April 24, 2013
Dead Island Riptide feels like it was originally designed to be a large piece of DLC for Dead Island, but after the game's success got stretched into this standalone game. You can play as one of the original four characters from the first game or the brand new melee focused character. Each character is immune to the zombie virus that tore the first environment in Dead Island apart.
After escaping the island, getting captured by the military, crashing the boat, and washing up on yet another zombie infested island, your journey begins. This is where you realize that Riptide starts to feel very similar to the original in a lot of ways here. The story is taking itself way too seriously for its own good. This is made even worse then you realise that it is basically just rehashing the original's story in a new setting.
Saying Riptide is even a new setting is also a bit of a stretch, since it is still set on a tropical island is the Pacific. Forgettable characters and locations do little to help the story make any sort of impact on you while making your way through the 20+ hour long campaign. If Riptide had taken itself a little less seriously and treated the game more like a cheesy B-horror movie, it could have been on the same footing as the gameplay.
Playing Riptide is a bit of mixed bag in terms of what you get. You still have many choices to go about leveling up your character. You can even bring your character from the original game into Riptide. If you have not played Dead Island you will just automatically start at level 15. This just makes the game feel even more like something for the original game.
The original four characters are back and play exactly the same and don't even have any new additions to their skill trees. John Morgan, is the new fifth survivor you can play as and he actually brings a brand new feeling to the gameplay with his focus on melee attacks. He even sports a new super kick that will rival chopping off zombie body parts.
The way you play Dead Island Riptide is still the same and is its, without a doubt, one of the best first person melee games on the market to date. Focusing on attacking hordes of zombies with tons of random weapons you pick up or craft along your journey is much more satisfying than using regular firearms. You will need to keep an eye on your weapons so they don't break and this is much more forgiving than the previous game.
Crafting still plays a big part of the game as you will be picking up tons of items throughout your many hours of playing. You can upgrade weapons to last longer, do more damage, and even to enhance certain abilities through mods. There are a handful of new mods to discover, but the majority of mods that you will find are from the original which is a bit of a bummer for those expecting more variety.
The zombies used in Riptide are still mostly rehashes from Dead Island and the new additions don't really ever stand out enough to make you notice. New additions like zombies hiding in the water and giant mutated zombies are the only somewhat noticeable highlights introduced in Riptide.
While most of the missions in Riptide are your standard fetch quests, the new base defense missions actually introduce a level of challenge unmet in the rest of the games missions. These have you defending your many different base of operations from a massive hoard of zombies throughout the game. These missions give you the most challenge and are even more fun when playing with friends in co-op.
Four player co-op returns in Riptide and this time joining a friend who is much lower than you is no longer a waste of time. When you hop into any game, the zombies are auto leveled to find a happy medium for both players. This makes leveling up very fast, as well as playing through the game much more fun.
Playing through the game can really start to drag on once you get half way though, but in co-op you can just tune out and have fun with a few friends. This is definitely the kind of game you want a microphone with as well, to make sure everyone knows what the plan is. Other times it can be just as fun to just run in all fired up and hope for the best.
Rounding off the poorly implemented "new" additions to Riptide is the new changing weather mechanics. Instead of it always being sunny outside, you will now be able to have more than one setting while exploring the dangerous island. You can now watch the game awkwardly transition instantaneously from sunshine to monsoon weather in less than a 10 minute timespan. Adding to the game's clumsy aesthetic.
If you have not played the original Dead Island in a long time you may be surprised at the game's visuals when starting up the game. In fact the opening segment of the game looks considerably ugly compared to most games released recently. Once you get to the actual island setting things look a bit better, but still seem to be reusing many of the original assets from the first game.
Even for a stand alone expansion to release after almost two years in development, Riptide's visuals can be truly hideous in parts. While they can be tolerable at most points, they are never able to impress. When the game is not using reused assets, textures are looking extremely blocky, and the survivors you take missions from look like melted doll faces (yes it that creepy).
The amount of side missions to do alongside the main quest will definitely keep you playing well into the night for many weeks. If this is the kind of game you can look past its flaws and just enjoy it for the mindless fun, you have a lot of bang for your buck. Adding 20 levels to the level cap to make it round off at level 70 was a nice addition to hardcore fans.
It is really a shame that Dead Island Riptide couldn't seem to quite nail the level of quality and content for a stand alone expansion. The low price is still nice and if you had any fun playing the original Dead Island and are looking for more brainless fun, Riptide will not steer you in the wrong direction. It is to bad that this experience could not have just been added to the original game for a cheaper price point or even bundled with the original game.
Dead Island: Riptide was reviewed on the Xbox 360. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.