It’s pretty easy to dream about getting away from it all. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can lead to any number of daydreams about strolling barefoot on white sandy beaches; of a place where day drinking is perfectly acceptable and there’s really no reason to wear anything but swim attire. Maybe you’d like to go to a place where you can see rainbow mists as water cascades down a rock face. Or maybe – just maybe – you’d like to go to such a wonderful island paradise and slash, bash, and otherwise maul an endless horde of zombies.If that is the sort of thing that appeals to you, then Dead Island: Riptide is a game that will be right up your alley. It is the second game in the Dead Island series from publisher Deep Silver, and once again it thrusts you into an imaginary Pacific Island paradise that is being overrun by an undead army. You assume the mantle of one of the five people that are inexplicably immune to whatever it is that is turning your fellow humans into mindless skull chewers.
If you have played the original Dead Island game, you will feel right at home when you fire up Riptide. This isn’t a fully fledged sequel, but more along the lines of an expansion (Deep Silver calls Riptide a spin-off but that doesn’t seem right either). You play with the original cast of characters, and if you have a Dead Island save file present on your system you can even import your old character’s level and skill tree build. If that doesn’t interest you, you are welcome to start fresh with a custom skill selection for one of the familiar characters or the new one. Each of the immune playable characters specializes in a particular type of combat, ranging from the tried and true firearms specialization to the new hand-to-hand option.
Fighting zombies is just as much fun as it has ever been. Most of the fun comes from making tons of different and ridiculous weapons and seeing their effect on your foes. Some deodorant and duct tape can become a bomb, or a circular saw, baseball bat, and lighter fluid can become a flaming death stick. The possibilities aren’t necessarily endless, but they’re damned near close. These weapons also have a very believable heft to them that makes it satisfying to wing them into bloody, decaying, reanimated humans. You can participate in this carnage in a nicely built co-op mode (via Xbox Live), or if you’re like me and have no friends, Riptide’s single-player mode has received some much needed work to make it a more viable option than it was in Dead Island.
While all this bloodshed is occurring, you will be ogling a nicely rendered tropical environment. The juxtaposition of seemingly innumerable bodies, both dead and undead, against this lovely backdrop is quite unsettling. It is easy to find yourself distracted by the beauty of your surroundings, only to turn the corner in the next moment and see a swimming pool filled with blood. Between that and the clever sound design that leaves you whirling your head to see where the next onslaught is coming from, you will probably find yourself feeling a lot more tension and anxiety than you were expecting when you sat down to play.
One big fault with Dead Island: Riptide lies with its lack of distinction from its predecessor. The island of Palanai is almost indiscernible from Banoi, which was the setting for the first game. Enemies and weapons make repeat appearances too, and even the copious amount of “run and fetch” or “run and kill” quests are back, much to gamers’ chagrin.
This is a problem that seems to be isolated to players of the console version of the game, but graphical issues that were abundant in Dead Island have also reared their ugly little heads in Riptide. Fighting more than two or three zombies causes a noticeable lag in framerate which is just as incredibly frustrating as it was the first time around. One would think there has been plenty of time to improve those sorts of problems with the game’s engine since the first title launched.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Riptide is the sorry excuse for a story. We will try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but the story is so bare-boned (and maybe just a bit contrived), it’s hard to believe that much thought was put into it at all. It could be argued that this isn’t the type of game you would play if you were interested in a deep narrative experience, and this reviewer would tend to agree, but making such a poor attempt is annoying to the point of making us wonder why any sort of story was included at all.
Packing your bags and heading off to an isolated island resort in the Pacific may sound like a good idea, but you should think twice if your travel agent is offering you a good deal to a little hideaway named Palanai. If you loved Dead Island and found yourself foaming at the mouth like a rabid flesh eater because you wanted more, then Deep Silver has delivered more of the same in Riptide. That’s not a bad thing, per se, but people that pick this up and expect a fully fledged sequel will be very disappointed. As long as you know what you’re in for, go ahead and pack your bag; but don’t forget a few essentials, like sunscreen, swimming trunks, and knives. Lots and lots of knives.
Dead Island: Riptide succeeds at meeting the expectations set by its predecessor, but recurring technical issues are incredibly annoying. Hopefully a true sequel is in the works, and Riptide is just the thing to hold fans over while they wait for it.
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