The transition from the original Dead Island to Dead Island: Riptide is similar to the difference between Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. The game expands a little bit with a couple new enemies, weapons, and skills, but besides that the engine feels exactly the same. Sure, Dead Island: Riptide is set in a new location, which happens to be a different island, but the characters are the same, and so is the plot, the mechanics, and the graphics.
Do we expect new games to have entirely new graphics and mechanics with only two years in-between a series’ releases? Of course not. The problem is even when the original Dead Island seemed behind it’s time in terms of visuals. Now, two years later, the bugs and clipping issues are even more apparent than they were before, and the general graphics don’t stack up to other 2013 releases. Graphics don’t make or break a game, but they do knock a couple points off the game’s score.
But the graphics aren’t the only disappointment in Dead Island: Riptide. I think there can be something said about Deep Silver improving their storyline skills, too. At first I was excited, hearing one of the character’s recapping the events that took place in Dead Island got me excited to see where Dead Island: Riptide’s story would go. Sadly, there was no need to summarize the original game, because Riptide basically repeated the whole thing over again. And the original story wasn’t even that good, definitely not good enough to duplicate.
Is a story necessary for a good zombie killing game? Maybe not, but Dead Island: Riptide set itself apart from the crowd, bringing in more RPG elements than usual to the zombie game genre. So if there’s not a good story, and below par graphics Dead Island: Riptide doesn’t have a chance to stand up against future zombie shooting games. Lacking one is understandable, but both hurts.
Luckily for Deep Silver, there are a couple things they got right the first time around, and because they didn’t really change the game at all these things stuck around. The weapon crafting and modding system was great fun and easy to use. It makes every hammer or stick you pick up have potential to be a deadly and badass weapon. Also the co-op, which levels the zombies to your character’s individual level makes playing with someone twenty levels higher or lower than you still fun and challenging.
I know I’ve discounted the lack of changes in this Dead Island: Riptide review, but there were a couple of nice additions to the game. The biggest one: leveling up your party members. Many of your allies, not just the original 5 playable characters, have levels. Improving their levels through quests improves the fighter’s weapons and abilities. It makes the shop owners give you discounts and expanded inventory. This element made me feel like my party was actually MY party, and I found myself taking on these missions over other side quests because they felt personal.
The real reason to play Dead Island: Riptide is for the gameplay. There is always lots to do, lots of places to go and quests to complete, and all the while lots of zombies to kill. In the 15 hours I played the game before writing this review I didn’t get tired of the combat once. This is a super important pro of Dead Island: Riptide, because in most games fighting small groups of enemies quickly becomes not worth it. But both the reward and just the fun of jumping into a fight with another group of undead makes every combat encounter worth it. Dead Island: Riptide is one of those games you can enjoy just exploring, driving on trails you haven’t been on yet, picking up random quests, and knocking some zombie skulls in while you’re at it.
If you really liked the original Dead Island, like I did, then Dead Island: Riptide is definitely worth checking out. You can bring your original character over to the Riptide island and continue killing zombies like you always have. But honestly, it wouldn’t hurt waiting a couple of months, because this game is probably going to drop in price just as quickly as the original game did. And believe me, replaying through the original Dead Island while you wait is going to be just as fun as Riptide.
This review was written after over 15 hours of Dead Island: Riptide gameplay on the Xbox 360.