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Dead Island's Ryder White DLC Packs Punch, Lacks Polish

by Tim Turi on Feb 01, 2012 at 06:37 AM

Dead Island greeted gamers with an unexpected surprise months before the flood of holiday releases overcame us. You may still be struggling for breath amidst last holiday’s games, but Deep Silver has gone ahead and released a DLC add-on for Dead Island in an attempt to rekindle those good times you had with the game. The streamlined new single-player chapter packs a lot of fast-paced, firearm-focused fun, but it also serves as a reminder to the small nuisances that held back the original experience.

Right off the bat, you should ignore the Ryder White DLC if you enjoy Dead Island solely for its co-op or skill progression; This doesn’t have it. Given that the DLC can be completed in about six hours, there isn’t a lot of time to spend beefing up a character. I missed the addictive cycle of leveling up my character with friends at first, but there are enough guns, explosives, and decent melee weapons around to keep you gleefully gibbing zombies. I only ever felt truly underpowered when the game would throw massive waves of undead at me without mercy.

Speaking of tons of zombies, if you're wondering why the original Dead Island experience didn’t overwhelm you with seemingly endless waves of undead, this DLC is your answer. The insane rush of facing off against dozens of zombies is exciting at first, but you’ll be rolling your eyes after your tenth checkpoint reload. At one point you’re tasked with securing a helicopter landing zone, a pretty standard procedure in a zombie game. The problem is when zombies can quickly climb anything, you end up getting pulverized by hundreds of knuckles in no time. Making matters worse, there’s scant time to strategically set up explosives around the perimeter or gain good position. The result is a sloppy game of cat and mouse as you run, reload, turn around, unload, and repeat. The Ryder White DLC shines brightest when it isn’t trying to be Left 4 Dead and sticks to the manageable zombie encounters that make the game so balanced and fun.

Lackluster crescendo moments aside, I enjoyed stepping into the boots of Commander White as he embarks on a quest to save Banoi Island and his wife. The story in this add-on puts the main plot to shame, but that doesn’t stop it from being moan-inducing at times. The storytelling is held back by stilted animations, mediocre voice acting, and odd narrative decisions. Despite my criticism of how Techland went about telling its tale, I really enjoyed the interesting way the DLC fills holes in the main story. If you were even a little interested in Dead Island’s story, or want a hint at how a potential sequel would be possible, be sure to pay attention to this story.

Commander White’s quest takes you across locations both old and new. Mercifully, none of the settings are rehashes of the all too familiar beach. I frantically fought for control of a bridge set for detonations, navigated electrified waters in the sewers, and cleared out a prison teeming with zombies. While some of the areas look like exactly how I remember them, Techland has done a great job of rearranging props and scenery, so you won’t suffer from nonstop deja vu while on White’s linear journey.

Another departure from the original game is the heavy emphasis on guns. If you groaned over Dead Island’s focus on melee weapons, you’re welcome to go trigger happy here. I had a blast watching droves of flesh-eaters crumple under the fire of my automatic weapons. Finally getting to lay into the infected pests of Banoi Island without the guilt of ammo conservation is a treat. Be warned, however; A fast gun isn’t always as effective as a sharp machete.

Speaking of weapons, Dead Island’s inventory management is still a clunky mess. Sometimes a weapon will disappear or be inexplicably teleported to your inventory, leaving you with empty weapon wheel slots that can only be filled by navigating the plodding back end. In my short time with the Ryder White DLC, I probably had as many inventory-management issues as I did in the whole of the original game.

The Ryder White DLC is a good option for fans of the original looking to relive the highlights of the game by themselves, sans the fantastic progression system. Not having to worry about quest management, ammo, or teammates is liberating practice in survival, but doesn’t emphasize Dead Island’s best traits. Only consider this DLC is you’re a diehard fan of the original or all your friends are too busy playing other games to join you for some standard co-op. You can snag it now on PSN and Steam for $9.99 and XBLA for 800 MS points.