By Kabir Kaler
The word of the day is immunity in the new zombie survival game Dead Island: Riptide. One point I should make is I haven’t played the prequel, so pay that in mind since that may reflect the score of this game.
The game starts literally hours after the incidents of Banoi. The survivors have flown to a naval ship where they are “greeted” by military men who put them in the brig through orders from a “suit” and experimented on due to their immunity. Shortly after you wake up from your drug haze, the ship becomes infected and you must leave in a hurry due to the overwhelming zombie hordes and a tsunami occurring at the same time (yeah, karma doesn’t seem to like you). The ship hits land and you are thrown off, only to swim to land somewhere in Palanai. What makes things worse is the zombie nightmare you so desperately tried to escape followed you and now you must escape again but this time the stakes are higher. And not just for yourself.
The visual design done with a realistic approach, with a Hawaiian holiday getaway meets zombie apocalypse theme, with the added bones of lots and lots of monsoons. In the first area of Palanai you wash up on a marsh with a lot of trees and flooded areas, which looks good but what stood out for me was how natural everything appears. Buildings, while polished, are not as good due to a few too many recyclable areas and color schemes but the big important areas are unique; a military base, a ferry etc…. Another good aspect in the visuals is the light and the absence of it. With the light comes the shadows and these moments of darkness are fun to explore and discover. You have a trusty rechargeable flashlight that does a good job at illuminating your way and you will need to use this to explore and check everything in dark areas. The one noticeable thing I should mention regarding the visuals is that the textures need seconds to load and this happens when you go into a new area.
The people, both NPCs and zombies, walk, move and behave realistically and uniquely but the peoples’ lip sync is poor. Hopefully they patch this in the future. The zombie’s movements on the other hand are true to their name and class with proper sounds, grunts and appearances. They are also everywhere and come in enough different types to make you remember their weakness and strengths, and whether you have the proper equipment to fight them. Every zombie also levels up along with you so the combat is always challenging. Roughly there are about 20 and for the most part all need a specific strategy to deal with their unique attributes. One such enemy is the Butcher, who is short, has no forearms, with only bone showing from the wrist; an undead Wolverine like zombie.
Game play is a weird mix of FPS action and RPG mechanics. The FPS action is done well, with precision hack and slash mechanics and a lot of unique melee weapons, along with three types of guns (pistols, shotguns, machine guns) and many thrown weapons (throwing knife, molotovs, multiple types of grenades ,etc) suited for any class you choose. Each character also has a “Fury” mode that super charges your character for a short time; causing a multiplier for increased exp. Characters also have a signature fury weapon they use during this. Weapons are color-coded, from white being worst to orange being best. There is also drop in, drop out co-op which is fun but the character’s animations are choppy, but doable but I hope this is patched.
There are five people (or classes) to choose. Unlike the four characters from the prequel (who are all back to play as), each of the five are unique and diverse. You have Logan Carter; your ex quarterback who is good at throwing, Xian Mei; your undercover intelligence mole whose good at bladed weapons, Purna; ex law enforcement officer specialty is guns, Sam B; one hit rapper good at bashing zombies, and your new friend John Morgan, a military man who is a “punch a zombie in the face” specialist. You can equip any weapon regardless of class, but their specified weapons are given a bonus depending on what skills you level up.
The skills themselves are very technical and branch off in three tiers; fury, combat, and survival, but for the most part only use percentages. Along with better stats (10 per cent damage increase with sharp weapons, for example), you gain a move here and there, but I found that a few of them weren’t very useful. There are also skills you increase by using the specified weapon type to kill enemies. Along with the many types of weapons is the ability to mod, upgrade and repair at any workbench.
Money is required and you can find it through the game. You can acquire it from quests or sell items. Quests are broken into two types; save me and fetch. Save Me quests are random encounters involving someone needing to be saved from all the zombies in the immediate area. Fetch quests are either obtaining a specific item or a generic one that you need to look for in quantities. The quests can get tedious and for the most part don’t do anything unless it involves the people in your group in which they will “level up” so to speak. Certain items are also needed when you’re modifying your weapons with blueprints found throughout the game but the items are easier to find than it should be. Once you find an item in a specified area that item will keep reappearing over and over when you leave the area and come back; this is also true for most if not all the items in the game. Unfortunately this ruins the survival aspect of the game and in turn makes it into an action oriented zombie game instead.
As you can probably tell, this is rated M. This game has dismemberment, decapitation, blood, death; the whole nine yards. All of the sounds in the environment and the voice acting is well done, regardless that lip sync is bad.
The quality of this game is good, though a little weird. The story itself is interesting, and the interactions with the other people are realistic. The game play is smooth, creative, and precise, but I wish the items were more stretched out and less like an RPG, and the skills less technical. If you haven’t played the first Dead Island, I suggest you give this a rental since I did have fun. I give Dead Island: Riptide 7 dismembered zombies out of 10.