The ‘zombie invasion’ craze has been part of popular culture for a very long time, but never has it been quite as strong as in the past half-decade or so. With a zombie-themed Hollywood blockbuster looming around every corner, the TV charts being dominated by The Walking Dead, and even zombie-centred survival books selling like hotcakes, it’s no wonder the gaming industry is helping itself to its fair share of the pie.
Why is this particular genre so popular you might ask. Does it signify our secret desire to see society go the way of the Dodo? Does it mean deep down we’d prefer fighting flesh eating monsters to sitting in traffic at 07:30 am? Perhaps, but the bottom line is: zombies sell, and as we’ve seen with hard-core survivalist mods and point-and-click projects, they don’t necessarily need to be lined up behind a shotgun barrel to be entertaining.
It turned out that the Holiday Inn had bigger problems than a mere rat infestation.
Dead Island: Riptide does just that however, and serves as a sequel to 2011’s Dead Island, a game arguably more famous for its teaser trailer
than its impact on the gaming scene. The original was set on a refreshing tropical island called Banoi, touted as one of the best holiday destinations on the planet.
As is obvious from the game’s title however, this scenic paradise quickly starts developing problems as a zombie outbreak… uhm, breaks out. A small band of apparently immune survivors are then tasked with fighting their way to safety through hordes of bikini-clad cadavers.
The sequel picks up right where the first game left off, with survivors being flown off the island on a helicopter. As we finally land on a passing military vessel, our group is summarily arrested and sent for testing by an unscrupulous looking man in a suit (what’s with bad guys and suits anyway?). Luckily we don’t stay locked up for too long as the ship is overrun that very night by the undead we were so desperately trying to avoid.
Of all the resort's activities, Zombie Paintball was the least popular.
The original Dead Island introduced the concept of fighting zombies using mainly melee weapons, and the sequel continues that trend. The melee combat is done quite nicely, with virtually all weapons doubling as projectiles, with kicks and well-aimed strikes being used to keep the biters at bay.
It feels quite satisfying entering a room at a run, dispatching a zombie with an expertly thrown kitchen knife to the head, kicking another in the chest and bashing its skull with a wrench as it hits the ground.
Using melee weapons successfully requires a certain amount of skill and patience though. Running in and blindly hacking will almost surely get you killed, and when large groups of zombies are encountered it sometimes pays to try and retreat rather than engage them head on.
Unlike the melee weapons however, the firearms in the game feels bland and frankly boring. From the lacklustre animations to sounds that must have been recorded with a mobile phone, the guns simply fails to impress. It’s not that they’re not useful; they simply don’t leave the right impression on the senses.
Frankly, there really isn’t too much that sets Riptide apart from its predecessor. Players consume food and other amenities for health boosts; get to fight alongside AI companions from time to time; and can loot the world for new weapons and items that allow you to repair your arsenal. You also use motorboats to travel to different parts of the map this time around, compared to the cars of the previous game.
Although it started off promising, the resort's fishing charter failed to produce prize winning trophies.
Some character customisation is present as in the original, with players being able to choose certain perks as their characters gain experience. This allows you to focus on dishing out lots of damage in short bursts or on more long-term survival traits, while it also allows for weapon specialisation. If you have a previous Dead Island save you can import your character and their skillsets into the new game, however your weapons won’t be coming along for the ride.
There are also the recurring boss zombies that put up more of a fight than your regular walking corpse, but most of these are either copies or slight variations of enemies found in the original, and didn’t really leave much of an impression.
One thing that Riptide does do better than most FPS games is length. Like the original the game runs quite long, keeping players busy for 10 to 15 hours. This isn’t necessarily a good thing though, as many levels start feeling more like grinds than anything else.
The graphics in the game aren’t bad, and some of the more scenic locations can provide some eye candy every once in a while. We had issues with some of the animations seeming jerky at times, but all in all it’s not a terrible looking game.
As stated before we were more than a little disappointed in the game’s audio. There are some cutscenes where dialogue between characters are more than a little awkward, and most sound effects have been ported directly from the original.
Fed up with the resort's lack of The Walking Dead on TV, Gemma points the way to the local Hilton.
All in all, however much we tried to enjoy the game we couldn’t shake the feeling that we were dealing with a somewhat hastily produced sequel. While the game still delivers enjoyable zombie combat, it’s hardly going to give veteran players a fresh experience and it couldn’t keep us immersed for more than an hour at a time.
Dead Island: Riptide feels like a cheap sequel and delivers almost exactly the same experience that its predecessor gave us. The game was in fact slated to be released as DLC to the original, and with the lacklustre amount of changes this seems quite obvious. If you want to spend a few hours violently beating zombies you’ll find that in Riptide, but if you were looking for a proper sequel or a title that offers something new we’d advise you to steer clear.
The good: Classic zombie killing action, if that’s what you’re looking for.
The bad: Doesn’t offer anything new, smacks of a rushed sequel.
Conclusion: While some fun can be had from Riptide, it ultimately fails to deliver.