Written by Sean Kumpan; PSHG Team Writer
It’s pretty safe to say the original Dead Island failed to meet literally everyone’s standards that it set for itself, but there were many people that still liked the game anyway. I was one of those people.
And really, on paper, Dead Island is a formula that should work.
Semi-open world + RPG progression + quests + zombies = success!
Now I may have barely crawled my ass through math class, but that’s a formula that I can understand! Unfortunately, it all didn’t gel together the way that people had hoped. In steps Riptide, a sequel that the developers and publisher Deep Silver are adamant about telling you that it’s not a sequel, but instead a follow-up. Very much a continuation of the original, the game plays 100% identical to it, as well. Hell, it even looks, sounds and feels the same. This is a very good thing and a very bad thing, which is a recurring theme that you’ll experience throughout.
Directly following the events of the original where everyone got off an island, our crew of Sam B, Xian Mei, Purna and Logan Carter are kidnapped by a group of mad scientists hellbent on channeling their immune DNA from the zombie virus. The story is mainly an excuse to kill things, much like the original. A more in-depth story would have been welcomed, but something about the lack of story makes you feel more alone. It’s almost like not being in the loop in an investigation until the very end and while there won’t be a lot of mystery to intrigue you to propel forward, you will push through, thanks to the addictive gameplay, RPG progression, and better-implemented co-op.
In the graphics department, it’s pretty much a mirror image of the original with much less bugs and glitches. There are still the occasional glitches here or there, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll experience any sort of crashes or freezes. It’s still satisfying as hell to chop off a zombie’s limbs and watch the gore go flying all over the place. It’s even more fun with friends, where it becomes a hilarious bloodbath that is like one of those slasher/horror movies that’s so bad, it unintentionally turns into a comedy. With drop-in and drop-out co-op, the fun is fluid and you won’t struggle to partner up with your friends.
Riptide uses the same music as the original, which further showcases that this is definitely an expansion instead of a full-blown sequel. The environments of Palanai look similar to Banoi, thus losing the allure and mystique that made the original so haunting, but despite this, the environments genuinely look extremely good and at times beautiful. This is through and through just more Dead Island, but think of it as a more polished version. In fact, one could say that it would be more of an impact if you haven’t played the original, that way you get the fresh experience that has been optimized and fine-tuned.
You can import your character if you have a save file from the original game, which is what I did. Immediately doing this, I noticed that the game is more difficult than the original. It’s also tough if you don’t import a character, so it’s good to see the gameplay be rebalanced to give it more of a survival feel. However, difficulty options would have been recommended and welcomed.
Weapons don’t break as fast, either, allowing you to spend more time killing zombies than repairing. You will still need to repair your weapons a lot, but you’re almost guaranteed to have enough money for it at all times, as cash is abundant in Riptide. You’ll also face a lot of the same enemies, but a neat new addition is the Dead Zones, which is sort of like a tournament arena filled with baddies for you to dismember. One thing that makes the game easy and cheap is the fact that when you die, the zombies you were attacking stay at the HP they had when you died, which effectively eliminates the need for any type of strategy whatsoever. That being said, the combat is endlessly satisfying. The voice acting is pretty much the same as the first. It won’t win any awards, but it won’t make you cringe either.
All in all, Riptide is a successful expansion to the original. It would have been much better suited for being a standalone DLC title priced around $30 or $40, but if you’re a Dead Island fan, or a zombie/open world/RPG fan, there is no feelings of unsatisfaction here.