Dead Island: Riptide Review

I must state first and foremost, that I am more than a little bit disappointed with Deep Silver’s latest showing for the promising Dead Island IP. Here I was, hoping that Riptide would come along- and true to its name, sweep me away. However, instead, I was let down unceremoniously by a whole new host of bugs that I hadn’t even encountered and grown used to in the original hit, as well as unpolished gameplay that has no excuse after 2011’s excellent melee/shooting drive, and a lack of graphical touch that is just unacceptable. Dead Island had wonderful graphics, and showcased an intuitive if flawed narrative, quest-like design. Riptide is watered down in almost every aspect, and yet, for no apparent reason, I still find it to be incredibly satisfying to play. It must just be the zombies at this point, because it didn’t really have too much else going for it, throughout all the twelve or so hours I’ve already sunk into between yesterday and today. Sure, tons of great games are filled with bugs- Fallout, Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Dead Island among them, but few can match this level of bug infestation. Someone call the Orkin man, please.Some of the changes in the game were made due to willing fan response, and are definitely a step in the right direction- however, its more of a two steps forward-one step back jig that the game is doing than a real push for improvement…

The majority of the basic gameplay is exactly like the original Dead Island, with very, very minimal changes in any way, shape, or form. Combat focuses heavily upon impressive melee actions, and coupled with the satisfaction of landing machete headshots, as well as the difficulty not being terribly unbearable- the game gets high marks in that category. The leveling process, whether through imports or with new characters, works just about the same, and has more depth than many RPGs do- making it addicting, exciting, and interesting. Cooperative mode paces players excellently, and also provide just the right challenge for each individual, so that a lower leveled player doesn’t feel overwhelmed by capped zombies. In an actually interesting and “good” (I guess) move, Deep Silver has allowed players to import their previous survivors, regardless of if you have completed the game or not. Any skills and levels you received on the same profile with your other character are transferable, which is pretty much all you could ask for anyway, as there are plenty of available new items and tools to cash in on. Even if you took the time to completely max out your tank-like character in the previous game, you can earn additional skills this time around as well, keeping you in the loop and getting some “extra” leveling as well. Of course, if you’re starting off for the first time with Riptide, for whatever reason, you get a little buffer amount of points to allocate as you deem necessary.

Now, I know some of you are probably just as confused as I initially was, but despite the name not being Dead Island 2, the game Riptide is in fact a direct series sequel to the original game itself. It features the same survivors, well, plus one, and is located roughly within the same region of islands in the Banoi area. Many other factors transfer over, none of which are truly of much importance, since you’re most likely (wisely) going to ignore the story anyway and just enjoy bashing zombie heads in the whole entire game. Which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Once more, there are several characters to choose from to play as, each with their own relatively unique set of skills in-game and kind of with differing personalities throughout cinematic sequences as well. Side quests return and are relatively exciting once more, offering loads of content that I haven’t even begun to trudge through yet, and giving a new spin on some familiar thoughts as well. Don’t be fooled into believing that this game is simply a little extra content for the original though, because you’re in for a pleasant surprise if that’s what you think…

There are several new elements to the game (including, but not limited only to) such as new ways to battle new undead, epic boat rides and the mayhem that results on both sides, an almost “tower defense” like Left 4 Dead position defending element, and also an entirely new, never before encountered character to play as in a completely thrilling experience. The “new guy” is also a melee machine, and hand to hand combat specialist, which works great with Dead Island’s already melee focused combat, and makes it a blast to literally rip zombies apart- with your hands! Instead of playing one big repair or fetch quest like the original game was apt to throw in for you every other side quest, the tower defense scenarios, while flawed somewhat, are an exciting change of pace and definitely get your heart going and blood pumping. Replacing broken down fortifications and barricades a la Call of Duty’s Zombies mode, manning the 50 cal as the zombie horde pours in, and detonating strategically placed explosives all contribute to an epic new experience throughout the bulk of the game.

…And, now we come to the point in the blog where you wonder how I am going to break us all back down to Earth, after specifically stating that Riptide is just not too impressive and rating it a worse score than its predecessor received, at an average of 7.25 only. You see, Riptide’s bane is- for better and worse, it simply just didn’t try hard enough to differentiate itself from the previous game at all. Pretty much every bug I ever experienced in the original Dead Island shows up in Dead Island: Riptide, and you know what is even better? This game also has a whole new plethora of content related glitches, bugs, and mixups. Oh yeah.Now, you might be thinking that “oh, that’s not too bad, I can handle some glitches…” but let me assure you, these are no simple glitches like retexturing failures and cropping issues prevalent in most every Bethesda game created- these are the mother of all nasty bugs you’ve encountered, just shy of being truly game and experience breaking, but annoying enough nonetheless. A la Colonial Marines, enemies just can’t seem to figure out where they want to go, and as a result, often stupidly bump into each other- and crop through the environment numerous times additionally. The enemy AI can be scarily omnipotent at times and ridiculously incapable at others, so, when you see the zombies rip down your door and expect to be overwhelmed- you might be pleasantly shocked that, 3/10 they’ll just stand there and take your cheapshots without so much as a second glance after having broken into your sanctuary.

Some of the other most prevalent and annoying glitches include the ‘Falcon Punch’ from around the world, in which your enemies somehow manage to melee you from meters away, and actually do damage. (Chuck Norris would approve.) Please, if this is supposed to happen, someone let me know, but apparently Riptide has a flying class of infected as well- these undead just levitate off the ground, and often fly into the midst of your party as well, crashing things…just a bit. Your minimap is more confusing than the actual pause-screen menu map, so you might as well use that one or be forced to wander aimlessly around, fighting zombies until you eventually make it to where you intended to go…or die trying. Oh, and here’s one of the real kickers- if you think your revered and impressive arsenal of upgraded weapons are safely stored away, think again, as they’ll often disappear without a trace, never to be seen again. On pretty much all consoles, excluding PC for the most part, (I’ve witnessed the PS3 version played, and have the 360 myself) the game’s framerate is nothing to be duly impressed by,a s it is remarkably worse than the original, as are the visuals on the whole. Toss an explosive over there? Expect to be waiting several extra seconds for the smoke, body parts, and screen to clear later than it should be. The textures are muddy up close, but look beautiful from farther away, although even then some are especially distasteful, so if you care about that sort of thing- be aware. The game has some real issues, but nothing that can’t be patched sooner rather than later I suppose, and nothing that detracts terribly from what is still an exciting experience nonetheless.

Oh, and you think these guys above are easy to take out, just because they have no arms free to claw at you with, or mouths to bite? Yeah, well take a gander at all that extra padding you’ve got to beat through as well…and the fact that he’s gonna charge you at about ten miles per hour, and then come tell me that’s nothing scary. Anyway, overall, I personally think Dead Island: Riptide and Deep Silver missed the mark a little on this followup to one of my favorite games of 2011, but hey, I’m hard to impress, so it’s still a good game by my standards regardless. Killing zombies is all I can really ask for at this point, and on that, it delivers soundly.

Concept: Create a sequel to one of 2011’s most exciting games, but ultimately fail to live up to the majority of the hype, while still providing a solid and interesting adventure experience.

Graphics: While they are never as good as the original it seems, the graphics can sway between awesome and crappy depending on how close you are to a given modeled texture.

Sound: The soundtrack is perfectly in step every moment of the game thus far, and the accompaniment of zombie moans, shrieks, and bellows should rightly unnerve even the hardiest zombie apocalypse survivor.

Playability: You won’t hear any complaints from me about the controls themselves for combat and locomotion, however, it goes to say that the minimap sucks, the framerate is laughable 50% of the time during any action, and the enemy AI is unpredictable…but not in the good, challenging sort of way at all.

Entertainment: As fun as the melee oriented combat specialist is to play, he can’t carry the entire game experience on his back, and therefore it ultimately falls through just a little bit.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 7.25

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