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After seeing it’s fair share of pre release controversy, the series that hasn't been afraid to get people talking is back. Dead Island Riptide looks to reignite the open world zombie RPG genre once again, a mere 18 months after the first game was released that divided audiences after one of the most memorable game trailers of recent years. So now that the talk is over and the game is finally here was it worth the trouble? Techland returns with a solid effort that feels like more of the same than anything truly different like the previous game.
The story is pretty non existent in this game just like the previous effort. The opening cinematic tells the story of the first game to catch you up if you did not play it as this game picks up right where it ended. Once again you are a part of a group of survivors who are immune to the virus and must find a way to defeating the zombie horde. The story exists because it has to but if you are playing this game for the story then you are playing the wrong game.
Combat is very hit and miss (pun intended) which can frustrate at times. The hit detection problems from the first game carry over which results in sometimes random button mashing to take down a group of zombies. Lining up where you desired weapon of choice lands can sometimes be devastating when you chop off an arm or head but on occasion the game just ignores where you are aiming which makes trying to play the game skillfully, at times, rather pointless.
Once again the emphasis here is on hand to hand combat over guns which is one of my favorite parts about the game. The choice of weapons is incredibly vast so you will never get bored and the modification options are also very deep. My preferred choice of weapon this time round for the most part was the Freddy Krueger inspired clawed glove. Once I had it upgraded with barbed wire the speed at which I could inflict mass damage was devastating and very fun to use.
The other side of the combat is of course the shooting, which is pretty badly handled. The mechanics are bad and I tried to never use guns but when some enemies started shooting I had no other choice. These were the most frustrating parts of the game which were luckily quite short but I would rather guns were completely removed from the game altogether as the melee aspect is what makes this game unique.
Switching weapons is handled by a weapon wheel which I did have some problems with. When you have time to switch it isn’t a problem but in the middle of combat it becomes very hard to precisely change to the weapon you would like and can get very glitchy when under pressure. Maybe that makes sense as doing it under pressure would be more tricky in real life than when you have time but I feel this is more of a design flaw than a desired effect.
Of course any RPG wouldn't be right without leveling up and XP and Riptide doesn't let you down. Each time you hit a new level from gaining XP through killing zombies or completing quests you get to unlock a new skill from the 3 available skill trees which are Fury, Combat and Survival. You get to unlock new fighting moves, health boosts, more inventory slots and many more. It really makes you want to keep progressing as there is always a new skill that you have your eye on to unlock.
Graphics are again quite inconsistent. Some vistas look fantastic and really beautiful when you get up high and really get to see how big the area is. At other times the game transforms into dingy low res textures which can end up looking like a PS2 game. After playing Far Cry 3 which was similar in location but more stunning, it reflects badly on Dead Island Riptide that suffers from these inconsistency problems that have plagued both games in the series so far.
Rage mode is a feature that let’s you go on a short rampage after you have filled the meter all the way up which makes you more powerful and makes combat a lot easier. The inclusion of rage is tried to be explained in the context of the game via the story but it’s pretty irrelevant just like the other plot points. I actually forgot to use rage on many occasions as the meter is so small and as it lasts such a short time it wasn't really worth the wait or hassle to execute.
One of the new additions to the game is the use of fortifications of a frequent basis where you have to build up fences and man turrets to protect a location from multiple waves of zombies. It is one of the best parts about Riptide and I would have definitely liked to see a separate horde mode to play outside of the main game as it works really well in this universe. It probably will be DLC but would have been nice to have this available from the start.
In addition to all the vehicles from the previous game we also get to travel by sea this time with the inclusion of boats. It definitely adds a new dynamic to the game and the new zombie type that like to cling onto the side of your boat and unless you speed up to lose them will knock you out of the boat adds a new level to how you will play the game. If regular travelling isn't your thing then fast travel is still present and works very well. Loading up a new area in 2-5 seconds it works very fast and doesn't slow the flow of the game down at all.
Co-op once again plays a big part and is a great way to play the game. Connectivity has been improved to make it easier to jump in and out of games and finding friends is a lot simpler. Enemies are balanced between the levels of all players which was patched into the first game and ultimately makes a very good co-op experience. If you can play this game with friends this is the best way to experience the game.
Playing on PS3 (which is apparently the worst version) I did struggle with quite a few problems. The frame rate likes to drop on a frequent basis whenever there is multiple zombies on screen, which is most of the time, and fire makes the game almost crash when you use molotov cocktails. Texture popping happens every time you enter a new area and the usual glitches are still present. Zombies running into invisible walls, running in mid air or getting stuck floating next to objects, this is still the Dead Island you have played before, bugs and all.
Whilst Dead Island Riptide is very much an action game over horror I was surprised to find a couple of moments to be rather scary. One part in particular that involves going through pitch black tunnels whilst trying to find a light switch, your only option is to throw flares in front of you to see where you are going. The sound of hearing zombies but not being able to see them was very haunting and when I ran out of flares I found myself just swinging my axe in hope to kill any nearby attackers. It was a great survival horror set piece which I wish was more prevalent over the desired path of action.
Cutscenes are pretty cringeworthy and one of the most backwards parts of the game as it really makes you feel like you are playing a game from previous generations. Not only are the voices out of sync with the character’s lips but the dialogue is so bad it makes you want to play the game on mute or just skip the cutscenes altogether. Which is a button prompt you are aware of by a friendly reminder which is constantly on screen and cannot be removed. It’s like the developers want you to skip them which I would advise you to do so.
Overall the length is what you would expect from a open world RPG. I only did 40 quests whilst completing the game out of a possible 80 as I barely touched any of the side missions so there is a lot for people to play through. The final boss is pretty underwhelming to the point I was surprised when the credits started to roll that I had finished the game. You can then restart the game again with all your old weapons, skills and overall level carries over which is nice for people that want to continue with the same character.
Credit has to be given to the developers though that in spite of so many of the fundamentals being poor, the game is still really addictive and undoubtedly fun to play. It could just be that leveling up, looting and fighting zombies is always fun but Dead Island Riptide does it as good as anyone. I found myself on many occasions becoming frustrated with certain AI or glitches but instead of wanting to stop playing I immediately went back to exploring the island, checking for loot, upgrading my weapons and killing even more zombies.
The most frustrating part is that there is definitely an amazing game somewhere to be made in this franchise and after a strong first effort I really hoped many of the smaller problems would have been fixed the second time round. Sadly this is not the case and instead we get another fun game but it’s almost the exact same game we played in 2011, only this time the idea isn't as fresh anymore. It looks like Techland were scared to change much in fear of angering fans of the original and maybe didn't realize that certain bugs and glitches aren't a part of what makes this game fun to play.
If you loved the first game then you will definitely love Riptide. If you hated the first game then you will hate Riptide. If you liked the first game and was hoping for a sequel than improved on this premise then you will enjoy this game but ultimately feel disappointed like myself. After two good efforts so far that many enjoy, maybe the third game will be when the idea is fully realized and we get the Dead Island game everyone wishes existed. Until then enjoy more of the same and keep on zombie killing.