Dead Island: Riptide Hands-On Preview
Dawn of the Dead… Island
by Arthur Kotsopoulos
©2013 Arthur Kotsopoulos
If you’ve watched the Dawn of the Dead remake from 2004 and stayed back to watch the credits, you would have been treated to some extra footage of our survivors finding an island only to realize that it’s over run by the undead.
Dead Island: Riptide, the sequel to 2011’s Dead Island, starts off in just such a place.
Before diving head first in to the island of Palanai you must choose from 4 different characters, each with their own pros when it comes to surviving on the island. The characters you’ll get to choose from are the returning 4 from the first Dead Island, so if you had a chance to get through that game’s campaign you’ll be pretty familiar with each of them.
Once you’ve chosen, you’re thrust into the game opening’s cinematic which has you being woken up on the beach amongst the debris of the military ship you were previously on that crashed.
If playing on co-op (which thankfully my session was) you’ll wake up to see other players wandering around much like you are. From here you’re either on your own or ready to work as a team to tackle the horror of the island.
The refuge of “Paradise” is your first pit stop where you’ll be treated to a defence style mission. You’ll find yourself placing barbed wire fences at various entrance points, fighting back against a horde of zombies.
Then you discover that the horror tour of Palanai gets worse: unfortunately plans have been made to nuke the island to the bottom of the sea. There’s a rich cast of characters present for this bombshell of a cutscene, each having a say with what they think must be done.
It follows all the zombie movie cliches with its survivors, but in all honesty I’m not worried about characters and depth. For the 3 hours I had with Dead Island: Riptide I was more obsessed with surviving and scavenging than I was story.
Palanai is literally scattered with various quests to perform, including the usual fetch quests in which for example you find a character amongst the zombie outbreak needing painkillers because he hurt his back.
Another had you returning to the beach where you first woke up to find supplies that would be beneficial for the inhabitants of Paradise. Every mission that you choose to select has a difficulty rating measured with ‘zombie head 5’ being the hardest.
You are given an experience rating, information on what you’ll be doing and also a reward upon completion. Rewards will usually be in the form of weapons.
Now if you’ve ever played any type of Role Playing Game you’ll be familiar with a weapon system that colour codes itself. White being the weakest and least favorable and various colours depicting their increasing quality.
Riptide features this system too, so when a zombie drops a butchers knife you can walk up to it compare its stats via the pop up window that comes up on the screen to your currently equipped weapon and either pick it up and assign it to a slot or leave it behind for someone else in your team who may need it.
Weapons of the Damned
Weapons are varied and fun in Riptide. In the 3 hours I spent on the island I managed to go through a regular knife, a butcher knife, morning star complete with a skull at its tip, a baseball bat, large paddle, molotov cocktails, toxic grenades and a flare gun.
You can upgrade them at repair benches to deal more damage, increase their durability and craft them into more bad-ass weapons. Blueprints can be found lying around the island which you can pick up or trade with other players.
All around the island are items such as nails, barbed wire, torches, lighters and a plethora of regular household items that could be used to eliminate zombies. I managed to craft a baseball bat with nails protruding from its tip, increasing its damage. Again, if you’re familiar with the first title then these weapons will be similar. If you’re new to the series though then you’ll find a lot of fun swatting away groups of zombies that are trying to eat your brain.
Each weapon has a durability metre, meaning that the more you whack the less useful it’ll become. You can repair the weapon to put it back at 100% durability or upgrade your skills as well as the weapon itself to increase usefulness. When your weapon has enough force in every blow it’ll have the ability to knock back zombies giving you a better chance of surviving.
Or you can resort to continually kicking away zombies with your boot.
Every action from sprinting, kicking and using your weapons, uses up stamina but by upgrading your skills you can increase the number of activities you perform.
If you deplete your stamina you’ll need to wait a few seconds to regain it and if you’ve got a group of zombies chasing you down chances are you won’t make it.
To counter the weapons in Riptide, enemies come in different shapes and sizes, from your regular male/female walkers that either walk or run to large towering thugs who can take a huge beating, evident by the fact their health bar goes down at an alarmingly slow pace.
To take down a thug it’ll take more than just running up and hitting it across the head. Using your surroundings and teaming up in co-op will allow you to tackle the thug faster. In one mission we needed to locate a boat in a marina to gain access to another refuge on the island.
Upon locating the boat it had no engine, meaning we now had to spread out and find the engine. After figuring out how to gain access to a large shack via the roof, we were ambushed by a large thug who was waiting for us. Since it was pretty early in the game our weapons weren’t the greatest, but fortunately inside the shack was a red propane tank.
The best way to eliminate the thug was to grab the tank throw it at him then shoot it with the flare gun. It’s moments like these where you’ll really need to work with your surroundings whether you’re alone or in a team of up to 4.
Walking up to a zombie and hitting it won’t be enough to survive on Palanai. Especially when certain zombies have a ranged attacks. The Suicider zombie will either explode if you get too close, causing damage to anything in its vicinity, or it’ll blow up if you throw your knife at it.
No rest for the living
Coupled with the environmental weather featured in the game, you could be on a mission collecting a special type of tree bark, and suddenly monsoon weather will appear out of nowhere upping the tension.
Once we had acquired the engine and equipped it to the boat, we were off to out next mission. It’s here we encountered another zombie playing dead in the muggy water just waiting for us to get near.
As the water is only waist-high they can somehow run through it pretty fast and if you’re on your little dingy and have used up the boost you’ll see these zombies climb onto the boat, grab you and pull you overboard.
It’s a kick ass sequence that is always fun to be a part of especially if all 4 of you are in the boat and you see your team-mate get flung over. If it’s you, you’ll enter a short quick time event with the trigger buttons to counter this and if successful you’ll throw the zombie over.
Bugs, I hate bugs!
There seems to be an unusual amount of graphical clipping present with arms going through seats, zombies falling through the ground when they’re dead and for some unknown reason you can’t jump over certain obstacles.
There was a section where 4 zombies were chasing me and I had little to no health. Now I had scavenged enough money from bodies and crates to upgrade my weapon, so I needed to make it to the nearest repair bench.
When I had come up to the top of the road leading into a village I thought I could either run down the stairs or jump the rope fence because it seems you don’t get damaged when falling certain heights. Unfortunately I found out the hard way there’s no way to jump the small knee-high fence and I died.
I also had an issue with the games hit detection in that you need to be dead-on accurate to hit a zombie. I found that it’s best to equip a blade weapon in the chance that if you use them enough you’ll upgrade your mastery with that weapon type and easily slice off zombies’ arms and heads.
Then again the same can be said for the bat and weapons with high force. Master that class of weapons and you can literally crush the heads of any walker zombie in your path.
You can slice arms and heads clean off, bash heads and literally see the mush and blood seeping from the remaining portion of a zombie’s cranium.
Dead Island: Riptide does indeed start off slow but picks up progressively as you move forward. You’ll rank up after every mission and spend a good few minutes reading up on what to upgrade: fury, combat or survival.
Depending on the character you’ve chosen they’ll each have different attributes that’ll come in handy on the island.
I had chosen Purna, one of the game’s female characters and an ex-Sydney police officer- the support character of the 4. She specializes in firearms and blade weapons.
Other characters such as Xian Mei is the blade expert, Logan the throwing expert and Sam B the blade expert. Each characters specializes in different weapons so their skill tree will be vastly different.
Work to each character’s strengths as in co-op the game will balance the zombies accordingly. Certain missions will feature dozens of zombies you’ll need to get through and if you’re carrying a blunt weapon but your character is an expert in blades, chances are you’ll be swinging away for a long time.
Health can only be replenished if you’re carrying a medkit or you know where there is food lying around. So be careful when diving head first into an infested area of zombies and you ain’t carrying any good weapons with you.
Best played in co-op
A game of this caliber will be fun for the first few hours alone but it’s best enjoyed with friends so you can all have a great laugh.
Palanai is a scary and intriguing island with lots to explore and plenty to do. I’m not sure how fans of the first game will react to Riptide as it does include almost the exact same roster of features from the first, apart from some new zombies and a new island setting.
I can say however is that if you’ve been looking for a good game this generation to feature some good old fashion cooperative play then Dead Island: Riptide is that game.
I’m looking forward to heading back to Palanai when the game’s released- it’s just all about having fun.