Dead Island: Riptide Review: A Flood of Repetitive Skull-Smashing
The 1970s saw the release of some of the greatest, most ridiculous zombie movies in the genre. George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead came out in 1978; Italian director Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (known as Zombie here in the states) was released in 1979.
Both movies have a distinct low-budget feel, an emphasis on gore, goofy stories and goofier acting. Fulci’s work in particular, which often takes place on tropical islands suddenly beset by the undead, is a bastion of the best in B horror.
Dead Island: Riptide feels like a Fulci movie. That’s a good thing. Much more than its predecessor, Techland’s open-world zombie-smashing first-person maybe-RPG seems to be embracing its ridiculousness. The story is ripped straight from the annals of terrible horror scripts, little is expected from the badly animated characters and mostly decent voice-cast, and crushing skulls is the clear focus throughout. Even the game’s film-grain presentation in cutscenes reminds us that we’re in a world that’s channeling a very specific look and feel.
The trouble, however, is that Riptide, like its predecessor, is a one-note experience that seems to drag on forever. From start to finish, you’ll be smashing zombie heads almost exclusively, on quests that have you picking things up and running them back to base. The very end of the game is the same as the very beginning, with very little variation in between.
A zombie appears. Kick it with “E”, hit it with a bat, smash its skull.
Dead Island: Riptide
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Publisher: Deep Silver
Released: April 23, 2013
Last time on Dead Island, players chose one of four characters and went on a series of fetch and escort quests across an absolutely huge tropical island, starting in a zombie-infested resort and stretching into the zombie-infested jungle, a zombie-infested town, a zombie-infested research complex and a zombie-infested prison. Fighting those zombies was done with all the blunt objects and pilfered firearms you could find, leading to some interesting moments in which players might scramble across a beach, grab a canoe paddle and turn to face an onslaught of 15 undead. I was not a fan of that game: Techland’s first Dead Island was enormous and had good ideas, but was overlarge, lacked any strong narrative drive, felt rushed and just mostly fell hard on the boring side of things. That fight scenario mentioned above was repeated across tens of hours of gameplay, and it never got more exciting than it was the first time.
Riptide improves a number of these issues. The game picks up exactly where the last ended, making it a straight sequel, and begins with a shipwreck that sends the characters from the last game to another island (Palanai, rather than the last game’s Banoi) where they again have to try to find an escape. From the outset, Riptide embraces its B-movie qualities, and without the unreasonable expectations set by the first game for an intriguing narrative or a more vicious horror setting, it’s easier to relax and enjoy the head-squashing.