Let’s just get this out the way so I can get down to the nitty gritty of looking at the game in depth and won’t waste your time in the process. Ahem. If you liked or loved Dead Island, you will enjoy Riptide. If you hated it, the same will more than likely be the case.
Now that’s out of the way, on with the show.
Riptide is somewhat duplicitous in nature. It is and isn’t a sequel to Dead Island. In game land, a full sequel has certain demands placed upon it by us critics and you gamers, that there be a certain level of improvement between each iteration, a new graphics engine or some kind of drastic change in enemy types, gameplay or setting.
Riptide has none of these things. But at the same time this doesn’t matter because what it does give you is exactly what the original did in 2011, a bloody good time.
After a brief catch up, narrated by Purna detailing the events of Dead Island, Riptide opens literally just as the original ends with the survivors landing their chopper on an aircraft carrier in hopes of getting a ride to safety. However, predictably, as soon as they land they are arrested by troops and dragged off to the brig under the orders of a shady looking executive called Serpo.
On arriving in their cell we meet the new character, John Morgan. John is an Australian soldier currently under arrest for disobeying orders to silence the survivors of the outbreak.
At this point some drugs that they’ve all been given kick in and everyone passes out. Waking up several hours later everyone else is missing and it sounds like the ship is in trouble as the locks on the cells are released and you are left to navigate the mostly abandoned ship.
I say mostly because, somehow, most of the crew is now infected and you must yet again find whatever’s handy to fight your way through the sinking ship.
Eventually you make your way to the deck, just in time to see Serpo make his escape in a helicopter, leaving you and what little is left of the crew to fend off hordes of the infected and make sure the ship isn’t dashed to pieces on the rocks. After a fun little fight involving tons of the undead and you actually being armed to the teeth for a change, the ship sinks anyway and you pass out, washing up on another fecking island
Riptide’s new setting, the island of Palanai, although just as sunny and palm tree laden as its predecessor is infinitely more squalid. Gone are the luxury hotels and shopping malls replaced with slums, shanty towns and swamps. Getting around the new waterlogged island is mostly done by boat. On the whole, this is quite fun and the boat itself handles very well and although it doesn’t drift as much as an actual dinghy would, it’s probably for the best. Running over zombies is also quite fun although the game can chug and stutter if you hit too many at once and attempt a speed boost.
Despite the new surroundings, though, on the whole Riptide feels very similar to the original Dead Island. On the surface there have been very few changes made.
The inventory has been fixed for the most part, stacks of items work as they should do now and I never found non weapon items automatically equipped, speaking of weapons, claws and brass knuckles are now part of their own class called hand to hand. Over all, the game feels a lot better put together and a lot less buggy, aside from a couple minor sound glitches, Riptide feels a lot slicker. The controls are more responsive, the collision detection is better, the menus are faster and the AI is less prone to walking into things.
On the whole, there’s a comforting familiarity to proceedings and the game is well aware of it. Concepts and enemies that were slowly introduced in Dead Island are present from the off in Riptide. By cutting through most of the hand holding, Riptide is much better paced than the original and is more action packed, allowing players to get to the business of the day; walloping zombies with whatever they can find or construct.
Combat is identical, still focusing mainly on melee weapons and is still just as satisfying regardless of whether you chose digital or manual. Weapons still degrade over time, although at slightly reduced rate and will need to eventually be repaired at workbenches.
As before, there’s also tons of different weapons to scavenge and create including some new additions including mines, which work as you’d expect, and claws (snickty snick) which along with knuckledusters are part of the new ‘hand to hand’ weapon type. Just like in the original Dead Island, all of these can also be upgraded and modified at workbenches to create even more effective and whacky weapons. A set of knuckledusters, for example, can end up becoming a set of electrified wolverine style claws and guns can now have their ammunition altered to carry status effects such as fire or electricity.
The effectiveness of your arsenal is once again tied to which character you chose to play as. The original four heroes make a return and you can even import your build from the original if you wish. Each specialising in the same kind of weaponry they did in the original except for the games new playable character; Jason, who specialises in hand to hand combat. The thought of playing as a character that has fist fights with zombies made me chuckle so I decided to give him a go. The fact that he’s a foul mouthed Ozzie that calls the undead f**kwits while he whales on them was just the icing on the cake.
The result in game is that even if you manage to break all of your weapons he is still pretty nifty completely unarmed, this might seem a little game breaking but it really isn’t as you have absolutely no reach and Jason takes as many hits as he gives out half the time. Still it’s a very different style of play since you need to get really close to be effective.
There are also several new types of infected to duke it out with; the grenadier which rips off parts of its body and chucks it at you, the huge ogre which charges at you like a berserker from Gears of War, drowners which play dead in the river before jumping out at you and screamers which paralyse players by screaming at them.
Yet again there’s plenty to do, the main campaign should take about 20 hours to get through and that’s not including the numerous side missions available. Riptide also has a couple of new additions as well, team missions that reward you for bringing x amount of certain items to NPCs by making them more effective when your camp comes under attack. There are also new areas called Dead Zones; mini arenas that house named infected known as Champion Zombies. The aim of the mission is simple; clear the Dead Zone and claim a prize. The main problem is that Champion Zombies are usually cross breeds of thugs and infected types with some kind of status effect lumped on top for good measure. In short, they’re a bugger to kill.
One word of advice as well, remember to have your affairs in order before entering the end game as, sadly, you can’t come back and clean up side missions afterwards.
Like before, Riptide is best played with a friend. The drop in drop out co-op scaling to accommodate each player, with zombies remaining close to your level regardless of who you are playing with also stronger zombies tend to gravitate towards higher levelled players. The only downside to the games focus on multiplayer is that quest types are limited mostly to searching and fetch quests and when played alone can be a little awkward if you have to drop what you’re carrying every time a zombie rears its ugly head. Although, to be honest, it felt kind of bad-ass throwing the pump I was carrying at them and then while they were stunned running in and polishing them off.
Just like before the game is mostly what you make of it. Alone, it’s a tense struggle for survival, with a few friends it transforms into a goofy free for all. Whether you want Dawn of the Dead or Brain Dead is entirely up to you and who you chose to play it with.
So where does that leave Riptide? It’s very much in the same boat as the original. As more of a continuation than a full blown sequel, if you hated the original for anything other than technical reasons it’s still not going to woo you. But for the rest of us, Techland have created a confident semi sequel that has dispatched the technical issues that marred its predecessor leaving a slick, satisfying, open-world zombie brawler, that, although not to everyone’s tastes, will certainly please fans of the original. If you’re looking for a game to get lost in for a long weekend or have got all the fun you can out of Borderlands, I’d recommend giving Riptide a go, chance’s are once it sinks it’s teeth into you you’ll find it very hard to let go.