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.
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.
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
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.
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!