Dead Island (2011) was a surprise hit for me as the ‘world-at-large’ was still in amazement of Call of Duty many versions of zombie maps or even Left for Dead’s run-from-the-zombies-mayhem series. However, for me I wasn’t a fan of these games as it places too much emphasis on shooting and not enough decapitating zombies close and personal. However Dead Island tamed my ravenous hunger – not exactly the perfect game however still very satisfying indeed. Thankfully Dead Island is still a continuous saga hence the release of Dead Island: Riptide. It plays upon the same formula that made Dead Island so satisfying and added a couple of new features. Yet my grip about this game is you’re paying a full price for a game that felt like an expansion pack (albeit a reasonable sized one).
The plot surrounds this game takes place straight from the ending of Dead Island. So, if you haven’t played Dead Island yet still wanting to, prepare for a major spoiler as the beginning cut-scene pretty much sums up the entire journey. Suffice to say, the game starts off on a boat however, after being knock out (sedated), you wake up only to see that the boat is overrun by…you guessed it, zombies – and of course, the weather is dark and stormy. How the zombies got there is anyone’s guess yet it’s my ticket for zombie bashing fun. Soon the boat crashes on a nearby island named Palanai and, just like the first game, it’s overruled by zombies. So, like the boat, how those mofos got there is anyone’s guess however, for me, I get to demolish more zombies…and yeah, get off that island too.
Riptide is regarded as an action role playing game – that is, it’s stats driven to govern the success rating with plenty of real time action. To those who are familiar with Dead Island, the same four immune members Logan, Sam B, Xian and Purna are here again (and thankfully so) and a new playable character is added to the fray – ADF Sargent John Morgan. John’s specialisation is hand-to-hand combat – other words, close up and very personal. You can opt to carry over your character from Dead Island to Riptide however you are stripped of all your processions thus only carrying over your level. In my opinion, it’s a waste of time as, most likely your character will be at a reasonable level and, because Riptide has a level cap of 70, well there won’t be much levelling up overall. Basically just start from scratch as the game levels up as you do.
However, because Dead Island is predominantly based on close combat (as ammo is quite rare yet that changed somewhat in Riptide as ammo is a little more freely available) and John is specialised on close combat, his character is a natural fit for this game. I choose him and haven’t regretted this at all. He can literally smash his way through the zombie hoard and even gives them a lethal uppercut. Nothing is more satisfying than uppercut a zombie only to see his/her skull smashed right through and, as an added bonus, sends the zombie flying away only to splatter into pieces against a rock / wall. Seriously it’s that good that combat never tires out. He even gives out a decent ram attack (similar to Sam B) and produces deadly kicks too.
Considering the ‘soul’ of this game is combat, Riptide does it incredibly well as I feared it was tailored for the controller. The PC hotkeys (for which they can all be adjusted), the mouse movements et al are fluent – meaning easy to navigate. Yet some of the user interface (like inventory) can be a little cumbersome at first however, overall there’s very little to worry about accessing items, maps and so forth.
One of the extra features that appears in Riptide is the zombie hoard mode. Basically, when you move from one safe house to the next (forcibly though as it forms part of the storyline), you need to defend it from the zombie hoard. The hoard strength is indicated by a meter that naturally reduces when you kill zombies. Yet, in the beginning you can set up defences like electric fences or even place a minigun in a set position. There’s plenty of ammo caches throughout so that shouldn’t be a problem. Then shortly after, the hoard arrives.
Everyone (that includes the non-player characters) will fight the hoard and each also has a health meter. This meter goes down when being hurt. However, I didn’t get a case where the meter goes to zero for any characters so I’m not even sure if anyone can die or knock unconscious for that matter. Yet each character can increase in attacking strength by doing quests for them – mainly collecting items. There are three levels for each non-player character before they reach max. Another benefit for doing requests for them is purchasing items from them. The higher the level, the better the available items for sale. So, all-in-all this new feature plays upon the tower defence philosophy with a first-person viewpoint.
Other new features are the dead zone (where entering it has a bucket load of zombies about with, at times, a boss zombie to kill), a rowboat to travel along the riverbed (and run over zombies of course) and more different types of zombies. I won’t say much about this as it’s worth discovering yourself. In addition to this, any new type of zombies will be added in the case files for light reading (and get the latest gossip like their weakness).
Whilst the main storyline is a little more of a miss than hit, I quite like the collectables as it feels more ‘closer to home’. Collectables like postcards (with some humorous comments to add), secret files, travel guides (adds spice to the Dead Island world) and two audio logs – one from John (the 5th main character for which I add, is kind of odd when you are playing him – he listens to his own audio logs…) and Peace Corps volunteer Angela Guerra. All voiced reasonably well and worth your time collecting them. And if you manage to collect them all, earns you some achievements.
Speaking of which, there are in total thirty-five achievements to collect and they are all actually achievable. All bar two can be completed in single player play through however the latter two you need to join a coop game. With regards to coop, there is a drop in / drop out feature for which is pretty cool yet the world’s level (difficulty) is based on the host computer. And yes, you can have four Sam B’s running about if you wish.
The ‘world’ itself is not that large at all. There are two reasonably sized maps and a variety of smaller ones. Yet it’s pretty condensed with things to do (yet repeatable – a.k.a. bashing zombies plus the occasional carrying a petrol canister about). As far as completion time is concerned, it took me roughly close to sixty hours. However, divide that by three (as I’m one of the world slowest players and basing on past experiences, dividing by three is a safe measure for a ‘typical’ player) it should take around twenty hours, and that’s including knocking off as many side quests as possible and finding all the collectables.
(At the time of release) the price of this game is about $40 for the PC. In Australian terms it’s about $60. That’s a little too steep for an ‘expansion’ as technically there wasn’t much improvements made between the two (considering there’s a two years difference too). There are new features like the ‘tower defence’ mode and a new character John Morgan, however it’s still not justifiable for that price. And just like Dead Island, it’s powered by Chrome Engine 5, which happened to debut with Dead Island (and Call of Juarez: The Cartel). Overall it still produces a lot of fun and fans from the previous Dead Island game will love this – especially when playing the new character John Morgan.