Dead Island: Riptide (Riptide) picks up immediately where Dead Island left off. The four survivors have escaped the island of Banoi by helicopter and land on an ADF aircraft carrier. After being harassed and pushed around by a civilian, Frank Serpo, and Col. Sam Hardy, the four characters are sedated and put through medical testing. The gameplay begins when your preferred character wakes up from the sedatives to find that the ship has been overrun by the undead. After a dramatic shipwreck scene, you find yourself stranded on Palanai, another island in the same archipelago of Banoi. Would you believe that Palanai has been overrun by zombies, as well?! Here begins your adventure of dismemberment, fetch quests, and helpless NPCs.
The gameplay of Riptide has remained the exact same from the previous game. In fact, most everything is the same from the first Dead Island. Riptide is an open world, first-person Action-RPG, where the focus is on melee combat. You can use an enormous variety of melee weapons, firearms, thrown weapons, and environmental dangers. Much like Borderlands, you spend your time running from place to place, accepting quests from NPCs and exploring. While this can make for a fun way to kill time, the lack of a strong plot can quickly turn the game into a grind. The quests rarely become anything more than going halfway across the island, just to pick up someone’s treasured VHS tape, then going all the way back. Even the main plot quests usually involve fetching something. If you are playing just for the fun of killing zombies, you’re in for a treat. If you’re looking for a good story or interesting characters, you’re in for a disappointment.
Once again, the setting of Riptide is a gorgeous tropical setting, but suffers the same problems of the first game: visual glitches, slow bump mapping, and a general dated look. One thing I loved about the first Dead Island was that the setting changed from the Resort, to the City, the Jungle, and the Prison. Unfortunately, Riptide only has two primary settings: the Jungle and the City. Not only are these two settings less interesting than the first, but they’re harder to navigate. I’m all up for a challenge, but they seemed to have laid these maps out to intentionally frustrate the players. Vehicles are close to useless in the jungle, and completely absent from the city. On the bright side, this game is an excellent walking-simulator, because you’ll be doing lots of it.
The co-op gameplay remains the most attractive quality of Riptide, allowing you and three buddies to play the entire campaign together. It really does help break up the monotony of the quests when you have some decent company to suffer with. Unfortunately, Riptide may end up being a tough sell to your friends. The only remaining option would be to match up with online players who are close to where you are in the game. I’m all about the fun of partying up with random players, but Dead Island and Riptide are games where teamwork are essential. If you’ve ever played online on consoles, you know that teamwork aren’t the strong suits of the online masses. You may let the price drop on Riptide, then beg your friends to drop the $15 on it and play together.
Riptide is a mixed bag, when it comes to what will be playing through your speakers or headsets. On one hand, the sounds and screams that erupt from the environment or enemies can be truly terrifying. Nothing is worse than desperately running through the city towards your objective, then hearing that tell-tale call of a Screamer. On the other hand, the music (and sometimes, voice acting) is plain awful. The music will randomly cut on and off, going from the “Danger” music to dead silence, regardless of combat. The voice acting is still at the same mediocre level, but they created a monster by attempting to add more personality to the playable characters. I played as Sam B. in the first game, because he seemed to be the most useful. I was worried at first, because I didn’t particularly care for the character and I didn’t want to be annoyed the entire game. I was relieved to find that Sam B. wasn’t annoying at all, had normal dialogue, and wasn’t over-the-top. Sadly, that has gone out the window for Riptide. The entire game was filled with my character shouting nonsense and cringe-worthy dialogue, making me wish I could mute my television. My biggest pet peeve is the pause menu music. You simply cannot escape it. When you pause, it plays a song that lasts maybe a minute, then loops. This loop never ends. Usually, pressing the guide button on the center of the Xbox controller will halt everything to do with the game you’re playing. Not on Riptide. That music will never stop playing.
Riptide‘s list of achievements has some strange choices in it. First of all, they shifted an enormous amount of focus towards getting every single collectable in the game. Some of you may be thrilled with this, but I can’t stand collectables. There are the achievements you would expect, like killing 100 monsters with certain attacks or reaching the max level. But, one achievement has me baffled: “Jetboat”. Jetboat requires you to kill 100 zombies by using the speed boost on the drivable boats. Achievements like this aren’t uncommon, but this achievement is worth 90 Gamerscore. Usually, achievements worth that much are rewarded for beating the game on the hardest difficulty. Why on earth the developers decided to make that such an important achievement? Regardless, I put about 18 hours into my first playthrough, got 21 out of 35 achievements and 435/1,000 Gamerscore.
I have no idea how to feel about Dead Island as a franchise. I loved the first game, but Riptide is a shallow, monotonous continuation of the first game. I would absolutely love a true sequel to Dead Island, where things are actually changed for the better and it has a unique setting. But, if they intend to make more sequels like Riptide, I hope they scrap the franchise. Riptide had a lot of potential to be a great game, unfortunately the developers took no chances on it. Aside from a few small things, this plays exactly the same as the first game. Hell, the two could easily be interchangeable and no-one would miss out on anything. Where Dead Island was fresh, fun, and original, Riptide feels tired and dull.
I give Dead Island: Riptide 2.5 “Falcon Kicks” out of 5
By Blake Edwards