Dead Island: Riptide
To enjoy Dead Island, and subsequently its successor Riptide, one has to embrace the absurd, and quite often, the stupid. Iron pipes will break after a handful of uses; high level meat cleavers will be too advanced for your low level character to wield; and every survivor of the exotic zombie apocalypse has disgustingly fat wads of US currency on-hand. Absurd, it’s really the only word that properly encapsulates Techland’s series.
Less a sequel than a lengthy stand-alone extension of 2011’s surprise hit, Riptide does little to evolve Techland’s open world formula. Motor boats replace cars as the primary form of transportation, base defense sequences accompany major plot points, and a foul mouthed Aussie joins the returning quartet of immune survivors. For the most part, this is the same game you played a year and half ago, though it’s worth mentioning it is a significantly smoother experience technically speaking – I only fell through the world’s geometry once over sixteen plus hours, while I was stomping on a zombie’s skull.
Roughly half of the new island of Palanoi is submerged in waste deep water, leaving players to wade slowly (while zombies can curiously still run) through it, or find a motor boat for expedited travel. Navigating your ship isn’t all that different from driving, though you are exposed, allowing the undead to latch onto the sides. Unlike the cars, the boats provide co-op partners with clear shots to waste any stowaways, and should you be on your own, an easy QTE prompts you to boot any unwelcome boarders off. Realistically, traveling by boat is still a largely safe mode of traversal that yields a ton of easy kills and experience, assuming you finesse your primitive vessel’s “boost” effectively.
When Riptide was initially shown last year the focus was placed largely on the new base defense mechanics. As the story plays out, your group of survivors, which is comprised of the other player characters and several NPCs, will move from one base of operations to another. Generally speaking you’ll find yourself protecting each encampment from one or two hordes before saddling up and migrating to the next outpost. But base defense doesn’t really amount to much more than running around and slapping chain link fences on breach points and manning the occasional stationary turret. NPCs for the most part have melee weapons so the fences not only keep the horde out but they also keep the survivors from killing them. It’s in your favor to actually let a few fences fall to get the survivors into the fight, especially considering the remarkable amount of damage all NPCs can apparently withstand.
Though flawed both in terms of narrative and gameplay, the base defense quests do provide a tense – or at least high-octane – alternative to Dead Island‘s bread and butter. Tactical options are available to players who might want to plant mines around the perimeter or re-position gas tanks to blow when defenses crumble. None of these options ever felt wholly necessary, but they’re there for players who want to play around a bit with the world, which is really the series’ most obvious appeal.
Despite Riptide‘s lack of meaningful additions it’s still fun for the same silly reasons as its predecessor. Grabbing a friend, or three, making some electrified katanas, and then proceeding to take turns jump kicking a shambling walker in the face, is still great. It’s also exceedingly stupid, but Dead Island is a relatively low-stress co-op playground to be an idiot in, and assuming that’s enough for you, it delivers.
For many players, including myself, the biggest difference between this and the original will likely be expectations. The first time around I expected to find a technically flawed but interesting open world survival game, and that is largely what was delivered. However, what I didn’t expect was a cast of characters so crass and so stupid that I might have preferred to leave them all to die.
For better or worse Riptide is still all of those things. It’s still the same game that makes you chuckle, sadistically, after a successful uppercut connects, disconnecting a zombie’s torso at the knees and sends it hurtling through the crystal blue sky; but, it’s also still the same game that makes you cringe, realizing you’ve lost track of the number of times your Aussie has called a zombie a “fuckwit”. Dead Island: Riptide is simply more of the same dumb fun, and while it still might not be the game it could be, I’ve learned to embrace it for what it is, absurd.