Dead Island Riptide returns us to more blood-soaked shores and zombie-infested tropical islands. It’s still an entertaining hack fest of severed limbs, spraying blood, and zombie decapitations, but it doesn’t bring much that is new to its enjoyable if now slightly tired formula.
Dead Island Riptide is more of an expansion to Dead Island than a sequel. The first game ends with the survivors boarding a helicopter to escape. No, I didn’t flag that as a spoiler. It’s practically a required ending for any story about Zombies—that, and setting up for a sequel.
Suffice to say, the escape doesn’t go quite as planned. After a brief landing aboard a military ship our protagonists are detained to make sure they aren’t infected. And then zombies happen (of course).
After a short struggle through a sinking ship (which largely serves as the game’s tutorial), you’re right back where you started: trapped on a different but no less zombie-infested island and surrounded by useless slackasses asking you to do stuff for them while they sip on little umbrella drinks from the comfort of their safe houses.
A few new twists…
Dead Island Riptide does add some new twists to the game as well as a new coat of paint on some old mechanics. Now, for example, you can run over zombies in boats. Actually, make that with boats, because zombies can’t drive boats. That would be ridiculous.
There are also some entertaining “defend against the horde” sequences where you get to fortify a position and then defend it by placing barriers, mines, and high-powered mounted machine guns. Sadly, most of your NPC compatriots defending alongside you aren’t too capable, and you’ll frequently need to help them out against the horde—even if they’re just hacking it out against Stunt Zombie #7.
Dead Island Riptide also adds some new types of zombies—make that mutant zombies—to kill. The most interesting are the ultra-tough Wrestler, who is very slow but takes a ton of firepower to bring down, and the Screamer, who is also very tough and emits a nasty scream that sends you running and unable to fight for a short while.
There’s also the Grenadier, who basically just chucks “stuff” (read: zombie grossness) at you from a distance, and some other minor variants. But aside from the Wrestler and the Screamer, none of the other new entries really require much in the way of new tactics to defeat. They’re just more fleshbags that need killing. Run fast, hack furiously, retreat and repeat until you’re the only one left standing.
…and all the old ones
Aside from these new additions, all of the character-building and looting elements are intact. You still have 3 progression trees from which you can select skills as you gain levels. (I imported myDead Island character, so I started at around Lv 37).
Also like the first game, you’ll spend time acquiring new weapons, upgrading them, and repairing them. You’ll also find blueprints and create unique, modified weapons with all the various and sundry things you can collect on the island. The islands are littered with things just waiting to be plundered–tis a strange island indeed where you can find engine parts, duct tape, metal scrap, and bleach inside of personal computers and loose luggage, but it’s all yours for the taking (and storing in your Bag of Holding.)
Most of the weapons you’ll create are essentially ‘elemental’ upgrades–creating a flaming, electrical, or poison version of a baseball bat, for example. There are no Moosehead driller killers or similarly whimsical (and hilarious) implements of destruction like those found in Dead Rising (Examiner link).
Are we there yet?
For the most part, Dead Island Riptide is still pretty fun, but it doesn’t quite do enough to feel like more than an expansion pack—albeit one that adds a good 20 hours or more to the game. But even if you enjoyed the first game (which I did) Dead Island Riptide starts to wear out its welcome—even ‘completionist’ oriented players like me may start to avoid the tedious side quests and just drill through the main campaign (which I also did).
Occasionally, the addictive nature of the game can settle in, and you may find yourself grinding through side quests even when you’re not really enjoying them. That’s a credit to the quality of the game mechanics, but not the game itself or a compelling narrative.
Overall: 3/5 stars
Maybe I shouldn’t have started the game with an imported character, but I don’t think starting fresh with a new one (even Riptide’s new addition) would have made much difference—the game still feels a bit too much like just an extension of the first game, and as a whole makes the Dead Islandgames (taken together) feel like one of those really long movies that you mostly enjoy until you reach the point where you’re glancing down at your watch wondering if it’s going to end soon.
But if you’re new to the franchise and Riptide is your first entry into it, you’ll probably still enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the first game.
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