Zombie-themed games have become so frequent that they are almost passé. Deep Silver’s Dead Island: Riptide is just the latest in a string of flesh-eating undead titles in the past few years. Thankfully, its open-world multi-player take is still fairly fresh.
Riptide is a sequel to 2011’s Dead Island, an action-RPG survival-horror game that took place on a fictional tropical island resort located off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Without spoiling the original game’s plot for anyone who might want to go back and play it, the story in Riptide picks up where the last one left off. The same cast of characters returns along with a lone addition. Players can import their old save data from the original for seamless integration into the sequel.
Just like its predecessor, Dead Island: Riptide focuses most of its efforts on gratuitous violence and non-stop action. There are a huge number of ways to kill zombies: everything from pistols and shotguns to bare-knuckle brawling, everyday objects like knives, and more serious blunt objects like baseball bats and pipes. The variety of weapons ensures plenty of play styles. Some are slow, powerful and unwieldy; others are quick and efficient with less damage per strike.
Base weapons are weak but can be upgraded if you have the in-game money to invest in them. Weapons need to be repaired at specific repair stations as their durability lasts only so long before they are rendered useless. Blueprints allow you to craft modifications, such as a spiked bat. These can be found throughout the world, particularly in caves and so-called “dead zones.”
Dead Island: Riptide is an open-world experience, sort of like a Far Cry game with undead zombies lurking around every corner of the island. The game is broken up into main missions, optional side quests, and survivors along the way that you can rescue for extra money and experience. A map gives you general directions of where missions are located, but it doesn’t prove overly useful. The developers clearly want you to explore on your own. The main downside is that there is a lot of backtracking.
Several of the zombie types seem straight out of Left 4 Dead. You have your basic run-of-the-mill zombie without much health; stronger “thug” zombies who are slow and have a lot of health but can dish out a lot of damage; fat zombies that spit out an acid-like substance, which obstructs the screen; zombies that blow up on contact; and a “witch”-like zombie that is quick and deals significant damage.
Zombies are supposed to scale in difficulty based on the number of players and their rank. Dead Island: Riptide’s experience system gives you a rank starting off at level 15 and increasing from there. Each level awards you a point that can be spent towards abilities. The skill tree lets you invest in three categories: fury (a rage-like super ability), combat, or survival skills. You also get bonuses for earning experience in hand-to-hand combat, firearms, blade weapons, and blunt weapons. These bonuses are passive and do not require you to purchase an upgrade.
Your character and skills have a significant impact on how you will need to play in order to survive. Stamina is a big factor in Dead Island: Riptide. Heavier weapons will use more stamina, which is represented by a blue bar. Running, jumping, and other actions also use stamina. When depleted of stamina, your character’s attacks deal no damage.
Health does not replenish unless you are near death or upgrade one of your skills, such as the ability to regain health after a critical strike. Health kits are pretty rare but can be purchased. Instead, you will often rely on random food items in the world to restore portions of your health bar. Ironically, energy drinks restore more health than fruit.
As far as the graphics go, they are quite dated. There are definitely some noticeable glitches, including collision detection issues and getting stuck in certain spots in the world. The biggest issue is the audio and video lag, which can get ridiculous at times. It is not a stretch to say that these hiccups will cost your character’s life more than a few times throughout the game. Thankfully, Riptide has a pretty forgiving death system that only penalizes you money and time (there’s a small cooldown period to respawn). Overall, the fun factor trumps these concerns.
Also annoying in a way that does not really negatively impact gameplay is the fact that there is no transition in the game’s weather patterns. It will be bright and sunny one second, and after you take a few steps, there’s a downpour all of a sudden. Yeah, Dead Island Riptide takes place in the tropics, but nowhere on Earth would there be literally no warning at all.
The multi-player makes Dead Island: Riptide a much more enjoyable experience. You can join a game at any time. Up to four players can play at once. Cash is shared, so stealing loot between partners is not an issue. Experience is also shared. Voice communication is essential, so be sure that you have a headset.
I had a lot of fun playing Dead Island: Riptide. The size of the island is fairly decent, the weapon variety is excellent, and there is constant action. However, the story, graphics, and lag issues are all a letdown, keeping Riptide from ever being a truly great game. Honestly, I think people who played and beat the first game will be less impressed. It seems like an expansion pack, not a $50 game. Nonetheless, it’s one of the best zombie-killing games on the market.