Sometimes, more of the same can be a good thing. Take lobster for instance. More lobster is great; lobster is refined, delicious, classy. Dead Island Riptide is not lobster. Dead Island is more, well, more like a Greggs sausage roll. It’s tasty enough and it’s not bad for the price and in many ways, is probably better than it has any right to be. Still, that doesn’t make it, what one might call, genuinely good. It’s robust, kind of fun, but eat too much and you’ll probably start to feel sick. The ingredients that make it up are of a relatively low quality, the final product made with haste, all the while delivering a product that is as familiar as it is uninspired.
So, there you have it; Dead Island Riptide is a Greggs sausage roll. For all those who haven’t had the pleasure(?) of such fine dining, allow me to explain – Dead Island Riptide is workman-like, it does nothing new, is made up of individually shoddy components but, despite your brain telling you otherwise, is actually kind of fun. So, pretty much exactly the same as the original Dead Island then? Yes, exactly the same as the original Dead Island.
They are so similar in fact that you can all but ignore this review if you’ve played Riptide’s immediate predecessor. Are you one of the many who could see past the low rent graphics, glitchy gameplay and horrible dialogue? If so, you might as well give Riptide a go as with the exception of some minor polishing (and I mean minor), this is for all intents and purposes the same experience. The same obviously goes for those dismayed by the lack of quality first time around. If you disliked the original – steer well clear as Riptide suffers from all of the same problems. It may not suffer from the same glaring technical issues as the first did at launch, but Riptide could still do with its fair share of fine tuning.
The thing is, while it does suffer from the same problems as the original, like that game, Riptide just so happens to be inexplicably addictive and, despite its myriad of problems, a whole lot of fun. Honestly, for the first few hours, I didn’t think I’d be able to see past the games’ budget credentials, but then, four hours later when I was still playing well past my beddy-byes time, I noticed that not only was I obviously hooked, but that I was also having a great deal of fun. Yes, it has plenty of problems, but my word, this game sure knows how to do simple, effective entertainment.
In many ways, Riptide works as the complete antithesis to Ubisoft’s much more polished, but, in my opinion at least, not nearly as enjoyable, ZombiU. Where Ubisoft’s game showed a commitment to making its world and gameplay as solid and refined as possible, somewhere down the line, Ubisoft forgot about the fun. Yes, it was tense, but battling the zombie hordes was only entertaining in so much that you had managed to survive the encounter. While Riptide is completely lacking in the kind of tension and atmosphere that ZombiU has in spades, its combat and moment to moment gameplay are certainly the more enjoyable of the two and, perhaps more importantly, thanks to its commitment to an unashamedly ‘gamey’ structure, it does a great job of keeping you invested. Sure, the whole levelling up and looting trick may be seen as cheap, but for many gamers (myself included), there’s something to be said for those little numbers that keep popping up all over the screen, and besides, looting is so damn addictive.
It’s a part of many games, but while the looting and levelling mechanics that are so prevalent nowadays sometimes clash against the commitment to mature storytelling in the likes of BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider etc, here, much like in Borderlands, all those numbers and collectibles feel right at home. This is a gamey game in the truest sense of the word and, for better and for worst, wears its credentials proudly on its sleeve. It’s undoubtedly Riptide’s trump card, and along with its improved and largely enjoyable combat, proves the primary reason to keep coming back to the somewhat familiar island of Panalai (the sister island to the original’s, Banoi).
Of course, like the original, Riptide is at its best when enjoyed with friends, at which point tactics go out of the window as you and your buddies hack away at the shambling hordes with an array of creatively customisable weaponry. Saying that, thanks to a few new moves (the kick back is particularly useful), Riptide, unlike its predecessor, can actually be surprisingly enjoyable when experienced on your own. With so many zombies to deal with, taking on the crowds, especially when the Suicider, Floater and Ram variants get involved, battles can get pretty hectic, at which point, tearing in head first is likely to get you dead in no time at all. This isn’t hugely tactical stuff, but played on your own, there is enough of a challenge here to keep you on your toes and have you worried about more than just your stamina bar.
Despite its many positives though, this is still a patchy experience, one in which you have to forgive its faults to have any chance of enjoying the whole – the original cast return and are as forgettable as ever while new guy (some nondescript ex-military type with a shockingly bad Aussie accent) proves just as bland. NPCs, like the main characters fair even worse, all proving equal parts forgettable and ugly (in a technical sense that is). The main missions are mostly bland with the side quests, of which there are many, little more than stat boosters. Nothing about this island is interesting or memorable, and while it’s far from ugly (although certainly not in the same league as the Far Cry 3’s of this world), it’s still, well, for a lack of a better term – boring. There are boats and cars dotted around the place, but these all handle the same and serve as little more than a speedy way to get from point A to point B. It all works just fine from a technical standpoint; just don’t expect to remember any of it.
What you will remember though, other than the occasional dodgy glitch, is the enjoyable combat, the collectibles and, above all else, cutting zombies to shreds with your friends. Riptide may not be much of a departure from the original, but it’s certainly a sequel that plays to the series’ strengths. Sure, Techland could have been a bit more ambitious second time around, but for those looking for more of the same, Riptide certainly delivers in spades. Like I said, Dead Island Riptide is a Greggs sausage roll, but despite my better judgement, I freakin’ love Greggs’ sausage rolls.
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