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Apr 22, 2013

Dead Island Riptide Review

Lights Off
3 Okay
Retails for: $39.99
We Recommend: $23.99
  • Developer: Techland
  • Publisher: Deep Silver
  • Genre: Action, RPG
  • Released: Apr 22, 2013
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox 360
  • Reviewed: Windows

The story picks up immediately where the original ended. Discussion and exposition regarding the virus and those immune to it (the playable characters) emerges some hostile emotion towards the militaristic and the PMC named Serpo, control of your well-being. A torrential storm hits the ship, as does the virus that plagued Banoi. It wouldn’t be much of a continuation if something catastrophic didn’t happen.

Those curious how the immune fit in and what makes them different (the group of playable characters). There’s sciencey explanations that do come to fruition, giving more backstory to what is going on causing this virus and why in the archipelago specifically. It is nice to get some answers rather than keep the fiction vague and overly complex.

This opening does a good job of “tutorializing” you, reintroducing you to the melee combat. It even teases the use of guns which I didn’t see return until a bit later in the game. After being shipwrecked, you’re put back in the thick of decapitating and incapacitating zombies. You’ll set up camp with the survivors from the ship, and it’s up to you and your co-op buddies to find a way to get off the new island you’ve been stranded on, Palanai.

If you’re returning to Dead Island, you can import your old character for use in the new game. If you’re brand new, that’s okay too and can start fresh with one of five people to choose from. New to the series is John, a hand-to-hand expert and prominently features Wolverine’s claws.

These characters, feature specific traits and skills that cater to your playstyle. If you like to punch zombies in the face, hack off limbs, break appendages with blunt weapons, or shoot their nuts with firearms – the options are there. And that’s honestly where all the fun in the game is, in the first-person melee combat.

Riptide continues the inclusion of the RPG elements that made Dead Island a gruesome and bloody Borderlands. You gain XP from breaking bones, hacking off limbs, getting kills, and completing quests. You’ll earn an upgrade point as you level up, and have a skill tree to spend across Fury, Combat, and Survival branches.

Proficiency is gained for using more of the same weapon types on enemies, such as blunt, blade, hand-to-hand, and firearms. Weapon upgrades and mods return and are still important. Finding blueprints that unlock at upgrade stations where you can create concoctions of new weapons such as a fiery baseball bat or a shocking knife. At these stations, you can also repair weapons (at a cost) as they degrade with use.

You can’t just swing with reckless abandon, stamina controls how often you swing or how long you’re able to sprint. It does recharge quickly, but you’ll have to keep an eye on it so you don’t become winded and vulernable to a zombie’s attack. Should you be killed, it is of little consequence here. You’ll lose some money out of your wallet and be respawned close to the latest checkpoint.

Voice acting for every character is all over the place, and over-the-top as it was in the first game. It almost seems like it is intentionally bad. You’ll be interacting with a many needy folk who offer sidequests. And there are plenty of them. They involve fetching items, killing a large group of zombies, finding and rescuing a particular person, or even killing a non-mutated human for the betterment of the group.

The main missions are of a different variety though, forcing you to into new locations, then backtrack quite often. Environments are more native, feeling less inhabited. The new defense missions are sparse, but are intense and frantic affairs that really add to the experience. One of the early sieges from the zombie horde comes at a time where the entire town is engulfed in flames while waves of zombies of increasing strength attack. It certainly breaks up the aforementioned fetching.

Though you’ll rarely ever want to be on foot when travelling large distances. Cars are available to mow down anyone in the way, but to get to some of the more remote locations will require you to go by boat. Which have a throttle boost feature, to run over zombies with. As you traverse, you’ll notice that zombies respawn in previously visited locations, it isn’t a guarantee though, and certainly isn’t as bad as the original.

Dead Island Riptide’s new areas do look different as they are storm ravaged and flooded with murky water. It isn’t the idyllic Banoi, it’s a very dirty place and the zombies reflect that, with garbage hanging off their face. Speaking of faces, most of them look dreadful. And not the eyeball out of the socket kind of way, they are just badly designed and shadowed. The hyped dynamic weather comes in the form of a rain storm being turned on and off at what seems to be the flip off a switch. There’s absolutely no transition. However, once it is raining, your visibility is dramatically reduced and the tension sinks in.

The sound design continues to terrify. When a Thug zombie roars, it gets me at my core. Drowners lie in the water, and just wait. Brush up against them or drive a boat and they awaken with such savagery and quickness, it is hard to adapt. The jangling shackles of the Ram signal a lengthy battle is impending. The tonal shift the direction that the music takes is also a great way of letting you know that danger is up ahead. All of this really brings the game to life in scary, unimaginable ways.

Co-op is back, and supports four players as it did previously. There have been some improvements to the connecting to friends, finding friends’ games, and even spotting items, locations, and enemies for your friends to focus on. This helps when doing the defense missions, as you can outline a hotspot or something to repair before the next wave.

Some bugs do rear their ugly head, as enemies sink into unreachable areas or weapons get lost after their thrown. During a defense mission, not one, but two zombies sunk underneath a staircase unable to get themselves out. Luckily there was a crack in the floorboard to pull out my pistol and shoot with extreme precision to progress the mission.

Overall, the game looks great, and performs well most of the time. However, with Vsync On and the game running above 90fps, it can get a bit choppy performance-wise randomly. But that issue comes up minimally. It should also be noted, that I had to modify my FOV in order to play the game as the default FOV caused me to get motion sick.

My PC Specs:
– Intel Core i7 3770k @ 3.9GHz (Turbo)

Dead Island Riptide is priced like a budget title, even while at times it may perform or act like it. There’s an overwhelming sense that you’ve done this all before. Riptide is to The Lost World as Dead Island is to Jurassic Park. It’s a different island, but with the same problems as before. That said, Riptide is my preferred Dead Island experience. There’s just more variety and fun to be had from the few lessons learned from the 2011 original. A word of caution to those looking to open their wallets to a true sequel, should probably wait.

A pre-release Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes