DIRiptideReview

Deep Silver attracted a lot of attention with their initial reveal of the original Dead Island. While many would say it didn’t live up to the hype of the very controversial trailer that debuted in 2011, it was a fantastic game on its on merits. With Dead Island Riptide, Techland set out to achieve a thrilling co-op survival zombie game that’s more polished around the edges this time. With that said, that’s exactly what they achieved. Dead Island Riptide may not be a full fledged sequel many would hope for (Even though the developers stated themselves it wouldn’t be), but it’s a stellar revamp of the original that does many things right and won’t be causing you headaches with its technical shortcomings.

The game takes place exactly where the original left off, on a military ship that rescued them from the zombie infested island of Banoi. For those that never played the original, fear not. Techland has included a lengthy introduction video prior to the start of the game. While many would argue the story itself isn’t all that interesting and rather generic, I’d suggest watching the video due to references made throughout the game you would otherwise not comprehend. If you managed to hold on to your save from the original game, there’s an option to import your character and progress. Be warned, all the items in your inventory will vanish once crashed upon the island of Palanai. The graphics have been bumped up a notch, but not by much. You can still expect many muddy textures, but at a distance, Palanai is breathtaking island to admire. Riptide really shines in the game mechanics themselves though.

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Everything  feels more fluid while still maintaining the clunky-realistic movement for suspense and horror the original offered, but still enjoyable to play with less painstaking glitches. Once you reach the island of Palanai, you’re told by a woman to head to a camp where other survivors have gathered. Here you will meet your new team after helping them defend their base from a huge horde of zombies. When I say team, I don’t mean the other three characters from the original; Sam B, Xian Mei, Logan Carter, and Purna. Instead, Techland has included a team of survivors that play important roles in the story along while helping you generally survive. For example, a few of those team members will act as a permanent mobile store as you travel with them throughout your journey. Other vendors are still present within the games multiple locations, but these characters will be the ones you mostly interact with.

In the menus there’s also a “Team” tab. This tab shows each survivor with minimal statistics, along with their current quest progress. Certain survivors have their own set of side quest that once completed will upgrade their weapon strength during horde attacks, or provide more items and discounts to their weapon specific shops. After completing many of these, I didn’t see any major impact and most of them are simple forgettable fetch quest. You will notice smarter and more helpful AI during zombies hordes and items at a cheaper price, but these quests aren’t a do or die situation. Personally, I would have like to see a more influential impact for helping out your fellow survivors. You do get a nice 150 storage unit from one of them at the get-go. So that’s certainly a plus for those who love to collect a wide verity of weapons, but not enough to get players motivated to complete this tedious tasks.

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The biggest, and most enjoyable enchantments to Dead Island Riptide is also the most disappointing. That being the horde attacks on your camp. Don’t get me wrong, these are extremely fun and even better with friends. Unfortunately, they’re not at random, and only take place during certain parts of the story. They do happen more often than I thought, but if Techland was to implement the feature to be more suspenseful, it would have took Riptide to a whole new level. Imagine going back to your camp to stash some items or upgrade a new fancy weapon. Then from a distance with no noticeable movement, hear terrifying sounds of multiple zombies approaching and forced to quickly set up your defenses. As awesome as that sounds, you’ll never have the chance to experience it.

Something that really stood out for me was the new weather system that’s incredibly eerie and satisfying. One second it’s sunny with glowing gorgeous environments, the next, everything is dark and evil. Suddenly it start to pour down rain; your screen becomes darker, your field of view is shortened by fog, and more violent screams of zombies can be heard in the distance. Immersion like this keeps you on your toes checking every corner and fighting to survive. That is, until the entire weather system disappears and it’s sunny once again. This has only happened a few times, but it can be a huge immersion breaker and kill any suspense the game had going for you.

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My favorite addition to Dead Island Riptide is the nice increase in zombie variants. Remember those giant thugs that would have you back down in fear while looking left and right for other zombies it attracted? Yeah, try having one of those sprinting towards you. Your heart will be pounding and will often have you run for your life if you’re not prepared.  Drowners, aka the new “swamp” zombies, are equivalent to the infected from the first game that would chase you through the city of Moresby. When entering a flooded area, you’ll notice many floating bodies in the waist high water. Some of these are regular dead infected, others are drowners. These psychopaths sporadically jump out of the water and in an instance will hunt you with no fear of what you’re currently wielding or capable of.

Avoiding drowners is much easier with the addition of boats introduced to the Dead Island universe. Be warned, drowners can climb into your boat if you’re not careful. To remove them, you’ll need to boost or ram them into coastal objects unless you’re playing with friends that can eliminate them by force. On foot, you’re forced to fight them since they can travel much faster through the swampy water than you can. Be wise and choose your battles carefully. In addition to drowners, there’s a good amount of new zombie types. For your own enjoyment, I’ll let the game reveal them for you. Just make sure you’re always prepared with a weapon, because with all the new zombies comes all the ones from the original.

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Firearms were a touchy subject in the original and probably the most hated. Not because there wasn’t enough ammo or too much, but because each and every weapon felt like a plastic toy that wasn’t very fun to use. Thankfully, Techland has spent quite a lot of time improving them in Riptide and it really does show. Every weapon now feels like it carries some weight to it and reacts much more realistically. Thanks to this enhancement, firearms were my favorite type of weapon to use throughout the whole game when I had ammo. I can not stress enough how much fun it is popping zombie heads off with a shotgun. They pack a huge punch and provide a great counter measure to large groups of infected. With that comes the introduction of many types of different grenades and the new, very powerful landmines. When I say grenades are powerful, I don’t mean the damage output. It’s the blast itself that wrecks havoc. If you’re within 15-20 feet of a grenade, prepare to be knocked down with a painful recovery. There’s so much force I get excited every time I find more. Oh, and did I mention there’s tazors, nail guns and a harpoon gun? Yeah, prepare for total zombie domination.

One of the things that upset me most from the previous title were each class used a specific type of weapon. While you could still use every weapon available in the game, unless you choose the class that specialized in your preferred weapon of choice,  most other types would render useless in deadly situations. Riptide fixes that with ease. Along with each characters skilled perk tree comes a new weapon level system. The more you use a certain type of weapon, the better you are with it. This is somewhat similar to the system Skyrim uses, but instead of choosing a perk, the 10 levels for each weapon type are all preset. This really encourages users to add verity to their experience rather than sticking to the same thing causing repetition. I feel this was a very smart, yet simple decision during development that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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In terms of size, Riptide is probably equivalent to the original, if not a bit smaller. Techland has introduced a new features called “Dead Zones”. These Dead Zones are placed at many points throughout the games world. These are buildings or areas the player can enter that are not connected to the world map itself. Inside are exactly what you’d expect. A zone filled with the dead. Each one also contain a unique boss battle along with many rare items or weapons. They’re not huge by any means, but the art style changes to a more darker and threatening vibe. These areas are so overwhelmed with zombies you’ll need to plan your attack instead of rushing in blind. Aside from this, all of your normal random side quest or saving survivors will be found here. Don’t worry, you wont be finding any silly teddy bears this time around. At least not from my time with the game.

For review purposes I choose the new fifth playable character John, who is a master at hand to hand combat. What I quickly realized is this guy packs a serious Chuck Norris kick. Once upgraded, you can preform a deadly sprint kick that will send zombies flying. Not only does this deal a hefty amount of damage, depending on the impact of the zombies landing, you could potential kill a zombie with a single kick. Of course, the thugs will brush it off, but I managed to kick your typical zombie so hard his head bashed into a wooden post shattering his brains. My prediction? Expect a lot of Chuck Norris kicking footage being shown on Youtube. It’s seriously amazing how much fun this can be. I spent countless hours kicking zombies that I forgot I needed to escape the island.

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With all the new flashy equipment and features provided in Dead Island Riptide, the main story took me around 11 hours to complete going from main mission to main mission. Once I completed the game, starting my second playthrough was a given and I’m currently working towards completing the game again. The plot can be predictable at times, but does throw a few curve balls that will have you screaming “That was F***** awesome!!!”. Fortunately, the game  is extremely enjoyable to play alone rather than heavily relying on co-op like in the past. So you lone wolfs out there won’t feel left out this time. Then again, slaying hordes of zombies with three other friends is a whole new experience that single player just can’t match.

No matter how you look it at, Dead Island Riptide is one of the best co-op zombie survival horror games ever made. There’s just no other game out there like it and most can’t provide the amount of fun you’ll have while playing this game. In some ways, I feel like this should have been the original Dead Island. On the other hand, Techland has done a much better job of polishing their game and creating one of the best zombie experiences in recent years. It’s very clear Techland listened to their fans and improved on what was needed most. If this is anything to go by for Dead Island 2, they’re certainly on the right path. Let’s just hope we get some more expansive DLC this time around, or at least the option to have horde attacks happen at random. Do yourself a favor, go pick up Dead Island Riptide. You’re only hurting yourself if you don’t. Not to mention it retails $10 cheaper and provides twice the amount of fun as the original on a much more polished grounds.

The Rundown
+ Weather effects are eerie and heart pounding
+ Revamped weapons, combat, features, driving, and well….everything
+ Tons of new weapons, weapon mods, zombies, etc
+ New weapon skill levels
+ Insane amount of fun, especially with friends
- Hord defense is all scripted, not random
- Voice acting was improved, but still rather poor

ripten-rating-9.0

9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.

Dead Island Riptide was developed by Techland and published  by Deep Silver. It was released on April 23rd, 2013, at the MSRP of $49.99 for Xbox 360/PS3 and $39.99 for PC. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review. The game was played to completion and half of New Game+ for the purposes of the review.

PC Specs:
Windows 8
Intel Core i-5 3300P 3.2 GHz Processor
8GB of RAM
Nvidia 660 TI x2 (SLI)

During SLI usage I saw frequent dropped frames and shuttering from time to time with vsync enabled. This includes when forcing SLI as well. During single GPU usage I maintained a fairly stable 60FPS at 1080P with minimal frames dropped and vsync enabled. Disabling vysnc shown a very high amount of screen tearing while using both SLI and single GPU usage. Until, and if a SLI profile is released, I suggest using or force usage of a single GPU.