- Developer - Techland
- Publisher - Deep Silver
- Platforms - PlayStation 3 (tested), Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
- Release date - 26 April
- Price - £39.99
Dead Island: Riptide
Dead Island: Riptide is rubbish. It's really bad. An A or maybe AA zombie game that a decade ago would have occupied shelf space between Operation Winback and World Destruction League. It has terrible combat, embarrassing dialogue and zero understanding of how to be scary. The only credit due here is to the Deep Silver marketing team, which thanks to a series of pat, melodramatic trailers has somehow managed to find Dead Island a mainstream following.
If it weren't for the furore over the original game's novelty (stupid) reverse motion advert, no-one would be paying attention to this dull sequel. Riptide is a mess. There's very little here worth talking about; there's even less to praise.
I find game reviews that focus on reload speeds and the size of hitboxes generally reductive, but given the extent of Dead Island: Riptide's technical deficiencies it feels like I should make an exception here and rag on the details.
Your character moves sluggishly and in unpredictable patterns; it's a pain in the cheeks trying to navigate the levels. Walking and sprinting is handled by the left stick, turning your head by the right, but despite that setup being as old as the first DualShock from 1997, Techland, which makes Riptide, still manages to botch it up. Your turn circle is massive; moving between rooms in interior locations is fiddly. People might argue that, as in the old Resident Evil games, hindering your movement like that compounds the horror since it makes it harder to get away from the monsters. Maybe, yeah - if you like. It's still rubbish, though.
Then comes the act of actually fighting the zombies. Riptide's focus is on melee rather than projectile combat, so the majority of the fight scenes see you caving foreheads in with bats, oars, bits of pipe and so on. And it doesn't work. Not at all. Thanks to the game's useless role-playing pretensions, meaning the zombies have HP bars and your weapons have stat points, Riptide's combat is deadening.
The weapon abilities vs. health points system relegates the generally tactile act of beating something to death down to a card game. If your wrench has 18 strength verses a zombie's 90 HP, then it will take roughly five hits to kill it. The viscera and the bloodlust and the...just the fun of smacking a zombie's chin off with a crowbar is muted by boring, reliable numbers.
And the weapons never feel like they connect. There's physics technology of sorts behind Riptide, in that the zombies tend to fall down dead in different ways, but in terms of a plank clacking soundly off someone's skull, in the way it might in Condemned, Dead Island: Riptide doesn't deliver. It reminds me of Zombie Panic Source, the Half-Life mod for PC. You just spam the hit button over and over and over until the airy, zombie-looking collection of pixels in front of you runs out of health points and falls down. Despite the Pulp Fiction junk shop level of melee weapons on offer, combat in Riptide is always unexciting.
The game doesn't get zombies. The reason series two of The Walking Dead is the best one, is because it limits the amount of biters that the group comes across. When Rick et al encounter more than three undead it feels like a problem, like an event. The zombies mean something; they have presence. And that makes them scary. Series three of The Walking Dead is worse because it ups the fight count, to the point where fighting and killing zombies doesn't feel dramatic, it's just listless.
Dead Island: Riptide has the same problem. Whereas in The Walking Dead you could say that the reason the zombies become less of a deal is because the characters, as they mature, are less bothered by them, the writing in Riptide is not, at all, that clever.
The game throws group of zombies after group of zombies at you, expecting you to be excited by a battle after you just finished another one six feet back down the corridor. There's no pacing to it. On the patronising, idiotic assumption that "hey, everyone loves zombies, yeah?" Riptide wheels out another 15 of the undead for you to fight every five minutes or so. It's boring; you will get bored.
As for Dead Island: Riptide's script, it's not good. It's really not good. Two things are particularly irksome. First is the strained attempt to build a fanbase around each of the game's playable characters. They each have different accents and hairstyles, and bellow imbecilic quips every time they kill something, quips you just know Techland is hoping will pop people in people's signatures on gaming forums. It's annoying, thick, gamer crap that makes you want to shove your head into your hands.
So there's that, and then the aforementioned dumb trailers which completely misrepresent Riptide's tone. The operatic marketing campaign might have drawn Dead Island some attention on the internet, but it means that when you play the game you're going to be let down, since none of that drama comes as advertised. It's not that two lovers committing suicide in a boat is necessarily better writing than someone shouting "struth! Bloody zombies!" - they are equally as empty and preposterous.
It's that Dead Island: Riptide lies to you. It sells itself with this Kirkman/Darabont melancholy and then arrives with caricatures, slapstick and a gimmicky box art lifted from eighties b-movies. You're never sure how to read it. Is it meant to be dramatic or funny? It doesn't matter much in the end since it's neither of those things, but still, there's a conflict of mood here.
Dead Island: Riptide is a deflated balloon of a game. Despite all its glaring flaws, it's best described as knock-off, inconsequential and hardly worth getting indignant about. Given total creative control, I could probably review it in a single word: "No." No, it's not good. No, we don't need it. No, no-one's bothered. I said earlier that it was only inventive marketing which made people interested in Dead Island. Riptide is further proof that there's nothing behind the adverts.
Don't get this. Just ignore it and wait for it to go away.
- Gameplay: 4/10 - Awkward movement, boring combat, shoehorned in RPG elements. Riptide is no fun to play
- Sound: 3/10 - Terrible acting - and not in a stylised way - combined with a bland soundtrack.
- Graphics: 6/10 - Passable, generally. There's nothing original about Riptide's look or style, though.
- Writing: 3/10 - Dialogue is consistently rubbish and the pacing is totally shot. Zombies, zombies and more zombies followed by brain-dead quips from characters you don't know or care about.
- Replay value: 5/10 - There's plenty of pointless "content" for you to go and find like secret missions and collectibles and that, but it's hard to stomach even half a sitting of Dead Island: Riptide.
- Overall: 3/10 - It's hard to find a bona fide positive thing to say about Dead Island: Riptide. It's boring, moronic and plain, in every respect. Leave well alone.