When Dead Island came out in 2011, it was heavily criticised for being a janky mess, but it was also appreciated (by some) for being the first full-fledged open-world, zombie RPG. In it, you played as one of the few lucky (or unlucky if you’re the glass-half-empty sort of guy) survivors marooned on a fictional tropical island, where an unfortunate infection breaks out, converting revellers into flesh-craving zombies. After slaughtering what would be considered the population of many countries, you and your fellow immune zombie hunters fly away from the island to escape this horror. Unfortunately, fate has some rather ironic plans for you, and you end up on yet another island inhabited by even more infected. Welcome to Dead Island: Riptide.
Riptide clearly isn’t keen on immersing players in a gut-wrenching story. Instead, it just recycles Dead Island’s plot as a means to transport players from one island to another. The voice acting is just as bad as it was in the first game (in fact it’s a bit worse if you ask me), so I suggest you don’t even bother with it.
Gameplay in Riptide largely remains unchanged, which means it plays like a cross between a shooter and an RPG. Think Borderlands, but with a lot less polish. You can choose your desired class before you embark upon your adventure, allowing your character to be proficient with blunt weapons, sharp weapons, firearms, and so on. Like any RPG, you’ll start off with basic stats, but as you slaughter the undead, you’ll earn experience that will allow you to deal more damage with certain weapons, or even buff up certain attributes like health, stamina, etc.
As you explore the island, you’ll come across blueprints that will allow you to craft weapons of mass destruction.
The first few hours of the game will be spent wielding melee weapons, as that is the USP of this franchise. You can use anything from baseball bats to metal pipes to even rowing oars to smash open enemies and revel in their blood. As you explore the island, you’ll come across weapon blueprints that will allow you to craft weapons of mass destruction, such as a baseball bat with nails jutting out of it, a machete that electrocutes as well as maims, a sickle coated with poison, and many more. This system isn’t revolutionary as it’s been done before in Dead Island, but it still is quite a bit of fun.
Melee combat definitely feels clunky at first, and your character has this weird bob all the time, but after a few hours, you’ll get used to the bobbing and once you become proficient with melee weapons, the clunky movement definitely reduces. If you tend to get surrounded by the undead (and you will since they attack in packs), you can always use your legs to kick them out of the way so you can compose yourself and regain health and stamina. Melee combat in this game is largely dependent on your stamina, so if you get gassed out, you won’t be able to kill a fly.
Halfway through Riptide, you’ll gain access to firearms, and the advantage suddenly shifts in your favour as weapons pack a whopping punch, and are highly efficient at crowd control. Unfortunately, ammunition is rather scarce, so you’ll have to ration your bullets, and always keep a melee weapon as backup in your inventory. Switching between ranged and melee weapons also keeps gameplay fresh, making sure you don’t get burnt out with just one play style.
Besides the rather simple quest structure seen in most RPGs today, you’ll have to partake in base defense missions from time to time that play out like the horde mode from today’s shooters. You’ll have to cover up all the base’s entry points, man turrets, save your base mates, and make sure every single undead stays dead. Once again, it isn’t something you haven’t seen before, but it can get real intense especially once you progress through the game and encounter the tougher enemies.
While playing solo, the game can get a bit overwhelming, but it also feels a lot more intense and urgent.
As far as enemies go, Dead Island: Riptide features zombies you’ve probably seen before multiple times in different games. There’s the slow moving kind that move in packs, there’s the fat dude that throws up on you, a loud shrill one that keeps screaming her head off, a very tough tank that can absorb a ton of damage, and so on. While playing solo, the game can get a bit overwhelming, but at the same time, it also feels a lot more intense and urgent. Playing the game co-operatively is obviously a much better experience, but it does tend to simplify things significantly.
Visually, Dead Island Riptide is serviceable, and it probably looks best on the PC. The game has quite a few technical issues though that can be remedied by installing third-party software called Dead Island Riptide helper. Even then, you’ll have to make do with some terrible enemy models, low resolution textures and erratic framerates.
While I did enjoy my time with Dead Island: Riptide, treating it as nothing more than a mindless co-operative shooter, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the fact that the past two years weren’t used to polish the game or its mechanics. When it works, the game offers a rather entertaining and satisfying action RPG experience, but you still have to wade through a lot of unpolished crap along the way. My advice would be to grab Dead Island: Riptide during the next Steam sale.
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