Those who enjoy Syfy movies such as “Sharktopus” or “Arachnoquake” would perhaps relish the experience of playing a video game that so desperately acts like a B movie. Yet while you can sit back and passively watch the camp unfold on your TV screen in those schlocky films, “Dead Island: Riptide” requires you to play an active role.
You have to pick up a controller and interact with the mindless characters, bludgeon a few million zombies and explore the island in search of meaning to its rather meaningless mysteries.
One can quickly discern from the title what you’re getting into here. There’s an island, and it’s dead — well, filled with the undead. While technically a sequel to the original “Dead Island,” after the enjoyable opening tutorial-by-way-of-prologue section, everything begins to fall apart. The developers not only failed to learn anything from the first game’s pitfalls; they appear to have doubled down on them. There were more than a few moments within the first four hours of playing when I thought I had put in the wrong disc. I mean, they wouldn’t have us just going through the motions of the first game again, would they? Yes, they would.
This being a sequel, I could import my character from the first “Dead Island” game, although quickly I realized that it made little difference other than having a jump-start on the leveling-up system. The same monotonous combat returns, where you rely primarily on weapons of melee (crowbars, baseball bats, wrenches) and some ranged (knives, hatchets, the occasional nail gun) ilk. Sure, you can mix and match to create spiked bats or fancy saws, but none of this comes off as new if you’ve played an action game in the past decade.
Among the other major problems lurking around “Riptide” is the reliance on fetch quests. At some point, we all enjoy a little side adventure to mix in some new gameplay elements or briefly showcase some kind of new feature or experience. And who doesn’t love an open-world system where you can lose yourself for a few hours down the rabbit hole of a side quest? But when you start burying multiple fetch quests within a fetch quest and the same areas get traversed without opening you up to anything new (hey, why couldn’t I pick up this item when I was on this beach four quests ago?), it gets tiresome and frustrating quickly.
Playing cooperatively online could have made for decent action, but whether you play alone or with someone else doesn’t alter the gaming experience. This makes little sense, because why allow someone else to poach my zombie kills and deprive me of gaining valuable cash and experience points for upgrades? It’s an online option for the sake of creating one, not for meaningful value.
You stop caring about the fate of just about any character long before you reach the conclusion, if you even get that far. The original “Dead Island” created buzz off its promotional trailer — and failed to live up to the hype. This sequel plods along like a limping zombie you can ignore entirely or hack to pieces.
Either way, “Riptide” sucks you under and never lets you up for air, instead drowning you in boredom.