Apr 23, 2013

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Dead Island Riptide Review

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The first Dead Island title was released to a mostly positive reception. During a time when zombies were all the rage (a rage that lives on to this day even), Techland and Deep Silver presented an open world experience for players to take on the infected hordes and hope to survive. Two years later we have the sequel/spin-off, Dead Island Riptide. Does it offer more of the same gore from the first Dead Island? Or does a change in scenery help to set Dead Island Riptide surpass its predecessor?

Dead Island: Riptide takes place right after the end of  Dead Island. If you haven’t played the first one, that’s alright as the events that occurred during it are summarized in the first cutscene. In Riptide, you start out on a military ship that gets caught in a rough storm. When the storm passes, you awake to find yourself on Palanai, an island on the Banoi archipelago. It doesn’t take long to realize that the infected plague this island as well.

The story paints a grim tale for the original survivors from the first Dead Island. Even from the start of the game, the band of survivors face a lot of challenges. If you played the first one, you know that the story’s potential wasn’t nearly as high as it could have been. It appears that this is also the case with Dead Island Riptide. I’m not saying that the story is a major turn off for the game, but those looking for a major improvement will be disappointed. There aren’t too many parts that stand out.

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Missions seemed to consist on a good deal of fetch quests, but there other types such as the defense missions in which you need to hold down the area you’re in from waves of infected. There are also side missions which upgrade the weapon level of other survivors in the area. I didn’t mind the fetch quests as much and overall enjoyed the missions, but I can understand if some gamers might find this annoying.

You can play as the same cast of characters from Dead Island with the addition of newcomer, John Morgan. Each character is an expert in their own weapon department though they can use any weapon they come across. The perks of being an expert in one weapon type can vary from gaining extra ammo for your firearms to having a better chance of inflicting critical damage. When starting the game for the first time, you have the option to import your character data from the first game. This means you can start the game with your level 60 character. Though it should be noted that John Morgan’s level will still remain at level 15, which is the level that Dead Island Riptide has all characters start out at if you don’t import your data.

In the beginning of the game, your choice in how you want to fight off the infected is a bit limited. Prefer the ability to inflict damage at a distance with a gun? It will be awhile unless you have no problem with using a flare gun or nail gun. If using a blade or your fists is more your style, than you will have some pretty decent choices. Overall  I would say the combat is very similar to Dead Island.

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Weapons can be found on corpses and littered across the environment for those who might not have enough funds to purchase them from survivors on the island. It is important to note that you can only carry so many weapons on your person before you’ll have to decide whether it is worth swapping one out for another. Though as you level up, you gain extra weapon slots that make switching from one to another easier. Each weapon you find in the game can be repaired, upgraded, or modded. It is highly recommended to ensure you take the time to keep your most used weapons repaired whenever you can access a workbench. Also, you will need to make sure the weapon you plan on upgrading is fully repaired as it will not allow you to make upgrades to it otherwise.

There is a good variety in enemies that you will come across. There isn’t just the infected who appeared in the first Dead Island. Other new variants are present such as the drowners, grenadiers, and wrestlers. Each of these infected have a unique attack style. An example is how drowners appear to be lifeless, floating bodies in the water until you get near them either by foot or boat. While the enemies level with your character, they are still likely to overpower you individually or in a group. A vast majority of my deaths were due to not taking into account how many infected were close by when I would attack one. Sounds and movement will cause them to come after you.

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While the graphics are not super realistic, I was impressed by how decent they looked. The island is bright and vibrant when the weather is nice. With the dynamic weather system, you could go from having a clear view of your surroundings to limited range during a heavy downpour. Because the game is so gory, I found that the not so realistic graphics made it easier to play through the game. Dead Island Riptide is very generous with the amount blood that gushes out from whatever extremity you severe on an infected’s body.

Much like the first title, Riptide has its fair share of bugs and issues. I did have some framerate issues at random times during the game. This can happen at some really bad times and allow the infected to get a few cheap hits in. The lag, luckily, never lasted too long  although it was a reason for a few of my deaths. Also, there are some bugs with the infected popping in and out of the environment, causing them to do things like alternate between being on the ground and the roof of nearby buildings. Voice acting for the main characters were decent enough, but the minor characters repeated the same lines over and over which can get annoying.

It’s possible to complete the main story missions within 15 to 20 hours. Expect to put a bit more in to complete all of the side missions as well. Co-op again is done online and you can play with up to three other people; however you can not play co-op locally. This can be a a pain if you have friends over and want to take down hordes of infected together. Joining a game can be as simple as pressing a button when the title lets you know a player is nearby. The enemies you fight will be on your level whereas the ones your teammates fight will be scaled to their level, which is nice if your friend is a higher level than you or you are playing with someone who played the first game and you didn’t.

Dead Island Riptide is not a horrible game but its not a great game and is not for everyone. If you are a fan of the first one and want something that isn’t quite a sequel, than you will likely enjoy Dead Island Riptide. Those hoping to see major improvements with this title might want to put off making a purchase. The game is not without its issues, which is a little disappointing especially since the first game suffered from the same bugs.  I enjoyed Riptide more than I thought I would have, and ultimately the bugs and lackluster story is the only thing holding this game back.

Dead Island Riptide
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3 (reviewed)
Genre: Action Role-playing, Survival Horror
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Deep Silver
ESRB Rating: M
MSRP: $39.99 (PC), $49.99 (PS3, Xbox 360)


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About Elizabeth Burnette

Traversing the world of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Catch me on Twitter @TheLiztress and on the PS3 at The_Liztress