Dead Island Riptide offers a more polished version of its predecessor’s game of zombie whack-a-mole, but very little in the way of innovation or depth
Dead Island: Riptide has been billed as a spin off of the original Dead Island, rather than a full-blown sequel. This is probably wise, since there’s so much about Riptide that isn’t so much standing on the shoulders of its predecessor as picking its pocket.
Dead Island Riptide: Gameplay
Riptide offers almost exactly the same experience as Dead Island. The main changes involve a new location, a couple of new zombie types, a new playable character and less glitches in the core gameplay.
The lion’s share of activity in Riptide involves scrounging for money and parts, crafting weapons using money and parts and using said weapons to hack up attacking zombies… that one can then loot for money and parts.
If those activities sound fun just by themselves then Dead Island Riptide could well be one of the most engaging titles you play all year. The problem for players who desire more besides is that Riptide is rather low on imagination and depth when it comes to things like mission structure and telling a story that players are likely to care about beyond the ten-minute mark.
Nearly every mission in Riptide is either a fetch-quest or a hub defence quest and while the story starts off with some nefarious CIA-types experimenting on humans, they don’t really loom large over the narrative for much of the game. Instead, players are mostly tasked with gathering schematics, building implements of death and then caking their weapons in claret.
Dead Island Riptide: Characters
Players can pick from one of four characters from the first game, import their character from Dead Island or opt to go with the new character, John Morgan. John’s an Australian bruiser who comes armed with an unlockable kick attack.
At base level this gives players a quick way to gain space when surrounded by slavering zombies. However, if players sprint at a clutch of zombies and unleash John’s punt at the optimum moment, they can send the pack of undead scattering like bowling pins.
There are some new zombies to lay into as well; Floaters play possum until players approach and then they leap up and spit acid, Suiciders rush at the player and explode and Rams… well they ram you, don’t they?
They’re all dealt with in the same way: players slash, batter, enflame and shoot until said undead doesn’t get up again. They then pick the bodies clean of loot and, if their XP level is high enough, they unlock a new skill on their character’s skill tree. Rinse, repeat.
Dead Island Riptide: Presentation
What makes the experience feel all the more like a missed opportunity is the fact that the developers have clearly gone to some lengths to make the world of Dead Island Riptide look the part.
There’s an eerie quality to the abandoned beaches and empty villas on the island, and the environments are filled with caves, jungle paths and buildings that promise intrigue, yet aren’t served by anything in the plot.
Dead Island Riptide is also a far more polished game than its predecessor and while it isn’t bug-free, it’s a marked improvement. Occasionally players may see the weather switch from bright, tropical sunshine to a torrential downpour in an instant, but there isn’t anything as game-breaking as occurred in Dead Island – or at least, nothing we found in our play-through.
Dead Island Riptide: Verdict
But Riptide fails to convince as anything beyond an extended game of zombie whack-a-mole. One of the reasons the zombie apocalypse is such a compelling setting in any sort of entertainment medium – be it games, movies or literature – is because it says something poignant about the fragility of society and human interaction.
This narrative punch is present in the best zombie games such as Left 4 Dead, DayZ and The Walking Dead. The wreckage of society is hardly a concern in Dead Island: Riptide. All you need to enjoy yourself here is the desire hit and shoot zombies. Over and over and over again…
Dead Island Riptide release date: Available now
Dead Island Riptide price: From £24.99 (on PC on amazon.co.uk)