What’s the best way to kill a zombie? Maybe you could use an electrified samurai sword, a fire-spitting shotgun or even a flaming shovel? Well, Dead Island: Riptide, the sequel to Deep Silver’s survival horror RPG, gives you the chance to try all these and more as you fight for your life to escape the zombie infested island of Palanai.
The story of Dead Island: Riptide is set immediately after the end of the first game as our luckless heroes, thinking they’re safe from their previous undead nightmare, find themselves shipwrecked on another zombie infested island due to a tropical thunder storm.
To escape this tropical hell-hole, players must explore their new home while battling against hordes of the undead as well as the unpredictable weather that has devastated the island. Escape isn’t as impossible as it sounds as players can arm themselves with a variety of weapons, all fully moddable by sourcing parts for use with the extensive crafting system. You can choose to start your adventure with a brand new hero or import your old Dead Island character and help is also provided from your fellow team members including new recruit John Morgan, an ex-soldier and fully playable character.
These team members don’t just stand around bemoaning their fate, they need your support too as you travel around the island finding them items. These pick-ups give them more of a fighting chance or provide you with better armaments when zombie hordes threaten your base.
From the jungle to the city, on foot, by car or boat, the whole island of Palanai opens up for exploration and as you complete missions you gain experience so you can level your character up and upgrade them to suit your play style using a distinctive skill tree system.
As you explore the island of Palanai and fight its rotting inhabitants everything looks graphically gorgeous. The jungle sways, hiding camping sites or ruined buildings, the water flows and swirls, and the undead try to eat your brains in sharp detail and colour. To achieve this, Dead Island Riptide has used a tweaked version of Chrome Engine 5 which is highly effective in bringing your explorations to life in a multitude of rich colours and subtle shades.
The atmosphere created by the graphics is further enhanced by the game’s sounds which are used well with evocative music and background sounds. More importantly the zombie moans and screams heard can be used to warn you of imminent attack. This is a nice touch which helps the sounds become part of the game; a blood curdling groan isn’t just a background noise but can be the stirring of a corpse right at your feet reaching out to attack you.
Getting around Palanai is straightforward as the controls are simple to pick up with everything a simple quick button push away. A nice touch is that you can quickly bring up some new quests and start them from a menu rather than run around looking for quest givers. If you fancy a different type of play you can also switch your controller to analog mode where you control your attacks and swings using the right joystick.
However you choose to control your explorations, you can tackle the game on your own, with friends in co-op mode or by not even having to play the story and just defending your base against hordes of undead.
I enjoyed playing Riptide, its strengths I felt are its large open world environment, richly portrayed in lush colours, and the extensive weapons with imaginative craftable mods. These mods, which allow players to harness the power of fire, poison or electricity in many combinations to bring destruction to the undead, bring an edge to the game as you discover the blueprints to construct them and try to find the ultimate undead slaying weapon that suits your play style best. I also enjoyed the intriguing story which I felt drives the game forward by using a variety of exciting quests ranging from: simple fetch missions, defending your base, puzzles on how to access certain buildings, or having to take on tough bosses to progress.
But it’s once you start to encounter the game’s bosses that disappointment takes over, as each one seems to be just the same as the last one and requires no imagination to overcome; just repetition of the same tactics time and time again. Another bizarre issue with the game is that some zombies have an annoying habit of just appearing from nowhere with no warning, seemingly just popping into existence in what I believe could be a bug. These ninja zombies attack silently and can take a player unaware in areas you believe are cleared, which is frustrating when you die as a result.
Another slightly annoying feature is sometimes when you restart your game it often places you nowhere near where you left off despite the fact they you hit a checkpoint just before you logged off. This can be annoying when you want to get back in the action but find yourself on the opposite side of the island to where you want to be. As little as these problems may be, they are an annoyance when you want to get stuck into the game but randomly die or have to spend five minutes getting back to where you last left off.
Overall though, if you enjoy tense survival horror games and like tinkering with extensive weapons using an imaginative crafting system, you will enjoy playing Dead Island: Riptide. It’s just a pity that the lack of imagination with boss battles and some bugs can detract from your immersion in the world.