Dead Island Riptide review

  • The creepy atmosphere
  • The brutal, weighty combat
  • Killing zombies with friends
  • The cheesy characters and plot
  • The retread of familiar locations
  • Running into occasional technical issues

Dead Island doesn't exactly have a sterling reputation. Techland's open-world zombie adventure was rife with game-breaking bugs when it launched in 2011, so we couldn't help but approach Dead Island Riptide with a healthy dose of cautious optimism. Thankfully this sequel only reanimates the fun (and quirky) parts of its predecessor, leaving a vast majority of its plaguing technical issues to rot in the ground, never to return. Riptide is the more polished experience the original should've been, and is an immensely addictive and enjoyable open-world game in its own right.

It picks up right where Dead Island left off, with the four original protagonists (as well as a new playable fifth) finding themselves shipwrecked on the island of Palanai. Riptide doesn't make a great first impression, though. The prologue is boring and uninteresting, serving as a clumsy attempt to bridge the story to that of its predecessor, and its waypoint system tends to work only when it feels like it. But once you start digging into the quests on Palanai, Riptide becomes considerably more enjoyable. There's a ton of zombies to kill, plenty of flooded areas to explore (because flooding is apparently Riptide's thing), and lots of cash and weapons to find.

Like Dead Island's Banoi, Palanai is a seemingly beautiful place at first. It's home to flowing waterfalls, sandy beaches, and several flooded inland villages, all of which are gorgeous to behold, especially on a decent gaming PC. But it doesn't take long before white sands give way to the blood-soaked beaches and gruesome carnage left behind in the wake of a nasty zombie outbreak. The immersive atmosphere here is impressive; environmental clues and chilling audio diaries provide plenty of context regarding the fate of Palanai's unlucky inhabitants, and these subtle details tell a far more interesting story than the comparatively dull (and overly familiar) main quest arc. Though its story falls flat, Riptide still manages to build and maintain an immense amount of tension. There's rarely a reprieve from the onslaught of the undead's guttural moans and shrieks, which are constant reminders that every inch of Palanai is inhabited by something whose sole interest involves eating you alive.

"Though its story falls flat, Riptide still manages to build and maintain an immense amount of tension."

Finding the sources of said moans and shrieks and subsequently bashing their skulls in is the primary reason you'll play through Riptide's 18-hour campaign. Each of the playable characters is proficient with certain types of weapons and has a unique set of skill trees, providing some incentive for multiple playthroughs. Washed up rapper Sam B, for instance, is particularly good with a sledgehammer and can be specced to withstand a ton of damage, while newcomer John Morgan is adept at powerful running jump kicks that send zombies flying (a hilarious spectacle).

The brutal, weighty melee combat is a well-designed experience you won't find anywhere else, and it's something you'll encounter a lot of regardless of which character you choose to play. You'll really get a sense of the momentum that comes with swinging a giant maul, especially when the force of its impact turns a zombie's head into chunks of mush. Most encounters only pit you against a couple zombies at a time, but bigger engagements are sprinkled throughout, providing a high level of challenge (and, for console players, some troublesome frame rate dips).

"The brutal, weighty melee combat is a well-designed experience you won't find anywhere else..."

Don't expect to just run into a group of zombies swinging like a madman, though; each undead walker can dish out a lot of damage and you'll have to be mindful of your stamina meter, which drains with each swing. You'll be susceptible to getting knocked off your feet once it's depleted--that's bad news if a few flesh-eaters are nearby. For a bunch of mindless creatures driven by instinct, zombies in Riptide are good at sneaking up on you when you're not paying attention. As in Dead Island, weapons degrade as you use them, but a plentiful number of repair benches and significant adjustments to the auto-save system mean you won't ever find yourself stuck in a checkpoint where you're equipped with broken armaments and surrounded by powerful enemies. Battles are persistently fun, a much-welcomed change compared to Dead Island's crippling design elements.

Of course, the combat wouldn't be quite as exciting if it weren't for all the loot it inevitably leads to. As you complete quests and explore, you'll come across dozens of weapons and items, including swords, grenades, explosive mines, Wolverine claws (seriously), firearms, and tons of other instruments of death. Most of these can be upgraded and modded to become even stronger. Jamming a bunch of nails through the business end of a baseball bat makes it a tad bit deadlier, as does strapping torches to both ends of a bo staff. Even guns--which are far more powerful in Riptide than they were in Dead Island--can be modded to add shock damage or other types of additional effects. The seemingly endless variations of weapons and the quick rate at which you'll replace old ones will turn even modest looters into full-blown addicts.

"The seemingly endless variations of weapons and the quick rate at which you'll replace old ones will turn even modest looters into full-blown addicts."

Solo play is a far more viable option than it was in Dead Island, and going it alone makes for an intense, atmospheric survival experience. Add a few friends to the mix, though, and things get exponentially goofier. Watching other characters drop kick zombies from a high ledge--a new thing anyone can do--is hilarious, as is witnessing your pals swing at the special infected zombies with boat oars and katanas (though this has the side effect of making Riptide's janky character animations become super obvious). It's easy to hop in a game, and a scaling mechanic means you can contribute even if you join the game of a high-level player, eliminating basically any barrier from playing with your friends whenever you want.

Considering Riptide's large scope, it's a surprisingly smooth ride. Its addicting zombie-slaying action, dozens of interesting weapons, and immersive qualities far outweigh its dull story and occasional technical hiccups, the latter of which pale in comparison to those of the original. This outshines its predecessor in almost every conceivable way--and once it sinks its teeth into your time, Riptide is a hard game to put down.

This game was reviewed on PC.

More Info

Release date: Apr 23 2013 - Xbox 360, PC, PS3 (US)
Apr 26 2013 - Xbox 360, PC, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Deep Silver
Developed by: Techland
ESRB Rating:

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  • solidus_kalt - April 30, 2013 1:58 a.m.

    as in dead island 1 i have again a savegame which i cant play anymore. it doesnt load it. loadingscreen doesnt end. the game hints on the loading screen still change. after 30 minutes (cmon?) i left the game over the PS button. i restarted the game and tried it again. this time i selected the savegame in the list and didnt press 'continue' - this was a tip in dead island 1 to bypass loading issues by tec support. didnt help me there or in the case of DI riptide. and no, i didnt switch off anything, i have no mods or hacks.
  • gregory-wheaton - April 25, 2013 2:19 p.m.

    Even if they make a Dead Island 3 and it is just like the first and second...i will buy them. one of my favorite games of all time. I am also a fan of COD and Farcry...those games got great reviews and ran super smooth with few bugs...but...the bugs were never enough to turn me off.
  • NullG7 - April 23, 2013 1:43 p.m.

    Still all I want to know is if the game still has the Analog Combat setting from the last game
  • AtlanteanLancer - April 23, 2013 4:27 a.m.

    a very inflated score for an unispired zombie hack-n-slash
  • larkan - April 22, 2013 8:31 p.m.

    I'd have to disagree in that this type of visceral, first person action can't be found elsewhere. Unfortunately, I've seen this type of combat in the Walking Dead Survival Instinct game, which was the only shining gem within that game. Although I loved the original Dead Island after issues were worked out, I'm pretty cautious to drop money on it on release. I'm hoping the community mods step up as they did with the original and fix the issues that I'm sure will pop up. Also, this seems pretty much the same in terms of combat and leveling, which did get pretty old after a few playthroughs, and after a reinstall of Dead Island last week, it became stale after only a few minutes.
  • Talvari - April 22, 2013 6:15 p.m.

    Well dayum. This game seems pretty spread out in terms of how much people like it. Just seems like an upgraded version of Dead Island which doesn't make me want it : / Oh well, another game for the list of games i'll get when it's cheaper ><
  • jeff-kendrick - April 22, 2013 5:50 p.m.

    The list of 'Cons' SUCKS! If you played thru the first game the characters and plot are NOT cheesy.. each sets up their individual story and specialties. Occasional technical issues.. so same stuff as the first game with its glitches of zombies walking thru walls and blood hovering above the ground and stuff? Personally I been waiting for this game since I finished the first game and level capped 3 of the characters!
  • CombatWombat101 - April 22, 2013 8:04 p.m.

    Dude, let's be perfectly honest here: Dead Island is pretty much Webster's definition of cheese. And this is coming from someone who absolutely loved the first. Also, we can't really pass off technical issues like they ain't no thang just because they existed in the first game as well.
  • Longnuts - April 22, 2013 10:47 a.m.

    I am so pumped, I don't have to work tomorrow, and I have both a PS3 and 360 copy already paid for. Tomorrow is an all day zombie slaughterfest. After I mow my lawn.
  • MeanwhileGuy - April 22, 2013 9:52 a.m.

    Hmm, opinions seem to be split on this one. the Official Playstation Magazine gave it a 5/10, but quite frankly I trust you guys' views more than them. They also gave Injustice a 7/10 and called it "Solomun Grundy levels of fugly", so that just gives me more cause to believe your views instead. I still haven't picked up the original Dead Island, so I might give it a shot now that the bugs have been patched out and it's going cheap, before getting into this one.
  • Oppossum - April 22, 2013 1:02 p.m.

    If you pre purchase Riptide you get the first Dead island free :)
  • Child Of Death - April 22, 2013 6:40 a.m.

    Looks like another buy to me. Even with its flaws I stilled loved the first Dead Island.
  • g1rldraco7 - April 22, 2013 2:37 a.m.

    Yeah back to the zombie island, good time for me. Good thing the bug level is down and Greg's zombie joke made me spill soda through my nose. XD
  • DizZeLegend - April 22, 2013 12:23 a.m.

    May be a day one buy for me but, was the game breaking corrupt saves and auto save glitches fixed in this new addition to the series? (i know it was patched in the old one but hey you never know) Because that was my only problem with the game.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - April 22, 2013 7:27 a.m.

    Never ran into a single one of them in Riptide.
  • Shadow Of Death - April 22, 2013 7:35 a.m.

    The big issue with the first one is the rather unfortunate mistake where they uploaded the pre-release copy of the game rather than the final version (future bug-fixes aside). It was such a fiasco they gave away the soundtrack for free (I rather like the Leaving Banoi track). At least, I believe the Soundtrack was the freebie. I might be getting this, but not at full price. Even at the reduced price ($40), I'm not all that keen, especially since I still haven't finished the first one yet...