Dead Island: Riptide Review
‘sigh’ No. I’m not a big fan of the word “rehash” because it has been abused by gamers far too often and in most cases, it’s not accurate. But in the case of Dead Island: Riptide, there is no more fitting label. Beyond a mildly intriguing introduction, this follow-up effort offers little you haven’t seen before, and it’s just loaded with horrid writing and dialogue, predictable clichés, tedious repetition, and a mishmash of plot ideas that never gel into a cohesive storyline. The actual gameplay is fine and I suppose you might still have lots of fun playing co-op with friends. But otherwise, pass.
Graphically, you won’t find much that impresses you. The environment can be involving and the overall detail isn’t bad, but this is hardly an elite visual presentation. Despite some decent animation and character design, one never feels fully immersed in the atmosphere. The developers just didn’t do enough with our surroundings, which ultimately feel lackluster and uninteresting. Given the chosen setting, one can’t help but notice all the missed opportunities. If you sit back to think about it, you’ll realize that when you take the zombies out of the equation, you get a largely mediocre backdrop that does nothing to inspire curiosity and exploration.
The sound isn’t any better, as the voice performances are often poor (average at best) and the soundtrack – much like the action itself – is repetitive and uninspired. There’s no shortage of grotesque special effects thanks to the incessant combat that often results in gory audio. But that only goes so far and although this contributes positively to the experience, it stands as the lone highlight. Plus, when all you really care about is hearing the next sloppy kill plastered all over your speakers, you’re once again reminded that Riptide is far from a complete experience. The sound and the graphics are disappointing primarily because they take a step backwards.
As I said above, the game starts with promise and even a bit of mystery and intrigue. After the first half-hour or so, I was already anticipating a worthy sequel that features more than decimating hordes of zombies. Sadly, after many hours more, the opposite proved true— in fact, there’s nothing appealing about this game besides the decimation of zombies. That can be awfully entertaining and thanks to some cooperative fun, it makes this production slightly more worthwhile. I also enjoyed some of the freedom associated with weapon creation and a few of the characters are cool. So I can’t say the game is a total flop.
It’s just completely underwhelming. You start to get wind of the title’s woeful position as wave after wave of zombies bites the dust, and you’re treated to erratic and often confusing plot components. There’s virtually nothing in the way of meaningful character development and the missions are repetitive and offer little in the way of satisfaction. The thrill of achievement dissipates quickly when you’re essentially doing the same thing, over and over and over. The campaign is long but that’s actually part of the problem. The longer it goes, the more you start to realize that this is the tragic epitome of repetition for the sake of brainless fast-paced action.
The other problem is that Riptide actually takes itself seriously…and it really, really shouldn’t. What this needed was a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor and tongue-in-cheek comedy, because the attempt at drama and seriousness is laughable. That vain attempt turns this into a craptastic B-movie of the worst kind; i.e., the kind that could’ve been somewhat amusing if it poked fun at itself. At the very least, this would’ve provided some comic relief for the seemingly endless array of fetch quests that never alter and rarely provide players with a different challenge. These quests aren’t remotely inventive and some don’t even make sense. Pretty soon, you find yourself not caring in the slightest if you die in the effort.
The combat isn’t bad; it’s just nothing new. And let’s not forget that the original title had its fair share of issues concerning the control and camera, so this is not good news. They couldn’t even take the time to fix the problems that were so painfully obvious in the first game? At least that one had an aura of freshness to it, and they managed to produce a more dramatic sense of urgency and tension. It also felt like it had a definite, distinctive direction, while Riptide feels like nothing more than a thinly veiled stab at cashing in. Don’t try to deny it, Techland; you wanted to quickly and easily build upon the success of the original game without actually trying.
Yeah, it can be fun to scavenge items that can be turned into crazy weapon designs. You’ll locate hidden blueprints as you progress and those blueprints can give you the edge. The best weapons result in absolute carnage, with severed limbs and copious amounts of blood spread thickly across a hideous playground of death. That really won’t be enough for anyone with a functioning brain. Plus, because combat hasn’t really been improved, you’re still stuck with a few lingering issues, such as the clear lack of precision. Once you’ve come to terms with that, you’ll be quite effective, even if it means repeating the same attack pattern until you fall asleep in your chair.
There are a few special zombie types but guess what? They were in Dead Island, too, so you already know how to deal with them. When you reach the point where you want to avoid confrontation just because all those confrontations feel the same, there’s something critically wrong. Still, you do have a few options: You can grab a vehicle, for instance, which controls well and adds another highly destructive dynamic. Plus, I have always liked the idea that you have to work for your potency and firepower, so I appreciate the amount of effort required to succeed. I don’t want to be overly powerful right off the bat; I like to earn that power.
Lastly, I do have to say that some don’t like the horde missions, but I kinda do. I’m not much of a strategy fan but in this case, it provides some relief from the rampant repetition found in the rest of the game. You can hide landmines, put up fences and find strategic locations that increase your defense. With so many zombies flying at you, you really do have to think about the best way to push them back. And the more you play, the more you earn experience points, which increase your character’s skill. This is another positive point, because the better your character is, the more accurate he or she becomes. This combats some of the inherent gameplay issued described above.
But unfortunately, I have difficulty recommending Dead Island: Riptide. If you’ve got several friends who loved the first one and you don’t mind terribly repetitious missions, give it a try. There’s just very little improvement or advancement, many of the same issues from the first title still exist, the story is ridiculous and poorly written, the campaign is dull and drawn-out, and the combat is almost as tedious as the mission objectives. So far in 2013, I’ve seen numerous examples of a generation that has quite simply lasted too long, as it seems developers are just trying to expand on existing successful ideas with as little fresh effort as possible.
And I’m getting sick of it.
The Good: Gory, satisfying effects. Experimenting with new weapons is fun. Horde missions add much-needed variety. Co-op with friends can be very entertaining.
The Bad: Unimpressive environment. Mediocre voice performances. Insanely, mind-numbingly repetitive. Poorly constructed storyline. Lingering camera and control issues. Combat remains unrefined.
The Ugly: “Oh, it’s unabashedly ugly. That ain’t enough, though.”
4/23/2013 Ben Dutka