Dead Island Riptide Review
Remind me to never go to an island again.
Dead Island Riptide was one of my most anticipated games of this year, as I absolutely loved the first game and couldn’t wait to see what our group of survivors were up to this time around. I mean, it’s an Open World, First-Person Shooter with RPG elements that has you killing zombies, exploring a huge island and collecting loot. Its got a little bit of everything that I love about video games and I couldn’t have been more excited when I got my hands on the “sequel” last week. Let’s take a look at Dead Island Riptide.
This review will contain minor spoilers for the ending of the first game, so if you haven’t finished it and you don’t want to spoil the ending, STOP READING NOW. You’ve been warned. Also, if you haven’t played the first game, Riptide presents a decent summary of what previously happened to get you caught up.
Dead Island Riptide picks up directly after the first game ended, with our survivors, Logan, Sam B, Xian and Purna, aboard the helicopter they escaped the prison in, trying to get as far away from Banoi as they can. They soon land on a nearby Military ship, only to be handcuffed and placed into secure quarantine while their immunity to the virus is tested. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that the ship is overrun by zombies and our survivors end up on another island filled with zombies and other creatures that they must escape. On the island of Palanai, you’ll come across more survivors that will join your group, as you work your way through the jungle to find a way to the nearby city of Henderson, where you believe holds the key to escaping. I didn’t love the story in the original game, and Riptide’s isn’t much different, with cheesy dialogue, mediocre voice acting and uninteresting characters, but the story isn’t why you’re here. You’re here to explore the island, help your group survive and kill a whole lot of zombies.
Just like the original game, each character in Dead Island Riptide comes with different skills to unlock and is proficient with a different type of weapon. Purna is better with Firearms, Logan is better with Throwing weapons, Xian is better with Bladed weapons, Sam B is better with Blunt weapons and John, the new character, is better with Hand to Hand weapons. As you play you’ll earn XP from kills and completing missions, and every time you level up you’ll earn one skill point to unlock or upgrade one item on the skill tree. Each character’s skill tree is a little different, with some of the skills being specific to each character’s weapon type and their special Fury attack and some being universal, such as lock picking, weapon durability and inventory size. John is new to the group, and he brings a few new skills with him, such as Big Boot, which lets you deal a devastating kick while sprinting, that will send most enemies flying like a rag doll. It’s a shame that he’s the only one that can use it, as it’s as powerful as it is comical, but I just didn’t like how he was overall better with Hand to Hand Weapons, which aren’t really my thing.
Weapons in Riptide are broken down into four categories: Blunt, Blade, Hand to Hand and Firearms. The more you use each type of weapon, the more you’ll increase its level and unlock bonuses to any weapon of that type. So if you prefer to use the Shotgun, regardless of what character you’re playing as, you’ll rank up the Firearms Level and unlock bonus skills such as extra damage, bigger clip size, better % chance for a critical hit, faster reload times, higher rate of fire and more, for any gun that you use. Unlike regular character skills that you can choose which ones to unlock, the weapon skills unlock in a specific, locked down order, but they are still a great addition to the game. It’s also nice that they aren’t locked down to any specific character, so regardless of which character you prefer, you can still unlock these additional weapon skills.
My only real complaint about the weapons in Riptide is that, just like the original, it takes far too long before you gain access to a good selection of Firearms. Even if you’re not using Purna, but especially when you are, there should be more Firearms available at the very start of the game. It’s also weird because once you start to find them, you find guns everywhere and quite at a bit of ammo too, so it’s not like they wanted to balance things out. A real balance would have been to have guns from the start but limit the amount of ammo that you find, not just wait until half way through the game and then throw tons of guns and ammo at you. I prefer using Purna when I play, so this definitely bothers me more than those who are ok with using melee weapons more often. While we’re on the topic of weapons, the workbench is back in Riptide, with the options to Repair, Upgrade and Mod your weapons again. All of these systems are exactly as they were before, with no new features introduced.
Being an Open World game, there’s a fairly good size world in Dead Island Riptide to explore, with plenty of items to find for selling and creating Modded Weapons, side quests to complete and of course, zombies to kill. The main story quests will take between 10-15 hours to complete, but there are enough side missions and areas to explore to push your total well above 30 hours, maybe even more. Riptide features these new survival quests throughout the story, where you’ll have to defend a certain location from waves of attacks. During these quests, the other survivors in your group will help you defend, and to make them stronger you’ll need to complete different quests for them. These usually just require you to find a certain amount of a specific item, but they are worth completing to make the survival quests easier. Also, during these survival quests you can barricade the entrances with chain link fences to slow the zombies down and set up turrets to help thin out large mobs of them. Parts of Riptide can be quite hard, so if you want to survive, it’s important to complete as many of these side quests as you can, regardless of how trivial they may seem.
Palanai is a big area, with plenty of rivers running throughout it, so to help you get around easier Techland included boats as a new means of transportation. You can still jump in a jeep and cruise around on land, but I found hopping in a boat easier and quicker most of the time. The downside to having so much water is that your character can’t swim, so you’ll instantly die if you end up in the deeper sections. You also can’t sprint in some of the water sections, and just like when you have to carry a heavy object, you move at a rather annoyingly slow pace. This also introduces the new Drowner zombie, who will jump out at you if you’re walking or will try to board your boat, but luckily there’s a boost feature that lets you splatter any of them that try to get in your way. And there are a lot of them this time around. There are still regular Zombies, Rams, Thugs and Butchers, but Riptide also introduces the Screamer, who will freeze you in place with her scream, the Wrestler, who will smash you down with his huge, mutated arm, and the Grenadier, who will throw toxic meat bombs at you, just to name a few. There’s no lack of enemies to violently kill on this beautiful tropical island.
It may not be the best looking game ever created, but Riptide is definitely a nice visual upgrade from the original. I found that textures could take a while to load in the first game, but didn’t notice that nearly as much this time. It plays well, with no major technical issues that I could find. I used the PC version for my review and it did crash a few times, but it’s hard to tell whether that was a problem with the game or something else on my computer. Overall, it’s definitely the best game that Techland have ever done, technically speaking.
Between doing the main story quests, all of the side quests, exploring the world for items, mods and collectibles, you’re going to be busy with Dead Island Riptide for quite a while. The best part is that it isn’t even a full priced game, with the console version going for $49 and the PC version for only $39. It may feel like more of a really big expansion, rather than a true sequel, but there is enough new content in Riptide to justify the price. And that’s just the single player side of the game.
Just like the first game, Dead Island Riptide supports drop-on, drop-out four player online co-op, throughout the entire campaign. By default, the game will be set to allow random, nearby players join your game, but you can simply set your game to private if you prefer. The best part about playing Riptide with some friends is that the game will scale the enemies to your level, creating a nice balance for both low-level and high level players. This means that if you’re level 40 and your friend is only level 20, enemies will scale to your level and to theirs, so it’s not too easy for you if you join their game, and not too hard for them if they join yours. When you leave their game, you’ll keep any XP, money or items that you received, making it a seamless transition back to your solo game.
It’s also really cool that you can be doing one quest and your friends another, in the same co-op game, and it will complete them for all of you. This gives you the freedom to stick together and explore or split up and do your own thing, while still playing in the same game. Even though I still really enjoyed my solo playthrough, I believe that playing games cooperatively can make them better, and Riptide is definitely better with a few friends by your side.
If you played the first Dead Island then you have to check out Riptide. It is basically just more of the same, but it adds the right amount of new content to make it feel new enough to justify the purchase. The story isn’t the greatest that’s ever been told, but it does a good job of filling in the gaps between exploring the big, open island, collecting new items and weapons and killing any of the undead creatures that get in your way. If you didn’t play the original Dead Island, and you’re looking for a fun new co-op game to play with your friends and you love games like Fallout, Far Cry and Borderlands, then I think you’ll really enjoy Dead Island Riptide.
Price: $49.99 for Xbox 360 and PS3, $39.99 for PC
Release Date: April 23rd, 2013
Available On: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC