Hey gang, Valkor here. I'll admit I've never been the biggest fan of zombies and I never quite understood the fascination with them, especially now with that Walking Dead series. Sure as a kid I found them scary, but as an adult they're kinda "meh". So when given the opportunity to receive a review copy of Deep Silver's sequel to popular game Dead Island – Dead Island: Riptide Special Edition (PS3), I was a bit hesitant at first. But then I started playing it and after spending about a week wrapped up in the game's storyline, I've a new found interest in zombies as I learned I like to kick their asses. Read on.
Dead Island: Riptide takes places directly after the events of the first game as the four survivors – Carter, Logan, Purna, and Xian Mei escape the previous island of Banoi, ending up on a sinking aircraft carrier only to wind up on another island of Palanai where they're surrounded by even more zombie infected locals. Luckily other characters that are also immune to the virus now join the main four (one character named John is playable) and together they'll fight their way through hordes of zombies in an attempt to get off this new island hellhole.
Dead Island: Riptide is an open world, action/RPG played from a first-person perspective that allows you to select one of several characters in a single or multiplayer quest to get off the island. The RPG elements kick in as you gain experience defeating a variety of zombies – exploding, slow trotting, quick running, fatty types and some that seem impossible to kill. Gather enough experience points and your character levels up also gaining a skill point, which can be applied to several attributes that'll build up your character. I've played a bit of the first Dead Island and much of the game's battle system carries over here, where you'll find a wide assortment of weapons and health items either lying on the ground, in chests, boxes, crates, or garbage cans. Items can also be given to you or you can purchase them from your fellow immune or taken from fallen creatures. These weapons, which consist of either blunt, bladed, tossed, or fired weapons, can be upgraded or modded from blueprints found around the island. And you'll want that mod as it can take something as simple as a baseball bat turning it into a flaming stick of beatdown fury. You needed money to upgrade and repair your gear and thankfully the island is pretty much overflowing with the stuff. You can also acquire cash from fallen zombies or given to you after completing quests.
Speaking of which, along with the main quest there are a bunch of side quests that can prolong the adventure and my personal favorites are the quests that help build up your fellow immune; in order to do that you'll have to find specific items that they can make use of such as engine parts, glue, blades and bolts. On top of that they'll make something useful for you to use in combat. Your fellow immune members will also fight by your side in special "hub attacks"; this is when zombies attack your base and you'll have to protect it... or die trying. You'll have to keep track of your members because if they die you'll have to start from the last save point. Also aiding you on your journey is an assortment of vehicles such as cars and boats, plus a "fast trek", which allows you to skip from locale to locale without the long trek in between.
The game can be completed as a single player but you can also do co-op; plus the game offers the chance for either you to drop in on another player's quest or they can pop into yours. This was a strange experience for me when it first happened; I was on a quest to fill some gas canisters when suddenly I see someone running with one. I thought it was a zombie that I had to beat down to get the canister, but no! It was another player who aided me in completing the quest as well as driving the vehicle to the next area. I also learned that I need a headset because playing co-op without one can get mad confusing. Finally, you can import your character from the first Dead Island game over to this one with ease. So if you were a fan of the first now you have all the more reason to pick this one up.
And now, on with the TOV Breakdown.
Again, being hesitant going in, I didn't anticipate having as much as I did with Dead Island: Riptide. Sure it took some time for me to get used to the controls (I've never played a first-person game on consoles – ever!), but before I knew it I was kicking off chapter seven and fighting a mutated team member name Wayne now known as 'The Wrestler" with a mix of bombs and steam. The best part about the game was making the weapons; sure you can upgrade a basic weapon four levels but upgrading a modded weapon and watching the effects is pretty bad ass. I added electricity to a kanebo and eviscerated any zombie horde that got in my way. And then adding fire to a mace? It was insane! And there's so much damage you can do to the zombies, not just beat em down but also break em down as well. Fighting the giant thugs, who are tough as all fuck, I used a splitter axe to chop off their arms before whittling down the rest of its energy with ease. But that "crunch" sound when the axe hits the meat gets me amped! Grrrrrr! While I didn't play the first Dead Island, I didn't have too hard of a time following Riptide's story, which has a very cinematic B-Movie structure that I totally dug (spend some time in MediaView and you'll see how much I enjoy a good B-movie); the voice acting was well done and the music completes the overall package. In the end, playing Riptide was quite the enjoyable experience.
The game is far from perfect and right off the bat the character models are creepy as fuck - they look very first generation; so Riptide is essentially the first game with a few improvements? Looking into the faces of the other characters… eeesh! And while I enjoyed killing the zombies, it got repetitive real fast. I've suffered through worse gaming experiences, so fighting my way through Riptide wasn't all bad; I just found myself skipping a lot of the fights. I found some of the side quests to be somewhat silly such as fighting a thug so a director can complete his movie. Where you gonna sell that movie if you're dead? And that's another thing? Do the side quest characters bite the big one since they don't follow along with the rest of the group's travels? Next I wish you could simply create weapons without finding blueprints; it would have been nice piecing together my own mods like maybe a poison flame bat or an acid/electric cleaver perhaps? That might be a bit too detailed for this game but man that would have been so much fun! Finally that stamina bar – I've faced many a death screen due to how fast it drops. I know it's meant to keep you from spamming attacks, but when you're surrounded by a zombie horde and you see that stamina bar drain away, you know death will soon follow and with that comes frustration and many a tossed controller.
Suicider zombies! Not only are they the grossest creatures in the game, but they're also the most annoying, especially if you don't kill them from afar. If you walk next to one, your stamina bar better be full as you'll have to make a hasty retreat before they explode.
Dead Island: Riptide Special Edition is available now for the PS3, XBOX 360 and PC. Why is it "special"? Well with your purchase you'll get a code for a digital strategy guide as well character skins and special weapon mods. And even with its faults, Dead Island: Riptide was a lot of fun and busting zombie skulls never felt so damn good. And out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving the title a 3.5. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got three more chapters to tear through and those beasties ain't gonna off themselves.