For some inexplicable reason, zombies have once again infested the tropical island of Banoi. You’ll again find your character washed up on shore as the brain-dead moan and groan in the distance, waiting in anticipation as the whiff of live flesh makes its way from the beach, through the forest, and around the island.
“Dead Island” is an especially fitting name: the game world is literally infested with zombies. They’re everywhere. Not so much that you can’t move from one place to another, but you’ll rarely go a few minutes without at the very least encountering one that wants to rip your character’s chest cavity a new one.
I really loved the first game. It wasn’t perfect, but its characters, progression, map and single-player experience were all especially enthralling, while the cooperative offerings allowed the game to shine in its best light.
Thankfully, Riptide is very much the same game as its predecessor. There are a few new nasty zombies added to the mix to change things up, and the enemies have an uncanny Left 4 Dead-esque slapstick appeal about them, at least more so than they did in the first game.
The bread-and-butter of the Dead Island experience is the melee combat. I wasn’t a massive fan of the melee in the first game: it felt very hit and miss to me, and I often found myself scavenging as best I could for guns and ammunition. That’s the way I played the game and I found it to be an especially enjoyable and engaging way to fight zombies.
My thoughts on melee haven’t really changed all that much with Riptide, but the mechanics don’t feel quite as clunky as they did in the first game. There’s obviously an emphasis here to stick with melee weapons, and the skills tree definitely leans towards an element of survival that goes hand-in-hand with finding random objects and using them as weapons.
Upgrades and skills are available in excess, so there’s plenty to do here in terms of character customization. The best advice I can give is to pick what sort of character you want to portray and work your way along the weapon and skill trees that way, sticking to a specific skill set.
Melee weapons overall appear to have been given a slight overhaul: they don’t break quite as often, even with twice as many zombie encounters, so the developer has definitely made an effort to include weapons that are more durable.
There’s a new story -- it picks up right at the end of the original with the survivors on their ship, now infected and on a collision course with the island -- but for the most part this is very much the same game.
The size, scope and length of the experience all look to -- just like the original -- dilute any of the game’s issues. It still suffers from visual inconsistencies -- framerate drops to painful lows when there's lots of action on the screen -- but this is still very much the deep, action-packed zombie fest the original was.
Dead Island Riptide will be out April 23 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.