We recently had the chance to get in some 4 player, system link co-op on Dead Island: Riptide. Played on the Xbox 360, the session was 3 hours long (!!) and gave a pretty complete idea of what to expect from this sequel – sold as a spin-off – which will be releasing on April 26th in Europe and nation-wide here in Australia.
SPOILERS: The fate of the first game’s main characters will be referenced here so be warned if you haven’t finished it. Before jumping in, we were presented with multiple characters to choose from, with each of the four main characters from the first game made available. Purna, Logan, Xian – and my favorite – Sam B., feature after attempting to escape the island of Banoi at Dead Island’s conclusion.
With their helicopter crashing on Palanai – another island in the same archipelago – our play-through opens up with the survivors regaining consciousness and scrambling to organise themselves on the shores. After a relatively brief cutscene, we are given control. Drop-in, drop-out co-op returns in this edition, and as we were playing system linked, we were required to simply pause the game and join the local party. It was quick and painless.
If I recall correctly, we all started on a level playing field, but at level 18, not 0. I believe this was so that we could have fun with using some of the skill upgrade abilities from the get-go; also to get a better idea of what each character can build towards in that regard, given each’s unique specialty. Being Sam B. (how can you NOT pick him?!), I was the blunt weapon specialist. I like it up close and personal… *evil grin*.
In the pause menu, you have access to the Quests, Map, Inventory, Skills and Team tabs. It will all seem very familiar to players of the original, with it practically being the same U.I. The same can be said for the skill trees, which are still split into Fury, Combat and Survival categories. Even the perks were identical to Dead Island (at least from what I noticed/remember). Oh, I failed to mention earlier that your character still has a monologue when choosing them and Sam B.’s “Who Do You Voodoo?” track can be heard once more.
The controls are almost exactly the same, with it now being made clear to hold down ‘B’ to enter Fury mode. Tapping ‘B’ still executes a quick heal. Something that sorely disappointed me was the fact that there is STILL no way to look behind you whilst reversing in a vehicle. Can these characters not use a mirror or turn their bodies more than 30 degrees?! Also much like in the first game, there are hubs of activity which you will be travelling to and from over the course of the campaign.
We were given free reign to tackle any mission/side-mission we wanted, so long as we were all unanimous in its choosing. Our choices led us to revisit a couple key locations numerous times; so often that I started yearning for a new locale. This island seems to borrow many of the same assets from the first, but with a bigger emphasis on water, bogs and swamp-like locations. Speaking of, I found that you slow down in water, unable to sprint, while zombies continue to move at their top speed. Even the fast ones!
Continuing on from that last observation, I was told “that’s why you should get in a boat!”. Yes, there are functional boats in this game; motorboats with 5 seats – one of them being for the driver. Passengers can still attack while the boat is in motion, but you can also get pulled out by the zombies. Which brings me to my next observation: durability of weapons. Weapons take a lot longer to break now, and it will take far less time to find a gun this go around as a teammate acquired one only 30 minutes in!
Modification blueprints are still strewn around the island, with the familiar upgrade bench at your disposal to Repair, Upgrade or Create new weapons utilising your acquired mods. I immediately created a “liquid fire morning star”, which would create a fiery area of effect when used (although not with every hit). This was made possible – as expected – by finding and scavenging the appropriate parts, and playing with teammates helped that process as we gladly traded resources with each other. I also found many miscellany and collectables, from post cards to island brochures.
Most of the missions themselves will not be foreign to Dead Island players: there’s lots of acquisition quests and rescue quests, but we also got to experience the new defense hub missions. Our first time, we put up these wire fences to delay the zombies and allow shooters to pick them off at a safe range (although I had no success in stabbing through the fence as I couldn’t reach them). We were assured that the hordes would not spawn and advance on the camp until all fences had been placed, although I’m sure they will place timers on some of them later in the game.
The second time, we defended the same camp, but with electrified fences. To do so, we first had to locate and gather some materials, which included electric wire and an energy source for the motors. Again, your classic fetch quest here. Throughout our gameplay, we encountered a new enemy type – the Ogre, which was reminiscent of the Butcher in Dead Island. I actually couldn’t tell what made him unique as I just considered him a quicker, tougher thug. And he took forever to kill (much like all of them really).
At the end of the day, here’s the skinny: Dead Island: Riptide feels like Dead Island, it looks like Dead Island, it sounds like Dead Island and it plays like Dead Island. Now, that’s not necessarily a good thing. The thing is, with every successive release in a series, you expect some substantial changes or tweaks. And while I’m sure the additions found in Riptide and their effect on the experience will become more evident as you play, I am worried that there may be too little change.
Having said that, co-op will always be a fun time with a game like this – that fact will not change. BUT, I can not see myself, after purchasing and playing the first one – and having to give it a rest after prolonged periods to alleviate boredom from its repetitiveness – playing this as a single-player experience. And I am a single-player guy primarily. For you, that may not be the case. And Dead Island: Riptide is still buggy like the first with a fellow player getting stuck in geometry being a prime example of this.
There may be a few more weapons, boats, a new enemy or two, a dynamic weather system (just an aesthetic effect) and the hub defense missions, and that’s all well and good, but my issue is that certain elements/gameplay mechanics were not improved upon from the first, the voice acting is still God awful, the animations/graphics are no where near impressive and we also experienced major lag in our play-time. There are reasons why this is being released at a discounted price and is being billed as a spin-off, not a sequel… all of the above.
I hope I am wrong and Riptide has more to show that will surprise us, but I just don’t know if it’s worth my money. I might just return to the original and get a very similar experience. With its release only a month away, you can’t expect much more work to be done on the title.