With some game franchises, a sequel can be an exciting prospect—especially if the initial game was smart and creative. How will the story unfold this time? What kinds of surprises are up its virtual sleeve? How will the game mechanics be tweaked and the play improved?
But some games can only muster more of the same. And Dead Island: Riptide is a moaning and shambling case in point.
So why wouldn’t it pick up right where the original first-person hack ‘n’ slash shooter Dead Island left off? Which is to say that a small group of vacationers-cum-disaster survivors—who were mysteriously immune to a horrific zombie plague that broke out on a tropical resort island—are on their way to the safety of a military rescue ship. A new dawn is rising, everyone is wiping their brows with relief for having survived the horrors of the night, and happily ever after is waiting just beyond the glowing horizon.
Somehow the mutating plague has already spread to the rescue ship, ultimately leaving the craft unpiloted and steaming toward the rocks of a nearby island. Soooo … our heroes must drag themselves up on yet another sandy shore and start the whole scour-the-isle-and-take-on-deadly-quests-in-hopes-of-finding-rescue routine all over again. There’s a bit of dastardly governmental conspiracy revealed this time around, but really, 99% of this sequel plays out exactly like the last messy, trudgingly repetitive game.
Ready. Set. Eat.
Gamers once again choose to play as one of the five central pestilence-free characters. Each has a particular strength—weapon throwing, hand-to-hand combat, blade wielding, firearms mastery or blunt cudgel capability—that offers added boosts in the battle ahead. Which one you choose directly impacts how your zombies foes will subsequently be served up.
I say served up for a reason. Those preferring a buffet full of snapping bones and mushed skulls will likely pick blunt weapons as their forte. For a stew of up-close lopped off limbs, blades might be the choice du jour. And firearms skills deliver decor-saucing brain splashes.
You roam an open sandbox world massacring untold scores of zombies while volunteering to help other human survivors by fetching items they may need … as zombies shamble, run, screech, vomit toxic bile, throw deadly objects, gnash at any exposed jugular and explode in a gush of acid. Your only recourse is to run, kill, run, kill, repeat.
To aid you with that gruesome gameplay spin cycle there are cleavers and machetes, spiked bats, shotguns, nail guns, harpoons, electrified cattle prods and, well, just about every bloodletting device you can think of, short of a nuclear bomb. So an oozing, gushing, spattering, disemboweling torrent of gore dogs every step you take.
Rip, Rip, Rip Off the Head
A fire hose-strong gush of foul f- and s-word-laden interjections flesh out the dialogue. And there’s even the chance of encountering an oddly spiritualized cannibal ritual or disquieting stories of child molestation. You meet suffering druggies in desperate need of a score.
Where’s the fresh and compelling storyline, or perhaps a dab of quirky zombie humor? Six feet under, is my guess, deader than an undead door nail. Riptide is as repetitive and seriously pointless a game as your apt to ever slog through. Or, as a writer for gamespot.com put it, “Riptide is dumb, and mind-numbingly slow, and somehow manages to make the art of zombie-slaying feel like utter tedium.”
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.