In nearly every form of media there is a blood-soaked zombie pocket for the masses to create carnage by shooting, chopping, stabbing and decapitating. Whether it is novels, comics, TV, film or even music, Zombies are a part of the mainstream pop culture and computer games are no different.
The computer games market has been flooded with zombie games since the release of 1996 adventure Resident Evil through to the multiplayer madness of Left 4 Dead and from last year's Console Monster winner of the illustrious 'best game of the year' award, The Walking Dead, to this second instalment in the Dead Island series.
Dead Island: Riptide, developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver is the sequel to 2011's Dead Island. The game is a direct sequel, with the playable characters of Riptide being the four survivors we built a relationship with in the first game; American football player Logan, rapper Sam B, Hong Kong Police Officer Xian Mei and Bodyguard Purna. The great news here then is that if you played the first game there is an option to port over your save from the original Dead Island game and continue the adventure with your chosen character.
The game starts off with the survivors being taken into custody by the Australian Defence Force after escaping the Island from the original game. Here they learn that Civilian Frank Serpo, a wealthy man who is keen to understand the immunity and is thought to be looking to weaponise the zombie virus. The plot of the game then expands as you meet new survivors on another infested island and uncover the story of who Frank Serpo is and how he is linked to the other survivors on the island.
The story is good but the pacing is a little slow. The first set piece that you come across as you are taken prisoner on the boat by the Australian Air Force and need to escape as zombies take over the ship is actually quite exciting as the boat you are on is slowly sinking. However, when you reach the new island it really does become a very similar experience with a strong sense of déja vu. I would go as far as to say that Dead Island: Riptide is really just a re-skinned version of the original game and would have been better had it been offered as DLC.
For a sequel that has had two years to develop from its predecessor, there is very little difference to mention when comparing the two titles. The idea of fighting zombies in the sun is a novel exception to the norm but was explored in the first title and graphically the game is starting to look a little dated. The controls mirror the options you had in the original game so you have a standard layout you would expect from an FPS or you have the dual stick controls which I found difficult to master.
There are positives about the game though. The levelling system works well and the enemies are tailored to your level so there is always a challenge, even from the get go if you port over your save. The variety in different zombies is also interesting; there are ones that float on the surface of the water that have given me the odd fight or two, then there are fat bloated zombies that approach you and explode.
With the levelling you can then build on the skills you possess with a skill tree which again adds to the game and makes it more interesting, perhaps more so than your normal zombie adventure. The best perk I found here was that you could boost XP earned from each kill which was worth upgrading early on within the game when it was quick to level up.
The weapons within the title are varied throughout and also work well to add variety to the game. You can pick up a wide variety of different tools to help you decapitate the infected from a baseball bat or paddle to a machine gun, rocket launcher or Samurai sword. Each has its own damage rating and endurance rating, meaning that if you favour smashing some zombie skulls open with a baseball bat, you may need to ensure you find a workstation to repair it. Repairing weapons will not cost a lot of money but will give you a better damage rate and ensure you do not find yourself in trouble in the middle of a large swarm of zombies.
Continuing the point on the weapons within the game, you can also find blueprints that will enable you to modify certain baseline weapons into something more dangerous, as long as you have collected all of the elements needed. The easiest one you can build within the first hour or so of gameplay is a baseball bat littered with nails. It is great fun for those wanting the 'up close and personal' fighting experience that comes with clearing an island full of zombies.
In closing the game is a fun adventure that will be worth exploring for any fan of the franchise. There is minimal progression from the first instalment, the story is slightly slow in pacing but it is good to revisit the characters. The combat and weapons are fun and the levelling systems keep things interesting and give an air of replayability to the title if your Xbox is starting to get a little dusty. If we see a third instalment though, the game needs to step up a little to keep up with the competition.
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