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Dead Island Riptide Review

Zombie-Killing Bliss With Some Rough Edges
by Tim Turi on Apr 21, 2013 at 09:00 PM

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Reviewed on PC
Also on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Publisher Deep Silver
Developer Techland
Rating Mature

Some of this generation’s most beloved open-world games are riddled with bugs. Even the truest fans of Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas, and Assassin’s Creed III must concede their lack of polish. Deep Silver’s 2011 hit, Dead Island, also falls into this camp. The sequel, Dead Island Riptide, suffers the same affliction. The changes to its zombie-slaying formula improve the action, but this follow-up also comes with more issues than the original.

For better and worse, Riptide plays almost exactly like its flawed-but-fun predecessor. The melee-centric gameplay is still weighty and satisfying. Landing deliberate blows on a zombie’s head or limbs feels great, especially when you break an arm or lop off a head. Dead Island’s undead are just threatening enough to keep you on your toes without ever becoming too frustrating. I love watching damage points tick away above enemies’ heads as I dismantle them. Leveling up and progressing through each character’s skill trees is addicting. Teaming up with three friends makes slaughtering the hordes of shambling dead even better. No matter how seasoned your teammates are, all players see enemies scaled to their level, removing the headache from matchmaking. 

Importing your survivor

Players can import characters from the first Dead Island – whether you beat the game with them or not -– as long it’s on the same profile. These characters transfer over with nothing but their previous skills and level. This is great for dedicated players who maxed out their Dead Island characters, and there are even a few new skills to learn. If you’re starting fresh in Riptide or your previous character is fairly low-level, you can start a new character with 15 skill points free to allocate how you see fit.

After Riptide was announced, some confusion spread over whether the game was a true follow-up or an expansion. Riptide is indeed its own standalone sequel to the original Dead Island. The survivors of the Banoi Island incident end up on another island in the same archipelago riddled with zombies. The story is still crudely delivered through in-engine cinematics that make the bottom-barrel horror films on Netflix look like works of genius. Thankfully, Riptide’s narrative mostly stays out of your way, allowing you to focus on the joy of slaying zombies.

Between the multiple characters and bountiful side quests, Riptide packs hours of entertainment. New elements make battling the resurrected dead more intense. Boating through a flooded jungle while your teammates beat back waterlogged zombies is thrilling. The new hand-to-hand specialist character is the most enjoyable of the bunch, with punishing claws and a sprinting kick that sends zombies flying. Defense scenarios are an engaging change from the series’ bread-and-butter fetch quests, requiring you to place barricades or man turrets as zombies rush the fortifications. 

Despite the additions, Riptide suffers from the same bugs and blemishes as the first game – and then some. Enemy behavior is erratic, but not in a purposefully scary way. Zombies spend minutes tearing at a barricade, only to wander away the moment it falls. Foes phase through obstacles, glide up walls, and land hits from improbable distances. The mini-map is geographically barren, and objective pathways flicker on and off, requiring you to frequently pull up the full map. Even worse, your treasured and customized weapons can inexplicably disappear from your inventory – a rare but frustrating problem.

The Edge

I found distracting bugs in all the versions of the game, but playing Riptide on our high-end gaming PC results in a smoother framerate and improved visuals

Riptide’s framerate is worse than its predecessor. Things slow to a crawl when the action heats up, especially after tossing an explosive near a large group of zombies. One strange bug occurred when an online teammate left the game, sucking the remaining three players into a choppy vortex of looping deaths that only stopped after resetting. These issues may sound insurmountable, but the game’s highs still compensate for most of the embarrassing lows.

Riptide’s flaws are many, but they couldn’t hold me back from having a blast. Few games nail the visceral feel of melee combat and co-op fun like Dead Island. At its worst, an annoying hiccup breaks the immersion of the grizzly trek through a zombie-infested paradise. At its best, Riptide hits the same high notes as the original.

Follow up 2011’s sleeper hit with a sequel that adds a new character and campaign without fixing the original’s issues
Varies between ugly and gorgeous depending on how close you are to a given texture or character model
The ‘80s horror flick-style synth tracks are perfect. Zombies’ distorted bellows sound appropriately unnerving
Combat feels natural and is a lot of fun, but the wonky map, enemy AI, and framerate issues sully the experience
The new character is an empowering beast, but the overall lack of polish holds it back
Moderately High

Products In This Article

Dead Island Riptidecover

Dead Island Riptide

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
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