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Dead Island: Riptide Review

by Diogo Miguel April 24, 2013

It makes sense that the sequel to Dead Island is set on another island. Many feared that it’s just more of the same. But does developer Techland have any surprises under its sleeve to make it worth playing through Dead Island: Riptide?

Combat in Dead Island: Riptide is actually a lot more complex than it might seem. Those that mash the attack button for weapons will find that it more than often results in dying over and over again. The only way to successfully survive a horde of zombie is by dealing damage and then retreating to replenish the stamina bar. There is always the possibility to use one of the various guns found, but ammo found is limited, so it’s best to use them when it’s really necessary.

Not that it’s a problem as the whole point of Dead Island is to try and build one of the many deadly weapon combinations at the nearest workbench. Workbenches are also used to repair weapons. This is particularly important for weapons like bats that will break down more quickly.

There are many tools to ensure that players never feel as if they are being unfairly overwhelmed by zombies. Interestingly enough Riptide tends to take a back seat and let the player decide what to do. It still gives out several hints if the option to do so is turned on, but it’s up to the player to decide how to clear out enemies, before completing the quest objectives. Not that those who played Dead Island will have much trouble adapting to Riptide, since the combat mechanics are pretty much the same.

The areas affected by floods make it possible to introduce boats as a new method to travel across the island. Making use of the boat means covering large distances doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s easier to control it, but it also leaves the player more vulnerable to zombie attacks. It’s just another reason for the player to pay attention to the surroundings.

The boat also has a speed up ability which is used as a way to ram into zombies or get them off the boat. It’s actually quite fun to see zombies being shredded by the boat or sent flying into the distance.

Obviously, the car is also there to quickly cover large distance on ground. It still functions the same as it did in the original. So it’s still quite difficult to make sudden direction changes, but it does provide better protection from zombies.

New character John is primarily a hand-to-hand combat expert. He is quite an aggressive character compared to the others. Many of his attacks come in handy, since he is able to deal with large groups of zombies.

As usual, there are plenty of abilities to unlock. It’s great to see that Riptide continue to give the player freedom to choose how to unlock these abilities. They are set into groups and the player gets to unlock the abilities that best suit the particular play style chosen.

Some of these abilities are quite amusing. One of John’s best ability, for example, is a running kick that sends enemies flying off into the distance. It’s hilarious to see enemies collide with objects and even lose body parts. It’s but one of the many reasons why Riptide works best when it isn’t taking itself too seriously.

The Rage power is introduced later in the story(it was present in the original) and it makes the character invincible for a short time. It’s a handy power as players can use to defeat some of the tougher zombie mutations. It’s even cleverly explained in story as to why the character have gained this power.

There is a better focus on story quests, since only a few of them contain trivial goals. However, there are certain objectives, such as searching for objects in a green area that end up being frustrating. Specially since it’s not very clear where to search for objects, and some green perimeter areas are huge.

Newly introduced Hub Defence sections fare better when put to practice. The idea is to use wires to protect any gaps in an area’s defence grid and then defeat hordes of zombies. It becomes almost overwhelming to try and fend off the many waves of zombies. It works out really well and is even more fun with other players. The wires will only slow down enemies, so it’s usually best to just focus on defeating zombies. Fortunately turrets become available in the tougher Hub Defence sections
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The island of Palanai may feel the same as Banoi, but it has a better layout. This makes navigating from one end to the other a lot easier. Fast travel locations are also placed in appropriate place, so it makes side quests more enjoyable.

Locations inside buildings contain better layouts too. Easier to navigate them and it’s done so the player doesn’t have to constantly walk through them to get to other destinations. This was an issue that occurred often earlier on in the original Dead Island.

The monsoon floods and the sudden shifts in weather conditions are a fantastic idea. It makes it less predictable to know what to expect when travelling the island. Specially when doing so in areas that have been flooded. Sudden rain storms also make it harder to see further ahead and creates an element of surprise, since zombies can jump out and grab the player..

The environment itself is used more efficiently. Specially when it comes to getting creative with enemy kills. For example, players can make use of exposed wires to cunningly lure zombies into an electrifying death trap.

The nature of the setting means there is more to see. Most locations visited have been barely touched by humanity. In fact, very little of the island has been urbanised. It just fits in better with the idea of an island overrun by a virus that turns people into flesh eating monsters. Easy to spend hours exploring all the sights that the island has to offer. But with caution as danger is always near.

The story itself moves along at a faster pace. It’s better to just play through without as many distractions. Although it would have been nice to get more character details to support the story. Specially since new character Jack barely reveals any background details about himself. However, the idea of escaping and surviving such an extreme ordeal work for providing the player with a reason to continue playing.

Some of the new monsters encountered are vicious. One in particular that is created after an infected person comes into contact with a toxin is gruesome. It never ceases to amuse to try and use newly created/found weapons on zombies. Specially when seeing the end results.

However, the same does not apply to the few human enemies(mostly smugglers) who have guns. Specially if the player is focusing on just using weapons like bats. Fortunately these encounters are rare.

There is no denying that Riptide is still a challenging video-game, but those who follow a play style that suits them will get the hang of it. It also rewards players of the original by allowing them to import a character. There is also a lot to do and find in the island long after completing the fairly short story.

There are no major changes when comparing Riptide to the original. Even publisher Deep Silver has admitted that this isn’t a traditional sequel. However, it feels like the team attempted to focus on trying to fix some of the issues that plagued the original. Fortunately it successfully managed to improve many of theaw flaws. Instead Riptide is another fun journey to the zombie antics of Dead Island, that will contain just as many memorable moments.

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  1. By: Mr-Pants

    been visiting ve3tro since 04.