Gaming: Dead Island Riptide Preview

If you’re thinking about picking up Dead Island Riptide next spring, a follow-up to 2011’s open world zombie survival title, it’s important to know just how much to expect from it.

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It’s particularly significant that there isn’t a ‘2’ bunged on the end of the title, as Riptide isn’t quite intended to be a full-blown sequel, but rather a ‘next installment’ which aims to iron out the bumps and tighten up the loose screws of the original Dead Island format. It’s a whole new open area to explore, with a bunch of new weapons and so on, but on surface value this is essentially an expansion on the series’ opener.

This isn’t a negative thing, in fact I’m happy for the series to take some time to figure out exactly what works and what doesn’t. Personally I found that Dead Island ‘vanilla’ felt a lot like unfulfilled potential, with a lot of small grievances which, together, distracted from a great concept. Riptide has made good headway in putting a lot of these problems to rest, even in the pre-alpha footage we were shown.

The section that Deep Silver were showing off was a ‘defend the fort’ mission, one which we were told there were plenty of dotted around the map in various strongholds. Featuring the same four playable characters as before, it mirrored the recent trend in wave game modes with upgradeable barriers and defences (yes, dare I say it, a la ‘Nazi Zombies’).

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It’s not fantastically original, but as a side mission it’s thrilling, hectic and surprisingly challenging. Keep your back turned for a minute and you’ll have the lumbering undead gnawing at the throats of your friends – so it’s multitask or die. Turrets can be moved from place to place (but slowly, so time it right), fences must be use strategically and a final extra tough boss zombie will appear at the end; which Riptide producer Sebastien Reichert proudly compared to Diablo’s named mobs.
It was certainly pleasing to see in the carnage that ensued that plenty of my former annoyances had been alleviated.

Weapons no longer break at the drop of a hat, guns are stronger than oversized peashooters and – thank Romero – headshots are now the way to make ‘em stay down. Thugs, an enemy type who were infuriatingly cheap and common in the first game were also seen to be much more satisfying to come up against. We’ve yet to see if the cluttered inventory and merchant systems are given much-needed simplification, but considering the game’s yet to even reach Alpha stage in development, there’s plenty of time for that.

Dead Island Riptide currently set for an April 2013 release, and by the looks of it so far, there’s not much that should get in the way of that. The holiday from hell continues!

Henry McMunn is a games journalist who currently spends a great deal of his time listening to 50s swing, smoking cigars and watching Chris Morris satire. You can follow him on Twitter @failboatskipper

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