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Dead Island: Riptide (PC) Review

/ Apr 22nd, 2013 No Comments

Dead Island: Riptide
Dead Island: Riptide

Dead Island: Riptide (PC) Box Art

Dead Island: Riptide is an action-RPG meets survival-horror hybrid for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game is a direct sequel to the 2011 title, Dead Island. Techland developed the sequel to the popular Dead Island giving gamers another go at open-world zombie killings. Deep Silver in conjunction with Square-Enix once again are publishing and distributing the title. Techland’s previous work include many productions of licensed games, but they are best known for the Call of Juarez series outside of their work on Dead Island. Riptide places gamers back in control of the original survivors from the first game and lets them loose in a new setting to wreck some damage on the undead.

Story

Riptide’s story picks up right where Dead Island left off with the immune (Xian Mei, Purna, Sam B and Logan) and a prisoner named Kevin escaping in a helicopter. They manage to find a ship at sea and land the helicopter on a huge vessel. When they land, the military quickly detains them and locks them in a cabin in the ship. Their detainment is ordered by a shifty man named Frank Serpo. Once quarantined, scientists begin performing tests on the immune. When they wake up, they find another immune survivor named John Morgan. None are happy about their imprisonment, but lucky for them things go south quickly. Infected soon overrun the ship, now free from their cell, the immune must do what they do best. Kill zombies. They just do not work fast enough, and soon the ship goes under. The immune wash up on the island of Palanai and meet up with a woman named Harlow and a small group of other survivors. Now the immune and this new group of survivors must work together to figure out how to get somewhere safe, what this whole outbreak is and who is responsible for the dead coming back to life.

The tone of the story is super serious, everything is treated with a huge weight with little room for levity. While the approach is admirable, it sometimes make the game unrelenting with little room to breathe. This tone marks one of the major problems with the game which is character development. Throughout the game, the immune that the player chooses as an avatar never quite seems truly invested in finding a solution outside of them simply wanting not to die. None of them really seem to have stakes in the outcome. While the little back stories upon selecting a character are interesting and a nice touch, those never seem to have bearing on the character’s motivation. The player never gets much deeper than they want to survive and their minor backstory. Some of the plot twists and developments are actually pretty interesting. Finding out the truth behind the whole outbreak was quite satisfying.

Gameplay

Dead Island: Riptide

Sometimes all a zombie needs is a slice with a electrified katana.

Who needs a staff with two saw blades attached at the end? That is possible in Dead Island: Riptide. Riptide’s gameplay focuses mainly on melee combat between heavy, blunt and blade weapons for the majority of the game making the key tenants of the game very hack and slash-y. Running and swinging weapons will drain a player’s stamina, so effective management of stamina is necessary when taking on huge hordes of zombies. Half way through the game, the player will gain access to guns, but the guns are never as satisfying as a flaming machete. The biggest draw of the combat is Riptide’s weapon maintenance system. Players can upgrade weapons and mod them with various intriguing and deadly weapon mods to make killing zombies a personal statement. While weapon modding adds some much needed damage to the tools of dismemberment, the RPG character perks will help give players a necessary edge. The game features three skill trees to upgrade fury (the ultimate kill mode), combat and survival, which will make moving through Palanai and Henderson a much less frustrating experience. The mix of first-person perspective and melee focused combat is fascinating and often works very well.

Riptide features a 4-player co-op mode and this is the best way to enjoy the experience offered in the game. While single-player is certainly manageable, it takes several hours before taking out zombies solo is not simply a massive series of deaths. With one or three other people, killing the sometimes huge hordes of zombies becomes less of an exercise in futility and controlled carnage. Co-op is necessary early in the game as it will help level up quickly and move from weak and ineffectual characters to zombie slaying bad asses. For the most part, killing minor zombies is no big deal alone, but it is when the game introduces the more buffed up and crazy enemies that having a friend will become hugely beneficial. Having one person distract with bullets while one or two players concentrate on melee makes taking down tough zombies less death-y. The only issue with co-op is the revival mechanic, which requires medkits to work. Unless a group is equally stocked with medkits, it makes reviving a fallen team member less inviting.

Graphics and Sound

Dead Island: Riptide

Kind of took a huge spill there.

The visuals of Riptide are great. Palanai is a lush island that verges on being a paradise with clear water and verdant greenery, but moving from the coast island and the depth of destruction is plain to see. Everything is overrun by corpses, decay and the dead shambling around. Henderson the second major area has a great look of a tourist town ravaged by an aggressive outbreak. Both areas make for a stark contrast and harrowing environment to explore. There is a great amount of scale to the open-world environments of Palanai and Henderson. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore in the game. Watching corpse burst to life is frightening and the sound design with the zombies is great. The soundtrack is sparse and often not there. Sound in Riptide mainly focuses on ambient noise and the screams of zombies either about to attack or feeding on a corpse. Voice acting is solid often bordering on great and gives depth to characters where the writing often lacks. The major issue with the character models is the often flat, dead and terrifying hair. Faces are expressive, but some bad hair tends to undercut the effect of a woman pouring her heart out about the world going to hell.

Overall

Dead Island: Riptide is a fun game. It features huge areas that offer great opportunities to explore. The writing treats the threat of the dead coming back to life with appropriate weight, but forgets that what makes zombie stories good is a focus on the living. Gameplay is effective and often satisfying, the RPG and weapon mod systems help add depth to a fairly simple zombie hacking affair. While fully possible to complete the game solo, the game truly shines with three friends. So, for anyone ready to dig into Riptide make sure to find some buddies to help take out the scourge of the infected with shark modded bats!

DEAD ISLAND: RIPTIDE (PC) REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall80%

GAMEPLAY8.5

Gameplay in Riptide mixes enough systems to keep the main hack and slash/shooting of zombies interesting. Upgrading and modding weapons adds some new spins to dismembering zombies. The RPG elements are also a good touch, which allows for customization.

GRAPHICS8

The two major worlds of Palanai and Henderson look great. Their differences are noticeable, but both have the same desolate feeling that sells this zombie apocalypse. Despite some issues with hair at points, the character models are rendered well.

SOUND8

Voice acting in Riptide is very good even when the character development lacks, the voice acting manages to give some life to the survivors and immune. The soundtrack is mainly ambient noise and zombie grunts, it helps to maintain the grave tone.

STORY7.5

The story is a hugely serious affair where the immune are keen on tracking down a way off their imprisoned island and larger answers as to why the outbreak happened. There is not a huge amount of character development, so despite the serious tone, it is hard to invest too much into the story.

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Associate Editor/Editorial Lead at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. Currently, he lives in Tustin, California. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
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DEAD ISLAND: RIPTIDE (PC) REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall80%

GAMEPLAY8.5

Gameplay in Riptide mixes enough systems to keep the main hack and slash/shooting of zombies interesting. Upgrading and modding weapons adds some new spins to dismembering zombies. The RPG elements are also a good touch, which allows for customization.

GRAPHICS8

The two major worlds of Palanai and Henderson look great. Their differences are noticeable, but both have the same desolate feeling that sells this zombie apocalypse. Despite some issues with hair at points, the character models are rendered well.

SOUND8

Voice acting in Riptide is very good even when the character development lacks, the voice acting manages to give some life to the survivors and immune. The soundtrack is mainly ambient noise and zombie grunts, it helps to maintain the grave tone.

STORY7.5

The story is a hugely serious affair where the immune are keen on tracking down a way off their imprisoned island and larger answers as to why the outbreak happened. There is not a huge amount of character development, so despite the serious tone, it is hard to invest too much into the story.

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