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Dead Island Riptide Review

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On 05/08/2013 at 02:04 PM by Julian Titus

Hey, it's another game with zomb--zzzz.....

Fallout and Far Cry fans that are really desperate for something to do until a new Fallout or Far Cry game comes out.

I’m not sure who the target demographic is for Dead Island: Riptide. It’s more than an expansion but far less than a sequel, so it provides more of what the first game had with few enhancements. With that said, I’m probably Deep Silver’s dream audience. I didn’t play the first game, but even less than glowing reviews didn’t stop me from being interested in it. Now that I’ve played Riptide, I can’t help but scratch my head and wonder what went on behind the scenes that resulted in this, another full-priced Dead Island game that seems to offer very little to set it apart from the 2011 original.

The premise for this game is almost laughably bad. The four survivors from the first game escaped the island of Banoi in a military helicopter. Upon landing on a freighter the survivors are taken into custody so that their zombie virus immunity can be studied. Chaos ensues when a zombie outbreak occurs on the freighter and our “heroes” end up marooned on the island of Palanai. I can see the movie tagline in my mind: “Yo, we gotta escape a zombie island again, dawg!”

From the second I took control of this game, I could sense a disturbance in the Force. My selected character (who starts at level 15, a sure sign of expansion pack-it is) moved like she was drunk. I thought it was a storyline element from her having been knocked out and drugged, but no; this is how she moves normally. I never got used to this odd feeling; I expect a certain speed and precision in the way my character moves in a first person game, and the walking is sluggish and unresponsive in Dead Island Riptide.

The combat, at least, evolved over my time with the game. Initially, I wasn’t a fan of the action at all. Dead Island is melee-centric (it was hours before I found a gun), which usually suits me just fine. Hit detection always seems just a bit off, and in the opening of the game, the weapon degradation was a problem for my blade-wielding character. As I leveled up this became less of a problem; I found sturdier weapons, and I was putting points into combat almost exclusively, resulting in a beast of a DPS character. As an RPG mark I get excited when I see damage numbers flying out of enemies, and seeing those numbers go up over time will always keep me invested in a game, even if the actual combat isn’t stellar.

As much as I enjoyed leveling up and getting to the point that I could one-shot most enemies, I never felt like I needed to employ any tactics. By and large, the zombies just make a mad dash for the player, but this bum-rush technique is completely negated by the most broken attack in the game—the kick. Yes friends, why bother with upgrading your purple Venom Bolo Machete when a swift kick will knock a zombie to the ground, leaving it open for a merciless pounding? The only “challenge” I experienced from Riptide came from points where zombies would spawn endlessly, or boss zombies that would get a crit and one-shot me, leading to that ever-present respawn timer.

Let’s talk about that for bit, shall we? I don’t play well with others, so any game that tries to ram co-op down my throat isn’t doing itself any favors. Dead Island: Riptide is set to allow drop in, drop out co-op by default, and it’s really insistent about it. I had to set my game to private on multiple occasions, and even then, the game is set up like it’s a multiplayer match. This means when you die there’s a 7 second respawn timer. Just long enough to make me consider turning off the game, actually. Sure, I can see how playing this game with four players could be fun, but considering all of the looting and inventory management found inside there’s no way I’d join a multiplayer game with a bunch of people just looking to run and gun.

Riptide also takes a huge misstep with its quest structure. Like any RPG-style game, various NPCs will assign quests, either to move the plot forward or to provide additional tasks. The problem is, most of these missions crisscross the island, so any player that wants to take on all of the content on the disc will have to contend with hours of uneventful walking all over the place. You can’t track multiple quests at once on the mini-map, and I quickly grew tired of schlepping back and forth for piddly rewards. I mean that quite literally, too—Dead Island: Riptide put me to sleep on three separate occasions. I don’t know how an action/RPG with hordes of zombies could be this boring, but it is.

I don’t like to spend a lot of time comparing games in my reviews, but it’s really difficult to look at Riptide in a post-Far Cry 3 world. Dead Island may have looked impressive in 2011, but after my time exploring the lush wilderness of Far Cry 3 it comes up short. Human character models tend to look creepier and more disturbing than the zombies, and even though the island offers up some impressive vistas, things still come across as lifeless and uninspired.

I feel like I need to address the elephant in the room as I close this out. Our own Jesse Miller gave the original game 2 stars. I think I like this game better than he did, because once I got my character leveled up I began to derive some enjoyment from laying waste to the more aggressive zombie hordes. With that said, I agree with a lot of his problems with Dead Island, and they don’t seem to have been addressed here. I also found myself bored with large sections of this game on multiple occasions, and in full disclosure I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Completing 40% of the story was more time on Palanai than I could handle.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




05/08/2013 at 08:08 PM

I'm only half way or so through the first Dead Island and I think I enjoy it more than this review does. Survival horror is my favorite genre, so when I see a wasted potential, I get real nitpicky. I'm not really sure what this series aims to be? It's like one of those in-between genres games like Dragon's Dogma. The closest game I can relate it to is Borderlands, which is a shooter, but I think this is a better game than borderlands. Personally I prefer a melle game to a shooter, so maybe that's the explanation. I particularly like the shanty town part of Dead Island. It reminds me alot of Resident Evil 2 and Racoon City.  I like the weather elements of the world too. It's very gloomy when it suddenly starts raining. The controls are a bit floaty for a first person perspective game and you do get overwhelmed by loads of zombies now and again, but I still like being in that world. I like the open world in particular. It's odd for a zombie  horror game. The Resident Evil creator was talking about an open world style game for the next RE game. Seeing as how Riptide is ranking high on purchases, I wouldn't be surprised if they look to this game for inspiration. I don't think the game as that bad, it could use tweaking in floaty controls and some refinement with weapon choices. The respawning is kind of stupid. I've enjoyed the game when people randomly jumped into my game online, but for the most part I'm soloing. Guns are kind of useless in this game, which is ok by me. 

Julian Titus Senior Editor

05/09/2013 at 03:52 PM

It's definitely going for the Borderlands vibe, and while I dig the RPG mechanics for the leveling and damage, the weapons don't bring out that loot hunter feeling from me. The weapon degradation could have made this a cool survival horror game if weapons were sturdier but less plentiful. As it is, the weapon damage was just a minor annoyance in a game filled with minor annoyances.


05/08/2013 at 11:51 PM

The original had lots of potential but that is what I found frustrating about it. A school report stating you have 'potential' means you're not doing well enough! I like options for killing zombies, L4D2 constantly had a gun and melee weapon and both were effective for different tasks. I appreciate that Dead Island is a different type of game but look at the 'cross bow concept' from the walking dead, being able to craft Bows and Arrows would be quite cool here, what about sling shots that have modified ammo, Dead Island needs more range in its attacks. It also seems to miss on another trick from the walking dead (the TV show rather than the game), tactics. Finding the odd flare to lure a horde away from an objective, using co-op effectively such as someone playing bait etc. Seems to be a very lazy installment.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

05/09/2013 at 03:53 PM

You can pick up mines to use for traps or perimeter control, but I never found a reason to use them, since the zombies just run around anyway. It was just "kick to the chest, slice-slice-slice, repeat" for me, hour after hour.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

05/12/2013 at 11:49 AM

Whenever I see articles related to either this game or the original, I can't help but wonder what happened during the initial creative process that made Deep Silver stray from the vibe of the original trailer. To me, the human element missing from the final product leaves a giant, gaping "what-if?" mark on the series.


05/13/2013 at 01:06 AM

There are moments in the game when the story is pushed along with video cut scenes which include a group of survivors, and honestly I don't know who they are? It's a pretty mindless hack n slash affair, but I mostly like the atmosphere and environments really. Had they gone the traditional survival horror route with a great solo mode, I think the game could have been memorable  based on the environment alone. The last zombie type game that took place on an island was code veronice, but this mostly takes place on a resort and shanty town. I hate to use the term "missed potential", but yeah.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

05/13/2013 at 11:05 AM

I'm willing to bet that the first trailer was done by an outside studio with little moment to moment input from the dev team. It's a dicey proposition, because of course it was an amazing trailer that got everyone talking, but I think most people wanted to play that game instead of what was in the box.

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