Published on May 29th, 2013 | by Kyle LeDuch0
Dead Island: Riptide – Hands On
If there’s one franchise out there that proves sometimes critics get it wrong, it’s Dead Island. The Skyrim meets Dead Rising first-person survival horror game was derided at launch for its game-breaking bugs, forgettable story, poorly written dialogue and bizarre animations, but against all odds Techland’s release became a hit, selling over five million copies, and attracting a devoted fan-base.
Many criticisms were thrown at Dead Island on release in 2011, yet developer Techland didn’t panic or run away from the challenge in front of them. Instead they calmly took into consideration feedback from fans and critics alike and patched their game time and time again, allowing its rickety form to blossom into the kind of four-player co-op action game players were promised, and as time went on the number of Dead Island fans grew substantially.
It’s important to keep this franchise’s troubled beginnings in mind when playing Riptide, as in many ways this is the kind of polished experience we were promised in the first place with a few new features chucked into the zombie genocide mix for good measure. Despite the setting shifting from the tourism-friendly island of Banoi to the more tribal Palanai, Riptide feels more like a spin-off then a sequel.
The four survivors from the first game return, along with a military newcomer named John Morgan, but gameplay still involves the repetitive killing of zombies, travelling around the tropical open-world at your leisure and completing mundane fetch quests for poorly voiced NPCs.
Getting hung up on Riptide’s rougher than rough elements isn’t really in the spirit of things though, as Techland aren’t trying to create something as story-driven as the likes of BioShock or even The Walking Dead. Instead this is a game which plays up the worst of B-movie horror archetypes, such as an evil military corporation trying to harvest the zombie virus for themselves, a street-talking rapper with little more to add to proceedings than a passion for violence, and worst of all the predictable time-based threat of a nuclear warhead heading to island to cleanse the infection for good. While playing on your own these thinly veiled tropes grind, but when playing with friends they become funny and almost add to Riptide’s adorable charm. Techland’s love of the source material is clear, and despite the plot’s hackneyed attempts to create some resonance of drama with lengthy cut-scenes and tension-filled dialogue, it’s hard not to be swept up in the developer’s enthusiasm.
Weapons, no matter how seemingly sturdy they are, still break at an annoyingly frequent rate and much of Dead Island’s appeal is still based around hunting around the island looking for blueprints and putting together said imaginatively violent constructions into good use.
Fighting zombies at the most basic level still remains just as fun, with players able to disable specific limbs, cut off heads and chuck weapons so they get embedded in zombie torsos. It’s still very much numbers-based, with critical hits and random dice rolls determining whether that machete thrown into a zombie’s head will get stuck or slice it clean off, but the action is immediate enough that the back-end calculation doesn’t effect the crunchy combat.
Techland has also added the ability for characters to utilize new combat moves which tests players mastering of the stamina system even more. The standard push-kick is joined by the ability to stomp on zombie skulls and drop on them from an elevated positions for instant kills. Other notable inclusions involve using boats as a new form of transport, and the ability to upgrade a fellow survivor’s combat rating by completing new resource-gathering side-quests for them.
Dead Island’s emergence in 2011 was so bad that it endangered the future of the series, so it’s no wonder that Techland has adopted a safe approach when it comes to Riptide. This spin-off/standalone expansion sticks to the rules established by the original rather than shifting up the fundamental Dead Island experience, but with so many gamers out there hankering for more zombie killin’ action, that’s perfectly okay.
If you’re looking for another zombie-filled paradise to plunder with three other friends, Riptide has your back with a content-rich and assuredly violent co-op experience for one and all.