It’s insane to think that its only been two years since the first Dead Island trailer was released. February 2011 was when gamers first got enthralled with the heavily emotional CG trailer and then, seven months later, the game came out with a somewhat middling response. The emotional connections inferred in the trailer were missing and rather than just a traditional zombie romp like Left 4 Dead, there was much more of an RPG focus – with levelling up, upgrading weaponry and weapon degradation. It was partly because of that degradation that I fell out of love with Dead Island fairly quickly, along with highly repetitive combat and it being a bit of an empty experience when going it solo. However, the developers at Techland have now come back with a sequel – Dead Island Riptide – where they’ve listened to fans and, in the process, may have solved some of my qualms with the first title.
Riptide was announced last September with yet another CG trailer. When the name was announced it had the Wii U effect, where we weren’t exactly sure if it was a fully fledged sequel or not, especially with it being announced just a year after the first came out. It most certainly is a brand new title and a continuation of the first, with player favourite characters returning such as Sam B and his foot of steel. New characters are in the mix though, with the first being John who we’re introduced to in the beginning of the game. Whilst the first Dead Island began with you escaping an infested hotel on the island, Riptide places you as John on a boat in the middle of a monsoon. As the title implies, weather and water has a lot to do with this new title. A brand new dynamic weather system can bring in the rain, fog and storms at any random point in the game, or for key story moments like this introductory scene. Whilst the survivors in the first were regular people, Riptide brings in soldiers and those with the capability of being able to take down these zombie hoards.
John for example is well versed in martial arts and also has a claw glove at his disposal, turning some attacks into Wolverine vs Zombies. It’s on this opening scene with the boat that Riptide shows off one of it’s new gameplay elements: Protecting survivors. Whilst that was somewhat implemented in the first, where we would have to do tasks for survivors, now they will fight along side you and you have to keep them alive during combat. The survivors will also have different types of fighting styles depending on the individual.
In a level later in the game, we were shown one of the more traditional missions where we asked survivors where could be a good place to set up camp. This had us going to a Cinema and clearing it out. On the way to clear it out though, two new elements were shown. The first being a new zombie type: The Drowner. In the low lands of the town, water has flooded in and among the dead are drowners who look like any other corpse, until you get close and they jump up in your face clawing at you. It can make traveling on the low lands risky, but also rewarding as the better loot will be down there. The option a lot of the time now is for you to take a higher route, so you don’t need to interfere with the potentially dead down below. Whilst safer and will keep you from using up your weapons, you’ll find it hard to upgrade or find health items up there.
Drowner’s are also involved with the new vehicle type: Boats. With water being so abundant in Riptide you’d need a way to travel on it. So now you and your posse can jump in a boat and use weapons whilst in it. Use of weapons is suggested because if you hit into some drowners, they’ll try to get into your boat and take you with them. After being shown the beginning and a later level, our co-op demo began. We started on an island beach and soon came across a group of survivors in trouble. After being saved, they wanted us to protect a bridge from an incoming attack. We did this by all four of us taking a point, putting up a chain fence and then attacking zombies when they stumbled near the fence. Whilst it was fun to whack zombies in the face with my stiletto shoes from the other side of a fence, I wondered how this would work in single player.
It seems that the reason I wasn’t keen on the first Dead Island was because I played it by myself. I got it at release and no one I knew had, so I dived right in and because of that got bored. However, sat there playing with three others was an absolute laugh. The laughs of seeing a zombies head blowing up, thanks to the flare gun. The laughs of driving an RV and slamming several zombies across the road. It’s fun moments that are fun to share. Those same fun moments, but with no one to see and share with, they are just things you’ll be seeing by yourself several times over and thus making this image of a decapitated ragdoll being flung around boring. Decapitated Ragdoll’s should not be boring.
To help in decapitation, there’s a host of weapons available to find and craft, such as the previously mentioned flare gun to things like an electric sword, letting you chop down the zombies in a very Revengeance way. Pulse Grenades are also a new addition which, when placed, will attract zombies to it and then blast their heads off. Handy for the spectacle and the combo points. A couple of the new abilities have come from fan feedback, such as the running kick. After seeing how much people enjoyed the kick in the first from Youtube videos, they decided to implement a running version in the sequel. A new fury mode also came to be thanks to fan inputs on the forums. We sat down for a quick chat with the guys from Techland and they told us how important fan feedback is for the team.
The ideas were born from both the fan feedback but also ideas left out of the first game due to time, but they hope that Riptide will be a much more well rounded game thanks to fans telling them what they wanted. They also believe that Dead Island is “an approach to the zombie genre that others haven’t done before”. It also gave an opportunity for us to hear what they thought about the controversial UK limited edition, with the mutilated lady statue. “I saw it, said cool, and then turned around to work on the game again”. He said that the development team had no input on the statues creation and that, when there’s a game to finish, they didn’t really care either.
“You learn to know what to focus on and what not to.”
Dead Island: Riptide really is more of the same, with even the graphical details not making much of a jump due to such a quick turnaround. The improvements such as a running kick could make the game more cathartic, but really it’s probably still something you’re going to want to buy and play as a team.