dead Island : Riptide to be a disappointment.
Riptide picks up immediately where the first game left off, with you escaping the island in a helicopter piloted by Charon, only to land on a military ship and be shuffled off to quarantine. When Yerema bites one of the soldiers removing her to the labs below deck, you are all too aware what is going to happen next. Before the inevitable Zombie-a-thon, you are introduced to a fifth character in the form of John Morgan who is also immune, and served as an ADF soldier who was flown into nearby Palanoi to grant “humanitarian” aid to the civilians of the islands. With the ability to import your original characters, complete with levels to Riptide, this character is an addition for those new to the franchise or the completionists who played through the previous title with every character. Group balance is maintained with Morgan being a hand to hand specialist, which complements the existing focus on ranged, bladed, firearms and thrown weapon specialists in the form of Sam B, Xian Mei, Purna and Logan.
Sadly, should you decide to import, you won’t find much room to grow your characters, as this new release, (currently), only allows an additional ten levels to your existing build, increasing maximum level cap to 70.
The opening section continues, with you finally escaping your cell after the inevitable outbreak hits right in the middle of a monsoon, and you are soon traversing through the bowels of the ship dispatching the recently living crew to make your way to the deck. Clearing the ship of undead, you are unfortunately too late and the ship is soon run aground sending those who survived the night, into the churning monsoon waters.
Waking on a beach, you are introduced to a new group of islanders, and once again take to facing the zombie horde on the behalf of these non-immune survivors in a host of repeatable, side and main quests in order to once again escape this island “paradise”. A couple of the major additions to the game are introduced early on. Firstly you have the companion Missions. These missions task you with collecting specific items typically used in crafting and supplying them to the group to improve their overall weapons/skills or reduce their trading prices. These weapon/skill improvements come into play during the second new section: horde missions. Horde events task you with surviving waves of enemies and to do so, you must reinforce your current base. This is kept relatively simple, with sections of wire mesh and their corresponding entrances highlighted on your map at the beginning of the quest. Although these secure the site, they simply buy you time allowing you to attempt to stem the influx of enemies. This works surprisingly well, but later missions where the wave size is much larger were almost unbearably laggy with so much going on at the one time.
The island of Palanoi’s environment is strikingly similar to Banoi’s Jungle and city sections, but with the impact of the monsoon evident, most of the island is criss-crossed with waterways and newly formed lakes. Graphically, these environs are no more detailed than its predecessor, so it does look slightly dated when compared with those games of high graphic fidelity that have been released of late.
With new environments, we also have new special enemy types to accompany the fan favourite Thugs, Suiciders, Floaters and Butchers that were prominent in the first game. The first of these you will encounter is most likely the Drowner. These new mobs float face down in the water like many of the non-infected corpses littering the water strewn world, reacting to nearby sound. When attacking they will attempt to hold you underwater until you run out of O2, as its name implies.
Next we have the Grenadiers, who are infected Hazmat scientists whose exposure to a toxic mutagen has turned them into a walking pile of boils. The Grenadier will typically attack by plunging its arm into its infected torso and tossing an exploding toxic boil at the player.
Again new to this iteration is the Wrestler. These infected are slower and stronger than the relatively common Thug, having one extremely large mutated arm which it uses to crush or knock down players. Able to take out players with one or two hits, this is an enemy you would be wise to take on from a distance.
The Final Special Infected is the Screamer. These enemies are able to omit a high-pitched piercing scream which can incapacitate players, and also alerts all nearby walker and regular infected to the players location.
Apart from the special infected, a new twist on the named infected has been brought forward to this new title. Numerous Boss Zombies appear throughout Dead Island Riptide and with a high risk/reward factor these are definitely the hardest part of the game to solo. These Bosses typical reside in a “DeadZone” instance along with numerous regular enemies usually one or two levels higher than yourself, and these boss mobs typically have several perks that make them ultra powerful, whether it be the ability to regenerate health each time they hit you, or being completely resistant to knock back or knock down, to simply being a Thug build that can move as fast as an infected.
Typically, these instances are the only place you can retrieve the components required for the high end mods, and as such are mostly aimed at end game or co-op content, but some appear as standard side quests during game play. These new additions aside, everything remains approximately the same throughout, which is to be expected of a title that isn’t so much a successor, as a companion title to last year’s release. This is where the game begins to disappoint.
Even when first starting up the missions for the group of survivors you find, it doesn’t do anything fresh or new to ensure you try to get the most out of the game. It simply wills you to continue where you left off, but regrettably I left off at a point where I was beginning to get sick of the similar and ultimately forgettable side quests and I would have dropped this game even sooner without the co-op gameplay and Analog combat system. Thankfully both of these make a comeback, but it is not enough in my mind to warrant an entirely new release.
Those ultra-fans of the original, anyone who has a good group of friends all willing to commit to purchasing this game as a group with the intention to play co-operatively or those that have yet to experience Dead Island will most likely find a lot of enjoyment in this game. If you don’t fall into these categories, you might get some fun from this game, but it will ultimately feel like you are just repeating the actions you have already taken in the previous release.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Platform: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC Release Date: 26/04/13
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Dead Island: Riptide for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on a PlayStation 3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.