Dead Island: Riptide: A Review

Introduction: The Thrill of Zombie-Bashing

Dead Island: Riptide truly shines when you’re up against a horde of zombies, armed with a nail-studded baseball bat or some other creatively brutal weapon. Techland’s recently released sequel builds upon the satisfying first-person brawling of its 2011 predecessor. While it may be seen as Dead Island 1.5 on the surface, Riptide proves that this designation isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

A Familiar Setting: New Paradise, Same Story

Our heroes just can’t catch a break. After surviving the zombie outbreak on the island of Banoi in the first game, they find themselves captured and imprisoned on a military ship at the start of Riptide. A corporate figure named Serpo is in charge, claiming to conduct research on the immune survivors to save humanity. However, things are not as they seem.

During the opening cutscene, the original game’s four protagonists meet the fifth playable character in Riptide, John Morgan, who is also immune. While Morgan brings a new set of hand-to-hand combat skills and a fresh personality, there are no surprises for Dead Island veterans. He fits right in with the established group.

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Serpo’s plan quickly goes awry, leading to a zombie outbreak on the ship. This event seems far-fetched, considering the presence of armed soldiers who should be prepared for the undead threat. It is also puzzling why the immune survivors vehemently resist cooperating with the researchers, who are supposedly searching for a cure.

The outbreak results in a shipwreck, stranding our immune heroes and a few other survivors on the nearby island of Palanoi. To no one’s surprise, they discover that the island is also infested with zombies.

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Although the plot may be absurd, it somewhat gets a pass as Dead Island: Riptide draws inspiration from gore-filled zombie horror stories found in movies. However, there are moments where the game’s storyline becomes too illogical to ignore. The lack of cooperation among survivors when confronted with dangerous situations raises questions about the narrative consistency.

Zombie Apocalypse Beatdown

Fortunately, any shortcomings in the narrative become inconsequential once you dive into the joy of bashing zombies’ heads with an array of weapons. The gameplay mechanics remain largely the same: first-person brawling requiring precise timing, stamina management, and exploiting weaknesses. However, the flow of action has seen significant changes.

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In the first Dead Island, survival horror elements were prominent, with resource collection and management playing a crucial role. Weapons degraded over time, necessitating the search for new ones and the upkeep of existing ones. Modifications improved durability and damage. While new weapons could be scavenged, money was required for repairs and upgrades.

In Riptide, these core ideas return with an important twist: resources are never in short supply. The regular course of play ensures you are equipped with all the necessary gear, crafting items, and money. Weapon maintenance becomes a matter of upkeep rather than resource management. This new approach has a profound impact on Dead Island: Riptide.

Whether you import a high-level character from the first game or start fresh with a new one, you’ll never lack effective weapons to combat the undead. The loot system now feels more akin to games like Borderlands or Diablo, where you are invested in collecting better gear.

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Riptide introduces new systems that enhance the gameplay experience. Side quests enable survivors at the home base to upgrade their shops and skills, making them more effective during the game’s new siege defense missions. Motorboats join trucks as drivable vehicles, particularly useful in the swampy Palanoi jungles. The variety of weapons and upgrades has significantly expanded. Additionally, new boss zombies, including sturdy Wrestlers and annoying Screamers, offer fresh challenges.

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Despite the improvements, Riptide still has its drawbacks. Navigation can be a headache when you find yourself far from fast travel locations without nearby vehicles. Quest paths are often unclear due to the absence of a minimap on the on-screen radar. The GPS indicator only activates when you’re within 50m of your target.

Technical issues, particularly in solo games, manifest in AI problems. Enemies and allies frequently clip into scenery or become lost while navigating obstacles. The siege missions, in particular, can be frustrating when computer-controlled characters fail to assist in saving survivors from zombies. This can result in a game over screen and mission restart if any survivors die due to zombie attacks.

Co-op sessions fare even worse, with unpredictable respawns occasionally placing downed players at far-off locations. Another bug involves strings of completed quest pop-ups appearing on the screen for extended periods, particularly when joining a co-op session with someone at an earlier stage in the story.

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Additionally, co-op gameplay suffers from flawed concepts. If a player joins someone further in the story, only character and inventory progression are saved, not quest progress. While this makes some sense, it decreases the value of playing co-op when certain players have nothing to gain from it. Moreover, many quests in Riptide are designed for multiple players, creating tedious tasks when playing alone.

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Loot-sharing is also problematic. Money pickups and locked chests are shared, but everything else is first-come, first-served, including random weapon drops and crafting items scattered throughout the world. Having someone jump into your game and grab all the valuable items before you feels unfair and reduces the cooperative nature of the game. While rare items respawn regularly, Techland’s approach to loot sharing feels overly restrictive.

Conclusion: Hits and Misses

As the first sequel in a relatively new series, Dead Island: Riptide offers both significant improvements and shortcomings. Techland seems to have found the right tone for its open-world zombie adventures, but some persistent issues from the original game remain, along with several new ones. While progress has been made, Riptide struggles to escape the shadow of its predecessor’s “rough-edged gem” status.

This review was conducted using an Xbox 360 copy of Dead Island: Riptide provided by the publisher.

Editors’ Recommendations:

  • Red Dead Redemption is coming to Nintendo Switch and PS4 this month
  • The best weapon mods and perks in Dead Island 2
  • Which character should you pick in Dead Island 2?
  • How to get fuses in Dead Island 2
  • You played the Dead Space remake. Now check out its ‘demake’

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