"You can't really tell which one's are zombies and which are human," that was the words uttered from my wife's mouth when she walked into the room during one of my review sessions with Dead Island: Riptide. She may have a point. The thing about this new spin off (the developer says it's not a sequel) is that it's not particularly pretty in places, more so during cutscenes, however sometimes it's not all about looks, sometimes all you want from a game is some zombie heads to bash together, and in this respect Dead Island: Riptide pretty much delivers.
While my wife had her thoughts on the game from first glance, I was more interested in what Dead Island: Riptide offered in terms of substance and just how the developer would improve upon the last game in the series, which to me at least, was a pretty decent title. Thankfully a few lessons have been learned since Dead Island, although there is still one major flaw which to me is both lazy and unforgivable - fetch quests. Now maybe it's just me, but I am fed up with these lazy, half thought out missions which simply seem to be included in order to pad out a game. "Go and get me a battery and I'll help you," "find the map and bring it to me," etc. I have no idea how many times I had to fetch something in Dead Island: Riptide just so that the developer could face me up against yet more zombies. Surely there could be some original way of progressing the story rather than one fetch quest after another? This problem isn't specific to Dead Island: Ripetide of course, however it's the perfect example of a game that takes advantage of this well used, developer favoured technique.
Anyway, with that rant over, let's talk a little more about the game itself and how you manage to find yourself on yet another zombie filled island. As recapped at the beginning of the game, Riptide sees the survivors of Dead Island land on an aircraft carrier, before once again being faced with the zombie hordes after a monsoon hits their ship. Eventually, the survivors find themselves on the island of Palanai, yet another unlucky location which is infected by the same virus. Having landed here, they soon discover a nuke is on the way to wipe them and the zombies out, however there is a path to freedom, which is where the fetch quests and about 100,000 zombies come into play.
Now that you are up to speed, it's time to go over some of the other basics. At the beginning of the game before landing on the island, you are asked to choose from one of the four returning characters or a new character known as Morgan. If you wish you can also import your character from the previous game. Once this is out the way and you land on the island, you'll head over to a village full of survivors where one of your first missions is to secure the camp from oncoming zombies by placing up electrical fences and from here things will only get tougher, as you carry out quests for fellow team members, while also following the path of the main quest, which sees you looking for the island known as Henderson.
Once you're in the thick of the action, bashing zombies feels as satisfying as ever and there are certainly plenty to bash. Zombies comes in all shapes and sizes, some rushing at you; exploding before your eyes or even just slowly creeping their way towards you. Thankfully there are plenty of weapons spread around the island which will help you stop these monsters in their tracks. These range from blades, to baseball bats to firearms. If you keep your eyes open then you'll also find workbenches, where you can upgrade and repair your weapons.
While it's true that most of the game is about killing zombies, Dead Island: Riptide also continues to offer players a sense of progression thanks to the included Skill Tree. There are three skill trees to choose from, with a skill point being awarded each time you level up. Skills are based on Combat, Survival and Fury, the latter of which is a special skill which can be activated when the relevant meter is full, allowing you to unleash a powerful attack on anything in your path. You'll certainly need all the help you can get in terms of skills and weapons because, (without spoiling anything) there are plenty of new and tougher zombies about to challenge you.
As with the previous game, the map is pretty huge, however there are working cars spread throughout the land once again, which means you can get pretty much anywhere at a faster pace. Also, since the island of Palanai was flooded, you are also able to gain access to boats, giving you yet another way to travel around. Unfortunately the zombies have learned to swim, so there will be occasions when you'll have to fight them off your boat, making for some pretty tense times. Since the map is so huge you'll certainly have plenty to explore if you wish to do so. Not only are there plenty of side quests, but you'll also find hidden items, lock boxes, missing map pieces and a whole lot more. There is certainly more the story than just the main quest line. So if you fancy doing a bit of exploring then you are well catered for.
If multiplayer is your thing, then you'll be pleased to know that, you also can have online teammates take control of other characters, allowing you to get through missions together. I managed to invite some people to join me on a few occasions and it certainly made getting through the levels a whole lot easier, as well as making the whole experience a more social one. In addition to co-op in the main game, there are also new Hub Defence missions, where you need to team up to place traps and fences in order to fight off incoming zombies. This is more or less a zombie horde mode and let's face it, there are certainly enough zombies hanging around in Dead Island: Riptide to pull this off.
At the start of this review I mentioned my wife's opinion on the zombies and to be fair, when it comes to the cut-scenes, she's pretty much spot on. However, that's not to say that Dead Island: Riptide is a total write off when it comes to looks, because that would be pretty unfair. The jungle environments of Palanai do look pretty fantastic, while the action itself is fairly smooth for the most part. There are occasions when the frame rate struggles to keep up with the action, although it'd be interesting to see if this is the case on a higher end PC. Dead Island: Riptide still has it's B-Movie atmosphere, that's for sure; some of the Australian accents sound slightly off, while the dialogue feels pretty high on the 'cheese' scale, however that's all part of the fun in a zombie game.
Dead Island: Riptide is a cheesy zombie bash em' up and it doesn't hide the fact. Sure, it's occasionally ugly in places, but it's not out to win over fans with good looks and an award winning plot. What Dead Island: Riptide wants is for you to bash a island full of zombies and have lots of fun while doing so. In this respect, the game's a winner.
(Version Tested: PS3)
- Full of Zombie bashing fun
- Online Co-op is great fun
- Map is huge
- Pretty ugly in places
- Fetch quests
- Framerate occasionally struggles