Dead Island: Riptide Review!
The sequel to the highly anticipated zombie role playing game that didn’t quite deliver the goods. Does Riptide have what it takes to live up to gamer’s expectations?
I’ll admit that I was shockingly disappointed with the first title in the Dead Island franchise, after massive promises and astonishing looking marketing material in every direction, I was expecting it to be the perfect game – MY perfect game. But it failed miserably when trying to combine, zombies, an intriguing story line, in depth characters, fun and gory combat, role playing and an intuitive levelling system. After such bad press, I was surprised when Riptide was announced, and I certainly didn’t wait with bated breath to find out if these issues had been dealt with or improve upon. So, does Riptide have what it takes to surpass it’s predecessor?
The story continues on from the first game after an outbreak of zombies had hit the resort Island of Banoi. The immune survivors managed to fight their way to a prison with a young female native of the island, called Yerema, in tow – a carrier of the virus that started the whole explosion of undead. Yerema’s tribe had practiced cannibalism for hundreds of years and the result of which was the development of Kuru, a disease that lived dormant inside Yerema and her people until now. Yerema and the rest of the survivors finished the last game being picked up by a helicopter from the prison roof, hoping to be taken to safety. Riptide starts off as the helicopter lands on an aircraft carrier in the ocean where they are immediately taken into custody by Australian Defence Force Colonel Sam Hardy and Frank Serpo, a civilian VIP. Inside, they meet another immune survivor, Sergeant John Morgan, who was a apart of a humanitarian survival eff ort on the island until he too was captured by Serpo.
Soon things go awry, the ship becomes over run with the infected and the survivors have to fight their way off the ship. They fall unconscious and wake up on the shores of Palanai, a nearby island that is also suffering from the zombie infestation.
Teaming up with other survivors on the new island, and after meeting up with Colonel Sam Hardy again, they learn that Serpo and his people want to weaponise the virus and plan to attack Palanai with nuclear weapons to destroy all evidence – which is exactly the same as what happened back on Banoi.
Upon starting the game you choose to either start afresh or import your character from the previous Dead Island game. This import option is a nice touch, allowing for an already formed skill tree and higher starting level; however, I chose to play as the new character, John Morgan. John is a nice all round character in comparison to the others with the added bonus of learning skills faster and being good at hand to hand combat, though everyone has their each specialised area of expertise. For example, Purna is proficient in firearms, Logan is great at throwing weapons such as deadly knives, Xian is a blade weapons specialist and Sam B deals massive damage with blunt weapons like baseball bats.
From a first person perspective, you scavenge for resources, run, jump and climb, not to mention battling with wave after wave of zombies, all of which consumes the stamina that is displayed as a blue bar in the lower section of the screen. Once all your stamina runs out from these various activities, you can no longer run or jump very far and your attacks are weak and pretty much useless. A health bar is constantly visible in the top left corner of the screen, which is replenished with snacks or energy drinks scattered around the island, or with the elusive Med Kit. Using the skill tree, these can be upgraded to give you more health and stamina to burn, as well as becoming more resistant to attacks and being able to sprint for much longer distances and so on.
Weapons gradually wear and break and can be repaired, upgraded or even have added features to them such as inflicting poison or electrical damage for a few seconds after contact. Crafting weapons from looted resources is heavily advised and there are many blueprints to be found and a vast array of unique weapons to be created, and, taking the time to find and create all of these can add hours of gameplay and some much needed quirkiness to battles. Enemies consist of those found in the previous game as well as a whole bunch of new ones to contend with. With normal walkers, screaming and running infected, heavies, burning infected, toxic walkers – this game never lets you get comfortable. Just when you think you’ve got a technique sussed and are totally prepared for the next mission it’ll throw something new at you; an old enemy with an added way of causing imminent death.
I personally loathed the “butcher” from before, being incredibly fast and dealing massive damage with each hit taught me to run away at the slightest sign. Now, not only are they back, but there’s an amped up version, called “ogre”. What makes this guy more deadly than the butcher? He has absolutely no weaknesses in comparison – the butcher can be knocked back for a momentary stun allowing for a chance to land a blow or gain distance – ogres simply will not relent.
Visually, this game is generally quite pleasant to the eye; the tropical surroundings provide a beautiful backdrop to the carnage that’s going on all around. Vibrant wildlife full of colourful and exotic plants that contrast exceptionally well, with rich greens, reds, yellow and purples, followed by the crisp and stunning blues from the ocean when venturing to the beaches. Not to mention the many rivers that flow through the island that are often more murky colours, not allowing you to see to the bottom – this works well as it provides a sense of unease not knowing what could dwell beneath the surface.
The only real stand out issue was how glitchy the game can be at times. However this may only be present on the PlayStation 3 version, as that was the platform I used for my play through. This would happen most often during combat, which is a somewhat understandable time for such a thing to occur as being attacked by a horde of zombies compared to talking merrily along a beach can put more strain on the graphics. The image would freeze for a split second or, even worse, for a full 2 or 3 seconds – which is incredibly frustrating when in the midst of battle as it’s the equivalent of someone putting their hands over your eyes and expecting you to survive.
Sound cues play a vital part in survival, each zombie and sub type of zombie has a distinctive groan or screech that is specific to their class. Learning to tell the difference between these and also where the noise came from, can be incredibly handy when planning an attack. For example hearing a screech of a Suicider breed of special infected – one that will walk towards you and then explode it’s gross oozing puss all over you dealing massive, sometimes lethal damage – sends shivers down your spine but prepares you for what your next plan of action should be: to run!
The noises that the jungle wildlife creates around you are subtle and unobtrusive to your gaming, but fit well within this paradise-turned-hell, with soft bird calls and rustling leaves all adding to the effect. The score of background music changes depending on location as well as activity, for example, whilst being attacked from all sides by an overwhelming number of zombies, the music becomes much more punchy and intense, with a much faster tempo to instil a sense of panic and help pump you up with adrenaline, ready to fight for survival.
I personally enjoyed the little outburst from my character whilst in a heated battle or just after having killed an entire horde of zombies – “just stay, the fuck, DOWN!” – Often I was shouting this myself at the screen from rage and frustration so it seemed apt.
Riptide is not a BAD game, it’s fun for killing some zombies and gamers can spend hours upon hours lost in this horrific paradise, but trying to give this game a serious story line and meaningful quests to pull at the audiences heartstrings just doesn’t work. It’s not quite the hack and slash mindless fun like the notable zombies title “Left 4 Dead”, nor is it enthralling enough to provide a unique or memorable experience, which leaves Riptide perched on the fence in a precarious position where it could become forgettable quite easily.
Merely completing this game is a challenge for those who, like me, expected much more from the two games, and feel this game doesn’t quite “fit”, and even more so considering all the feedback the developers received from the last title. If you can overlook all these shortcomings, Riptide can provide a certain amount of gameplay to entertain when you’re looking to kill a few hours or vent some frustrations, if not, best leave it sitting on the shelf.
Written by Guest Contributor: SillyRabbit