Dead Island Riptide Review

Dead Island: Riptide screenshot
Dead Island: Riptide screenshot

Dead Island had many fooled the first time around. Most of the interest was, of course, thanks to that trailer, and as such buyers would have been forgiven for thinking they’d be getting a harrowing, serious game. Then it came out and turned out to have as much emotional resonance as going to the toilet. Riptide is no better.

It’s been described as a spin-off of the first game, which is a good call on the part of Techland and Deep Silver because if they called it a sequel they’d have been taking the piss. Riptide is basically the first game in a different location: as before, the survivors of a zombie apocalypse band together to explore their environment, looting and shooting their way to a potential escape. The same four survivors are back, joined by a new Australian guy who specialises in hand-to-hand combat and snarling machismo.

Dead Island’s notional appeal is in sauntering around a paradise-gone-awry - the juxtaposition of idyllic setting and total horror clashing - thwacking your way past legions of the undead as you do so, and Techland gets at least the last part of that equation right: the game is at its most fun when you’re lopping limbs off with bladed weapons.

Sadly, Riptide’s location is far less novel this time around, and the game’s tone is often at odds with its systems. Speaking of which: it’d be nice to say Riptide has improved on what made the first game such a slog, and there are incremental improvements in some areas (it’s way less buggy this time around).

But the experience is… well it’s the same isn’t it? It’s Eldorado with zombies part 1.1. It’s the same Sisyphean trek through an island paradise making mincemeat out of the same ravenous, badly-dressed horde as the last time, only with a new cast of characters to talk to and go on seemingly endless fetch quests for. They’re just as annoying as the last bunch, repeating the same old statements over and over when you walk by them. They look dreadful too, animating like Gerry Anderson puppets, and they don’t blink. At all. There’s nothing wrong with a game being a bit frayed and rough around the edges (it’s part of what makes Deadly Premonition so brilliant) but Dead Island: Riptide is so inherently charmless that it’s just another reason to sigh at it.

Another reason still is that, in some ways, Riptide is worse than the original. There are hub defence missions that are completely worthless. They’re clearly designed for multiplayer, and probably meant to be tense, but they turn into tedious wars of attrition. You can travel by boat this time around, but it’s absolutely awful - zombies try to board and attack you from behind, sometimes killing you through no fault of your own, because your boat moves so bloody slowly. Weapons still degrade too quickly as well, resulting in many, many drawn-out trips to the inventory screen to equip something else.

Dead Island: Riptide screenshot

Dead Island: Riptide, like its predecessor, just has no idea what it wants to be. It clearly wants to be taken seriously. The nature of the quests make this obvious, as you go on excursions for missing family members and talk to characters that come out with painful stuff like ‘culture is the first thing to be sacrificed when things get this way.’

That’d all be well and good if the gameplay focused on the desperation and sadness, but when you can go lopping off heads with gay abandon using Chinese war swords (how the hell did a Chinese war sword end up on a tropical archipelago, and for that matter how come I found a belt in a computer hard drive?) any drama just dissipates. The action’s more like an early Peter Jackson film, only obviously not as funny or smart, as you cudgel your revenant quarry in the testicles, your character coming up with some foul mouthed quip at the same time.

It’s pulling in a million different directions at once. It’s clear from the marketing that Techland and Deep Silver don’t have a clue. On one hand they give us these terribly sensitive, heartfelt trailers, but then they threaten to give the little Ed Gein in all of us a statue of a dismembered torso in a smashing bikini. Nice work chaps.

Dead Island: Riptide screenshot

Back on point, there’s maybe a case of the game being more fun in multiplayer, and true to form it picks up a notch when running around with others, but seeing as anything’s more fun when playing with others, that’s faint praise really. It’s pretty likely that if Dear Esther had a multiplayer it’d be more fun too (imagine starting a clan for Dear Esther...). The Dead Island franchise is geared towards co-operative play, but as with the first, it does so at the expense of the single player. Borderlands was the same, but it was far more engaging and characterful. And competently made.

The frustrating thing is that occasionally, a good game threatens to make itself known, and it does some things very right. The combat is still good, with a satisfying 'thunk' every time you slaughter your enemies, and you do fall into some sort of rhythm with it. In short bursts it’s a lot easier to get on with too, as prolonged play leaves it feeling very tedious. It’s atmospheric, although oddly nowhere near to the extent of the first game, and there’s no place as unique as that game’s holiday resort. The music is really good though: brooding, melancholy synths channelling John Carpenter at his best.

On the whole however Riptide is yet another missed opportunity, and just too painfully average, wonky and padded out with filler to truly recommend.

Version Tested: PC

Completed main quest in 14 hours. Did some sidequests before realising I didn’t really want to help these people. Played multiplayer missions with some people that may have been from France or Belgium. They were very nice.

5 / 10

  • Combat is fun
  • Music is great
  • Lacking in its own identity
  • It's fetch quest hell. Again

Click above for enlarged Dead Island: Riptide Screenshots


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User Comments

StrangeConcept's Avatar


I was thinking of buying it, just for a fun quick game to play.. After reading this.. I'm thinking I probably won't.
Posted 05:08 on 09 June 2013
WhiteSnow's Avatar


It's pretty the same as first Dead Island.
Posted 09:23 on 02 May 2013
deadilandfan's Avatar


dead iland riptide looks cool but i don't have it yet
Posted 17:25 on 25 April 2013
guyderman's Avatar


I avoided thye first game like a zombie plague based on the poor reviews it recieved and when I finally got round to playing it I had nothing but fun with it. Will definitely be playing this one sooner rather than later regardless of the reviews - more of the same in this instance is exactly what I want. (funny how more of the same never seems to be an issue when it comes to games like CoD, Fifa etc).
Posted 10:38 on 23 April 2013
Batmamerc's Avatar


Thank the zombie gods that the critics yet again hate this, you all Ruined my Christmas with the first one it just sat on the shelf till February because I thought what is the point I've been looking forward to it for ages and apparently it's rubbish, so I played fecking plain old same old CoD, then I thought F it I'm gonna see what's so bad about this. first 15 mins I was hating it but that was my own fault not following the directions and getting killed by running towards the zombies in the corridor instead of behind me to the door, after that it was June n I had finished playing one of my favourite all time games yeah it's not technically brilliant but bugger me it was fun and so satisfying killing the undead with such a variety of weapons, I've never played a game that felt so good to be a chav wit a baseball bat. Granted the location was my main like loved the tropical setting of a holiday beach but did start to drag once I left the beach but still enjoyed all the locations except the generic zombie filled sewers. I played that solo never touched the coop/multiplayer part because believe it or not some ppl like to play alone and don't think games are better with friends never mind ass hole strangers, I've not renewed my Xbox live for 6 months cos I only used it for netflix but get US netflix on Ps3 so what's the point in paying for live (Microsoft take note I ain't paying you to watch BBC Iplayer etc when I have them for free on multiple other devices at least 6 in my house alone). I will be getting this game and I know I will Enjoy it maybe the critics these days want to much you all want heavy rain titles with no gameplay just great stories try reviewing movies be more up Your street if that's the case games are about fun enjoyment relieving stress only a small proportion of gamers want a gripping engaging emotional story do a survey you will Find I'm right. Any way nuf sed I think.
Posted 20:42 on 22 April 2013
MJTH's Avatar


Dead Island is like buying something new, that's already broken, but you can see it's been fixed with duct tape. Sure you can live with it and if you've never had a problem, then that's good, but you know there are major game braking bugs and flaws with this game and there are better games out there, you could be playing, but you insist on playing this instead, because you haven't had a problem just yet.

"If it ain't broken, why fix it?... Wait what? It is broken. Well I've never had a problem so it must be fine, right?!"

It also reminds me of Duke Nuken Forever. The reputation this game has, is bigger then it deserves, (due to extended development or bait and switch trailers) both negatively and positively. It should of just come out and then been forgotten.

As for this game at least this time it's less buggy a less buggy game, which was the major problem of the last game, but in the end that doesn't stop this from feeling any less soulless.

Good review Daniel. I thought it was insightful.
Posted 13:36 on 22 April 2013
DancingRhino's Avatar


"It served to remind us that each zombie you attack, that each half eaten corpse you come across, were once someone's father, mother, or child, reminding us that the zombies weren't just faceless monsters."

But surely once you played the game, the never ending wave of zombies, the arcade style of experience points and loot killed any chance of realism? It was fun enough, but it was just a shooting gallery of gory mannequins very quickly.

I can't really disagree with any of the negative points. I finished and mainly enjoyed Dead Island, but is was riddled with faults and poor design decisions imo.
Posted 12:48 on 22 April 2013
BC_Animus's Avatar


Haven't played Ripetide yet, but having spent 45 hours on the original Dead Island I have to say I really disagreed with the comments you made about the original's faults.

I really dislike all the negativity re: the infamous trailer - IMO it actually made the game and its environments more emotion; more real; and in a way more personal. It served to remind us that each zombie you attack, that each half eaten corpse you come across, were once someone's father, mother, or child, reminding us that the zombies weren't just faceless monsters.

I disagree with the complaint about weapons degrading too quickly too - early on, before you specialise in your character's chosen weapon are pretty much disposable, and are everywhere, which means repairs wasn't really needed unless you want to. Later on weapons are more durable, plus weapons and suvival skills specialisation further incases their strength and durability.

But blah, guess this isn't the place to rant about Dead Island. It does once again make me wonder though - should sequels be reviewed as stand-alone-games based on their own strengths and weaknesses? Or should they be rated compared to the originals or to the other entries in the series - and if so is it actually fair to do so?
Posted 12:11 on 22 April 2013
Clockpunk's Avatar


The first one - which was an enjoyable experience - so if this is essentially more of the same, I don't see too much of an issue. Got my preorder in for £25, which is what I paid for the first 5 months after release, so... can't complain at that price.

"...but seeing as anything’s more fun when playing with others, that’s faint praise really" - that is a VERY bold claim to make, though - and is perhaps one a little too... (and no offence is meant here) amateurish... for inclusion in a review such as this. Sorry to say that the entire piece isn't really a good review.
Posted 12:07 on 22 April 2013
WhiteSnow's Avatar


I've already preordered it at Go2Arena so I hope I will like it more than you!
Posted 10:13 on 22 April 2013
tvr77's Avatar


Damn it, i enjoyed the first one as flawed as it was so i was hoping for at least a slight improvement this time around which i would have been happy with. I still might get it at some point down the line.
Posted 09:04 on 22 April 2013

Game Stats

Dead Island: Riptide
Out of 10
Dead Island: Riptide
  • Combat is fun
  • Music is great
  • Lacking in its own identity
  • It's fetch quest hell. Again
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 26/04/2013
Platforms: PC , PS4 , Xbox One , Xbox 360 , PS3
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Deep Silver
Genre: First-person action game
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 11,283 41
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