Dead Island: Riptide is the sequel to the 2011 co-op zombie slaughter fest that was the original Dead Island. I use the term "sequel" very loosely here. Dead Island: Riptide is more of a continuation than a real sequel. The gameplay and mechanics are so entirely similar to the original Dead Island that if you liked the first game you will like its sequel. However, if you are looking for changes from the original, or even looking for them to fix the problems that the original had, you will be disappointed.
In this reincarnation, all four characters from the first game make their return. They are also joined by a new playable character named John Morgan who has the special ability of punting zombies like fleshy rotting zombie footballs. You can import your leveled character from the first game, or start a new character completely. Of course, the new characters are automatically level 15, so if you import character is lower than that, you mind as well just make a new one. One good addition that they included right from the start is that if you import your high level character and are playing with a lower level friend, enemies scale to your level. You will fight high level zombies, while the ones attacking your friend will be on their level. This makes it so you can't just join a low level friend and plow though zombies like a steam engine. For that little nicety, we had to wait for a patch on the original.
These loveable lunk-heads of the zombie apocalypse have left the island from the first game only to be stranded anew on a different island. Of course this island is crawling with zombies and survivors. The whole 'stranded on a zombie island' is about as much of a story as you can hope for. Like in the first Dead Island, the story was more of an afterthought by the creators. It is again one of those games that you can chat with a co-op partner through the cutscenes because, let's face it, there is really nothing important or interesting in them.
No one really plays Dead Island for the story though. What really got gamers going about the original game was the RPG-like leveling system. That fulfilling DING of ascending to the next level, much like the feeling of leveling up in Skyrim, and getting a new power-up to make your character a more efficient killing machine. It still has all of that.
Dead Island: Riptide also still has the weapons system in which you can upgrade some crap homemade machete into an electrified killing machine. Of course, your weapons still wear down and need to be repaired as well. You remember the original Dead island, right? I am not exaggerating when I say everything is exactly the same, just in a different island.
One thing that has even remotely changed are the zombies. Of course, they are still zombies, but now there are a few different kinds. There are screamers that freeze you in place after an ear splitting yell that will wake up anyone sleeping in the room. There are floaters that cement my personal fear of water by playing dead in it then popping up and wrecking you.
Another nice new feature is the Dead Zones feature. These are little monster infested dungeons with a boss fight and some fat loot waiting at the end. It gives a nice little dungeon crawler feeling to this game as you trounce through the forest discovering and then beating them. It is also a reason to continue playing after you have beaten the game. Dead Island: Riptide is, like the original, not a very long game. After about 20 hours you can beat the main story, but there are plenty of side quests and Dead Zones to keep you entertained for a few more hours. Again, gamers really do not care for the story, they care for utterly amazing weapons and screwing around with their co-op players. However, keep in mind that once you beat the main story mission, you cannot go run around and clean up the rest of the missions you missed, that part really sucks. However, you can reload from the last save point and go about your business.
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The last new thing that I liked is doing team missions. This missions you can go out and do to make the survivors in your base more helpful in battle. This is useful as zombies will occasionally attack your base. However, you have a variety of fortifications and explosives you can use to help conquer them. Defending a base is a lot like a really boring crescendo even from the Left 4 Dead storyline, but has been one of Techlands' primary marketing points.
While this sequel has all the fun of the original, it also has all the bad parts of it. Textures still take a while to load in at times, the screen will still tear on occasion, and frames still skip like mad. The new island still looks majorly unfinished, graphically anyways, as well as the cut scenes. Like the original, everything looks a bit clunky still.
Apparently, I should be glad I hoped off the Sony train after the PS2 because I have heard that Dead Island: Riptide performs the worst on the PS3 graphically. Of course, logically it does graphically perform the best on the PC, leaving the Xbox 360 as that awkward red-headed middle child. There is no platform that makes this game perform perfectly, nor is there a platform that makes it unplayable.
The theme of this whole review is that Dead Island: Riptide is almost exactly like the original. If you liked killing zombies in the original and could look past all the glitches and graphical imperfections, you will clearly enjoy this game. However, if you are looking to see Techland fix those bugs or looking for a bunch of new and fun mechanics, you will be disappointed.
Should you pass on this game? If the splendor of the original wore off, then yes you should. However, if you just want to kick around a few new enemies in a new landscape, pick it up and have some friends. Since the co-op zombie survival genre hasn't had a new Left 4 Dead in ages, this is a decent way to pass the time with your friends if you have done everything there is to do in the original.