Techland has a knack for stirring intense emotion from audiences in the space of three minutes. I’ll admit I shed a tear for the first games heartfelt trailer and now with Riptide I’ve shed another too. But those tears come at the cost of deceit. You see Dead Island the video game was anything but an emotional zombie apocalypto, in fact necrophilia would be a more moving experience with the undead. Now with Riptide we get to enjoy another brainless zombie mauler on another tropical island. So after three hours hands-on with the game what were my overall thoughts?
My demo began with the new hand-to-hand brawler John Morgan followed by a quick ascent up a zombie-infested, Halong Bay inspired mountain. After planting John’s bloody fists into the noggins of numerous flesh eaters my fellow survivors and I arrived at a jungle base. The goal here was to secure the perimeter with strategic fence placement (note: not strategic at all) then defend the base as the hordes descended on us. Once our infestation had been decapitated (by moi) and then joyfully incinerated (once again by moi) we were free to explore the island of Palanai as we saw fit.
The first order of business was to check out John’s skill tree. The layout and most upgrades have carried over from the first game but a couple of exceptions caught my eye, namely big foot and an uppercut. Bigfoot hurls zombies through the air like your 8-year-old self’s just thrown a rag-doll at your ceiling fan while the uppercut knocks back clusters of the approaching bastards. I also fitted John out with a pair of wolverine-esque claws before nailing a zombie in some randoms bedroom … with his nailgun. No, not that nailgun you sick freak.
As with the first Dead Island strategy in Riptide relies on targeting specific body parts then hacking away at them until they fall off. One such dismembering encounter had me brawling with a lumbering thug until I slashed off both his arms, rendering him almost helpless to defend himself. I say almost because the armless idiot was still capable of dealing massive damage with his giant head though its short range made him look like some kind of new-age RnB head bopper. Moved by such dedication to the performing arts I joined in with him for a bit (jumping repeatedly) before getting bored and driving John’s claws into his flesh. He eventually broke and fell to the floor, revealing cash rewards and other trinkets useless to the walking dead.
Unfortunately my brawl with the behemoth revealed a number of glaring technical issues other than his lack of dance move diversity. Object clipping, massive slowdown and weapon attacks that should have hit their intended targets, but didn’t, thus littered the brawl and the rest of the three hour experience. And then there was a handful of intentional design issues. Voice acting is as lame as dogs in handbags and the constant breaking of weapons means you’re spending huge amounts of money to repair a barely used, entry-level weapon. Sound familiar?
Of course it does, these were all issues from the first. In fact the games are so similar that there’s been confusion as to whether the game is a fully fledged sequel or just a remake of the first. And considering the lack of new features that confusion is completely justified. Riptide looks, sounds and plays like the first and barring the few new combat upgrades, boat travel and a slightly different environment I may as well have demoed that instead.
And it’s a damn shame. With a greater focus on narrative, characters and a complex combat system the series could become not just another mediocre zombie mauler, but the zombie mauler. Dead Island was a mindless bit of B-grade fun but started to tire once players had realised how repetitive its formula got. If the franchise only listened to reactions of the first game they would realise gamers loved the tone of the emotional trailer. Why not develop on that? As it stands Riptide feels like a shameless cash-in destined to enrage critics of the first and rip-off fans who do drop their hard-earned cash. I didn’t get to taste any of the game’s story missions so with a couple of weeks until final release next month hopefully Techland proves me dead wrong.
Are you excited for Dead Island: Riptide or did the first leave a bad taste in your mouth?