Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 06/03/13

Everything floats down here

Deep Silver and Techland probably didn't expect Dead Island to become the success that it became in 2011. Thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign and an emotional trailer that went viral, Dead Island became a surprise hit that year, and has become a cult classic in the process. Quick to cash in on the success of the original, the same people bring us Dead Island: Riptide, which just hits too many of the same notes to really warrant another romp through these zombie-infested islands.

Riptide takes place directly after the events of the first game. The unfortunate survivors of that game are captured and taken aboard a boat as prisoners, with the people on the boat intending to use their immune genes to try to figure out a why to cure the virus that has created zombies all over this tropical paradise. They meet a new immune person named John Morgan, and after some bad weather causes the ship to crash, they are stranded on another tropical island that has suffered heavy floods thanks to a monsoon.

While this seems like a grim situation, it all comes across as kind of hilarious thanks to the B-movie like plot. The cut-scenes are often ridiculous, and the events that unfold throughout the game are something you'd expect to find in any of the budget horror titles that can be found on Netflix Instant Streaming. The plot, for all its absurdities, has its charm, but not all the pieces of the puzzle really fit right. I enjoyed the corniness of it all, but the voice acting was just too terrible at times, poorly written and poorly performed by the voice actors.

Cut-scenes are laughably animated, and all the character models in the game just look bad. There's no two ways about it...they just look so, so incredibly bad. In fact, most of the game is just criminally ugly. I can't believe that a game can release this late in a console's lifetime and look so atrocious, budget title or not. Hell, every single launch title for the Xbox 360 looks better than Riptide, and that is just something that shouldn't be possible, considering the 360 launched a whopping eight years ago.

Piling on to the graphical and design mess of it all, the game suffers from serious screen-tearing issues, especially during cut-scenes. Characters shake their domes around like bobble heads when talking, which, when coupled with the horrific facial animation, results in a large cast of incredibly ugly people. It doesn't help that many of the NPCs, including important ones that are part of the main story, look a lot alike. This can be amusing, but it also shows just how little effort went into getting this game developed. The job was obviously rushed to get the game out before the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 release later this year. Freezing is a constant problem, the game lags frequently, and glitches are everywhere.

Glitches and Dead Island are really synonymous with each other at this point. The lack of polish is astounding. I believe I encountered a glitch practically every quest I played in the game. The glitches were really game-breaking, but it does show you just how little Techland and Deep Silver cared about putting out a truly quality product. There was one instance when I was just driving along the road in a jeep, and then suddenly two people joined my game. This caused a glitch where I was ejected from the vehicle, it flipped upside down, and then flew into a shack where it proceeded to shake around uncontrollably. Funny, but obnoxious at the same time.

Most environments in the game feel like they were ripped directly from the original because of how similar they look. Of course, the visual gimmick behind Riptide is the flooding that occurred thanks to the monsoon, and while this does result in a few visually interesting areas, don't expect any memorable locales. Design of these levels is really all over the place. The hub worlds are designed very poorly, making exploration a serious pain in the ass. Trying to get to the objective markers from one side of the map to the other is a real challenge thanks to the terribly designed hubs and the radar on the bottom right side of the screen is completely useless. What this means is that you'll have to constantly refer to your map, which breaks the immersion greatly. Strangely enough, the isolated dungeons are actually designed quite well and are fun to explore.

The first game prided itself in being a survival horror RPG, though I felt like the survival horror tones of the original are toned down greatly in this sequel. None of the quests are particularly dark or disturbing. Being chased by a ravenous mob of zombie has its thrills, but the atmosphere in Riptide has much less impact since we're all used to the weirdness because of the original game. Numb to it, if you will. That being said, the game does have its occasional scares, mainly due to jump scares because of the "drowned" zombies that pop out of the water to grab you, visibly damaged from the water.

I prefer zombie games that just feature good old, regular zombies, especially the slow, shambling, classic-style zombies. ZombiU gave me that last year on Wii U, and I was afraid I'd been spoiled by that game, but I still had fun slaughtering the zombie masses in Riptide. Dead Island mainly uses fast-moving zombies, and perhaps because of its RPG elements, it features a variety of other zombie types. A few of them are interesting, but they don't really add anything to the experience, and since there's no real penalty to death, they really aren't that intimidating. I will say that I did enjoy the last boss fight, however, thanks to just how crazy weird it was. It came across as both hilarious and scary all at once.

Questing plays out the same as the original, more or less. Side quests are pretty dull and uninteresting this time around, though. Too many of the main story quests use the "carry big things long distances" formula, which just isn't fun, and is actually incredibly boring and tedious. At its core, though, Riptide is fun, mainly thanks to the addicting Borderlands-style combat and RPG elements that add a lot to the game.

Gameplay from the original to this sequel remain mostly unchanged. The new character, John Morgan, is really fun to play as thanks to his powerhouse-style attacks that can result in hilarity when you wind up bicycle kicking a zombie like 10 feet. Fury returns and is still just as empowering and fun to use as ever before. Thoroughly exploring the areas, as dull as they are in design, is still worth it because of how fun it is to just go loot crazy, and it's nice to be able to have a loot-filled game like this in a setting that doesn't involve literal dungeon-crawling.

RPG elements from the original return, obviously, and in full force. Players are able to import their characters from the original Dead Island with no hassle whatsoever, and start at a higher level as a result. There are different classes to choose from, but players are free to have complete control over the progression of their character. Leveling up characters, leveling up weapon skills, and upgrading weapons all adds a lot to the overall experience. Unfortunately, the crafting system employed here is weaker than the one found in the first game, and I never found myself even caring enough to attempt crafting much of anything during my time with Riptide.

New to the Dead Island formula are "siege" segments that serve as Horde Mode-like sections dotted throughout the campaign. This entails setting up defenses (though doing so is more or less pointless anyway since you have to kill all the zombies one way or another) and managing your partners and other NPCs to ensure the best possible results. These action-heavy segments provide some of the most fun to be had with Riptide.

Weapon variety in the game is quite nice. Players have access to a variety of weapons of a variety of weapon types. There are all sorts of blunt weapons, hand-to-hand weapons, guns, blades, and more. Every weapon in the game can be upgraded and repaired, and some of them can be fitted with mods to make them even stronger.

Riptide's control scheme is pretty damn awful. The main issues arise from using medical kits. The medical kits are tied to the B button, which would be fine, except Fury is also activated with B. What this means is that you will try to activate Fury, and a lot of the times you'll wind up wasting a medical pack in the process, and I'm sure you can imagine how irritating that can be. Plus, most FPS games use basically the same control scheme, and Riptide needlessly switch things around, which only leads to confusion and accidental button presses.

One of the main hooks of the Dead Island games is the co-op. Riptide features co-op again, of course, for up to four players. Unfortunately, split-screen still hasn't been implemented in the series. In the meantime, the online co-op is very seamless and easy to use. I was unable to alter my co-op settings for a character after choosing them and starting a save, however, which is a pretty glaring oversight. But like I was saying, the online co-op is great, seamless, and works absolutely perfectly.

Riptide is much shorter than the first game. Whereas the first game had a large and varied amount of areas to explore, Riptide takes that down to just a couple of places, and they are poorly designed and awful, as I've already mentioned. Of course, achievements and the online co-op should boost the replayability.

Riptide is a mediocre game brought down even further thanks to the fact that it has done nothing to fix the issues of the original Dead Island. Diehard Dead Island fans probably already have the game, but I'm sure you'll have a million YouTube videos to watch about it in the future.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Dead Island: Riptide (US, 04/23/13)

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