- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Developer: Techland
- ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
- Genre: Zombie Action
- Pros: Great Melee Action, Non-Stop Zombie Carnage
- Cons: Repetitive Fetch Quests, Boring Storytelling
One of the most common complaints I expect to hear about "Riptide" is that it's largely the same game as the surprise 2011 hit. It's hard to deny. Believe it or not, "Riptide" basically just sends you back to the Hell from which you escaped at the end of the first game. You can even import your character. It's a different island, sure, and some of the mechanics are different, but the gameplay will be remarkably, almost disappointingly, familiar. After nearly escaping on a freighter that becomes overrun with the undead, you find yourself back on a nearby island that makes the first locale look downright charming. Much of "Riptide" consists of what we lovingly call fetch quests. Go get me food. Go get me weapons. Go get me painkillers. Go get me tree bark. (Not kidding). Just as you think "Riptide" will get narratively interesting, it's another fetch quest. The lack of creativity in the storytelling in "Riptide" and the lack of willingness on the creators to come up with something truly new when compared to the first game are my biggest disappointments with the title.
While the story may be thin and the fetch quest structure frustrating, the combat action truly delivers. Maybe I'm biased given the nightmares given me by "The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct," but I found the melee-heavy approach to combat in "Dead Island: Riptide" incredibly enjoyable. Like "Dead Island," you'll find weapons all over the place and eventually amass an ever-changing arsenal of them. Is this scythe more powerful than my electrified axe? Should I risk throwing my debilitating kitchen knife at that bad guy? I might lose it. These are the decisions you make in "Riptide" and I loved the constant, changing pace of the game. You're going along, minding your own business, trying to fetch something for a survivor when you're overrun by cousins of the creatures from "28 Days Later." Knowing what weapons to use in what situations and quickly changing strategies from thrown weapons to two-handed ones to firepower and beyond, "Riptide" has some incredibly fun combat to offer fans of the genre.
Like "Borderlands 2" and "Dead Space 3," "Riptide" encourages you to find a friend to help you bash zombie brains. People can drop in and out and you're encouraged to keep your NPC survivors happy with side quests that will make them more powerful (and less likely to die) during set pieces that involve waves of enemies trying to take your safe havens. Personally, I like co-op for some games but find a title like "Riptide" more effective when I don't have to worry about keeping an online buddy alive and can enter the heart of darkness on my own.
What's going to frustrate some people about "Riptide," those who look below the visceral surface, is that there clearly were elements already in place that could have been crafted into a more rewarding experience. It makes ZERO sense that items and enemies respawn. Why do I have to search this luggage over and over again to find something new every time? Who brought that fruit back? Why are zombies popping up in the exact same spot in the road just for me to run over them again and again and again? Wait, I have to go to this point on the map, get something, and then fight through the exact same enemies on the way back? Annoying. A game like "Tomb Raider," that brings back some enemies but not nearly all of them on repeated areas should be the model.
There's also a sense that this structure and location to fulfill for more narrative potential. Every time that "Riptide" starts to get interesting, it just devolves back into more combat. The combat may be incredibly enjoyable but decapitating your 1000th zombie or using your boat (the water travel is a nice addition in this game) to handle the dumb zombies waiting to meet its propellor every ten minutes for the entire game gets tiring without the dramatic urgency of a plot to keep it afloat.