Review by legend253
"It's Like Beating a Dead Horse...But Fun!!"
Intro: Like the title insinuates, the game is repetitive, formulaic, and "more of the same". However, the game has a winning formula, which is why it works. The awkwardly birthed semi-sequel to 2011's sleeper hit, Dead Island; Dead Island: Riptide possesses the qualities a game needs to succeed within its demographic, which this review will outline.
Story: Anyone who has played the original Dead Island can agree that Techland decided to vie out of writing an intelligent, brain-pleasing narrative, and opted for a more fun-based selling strategy. Frankly, this is not a game one would buy when looking for a story heavy experience. You start with the game continuing where the last one left off, with the four heroes escaping via helicopter and hearing how the infection is through the mainland with everything going bonkers everywhere. Here, they land on a big boat, where they are taken prisoner and experimented on. **** hits the fan, yada yada yada, boat crashes, end up on shore, chick rescues you, go to survival camp, learn about a way off the island, enter game. There's only one real twist and it's not exactly original. The story does do this interesting thing where it plays into a game mechanic which is probably the most interesting thing about this game's narrative. The story is not impressive, but it is more clear-cut and more engrossing than Dead Island's, meaning story is actually something that Riptide improved on over its predecessor. Despite this bland story, there's still another factor to be "factored" (hehehe) in. Riptide has an extensive amount of Collectibles in-game that highlight the tale of John Morgan (the new playable character), Angela Guerra (a Peace Corps representative from LA), the highly secretive agency that orchestrated the outbreak, and various individuals on vacation in Palanai when the outbreak broke out. These detailed little crumbs are delightfully dark and add much to the lacking narrative, which is scored at 7/10, barely.
Gameplay: Ahh, yes. Dead Island's melee-centric, loot-based, hack-and-slash gore-fest, back to suck your time up and yield hours upon hour of zombie-slaying fun. It's true, not much has changed since Dead Island. Yes, this game is essentially Dead Island 1.5, but then you remember that Dead Island came out 1.5 years ago, and suddenly you realize that by this time, everyone who has played and enjoyed Dead Island has completed all content the original game had to offer and they still want more. In this respect, Riptide achieves its goal gallantly. While the basic controls haven't changed (the game still offers a choice between the more hack-and-slash, button-mash Digital combat, and the visceral, precise Analog combat), there are a few new moves. Each character gains access to a Charge attack (a running charge, not a stand in one place and put more into the swing charge), which nets you an instant-kill on regular old Walkers and other garden-variety zombies, an Aerial Stomp, which is available whenever you are on higher ground than your undead foes (though this ability can only be used on Walker, Infected, and the new Drowners), and the Spring ability, which automatically increases how fast you get off the ground when knocked over. The Charge and Spring abilities are unlocked via the skill trees (which are updated for ease of use), while the Aerial Stomp is unlocked from the get-go. This doesn't seem like much new stuff, and really, it isn't, but there's more.
Along with the original four survivors (who can be imported with a save from the original Dead Island), there is a new character. Casey Ryb-I mean, John Morgan, a soldier turned ship cook, has joined the cast and is quite fun to play with. John is a hand-to-hand combat specialist and while he packs a mean punch, he can really kick zombies far. I'd go so far as to say that his Big Boot ability (which literally allows you to punt zombies as if they're rag dolls) is over-powered. Of course, this isn't something one should complain about, as it's really entertaining to watch zombies fly all over the place. But if this new character is so awesome, where's the point in playing as any other character? Isn't multiplayer going to be a drag with a thousand John Morgans running around punting zombies? The fact is, other characters are still fun to play as. Sam B.'s enormously fun blunt weapon skills are great for sending zombies flying, Xian Mei's proficiency with bladed weapons allows for quick, concise kills that are brilliantly helpful, the addition of throwing weapons as their own separate item class make Logan a much more viable choice, and Purna is...well, guns still take awhile to find, I'm afraid. However, the inclusion of special firearms (flare guns, nail-guns, harpoon guns, stun-guns, and the arrival of sniper rifles) all make her an absolute joy to max out. Speaking of maxing out, the level cap has been raised to 70 (though I should mention that for story issues, you begin the game at level 15) from the last game's original 50 (then later 60, as made per an update). Also, to make using weapon types that are non-character specific decent options for other characters (ie; using blunt weapons on Xian Mei), Techland saw fit to include level-able weapon proficiencies, so you can improve the damage done with weapons that aren't covered in your skill tree, making re-rolling characters a very secondary choice.
Also new to the franchise are the Survival Defense missions and Dead Zones. Survival Defense missions are exactly what they sound like. You have a hub, you put up defenses (mines, electric fences and what-not), and you defend it from hordes of zombies. There are a couple of them throughout the game and while they're a bit obvious, they're still kind of fun. Dead Zones are mini-dungeons that offer a named Champion Monster at the end. They are small, usually consisting of a few rooms highly concentrated with zombies. They're short, sweet, and a welcome addition to the game. Much more welcome than the boats, anyhow. New vehicles for a new island, right? The island of Palanai was flooded thanks to the monsoons from the last game, so most travel done in the first part of the game is done by boat. It's not like the boats are boring (ramming zombies with the boost is pretty enjoyable), but they really are just kind of there. They disappear entirely once you get through to the City area. The game would've been fine if they weren't included at all. All in all, the gameplay hasn't changed much, but what was added is damn fun and addictive as all hell, 8/10.
Content: Content, the meat of a game's playtime. My first play through of this game took 22 hours. I completed 74 of the 80 quests within the game and explored as much as I could without getting frustrated by the size of the map. Speaking of, the map is actually big. It's a bit hard to estimate how it compares to the map from the first game, but I'll be damned if it isn't roughly the same size. In any case, there are a number of areas. You have the Boat, the Island, the Research Center, the Underground Japanese Bunker, the Ferry Station, the City, the Military Base, Fort Henderson, and the Quarantine Zone. Now, it may seem like a lot of locations, but the Island and the City are two main zones, with all of the other zones being mini-zones located within them. Still, they're great fun to explore. A concern of mine, upon hearing that an Island and a City would be present (just like from the last game), was that I would be running through the exact same locations, just re-skinned and re-textured. I am so glad to tell you that this is not so. The Island and the City, as well the mini-areas in-between, are fully new locations. Sure the Island may look a little bit like the Jungle, but it isn't even the same map model. The City is entirely different. Henderson is much more vertical in comparison to Moresby's horizontal plane. I was impressed by the wealth of content made available. The 80 quests include the 28 main quests and a number of them are simply rescue survivors from zombies, but even then there are some fairly unique quests, like a Bank Heist, and one where you help gather a Super Hero's super equipment. There are more, but you should discover them yourself. Now what am I forgetting...Oh right, maybe the Special Infected. Along with the raging Infected, the juiced up Thug, the bloated Floater, the bony Butcher, the suicidal Suicider, and the insane-in-the-membrane Ram, a few new Special Infected make their way onto the scene. You have your Screamer, which can release a paralyzing scream that knocks your character down and removes your ability to fight, the Drowner, which plays possum until you walk by it, upon which it grabs you, leading to some rather obvious jump scares, the Grenadier, which pulls off toxic bits of its body in order to lob them at you, and the Wrestler, who uses his one giant arm to pummel you into the ground. I was surprised at the amount of new stuff in the game, and quite enjoyed the multitude of new weapon mods and weapon-types that were added, as well as all of the other content, despite some of it being unoriginal, 9/10.
Audio: You may or may not be glad to know that the voice talents of each hero have returned, ensuring that there are no uncomfortable voice changes. That said, the voice acting is, in my opinion, good. The VAs all put emotion into their character's lines (and there are quite a few more in this game than in Dead Island) and frankly, they do it well. The music is also done well. Although some of it is recycled, and it's all reused throughout the game, it isn't bad. It fits the mood of the game, as well as the overall situation as it changes through the game. That said, it isn't memorable or even all that great. I think I heard the same song for a total of 15 hours, and I still don't remember how it goes. Still, as far as getting the job done, Riptide succeeds, 7/10.
Technical Presentation: Really kind of a let-down. The first Dead Island also had technical problems. I installed both Dead Island and Riptide to my HDD. In DI, I suffered no glitches, however, in Riptide, I was hit with the occasional total freezing of my console, a few frame-rate issues, and lost a number of weapons after throwing them. That said, my saves weren't corrupted at all, which was a godsend after hearing everything about DI. No number of google searches gives me a result regarding Dead Island: Riptide save corruptions, which is a definite improvement over DI. That said, I can't very well score a game's technical presentation very high if it makes my console freeze, so 6/10.
Conclusion: All things said and done, is Dead Island: Riptide a game worth purchasing? If you enjoyed Dead Island, I'd give it a shot, it's more of the same, but hey, it's still fun. If you didn't enjoy Dead Island, don't buy it, because, well, it's more of the same. If you haven't played Dead Island, go buy the Dead Island GOTY edition, then come back after you've played that. If you're jonesing for more Dead Island, buy Riptide, at $50, it's money well-spent and you can't go wrong with zombie-slaying.
Technical Presentation: 6
Final Score: 7.4 (rounded down to 7)
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/06/13
Game Release: Dead Island: Riptide (US, 04/23/13)
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