Quick Look: Dead Island Riptide

Those tropical zombies are up to their old tricks again. Brad is not amused.

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Dead Island Riptide Review

2
  • X360

Riptide is more Dead Island, but not better Dead Island.

There are a few new things going on here, but not many.

It might sound dismissive to sum up Dead Island Riptide as just "more Dead Island," but that's exactly what it is. This is the sort of follow-up that's bigger than an expansion pack but far lesser in scope than a true sequel; it simply feels like a full-length game's worth of additional content shoved into the previous game's framework. The two games are so similar--Riptide reuses just about all of the first game's interface elements, art assets, and gameplay systems--you'd often find it tough to even tell which game is which. If I'd come out of Dead Island with a burning desire for more Dead Island, Riptide would go down a lot easier, but since that original game started out strong and just got weaker as it wore on, playing through another 15 hours of almost exactly the same thing, when the first one already felt like more than enough, instead just becomes a tiresome exercise.

That first game was rotten with bugs and odd design quirks, but I was willing to forgive a lot because its strongest aspects--namely the exacting first-person melee combat, and all the loot and RPG trappings that propped it up--were so enticing. Still, despite a fantastic first act, Dead Island dragged on longer than it should have given its issues, and at least for me it had expended much of the good will it built up by the end of the game. Exactly one game's worth of Dead Island was plenty for me, so when I jumped back into Riptide and immediately felt a sense of fatigue with the gameplay mechanics after just the first few minutes, I knew it was a bad sign. Unfortunately none of the meager additions to the formula here are enough to counteract the awkward design and shoddy production values that carried over from the first game.

There wasn't much of a storyline in Dead Island, but at least the setting was entertaining, taking a pampered tropical resort populated by spoiled rich kids and dropping the zombie end of the world right in the middle of it. There's nothing half as interesting in Riptide, as your same four survivors (joined by one new playable character) have managed to escape one island hellhole only to wash up on the shores of another one, the landscape of which looks conspicuously similar to the first one. Here you're running quests through a boring jungle, a shantytown, an old military base, and other zombie-game cliches that don't allow the freedom of movement or even compelling visual design of the resort in the first game. All of Riptide reminded me of Dead Island's weak third act, while none of it recalled that great first act, as if the designers themselves didn't realize what was actually great about their own game.

Hey, remember all these guys?

It's worth noting the new things Riptide does, since there aren't many of them. There are a handful of base-defense missions that take a direct cue from Call of Duty's own zombies mode, since you're running around putting up barbed wire to keep enemies out and manning gatling-gun turrets to mow them down as they try to get in. These missions are fun enough in co-op, and even when you're alone, your NPC allies do a decent job of helping control the zombie crowd (though the game still pulls the ridiculous trick of having all your ally characters pop up in cutscenes when you've been running around the entire game by yourself). There's a couple of new enemies, like the screamer, who can, well, scream to incapacitate you briefly, and the wrestler, who has a gigantic gross tumor of an arm it can swing around like a club, but you're still going to kill hundreds upon hundreds of the fodder-like infected and walkers ad nauseam from beginning to end. If you were already burned out on fighting those things from the last game, you aren't going to find it anymore entertaining here, despite the presence of a paltry few new weapons and mods (that are barely distinguishable from the ones last time around). Oh, and there are some boats to drive clumsily around the inland rivers here and there, but they hardly make up for the paucity of drivable trucks on the island.

Never has "more of the same" been more apt.

Other than the occasional base defense, most of the quest design in the game has you merely running from one place to another to grab an item or throw a switch, then moving on to the next area to do the same thing, with occasional poorly produced and dramatically bankrupt cutscenes punctuating the events of the story, such as it is. The rough production quality of the cinematics was strangely endearing in the first game in a kind of backwards way. But two games in, it's just gotten irksome, especially as this game halfheartedly makes some overtures toward the origin of this whole zombie mess before taking a hard left turn into a completely ridiculous, unearned plot twist, and then just...ending. Parts of the game are still kind of fun to play through cooperatively with friends--though, unlike in the first game, you sometimes feel like you have to be playing in co-op to avoid being overwhelmed by awful infinite enemy spawns--but coming from the Dead Island, getting through Riptide mostly just felt like a slog that I wanted to be done with.

The first Dead Island was long on good ideas but short on skillful execution, and while there's still a truly great game lurking in there somewhere, Riptide is not it. It's a shame Techland didn't take this opportunity to take a step back and figure out how to properly evolve this formula before iterating on the franchise again. Maybe that truly improved Dead Island will still come along someday, but in the meantime, Riptide feels like a game that didn't really need to be made.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
134 Comments
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Edited by DostoyevskysShamblingCorpse

I was playing last night and having a ton of fun. It's more Dead Island, which was divisive to begin with. But i was doing it right, playing with friends and drinking and not taking it super seriously.

Which is why it's the only game I can understand Brad giving a 2, while to me it's a 5.

Posted by Katkillad

I know some people don't like comparing one review to another, but if this game got a 2/5 I don't know how Borderlands 2 got away with getting a 4/5. Borderlands 2 is the definition of being more of the same. I thought Dead Island was a lot of fun, if you don't enjoy the game then that's fine and I agree it's worth pointing out that this is more of the same, but 2/5 seems harsh in this scenario.

Posted by Xeirus

I know some people don't like comparing one review to another, but if this game got a 2/5 I don't know how Borderlands 2 got away with getting a 4/5. Borderlands 2 is the definition of being more of the same. I thought Dead Island was a lot of fun, if you don't enjoy the game then that's fine and I agree it's worth pointing out that this is more of the same, but 2/5 seems harsh in this scenario.

Those are different reviews on top of being from 2 differnet people.... not even close.

Edited by Sooty

First game was garbage too.

Edited by Katkillad

@xeirus said:

@katkillad said:

I know some people don't like comparing one review to another, but if this game got a 2/5 I don't know how Borderlands 2 got away with getting a 4/5. Borderlands 2 is the definition of being more of the same. I thought Dead Island was a lot of fun, if you don't enjoy the game then that's fine and I agree it's worth pointing out that this is more of the same, but 2/5 seems harsh in this scenario.

Those are different reviews on top of being from 2 differnet people.... not even close.

Ok well Brad gave the first game 4/5 stars. A 2 star difference just because it's more of the same? I could see that if we were talking about COD or something, in the end I didn't write the review and it's all subjective but still seems harsh.

Edited by Samitoo

I had no Idea this was going to be another game in the series. This whole time I thought it was simply some new DLC or mission for the original game.

Edited by PhilipDuck

Crazy how similar the two games are... It just points to lazy game development... They thought they could get away with using all the same assets again.. Sad stuff.

Edited by Snakepond

I respect the review, but whether's it's Dead Island 1.5 or 2.5 I am still buying this game.

I need to go back to the island whether it kills me or not.

Edited by myslead

I feel like you expressed exactly what I felt about the first game...

The first act was pretty awesome... and it went all downhill from there once you went to act 2. In fact I literally stopped playing once I reached the jungle out of exhaustion.

Edited by graboids

never played the first one, looked interesting just fell into my backlog...

also.. a reference for 80s duders

Posted by katikillszombies

I love the game! Riptide is alot more immerse and it feels fresh! It does glitch some, but not enough to ruin my gaming experience! Love it!

Edited by dross24

First game was god awful and this looks god awful too. Crummy storytelling, same commercial mash of passable gameplay genres.

And come on. When will we get over fucking zombies.

Posted by AiurFlux

I tried playing it. Even with all the bugs, repetition, boring quests, reused assets, and on and on there was one thing that bothered me more than all of that. The fucking FoV is locked at something like 67. Un-fucking-acceptable. Yes you can edit a config or .ini file to increase the FoV, but apparently that creates a whole different set of issues when it comes to recoil from guns and things like that.

I actually got physically ill trying to play the game. Why companies seem to think that locking an FoV at some absurdly low number, when there is actual scientific evidence to show that it can cause motion sickness like symptoms, boggles the mind. I just don't understand this shit. On a console a low FoV is fine because of the larger screen and increased sitting distance, but on a PC it's retarded. It's insultingly lazy game design at this point. Same can be said with locking things like motion blur or screen shaking.

Posted by Gamer_152

Sad to hear this game isn't so hot. They'll need to do a lot of revising to this formula if there's ever going to be a Dead Island 2.

Moderator
Posted by spraynardtatum

I just realized that Dead Island Riptide is to Dead Island as The Hangover Part II is to The Hangover.

Edited by MasterBrief

not even surprised, first one was awful and boring but I have to admit I was really hoping they would learn and make this one better. That's what happens to you dreams kids.

Posted by ScrambledGregs

This is one of those reviews, like Ryan's a few years back for a Raving Rabbids game, where I wasn't necessarily interested in the game itself but the writing has such clarity and flow that I read the entire thing anyway.

Edited by Zevvion

I know some people don't like comparing one review to another, but if this game got a 2/5 I don't know how Borderlands 2 got away with getting a 4/5. Borderlands 2 is the definition of being more of the same. I thought Dead Island was a lot of fun, if you don't enjoy the game then that's fine and I agree it's worth pointing out that this is more of the same, but 2/5 seems harsh in this scenario.

I did not play Riptide or the original, but I did play Borderlands and Borderlands 2. I believe 'more of the same' isn't really the issue, it's that it's exactly more of the same (as far as I understand from the review).

Borderlands 2 is more of the same type of gameplay, but allot of things are significantly improved. It has a more clear story, more distinct weapon manufacturers, allot more distinct and unique guns, more flexible and complex perks, better visuals, improved gameplay, far improved AI, better loot system and so on and so forth.

It is the same type of stuff, but it's nearly all better. What I understand from the review is that allot is the same type of stuff, but it also feels the same. Like it's the same game. You can really tell the difference instantly whether you are playing Borderlands or its sequel.

Posted by morrelloman

I hope I can carry my level to the new player. He has a wolverine claw. I mean that would justify this whole thing.

Posted by Keeng

This is the problem with the whole "willing to forgive" mentality when it comes to reviewing games. It causes the reviewer to score a game higher than it deserves because they liked certain things about it. The solution is to separate how good the game is from how much you like it. Big difference.

Brad likes the first game. By his own admission, it's a terrible mess. He should never have given it a 4/5 and now that he's forgotten what he liked so much about the original, he is left with just the more objective idea of how good it is...and it ain't good. If his first review reflected how good the game was, it would have received a 2 or 3 from him. This review for Riptide shows his actual appraisal of the game and its mechanics. Given that his primary opinion of the game is that it's "more of the same," you wouldn't expect it score half as high, right? Yeah. Because "more of the same" in the case of Dead Island means more bad. Glad Brad realizes this now.

Edited by EuanDewar

This Is the score the original should've gotten

Posted by LukeyBaby93

I really didn't like the first game, it just went on and on. So I was never going to buy this game anyway.

Edited by chilipeppersman

lame that it didnt improve upon the first. That was the only reason I was interested in it at all. Too bad, they are plenty other games I need to play when they have a price drop.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I can't think of another instance quite like this when I've read a critical review, agreed completely, and still had just a stupid amount of fun with a game. I'm genuinely enjoying the heck out of Riptide (mind you, I'm only about five hours in). That's not to say I don't think the game isn't deserving of all its criticisms - from a sheer technical standpoint, I think Brad's nailed its faults - but I still think this one will wind up somewhere near the top of my best games of 2013 list.

I know, I'm insane.

Moderator
Edited by Mr_Scumbag

@keeng said:

This is the problem with the whole "willing to forgive" mentality when it comes to reviewing games. It causes the reviewer to score a game higher than it deserves because they liked certain things about it. The solution is to separate how good the game is from how much you like it. Big difference.

Brad likes the first game. By his own admission, it's a terrible mess. He should never have given it a 4/5 and now that he's forgotten what he liked so much about the original, he is left with just the more objective idea of how good it is...and it ain't good. If his first review reflected how good the game was, it would have received a 2 or 3 from him. This review for Riptide shows his actual appraisal of the game and its mechanics. Given that his primary opinion of the game is that it's "more of the same," you wouldn't expect it score half as high, right? Yeah. Because "more of the same" in the case of Dead Island means more bad. Glad Brad realizes this now.

What? It could also be argued that if he scored the first game 4/5 and this is "more of the same" it should have been given a higher score than 2/5.

The takeaway from both of these points of view is that reviews are subjective and the enjoyment and analysis of games are subjective. That's pretty much it. Trying to objectively analyze a subjective review (or reviews, that are a year or more apart) is a fool's errand. You're essentially saying "The first review was wrong, but this one was right". It just reveals your bias.

Posted by onan

@brad Is this really a fair Riptide review, though? On the podcast you mentioned you played through all of the content with your end-game Sam B., and in the Quicklook you were unsatisfied with the boredom of jumping on heads, since even though it's a high-level move, you had it from the start.

Can you really enjoy a game where the main focuses are character progression and loot lust when you already walk in with a maxed out character and items? Regardless of the game, no matter the quality, if you apply that scenario to any game in the genre, it's going to come up short.

All I really got from this is that Riptide is a poor expansion. It doesn't seem like it was given a chance as a stand-alone game, even though you were wresting with the labeling of it as a pseudo-expansion. Had they come up with cookie cutter replacement characters and not allowed you to import progress, forcing you to claw your way to the top once again with a new character with different strengths (i.e. faster, more fragile, not a blunt weapons expert), would it have gotten as low of a score?

Posted by Slither_Maggot

Damn... well that bums me out.

Posted by Supertom11

I tried out DI (mainly because a friend bought it for me to play coop) but I quickly lost interest. After that amazing launch trailer they managed to create a game that incorporated just about everything I hate about video games. A loot system with capacity limits, poo poo weapon durability, fetch quests, yo-yoing quest structure, FP driving, FP melee, FP platforming, bugs and glitches, canned animations, and dumb, dumb AI. About the only thing this game does right is the weapon crafting.

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

I can't think of another instance quite like this when I've read a critical review, agreed completely, and still had just a stupid amount of fun with a game. I'm genuinely enjoying the heck out of Riptide (mind you, I'm only about five hours in). That's not to say I don't think the game isn't deserving of all its criticisms - from a sheer technical standpoint, I think Brad's nailed its faults - but I still think this one will wind up somewhere near the top of my best games of 2013 list.

I know, I'm insane.

I'm right here with you, the game is more fun than it is good, pretty much just like the first one, and I'm fine with that.

Posted by GamerGirl0316

I loved both Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide! I can not wait to see if they make a 3rd one :)