About five minutes into Dead Island: Riptide, my character slams a crowbar across the skull of an infected soldier, and she’s not happy. She’s annoyed. I’m confused.
“I am so sick of this,” she hisses to herself.
I take that as a meta-commentary on Riptide, a first-person shooter set in an open world with lush jungle foliage painted in blood and rotting flesh. The game, developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver, is pretty similar to Dead Island, which debuted in fall 2011. Given how the story is framed, it makes sense that the gameplay is largely unchanged.
Despite the fact that Deep Silver says Riptide is not a sequel, it is a sequel to the 2011 game, even if it’s only a continuation of the original plot. It picks up where the original left off, centering on the same characters, rapper Sam B, spy/informer Xian Mei, ex-quarterback Logan Carter, and former police officer Purna. The diverse team, forged by survival instincts, thought it was safe from an undead outbreak on a resort island, but it turns out the virus is stronger than anyone expected. The team shipwrecks on a nearby island, or another open world infested with walkers and the like. Thus, the team is tasked with surviving while crafting an escape plan – before the military effects a nuclear strike. That high stake is the impetus behind the game’s fast-paced action. There’s always something to do, something to kill, and it’s not clear how much time the team has left. As a result, the action leaves little room for character development, but such is the nature of many shooters.
Riptide’s action-heavy gameplay mirrors that of Dead Island. Each character comes with perks, from increased damage with certain weapons, to better chances of avoiding death. For continuity purposes, I enlist Xian Mei. Her penchant for sharp objects and high heels makes her deadlier than a morning star. Thanks to the “Special Edition” of the game, she continues her survival with the BBQ Blade, or one set ablaze with a fuel tank. It causes an impressive level of damage, enough to cut off limbs in two slices, and thus adds some edge to the fact that Riptide isn’t departing too far from its predecessor.
Riptide also has a cooperative mode that runs in tandem with single player mode, in that players can join up at any time through online connections. I think the former mode is the key to this game’s survival, streamlining the ways in players hack down undead islanders, complete main and side quests, and trade weapons and items. (For instance, Xian can always use more knifes.) If online teammates leave the game, you won’t lose anything except the ground covered since the latest checkpoint. Well, scratch that – you could lose some pride if someone boots you from their game. It happened to me last night.
Good weapons and cooperative play aside, Riptide has some new features that might appeal to those looking for a more developed sequel. The cutscenes and cinematics appear sharper and more immersive, reminding me of recent Call of Duty games; you know, those scenes where the player character gets rattled by a big explosion, so strong it knocks them out cold. There’s also a host of new NPCs-cums-survivors with side quests, and a new addition to the player character roster, soldier John Morgan, who learns weapon skills faster and has a powerful uppercut and running kick. He certainly has fighting chances against new zombies, including the drowners, who infest waters and boats.
Overall, in the context of zombie-infested games, the Dead Island series ambles somewhere between Valve’s Left 4 Dead and Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. As for Riptide, its breezy story, heavy combat, open-world setup and emphasis on cooperative play make it worth at least one playthrough, enough to see what happens to Xian and company. I still have much to explore, blades in hand.
Dead Island: Riptide is praiseworthy and flawed
This review based on an Xbox 360 copy provided by the publisher
About the Author:
Rich Shivener is the Lead Editor of Bit Creature. He is also a writer, instructor and iPad whisperer from the shores of Northern Kentucky. You can find him in Publishers Weekly and Writer's Digest, among other places.
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