Slimy, Potentially Satisfying
It is perhaps best to never trust a trailer. A trailer's purpose is to pull many of the best bits of whatever it is advertising and instill interest in viewers. One of the greatest video game trailers of this generation came in 2011, with the official announcement of Techland's Dead Island. Sporting some excellent visuals, a surprisingly affecting story told in reverse order, and a melancholic piano solo, the trailer offered a promise that the game would eventually fail to deliver on.
The released game offered no zombie children and no deep character relationships to emotionally invest in (both of which were incredible highlights of the three minute trailer). Instead, the developers delivered an excellent cooperative zombie game in a graphically decent sandbox tropical island setting. It was assuredly fun, but it lacked polish as the level layout and design got pretty dull toward the end.
Well, the CGI trailer for the sequel, Dead Island: Riptide, was released recently, and much like its predecessor, a dreary, bittersweet story is offered in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. Rather than get caught up in the potential for storytelling that that trailer hypes, let us focus on what we know the game will offer.
Dead Island: Riptide takes place immediately after the events of the first game. The original four main characters, whose skill trees have been overhauled and level caps raised (allowing you to continue your original save file's progress if you have one), have managed to escape the overrun resort island of Banoi via helicopter as the original game ends. Riptide begins with the helicopter crash landing on another island close by, the monsoon-struck Palanai, that also happens to be teeming with the undead. As this is a true sequel and not a mere expansion, Riptide will feature unique zombie mutations that are sure to test and alter your undead-slaying skills. Truly, this quartet has the worst of luck.
As you can tell by the game's subtitle, Riptide designates the game's focus on water and how this natural hazard only ups the tension in warding off the incoming zombie threats. In addition to diminishing your visibility of the environment, the torrential rain also unfortunately causes the undead to be more aggressive. The unpredictable weather system can also alter the terrain, thus forcing you to change your mission objectives and tactics.
Whereas the first game offered a massive variety of weapons to play around with, merely asking you to go crazy with them as you ran around, shot, and slashed your way from mission to mission, Riptide's change in weather tasks you with actually hunkering down and preparing defenses to help you survive. Trying out different strategies is encouraged. No need to worry, though, as the fountain of weapons to craft and choose from is slated to grow, with revamped ranged weaponry hopefully dissuading players from using melee weapons exclusively.
An enhanced physics system is actually where Riptide holds the most potential. As is the standard when dealing with hundreds of enemy A.I., character models tend to clip through the scenery, undeterred by what should be solid environmental obstacles. That is not the case here, as both humans and zombies are prone to tripping upon themselves as they navigate the erratic environment, promising more realistic situations.
Whether or not Dead Island: Riptide actually provides an emotionally investing narrative remains to be seen. However, many of the gameplay issues levied at the original seem to have been resolved in this sequel. Here is hoping that the final release plays up to its potential.
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