Dead Island Riptide: catchup review

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The original Dead Island was a fairly well received twist on a typical setting for a zombie apocalypse game that exchanged wrecked cities and barren wastelands for a beautiful island resort in the sun. Two years later and minus any headline-grabbing CG trailers, Dead Island: Riptide tries to recapture that twist and invites players to once more slash, bash and punch their way through zombie filled beaches.

Set immediately after where the first game left off more or less (warning: spoilers) the rag-tag bunch of survivors – a washed up rapper, an ex-security guard, an ex-professional sports player and a receptionist – escaped the island of Banoi only to end up captured by the military to have their apparent immunity to the zombie infection experimented on. They are joined by another immune and when the infection spreads once more, they inevitably end up washed up on a different island where an outbreak has also happened. It is the first of many deja-vu moments in Riptide.

While the first game tried to focus on the human connection showing personal pain and loss (in pretty haphazard, lazy ways might we add), Riptide instead focuses less on your characters or other survivors and more on the infection itself and what it could be doing to them. There is some intrigue at least at first, but soon things degrade into pure incoherent nonsense as the zombies take a back seat to the apparent ‘rage’ building up inside the immune you play as. What does that mean? If you’ve seen 28 Days Later you may be able to guess.

A laughably bad plot aside, the gameplay is identical to before. Each character specializes in a weapon type and is encouraged to stick to those, hunting down ones with better statistics as you level up. Combat is still fun to a certain extent (though those who burned themselves out on Dead Island may disagree) but easily gets repetitive if playing alone. Indeed this is a game that can only barely be recommended on the assumption you will never play alone, as the four player co-op is all but necessary to enjoy the experience.

During our co-operative playthrough of the game we suffered numerous bugs, crashes and glitches. Saves seemed to incoherently get out of sync with each other (meaning we had to switch up hosts or have constant hard freezes with no obvious workaround), and the frame rate slowed to a crawl under bizarrely simple circumstances (like throwing a new flare item for dark sections mid-way through).

We caught zombies phasing through doors, walls and fences, quests suddenly vanishing from our log and items disappearing too. There were also minor audio hiccups and, while not a bug, once we noticed that characters barely ever blinked (and when they did it was only with one eye); the shoddy amount of polish started to become apparent. It seemed only the upper bodies of characters had any animation made for them, as another example. There was also a single model used for many of the NPCs in the game who would crop up every so often with different hair (or a different shirt and hat) but same face to handle the side quests scattered about.

Across three main areas, Dead Island: Riptide will last between ten and fifteen hours depending on how many side quests and optional zombie filled areas you choose to tackle without ever really being posed any kind of a challenge, including the hilarious final boss.

The fun, if there is indeed any to be had here, comes from playing alongside your friends. Your friends are needed to laugh along with you at the stupid plot or the glitching zombie corpses you can send flying. Your friends are needed to comfort you as your console hard-crashes because of a glitch. This is not a game that can hold your attention alone, regardless of how much you enjoy the melee focused combat.

Avoid if alone – tolerate if with friends. The score below reflects a co-operative playthrough.

critical score 5

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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git.

Dislikes: Most things.

Likes: Obscure references.

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