We’re back again in beautiful sunny Panama where the water is clear blue, the vegetation is lush and green, the natives are zombies and the trailers play backward. The real question you need to ask yourself is how many zombies in your lifetime do you want to kill at close range. Take that number and keep multiplying it until you get bored and you have this experience. Dead Island Riptide is the continuation of the original Dead Island where the four survivors from the original game are thrown into the fire once again with a fifth playable character. For those who are unaware, Dead Island Riptide is no different than its predecessor, it is a single player and cooperative open world, first person melee combat game against the living dead and a few other mutants.
I’ll start with the good, the graphics are beautiful from far away. You have gorgeous green vistas, crystal water and a sunny day, unless its raining. The setting is gorgeous, even if its a zombie action game set in broad daylight with no nighttime to be found outside of the first mission. Upon closer inspection the textures might not be as beautiful and the character models of the living can be worse than those of the dead.
The game plays well enough for any melee focused game. There’s an attack or shoot button, an aim button for when you want to aim your gun or take aim with a weapon to throw it. You also have typical sprint, jump and squat buttons for traversing the area. Dead Island Riptide is a stamina game, so you need to pace your zombie beat downs. Run out of stamina and you’ll be ineffective. Everything costs stamina except shooting guns.
Outside of running and walking, there are boats and jeeps to take you where you’re headed. Its fun to just sit back, mow down some zombies or even let another player drive. The boat has a speed boost to ram through zombies, otherwise they can pull someone off. When driving anything its important to never come to a dead end, because you can look left, right, up and down, you can’t look behind you even when reversing. Another fun thing is the vehicles can go backward as fast as they can go forward. You’ll also find fast travel and there is a big map and a mini map so you can find the are you’re looking for.
There’s a rhythm to attacking enemies, hit them and wait for them to telegraph their attacks, then step back. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You will unlock abilities as you level your character that introduce game changing attacks such as uppercuts and running kicks. The unlocked attacks feel good. Kicking a zombie off a cliff or even into a wall feels brutal, effective and fun to watch. Zombies will both charge at you or shamble around. Others lay in wait pretending to be dead, especially floaters in the water.
Sure I say melee focused game, there are guns, pistols, assault rifles, nail and flare guns, but the ammunition costs money or its rare to come by. For the nailgun, you need to purchase each nail one by one. At least you can fish them out of enemies afterward. Its just easier to use your fists, knives and blunt objects. There are even a few throwable weapons to keep things interesting. Molotiv cocktails, grenades and the like. Throwing a bladed weapon feels satisfying when it severs an arm or lops a head off. The knives get stuck in your foes and you can pull it out of their bodies to attack them again. Zombies will get up in your grill, grab you and you need to push one button then press another before a timer expires to deck them back.
Your combat does feel fluid, your movements feel fluid for the most part. Other times you can feel drunk as your character bobs and weaves. Just because you’ve stopped means your character’s body has to stop or even start for that matter. It takes a while to get used to it.
Everything is a former human. The zombies were people, the thug zombies were tall people, the ogres were crazy old men, the vomit spitting husky gents were people and the boil covered exploders were also people who are now mutated and discusting. You’ll be killing your fellow human beings over and over again. That’s not to guilt trip you, but that’s just to say you’re doing the same thing constantly. As I played it became an issue to constantly engage myself into fights. I’d avoid fights like you would in a real zombie apocalypse. Why fight an enemy when its just easy to avoid them? Wall of zombies? Jump kick through them. Fighting when you have to reduces the tedium.
With no field of view slider, you’ll often have tunnel vision and you’ll be unaware of the zombies sneaking up behind you as you’re curb stomping a victim. I for one feel bad for the zombies. I feel like a mugger that’s just beating down the welcome wagon and stealing their cash. Why am I stealing their cash? To purchase upgrades. Yes there are tool benches that you can repair, upgrade and craft new weapons. Why does an unmanned tool bench require money? Because its the honor system of course. The game never mentions it, but I just assume that’s the case. I like to fill in the blanks with the story, because there are a lot of them.
The story continues where the last one left off. You’re aboard a naval vessel in rough waters that just so happens to be invested with flesh eating zombies. Things quickly go wrong and the ship serves as a brief tutorial before you’re dropped off on a different part of Panama that is stricken with the same plague. Your objective is to go mission after mission to get a boat to get out of the area before its bombed. Well that is the start of the plan, then from there, you can do what you want. All of the people you rescue, help and aide will perhaps die anyway in the bombing that might happen. I never stuck around for the end of the game, because like most open world games, you do it at your leisure, so if you never complete it, does it really get bombed?.
The game feels like an easy enough single player experience, but the game gets even easier with online multiplayer. You’ll receive a notice that someone else is in the area and you can accompany them and complete the mission together and go from there. I think it adds a lot of life to the game, although some people are completely clueless and its shocking how they got so far. Another thing that I took note of is everyone’s microphone is on always. I’ve overheard completely other conversations from people that are oblivious their microphone hears everything with no filter. Riptide does streamline things, you can have one player go to the objectives and the others can warp to that person instantly.
There are five characters and they all play the same, but come with different abilities. Things like Logan can retrieve all thrown weapons. Xian lets you backstab for more damage. Sam B can ram and tackle enemies, rather than the football playing Logan. John is a master of unarmed combat and learns weapons quicker, and Purna can heal herself and the group. Each of the five is better with different forms of combat. Everything from unarmed combat to blunt weapons. Each of these can be leveled up over time.
In terms of the open world, it lets you go where you please. The area itself feels almost cluster phobic with a few exceptions. With all of the frees and village houses, the game can almost feel like a series of natural hallways lined with vegetation. Even the rivers are lined with rock walls. There are natural slopes and a few mountain sides.You’ll walk through brightly painted villages over docks that are seeping into the water for whatever reason. This place really is a postcard come to life and that’s one of the appeals to the game. It can still be a mismatch having zombie combat in broad daylight, but that’s the hat it chooses to wear.
Its a convincing environment, its tight together with no wasted space. A lot of the island feels similar outside of a few villages. Its a lot of back woods jungle with rivers. These rivers are never deep, but they do hinder your movement. The muck zombies however can still run full force at you fast enough to catch a boat.
At some point there are zombie infested sewers that are pitch black so in that way Riptide can turn into a more traditional zombie game. You get a flashlight that slowly drains and there are plenty of flares. The sewers have more than undead though and you’ll have to fight the living as well. I found it quite curious the game would start getting liberal with its guns, but that’s because your foes will soon have them too. I’m all for changing gameplay, but I have a feeling no one plays a zombie game to fight people with guns. Its also amusing to see a shotgun to the face barely damage a human opponent because the shotgun and my stats for using guns are just too low.
After a slosh through the sewers you get a boss fight against one of the most non threatening bosses I’ve ever faced. Then you get to encounter more men with guns, but rather than taking out a small army when you’re clearly outmatched, you go into a rage frenzy for the first time. This happened when I was nine hours into the game and it just felt a bit late. I had already reviewed the game at eight hours.
The rage turns the screen gray and highlights all threats in red. You then fly through an area beating them to death and then questioning your humanity. You know that you just went through a sewer and murdered a militia, but that’s okay though, you were one-hundred percent human then and now you’re given superpowers. Perhaps you were always meant to earn this rage sooner than I did, because there’s an entire upgrade tree for it. I never sank any points into this upgrade tree, I had no idea what rage was for the first nine hours.
You can take on plenty of quests and even rescue people in distress. The active quest appears in red on the map while the rest are white flags. 0Looking at the characters head on as they’re talking, its as if their heads are tilted just enough so you can see the tops of their eyes. Nobody blinks either. Its one of those things that falls into an uncanny valley. A few of the character models look like plastic while others look great.
Speaking of characters, even if you’re alone by yourself, the five characters are always together in cut scenes and at the various bases. Its just odd that you do things by yourself, but oh by the way there’s four others that take credit for it. There are more main characters than just those playable, there are a few protagonists that drive the story along and they manage the survivor camps. In a game with a great big jumble of characters, choices would have been a fun diversion from the zombie carnage. The choice to keep peace or make drama rather than plodding along doing chose for every survivor you encounter. You know there are almost a dozen people here and only I alone can get the generator? Unless there are other players of course. Even being able to swap between characters would have been nice rather than being bound to one the entire game.
Most every character will buy and sell you things. This brings up the question of just how many weapons does someone need to buy in the Panamanian zombie apocalypse. is the money really worth having to lug around a hundred weapons? The characters themselves can carry a lot of weapons, but your active weapon slots are limited, but can be upgraded. I never did find a way to change the weapons in the slots and only some where there when I knew I had dozens. There’s no reason to carry a few dozen, but money felt worthless to me.
You’ll find little bugs and glitches here and there, but nothing game breaking. Characters will talk without moving their mouth. The animations can be laughably lifeless. You can kick a zombie into a ragdoll and watch as their arm gets caught in mid air and they’re pulled up. All of these things are forgivable and enhance the game. There are horde mode missions where you first need to fortify a fortress and then survive an onslaught of zombies.
The think that hinders the game is just how much of it is tedium. Go here, get this and bring it back. When you’re here, there are zombies, when you’re there, you’ll find zombies and when you come back, you’ll find leprechauns, but no there are just zombies. There’s also no true death in Riptide. Every death respawns you with less cash ensuring that you will always persevere as long as you put more time in.
The original Dead Island is the game with all of the fame, while Riptide was just squeezed out with little fanfare. The hype was gone and dead from the original and its more an issue that people can only stand so much melee combat before they want more. Riptide is still a good game, its just tough to recommend with its repetition and lack of variety.