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Dead Island: Riptide

Dead Island: Riptide

by , 23 April 2013

Chinese Stereotype is not happy that she's been drugged. "Oh...my head" she groans, staggering off her sparse bunk in the underbelly of the ship. "Where are my friends? They must have taken them..." she deduces, her vision clearing as she starts to explore the tight space, swaying heavily in the storm outside.

Suddenly, she hears panicked voices over the intercom. It sounds like the ship is in a bad way -- the engines are on fire, panicked, shrieks of terror are heard from the errant crew, and so it falls to Chinese Stereotype to somehow ameliorate the seriousness of the ship's condition. The captain unlocks the door to her cell/bunk, and entreats her to find a weapon and attend to the engines, before the ship consumes itself from within.

Armed only with a crowbar found barring a door, Chinese Stereotype begins to head, vigilant and alert, to the manual engine override.

 photo di-riptide-03_zps3b0a2db8.jpgThe corridors are conspicuously empty. The engines safe at last, suddenly, literally out of nowhere, the very infestation Chinese Stereotype had fought so hard in the original game to survive is before her...just...facing the wrong way! Luckily, this initiative and her hard-earned 'extra damage whilst jumping' skill gives her the drop on her nemesis, and so hopping frantically up and down on the spot whist wildly swinging a crowbar, the shambolic zombie bites the dust (well, metal) for the last time. "wow" She says to herself, as the rest of the intro sequence and about 30 zombies (including a hulking mini-boss) are dispatched by a series of vicious kicks (with spiky heels, to be fair) and wild swings of 2x4s, kitchen knives and lead piping, "How did the entire crew, the soldiers aboard, and the other 5 Playable Stereotypes make such hard work of this? Well, if you want something done..."

Sound faintly ridiculous? Well, the rest of the game plays out in much the same fashion, only with more pointless quests, stranger skills, and less atmospheric environments.

The original Dead Island had potential, but no coherence. Its collection of gameplay mechanics should have worked in theory but in practice felt mired in technicalities. Dead Island: Riptide, somehow, makes things even worse.

Combat is frankly appalling. Until much later on in the game the weapon customisation is frustrating and expensive (both in terms of time and in-game resources), the drop-in/out co-op again should work but fudges the quest sharing and balancing completely, resulting in - if anything - an even more hollow experience than playing on your own. There is potential for short bursts of friendly banter and amusement but such moments are fleeting.

 photo di-riptide-01_zpsa56d2262.jpgThe Far-Cry-lite environs of the game's new island are pretty to look at, but utterly unrewarding to explore. The characters are so one-dimensional as to be unintentionally hilarious and the dialogue is abysmal.

All told, Dead Island: Riptide is a curious failure. Theoretically laudable mechanics such as the improvisational combat (ala Fallout) and ability to get properly knocked over by enemies (tension!) along with on the fly co-op are powerless in the face of sheer jankiness.

So, no disrespect to the designers as the ideas are there, but this game is irredeemably bland. In fact, my fondest memory is of laughing uncontrollably as a level 50 co-op partner encircled a wooden shack in the hope of looting the visible contents within, hopping around pointlessly for minutes. We never did figure out how to get inside and enjoy our reward. A perfect analogy really.

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