It’s time to cripple, cut and dismember hordes of zombies again. That’s right, Techland has released the follow-up to their 2011 zombie-slaughterfest Dead Island, titled Dead Island: Riptide. Banoi has been left behind for the also tropical, neighboring island Palanai. Our four survivors — Sam B, Xian Mei, Logan Carter and Purna — all return to go toe-to-toe with Death once again, now with the aid of the new melee-focused character John Morgan. Zombies have been staggering their way into the gaming industry for some time now, oversaturating the market with their presence and making their appearances feel less special. Dead Island had its flaws, but it brought us a unique zombie experience that stood out. The question now is: Is Riptide more of the same or has it expanded on the strong but flawed foundation of its predecessor?
Let’s find out what’s HOT and what’s NOT in our review of Dead Island: Riptide.
More-Zombie Killing Fun
Dead Island gave us numerous was to take down the undead opposition and Riptide brings it back in all of its gory glory. In no time, you’ll be punching, kicking, slicing and swinging away at the reanimated rotted corpses littering the island of Palanai. The combat remains largely unchanged, but it’s still satisfying to hear the crack of crippling a zombie’s arm or the slice followed by a slow motion decapitation. The best part is that weapons don’t deteriorate as quickly as they did in the first game, allowing you to take that electric machete you just crafted on lengthier killing sprees before having to pay the pricey fees at a repair bench. This should please everyone as it eliminates one of Dead Island’s more prominent design flaws and gives us even more of a reason to find that next great weapon. Whether you’re rocking the Wolverine-stylized feral claws or getting headshot home runs with your spiked baseball bat, the weapon variety will keep you trying out new combinations and combat styles while playing around with the impactful combat system.
These new weapons are put to the test against some new enemy types as well. The heavy-hitting Rams, explosive Suiciders and ranged Spitters all make a return with a few new tricks up their sleeve, but it’s the new zombies which will grab your attention, and you. There’s the Floater, which plays dead (well, more dead than the rest) and floats in the water. But once you get close, they strike. Assuming you get their attention from a distance, you’ll quickly learn that these water monsters can sprint like the Infected, unhindered by the liquid in which they stand. They’re easier to take on if you just slam through them using the new airboat transportation option. However, utilizing boost is crucial unless you want those floating attackers to climb aboard and pull you into the water. Then there’s the Wrestler, a beast on par with the Ram that lands a mean blow with his oversized arm. The additions may not be game-changers, but at least they’re something new to contend with over the course of the game. And if you’re feeling particularly daring, feel free to take on the named, undead bosses found in the Dead Zones.
John Morgan’s Fist and Feet of Fury
Dead Island: Riptide’s newest survivor, John Morgan, deserves his own section. I believe that he is a game-changer, unlike the new enemy types. The last game had throwing, blunt, blade and firearms specialists, but what about those of us that like going fisticuffs with the living dead? That is where John Morgan comes in. He may be known as a decent Navy cook, but you’ll come to know him as the unrivaled hand-to-hand master. He can wield brass knuckles and claws with deadly efficiency, but it is the special abilities unlocked in his skill tree that are most important. In the last game, we all used the kick feature to get a little breathing room from the mobs of zombies surrounding us. John takes this kick and amplifies it tenfold, striking with more force than Leonidas. Add the kick while sprinting and you’ll send zombies flying far away from you. His powerful chest-kick comes in handy when clearing out the ever-persistent Infected or simply getting an enemy (or two) off of your friend’s back. There was very little as satisfying as punt kicking a Suicider and watching it explode safely away from you. Suddenly, those enemies didn’t post much of a threat, and dispatching them didn’t require a tossed weapon or fired bullet. I tried to go back and play as Logan, my chosen character in the first game, and found myself unable to stick with him simply due to the fact that I couldn’t use the savage chest-kick. Also, John’s Fury ability — all characters have a Fury ability which helps them dispatch zombies brutally and quickly — sees him bringing out a lengthy staff, making bashing through undead crowds and heads a complete joy.