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Dead Island: Riptide Review

Dead Island: Riptide's new character, John Morgan, is a rough-and-tumble brawler specializing in hand-to-hand combat. He has a variety of useful attacks, including a powerful kick that sends enemies flying.

Riptide's game mechanics are very similar to its predecessor's, with additional weaponry, quests, and NPC characters to interact with. The story takes place on a new island that's rife with horror and run amok with chaos, and a few new zombies have been introduced as well.

Gamers can also import their saved character from the previous Dead Island game.

At its core, Riptide makes use of a mix of mechanics from a few genres, utilizing first-person shooter sensibilities with light RPG elements with the character-specific skill trees. This blend will be quite familiar to veterans of the series, and doesn't require much getting used to. The control scheme is very fluent and well-designed, affording for ease-of-use and efficiency.

The beauty of Palanai is marred by the horrors littered in its jungles and waters.

The game's HUD is much the same, featuring a health bar with a circular Rage meter added in, EXP progression bar below it, an expansive mini-map that displays important mission objectives and more, a crosshair reticule, and the current weapon's quality. 

Players can scavenge a multitude of items throughout Palanai, including miscellaneous items used for weapon modifications, healing items like med-kits and food, weapons, ammunition, quest items, and money. Cash is the main currency in the game, and it is used for all purchases–including weapon upgrades and repairs–from vendors, and can be attained via quests and scavenging.

Most of the gameplay in Dead Island: Riptide is taken up by the game's frenetic action-packed combat. Often gamers will find themselves in the midst of multiple zombies, and the only way to really be safe is to kill them. The game offers many different ways to dispatch undead, including the basic melee combat as well as dealing damage at a distance with firearms and molotovs.

The heart of Riptide's combat is its impressive offering of weaponry, which ranges from Blunt, Blade, Hand-to-Hand, and Firearms.

John, the game's new character, can sprint-kick zombies and send them flying into objects for extra damage. It's quite addicting and hilarious.

Players can also execute a kick, which stuns zombies for a brief moment; a moment that could be used to heal with a med-kit or deliver the final blow. Players can also throw melee weapons like blades and batons at enemies to deal damage at a distance. 

It's also very important to pay attention to the Stamina bar while fighting marauding ghouls across Palanai. Every action–whether its swinging an axe, jumping, or sprinting–uses Stamina, and when it's all gone, you can't attack any more (at least with melee weapons) and will get knocked down much easier. Stamina refills by itself over time, and the recharge rate can be modified and augmented with skills.

Every weapon type has a proficiency bar that is raised when a certain amount of experienced is gained for each respective weapon type; for example, using a pistol raises EXP for the Firearms skill, and using a baseball bat raises the EXP for Blunt weapons.

Riptide features the same impressive arsenal of weaponry featured in the first game, and players can use everything from assault rifles, mallets, axes, brass knuckles and even hanbos.

When the proficiencies level up they offer distinct bonuses to that weapon type, adding to the bonuses achieved from weapon mods and upgrades.

Just like in the original Dead Island, each and every weapon can be modified, upgraded, and repaired at a repair bench. Using a weapon in combat degrades its quality, and it's very important to pay attention to the quality bar in the upper-right of the HUD, as the quality is directly proportional to the weapon's strength. 

Weapons classes are broken up into colored assortments, which is much like similar mechanics featured in games like Borderlands–and, of course, the first Dead Island game. The variety of classes include Common (white), Uncommon (Green), Rare (Blue), Unique (Purple) and finally Legendary (Orange). 

Weapons can be found in metal chests–many of which are locked and require the Lockpicking skill–dropped by enemies, or offered by quest rewards.

Sometimes the best way to take 'em out is with a good old boomstick.

The weapon modifications add quite impressive bonuses, ranging from electric shocks to brutal spiked nails and everything in between. Often the mods will look quite comical on weapons, yet they bring a considerable punch to any weapon and are often the difference between life and death. Mods are a necessity later on in the game when facing more difficult undead types.

The blueprints and templates for each of weapon mod can be found scattered throughout Palanai.

All weapons can also be upgraded to offer more damage, force, and enhanced condition (quality). Every weapon can be upgraded up to four times, each time offering enhancements at a greater cost. Upgraded a modded weapon can make the perfect zombie-slaughtering tool of survival, and it's essential to not only maintain your weapon's condition but to make them more powerful as you level up.

As players level up, more equipment slots open up, affording for a greater number of equip-able weapons. This is extremely useful as it allows players to assign different weapons for different situations, such as a pistol for taking out suicider zombies that blow up, or molotovs for taking out groups.

EXP progression is pretty basic in Dead Island: Riptide–the more zombies you kill, the more EXP you get.

Players can also attain EXP from every type of quest (main and side quests), and the progression system seems to favor quick level ups. The level of enemies is progressive as well, meaning that when you level up, so do the zombies. The undead will often match your in-game level, raising their health and damage along the way.

The three different roots of the skill tree offer a variety of abilities and passives that are extremely helpful and necessary for survival.

The skill tree is expansive and is basically the same as in the first game. Each of the five characters have a varied tree, with three main categories: Fury, Combat and Survival.

Every tree offers abilities and passive skills that have been tailored to each character, offering accommodation to a range of different playing styles. Additionally, when players start a new game, they can choose from different skill presets that automatically choose and assign a balance of skills.

It's best to think things through before you plot skills, as there is no respec offered. 

The main interface is also quite fluent, featuring a variety of pages for important aspects like weapons, the main map screen, a list of quests, etc. The map screen is incredibly useful as it allows gamers to mark waypoints and even plots the course to that given point.

Every visited location is also listed on the map screen, and it's one of the main screens you'll be revisiting time after time.

NPC's like Trevor in Paradise buy and sell weapons, which is a great way to earn cash and find new weaponry.

NPC's are more than just faceless entities in this game; they actually interact with you and walk around. Many of them offer side-quests and valuable services like buying and selling goods. There is a different NPC for each of the main weapon types, and some of them even sell med-kits and miscellaneous items needed for modding.

Death isn't permanent in Riptide, but it does take its toll: upon dying, a percentage of your cash is taken away. There are passive skills in the skill tree that can reduce this value, however its best to pay close attention to your surroundings and try to maintain control of the situation–it's all too easy to panic while multiple Infected storm in, but staying cool can be the difference between life and death.

Palanai's environments are quite varied, yet they all keep the traditional remote island theme. The style and flair of the island itself is quite unique, giving the whole game a distinct tropical feel.

The gratuitous violence and gore further reinforce the overall B-movie grindhouse feel; dismembering zombies with a katana or jump-kicking them across the map makes you feel as if you're in a classic horror flick from the '70's, which is all the more satisfying.

It always helps to have a friend when getting overrun by zombies.

The in-game environments also afford strategic advantages, allowing players to utilize them in combat. Staying on a rooftop and peppering zombies with careful shots is an example, or tossing a molotov into a group of undead while safely ensconced on platform–there are many ways to make use of the in-game areas to your advantage.

Riptide also features online co-op, allowing gamers to hack-and-slash zombies with friends online. The game seems to be meant for multiplayer, as it can often be quite challenging while playing alone–especially in the later stages–and having a friend alongside you can be the difference between having fun and dying all the time.

Boats are a great way to get around in Palanai's waterways, and are immensely fun to use.

Aside from fast-traveling, vehicles are the most efficient way to get around Palanai. There are two types of vehicles in the game: boats and cars, each of which can be used to run over and kill zombies. The boats are incredibly fun and are used to navigate Palanai's intricate webwork of rivers and waterways, which are littered with Drowners and Infected.

Apart from the main story, there are a surprising number of side missions that offer decent rewards. The missions are peppered throughout Palanai, and the NPC's that give them can often be found in the principle towns–like Paradise or Halai–yet some quest givers are scattered randomly.

The missions themselves usually involve collecting a certain number of items and bringing them back, your basic fetch quests, and offer rewards that vary from cash, EXP or weaponry.

Using the environment is a great way to keep from harms way.

The game's story is punctuated with grand melees where a literal horde of zombies do their best to overrun a certain location. The first of these attacks appears when players first arrive at Paradise, and each time they get progressively more difficult and have even more zombies.

To prepare for the hordes, players can reinforce the town by putting up metal fences, placing mines and explosives, and gathering turrets.

The events are quite enjoyable, especially with friends helping you along the way. The onslaught is highly entertaining and provides a good chunk of hectic, blood-pumping excitement that's punctuated by dismembered zombie parts and gore-strewn environments.

Derek Strickland
Derek is an avid fan of gaming and everything geeky, and is compelled to make his mark in the field of games journalism. When he's not gaming on a console (everything from SNES to X360) you can find him reading about ancient civilizations or enjoying a fantasy epic or two.

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