Throughout this current console generation, the question of “Who asked for this remaster” has been frequently bandied about, with games like Metro Redux and Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition leading the charge. But never before has this query been so valid, as Riptide is neither fun nor functional, and, if anything, deserves a demaster instead.
After the chaos of the first game, Dead Island’s group of survivors find themselves shipwrecked at a brand-new nightmare locale, Banoi, and must battle hordes of zombies, through first-person combat, in order to survive. While a large variety of weapons are available, such as swords, cleavers, pikes and golf clubs, none of these are particularly fun to use. Sure, zombies will sometimes be torn apart in flashy moments of slow-mo gore and dismemberment, but trying to hit them effectively is always an arduous task. Your swipes are ever-sluggish, and the hit boxes for both enemies and your character are barely discernible: sometimes you may connect, and sometimes you may not. Zombie assaults are just as flippant, as they either collide or glance off your character in seemingly random ways.
When you eventually manage to connect, you’ll be mindlessly whacking the R2 button until the zombie is dead, sometimes for minutes at a time. Both the random and boring nature of this attack system means that you will no doubt go into, and come out of, every battle frustrated. It reached a point during my playthrough that I just couldn’t bring myself to fight anymore. I would simply run from every zombie in sight, for fear of becoming stranded amongst dozens of the tedious idiots.
Running away isn’t as easy as it sounds, however, as the slow nature of combat is paralleled by general movements. You may be able to sprint, but because your stamina bar is also depleted through weapon-wielding, it will usually be empty by the time it comes to flee. Cars and boats are there for quicker escapes, but are forever getting caught on sections of old fence, tree roots and wayward zombies. Exploring the island of Banoi is therefore a constant struggle. Navigation is hindered by almost every facet of Riptide’s world: having to stop and fight zombies, not having a mini-map while in a vehicle, the sluggishness of walking through water (which is bloody everywhere), unmarked areas that are blocked-off by foliage and rocks, and maze-like sections that are an absolute nightmare to negotiate. The game’s environments are a total mess, and lack any legibility whatsoever.
Most, if not all, locations, while given very-slight visual upgrades, are still muddied by some dull textures. The brightness and interesting site of the first game (a modern hotel resort) has been replaced by dank swamps and broken shanty towns; features that become tirelessly overused.
Amongst the boredom and frustration, Dead Island Riptide hosts a competent set of role-playing mechanics. Killing enemies and completing quests will net you experience points, which then accumulate until a skill point is received. These can then be used to unlock new abilities, such as extra damage when wielding bladed weapons, or increased findings when looting lockers and suitcases. While a lot of these attributes are entirely useful, the quests which doll out XP are nothing short of repetitive. They consist of dull back-and-forth tasks, like fetching batteries, or providing alternate paths to safety for other survivors.
The boredom brought on by lack of mission variety is only heightened by the bland storytelling muttered throughout this muddled tale. A host of characters litter the proceedings, consisting of ridiculous caricatures that range from foul-mouthed bro rappers, to uninspired, gormless nobodies. No one is particularly likeable, and their motivations and actions never stray far from the clichés of other zombie fiction: the nut who thinks the dead are still living, the scientist cooped up in his research facility, and the survivors who are immune to the zombie virus, to name but a few. Some interesting collectibles, in the form of audio diaries, add some much-needed personality and emotion to the game, but do little to assuage Riptide’s overwhelming flatness.
If ever you want to have an unpleasant time, Dead Island Riptide: Definitive Edition is the game for you. Plagued by unrefined and stiff mechanics, dull story beats, and ridiculously repetitive missions and combat, it’s a wonder it was even released at all. Perhaps instead of “Definitive”, Deep Silver should have went with another adjective, like imprecise, or broken, or calamitous. The list goes on.
What A Waste
Nothing can save this remaster from clunky, broken mechanics, repetition and all-out boredom.