Expansive Overview: Dead Island: Riptide

Dead Island took the world by storm with one trailer. The game sold a ton and became something of a cult hit.

Now we’ve got Riptide, the next part of the journey.

Does it have the same impact?

Here’s the trailer that changed everything for a little known zombie game called Dead Island.

This trailer has set somewhat of a precedent in the industry. No in-game footage, no verbal narrative. Just raw emotion from start to finish.

But here’s the problem. The emotion failed to extend into the game. Techland couldn’t bottle those feelings and spread them throughout the game they were attempting to promote. In the short two minutes of that announcement trailer, I was more emotionally connected than I was in 15-20 hours of beating zombies in the head with a baseball bat.

And guess what? Riptide resonates with me even less.

Riptide is every bit a continuation of Dead Island and it shows. The moment you get through the Prologue, the game loses its creative shackles and goes back to its comfort zone. Gorgeous, luscious island, big hulking zombies, thick Australian accents. Riptide feels exactly the same as Dead Island, even down to the same issues the original game had. You may think that’s an obvious statement to make, but just because I’m playing a sequel, it doesn’t mean that I have to play through the same game. Are there changes? Yes. Do they actually add anything and change the overall experience?  Not really…

Narratively, Riptide follows immediately after Dead Island. The team of four have escaped Jack Ryder’s prison and have safely landed their escape chopper on-board ship. It seems as if the vacation from hell is over. However, just when the group are about to crack open a beer and kick back in the sunshine, they’re confronted by a military presence and kidnapped  for experiments. Being immune to the infection has garnered more attention than they expected.

When they wake up, they find themselves in the same cell as another man named John who is also immune. However, before the group can decide if there are trust issues, the ship is overrun by the infected and the not-so famous five are thrown together in a bid for survival.


The sad part is that the Prologue actually shows Techland’s creative side and is the only part of the game that does. The player battles against a horrific storm, but also fights against zombies in the closed confines of a ship, using guns and the environment. However, once the team are back on the island, it all becomes far too familiar.

Yes, there is character development and there is a story here, but it’s pretty clear the main cast have revealed more than enough about themselves. You’ll quickly come to realize that you’ve had your fill when it comes to Sammy B and Xian Mei. As for John, he’s like … every other action hero you’ve seen in the last twenty years.

Still, one cool feature Riptide offers is the ability to carry character saves over from the original game. Where players have spent points in their talent tree,  you can continue with the same build of character you developed in the original game. However, enemies will scale to the player’s level meaning there will be no set advantage, and there are no weapons, blueprints or items previously acquired to accompany the player. To be honest, there’s some potentially missed opportunity here, both in terms of gameplay and narrative direction.

The co-op has seen some slight improvements, and the system seems a lot more user-friendly. You can still join people at prompted intervals with the tap of the D-Pad, or you can jump to a separate screen which shows players around the same part of the story and how strong their connection is. The co-op system is also less laggy and connection drops are extremely infrequent. Credit where it’s due to Techland, they’ve done a good job fixing this up.

Another new feature is the defense mechanism. Players get several hubs to build up and develop as a base to repel the zombie invasion. Meche fences, barbed wire and various types of traps are just some of the things players can use. Zombies can usually beat down a fence pretty quickly in droves and once they’re past one of the traps, they’ll quickly latch onto the first survivor they see. A struggle sequence will occur with a zombie trying to gnaw into human flesh. A timer will appear above the survivor and the player will need to hit the zombie off in a bid to protect.

There are also a few new enemies in Riptide, such as underwater zombies that appear dead and float face first in the water, but when walked around, they will grab a leg and try to pull the player under. There are also some big, heavy-hitting zombies that will charge at the player with super-speed. These are an intimidating sight, especially when you’re only armed with hand-to-hand weapons.

Expansively, I wouldn’t expect much DLC for this one. The point is Riptide is almost like a massive expansion pack for Dead Island anyway. That’s exactly how it plays and feels. There may be a way to expand the story even further, but at this point, I think that would be a bit of a stretch.

Ultimately, this is still the same Dead Island. It’s less of a sequel and more of a 1.5 experience. There’s not much new to see here and the whole experience is quite flat and uninspired. For those who love Dead Island and enjoyed it, great, this is absolutely perfect for you. 

For anyone else, I would find a hard time recommending this over any other co-operative experience. It lacks the character of Borderlands and the adrenaline-enthusing action/adventure of Left 4 Dead. 

Final Analysis

Dead Island: Riptide is the epitome of a safe sequel and in a year full of engaging, diverse titles, it’s not a game I could heartily recommend to anyone other than the most hardcore of fans.


About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,