If you thought that your stint of fighting off zombies in the tropics was over, then think again, because Dead Island: Riptide brings all the action back from the original title.
Dead Island seemed to come out of left field back in 2011 when it hit the shelves. However, fans of survival horror games praised the gory fun, and those who were into RPG elements appreciated the upgrade system as while as looting. Even more so, with a fluid and dynamic co-op system, Dead Island became a cult hit.
Now, two years later, developer Techland brings fans into the zombie-infested open world for a second serving, with Riptide. Picking up right where the original game ended, players find themselves back in action after ending up on an aircraft carrier on the open sea. Of course, this wouldn't be Dead Island fashion without a little bit of zombie killin', which comes into play almost immediately. Through dialogue, the game reveals that the zombie infestation has spread from the original island to others, due to a monsoon. After fighting your way through hordes of zombies on the carrier, the player ends back on another island, with a whole new mess of problems to deal with.
Mirroring the original, Riptide allows players to choose from a set of characters with unique abilities that affect their fighting style. Players are able to pick up weapons scattered about the large open world map, with the majority being melee oriented. Weapons can range from kambo sticks to chainsaws, and all of which can be upgraded up to four times as well as repaired once damage is taken. This aspect goes along with other RPG elements including player level-ups with unlockable upgrades throughout the game. Riptide employs a skill tree upgrading system, where the player chooses which abilities they want to progress in after each level. This is particularly effective if a player wants to focus on say, fighting rather than survival.
Riptide's combat system is mostly hack and slash via blunt weapons or blades with the occasional firearm. However, what is unique about this game in particular is that, depending on where you hit the zombie, more or less damage can occur. For example if you hit a zombie square in the head, you could potentially kill them. Meanwhile, if you hit one of their limbs, such as an arm or a leg, the zombie will continue to attack. Not only that, but your player can only use a limited amount of stamina, meaning you cannot simply, spam the "hit" button on your controller forever. In order to get around this, the player must strategize how to maximize damage with your limited stamina. This can become overwhelming if you become swarmed by a horde and run out of juice, which means you are pretty screwed until your stamina recharges.
Littered throughout Riptide's map is a set of missions that the player can choose to play in order to unlock new challenges. Each of these get increasingly difficult and if you are not playing co-op, it can certainly be hard. With that being said, the game should probably be played with friends or random's online. With more players by your side, beating missions and challenges become a little less difficult, and more enjoyable.
In terms of visuals, Riptide stays true to the original, with bright and vibrant colors that match tropical destinations in the real world. Aside from a few model glitches here and there, the animation and CG are relatively clean. What stands out in this game, however, is the juxtaposition of terrifying and beautiful images. The player will find themselves in the midst of nightmarish zombies, but at the same time your are within a lush, tropical island. It's those neat aspects that makes Riptide standout amongst the many zombie games today.
Techland did a great job of not messing with the archetype set by Dead Island. While there is not too many differences in terms of gameplay, this game does offer a great deal of new content that fans of the original will enjoy. Aside from some glitches or uninteresting cutscenes, Riptide is a solid follow-up to a game that made much headroom for the genre.
Version tested: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3, PC)
(Deep Silver supplied a copy of this game for review.)
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