Dead Island Riptide – Preview
Last year played host to a cacophony of brilliant games, from the flawed but wonderful L.A. Noire, the highly overrated, but still pretty top-notch, Batman: Arkham City, fanboy favourite Skyrim, and the overlooked but stunningly beautifully Rayman Origins. But amongst that menagerie of great titles was one that stood out to many as something really quite special, despite some flaws and a general “it’s alright” reception from the media. Yes, Dead Island wasn’t the greatest game of last year, although some people may dispute that, but it was certainly something just that little bit different in the FPS world. It was brutal, exciting, and even properly scary in places. And now fans will be pleased to know that more is coming their way in the form of Dead Island Riptide.
So, how does one continue the story of Dead Island? Well, by sending you right back to where it all began. Dead Island Riptide carries straight on from the original game (I won’t spoil the ending for you) and through a series of unfortunate events, the original cast find themselves stranded yet again on the island that they had hoped to leave behind. This time, however, the storms and monsoons that were hinted at the first game have wreaked havoc throughout the island, so you’ll find yourself traversing through a familiar, but almost entirely new landscape.
One of the biggest new things in the game that the developers showed us was the inclusion of boats, which are vital for getting across the now swamp-like landscape you’ll find yourself in. These boats work particularly well in co-op, as the driver can inform his or her team-mates as to where the zombies are coming so they can swap seats in the front of the boat and knock them back. In the demo we saw, bodies littering the water like trash in the Thames, and the driver of the boat was more than happy to run them over, causing the river to turn red in a matter of seconds and reminding us that the game still is incredibly graphic in its violent content.
After the boat had finished turning the living dead into fish food, the players arrived at another one of the big new features – a ruin that the team would have to hold until they had drained water from a location and could escape from the jungle. These locations that the player must hold will turn up at points within the game to allow players to absolutely unload on a horde of zombies every once in a while, and is a complete breakaway from the survival-horror ideas behind the original. Whether this means that the rest of the game will be more action-oriented and less about survival is unclear, although we were told that these areas were good opportunities to use up any explosives and wildly silly weapons the player may have on them, and which they don’t necessarily use in the normal course of the game, which actually appears to be an excellent idea.
Also new to the game is the ability to give your co-op friends waypoints on the mini-map that they can see and take action on. For example, if there’s a specific enemy that you need help with, you can place a marker on them for your co-op friend to see and get them to help you out with. You can also point them to somewhere you want to go, and an assortment of other context-sensitive actions. We didn’t get the chance to see this in action, but it sounds like an excellent idea that will help with communication and create more organised teams, rather than just a rag-tag bunch of survivors all running off in different directions. There are also a variety of smaller tweaks being added, including increased explosion size and an inventory that will tell you when you should probably upgrade your weapon, that help to make the game an even better experience. We were also promised more weapons, modifications and skills, just to add some icing to a delicious sounding cake.
Back in the presentation, the demo players fortified their location with fences that were easily put in key locations with a couple of taps of the X button. Following that, they set up miniguns around the perimeter to prepare for the oncoming legions of undead. They also showed off a new weapon, mines, that can be crafted by the player at the workbenches that make a welcome return from the first game. These mines were placed around the area as well, along with some explosive barrels that can now be tactically placed instead of being lobbed in the face of enemies… and then they were ready to go.
And that’s when things went a bit mental. Zombies started pouring in from all angles, treading on mines and blowing themselves into smithereens, getting cut down by minigun fire, and having their heads smashed open by the players after breaking through the barricades. It was action-packed and exciting, and it was nice to see the level of bone-breaking, head-decapitating gore still intact and as gloriously bloody as ever. The team dispatched the enemies with an array of weapons, from assault rifles to electrified swords, and a few other mean looking toys. They weren’t alone in their fight either, as the AI is now far more capable in combat, and will take on any zombies that get close.
It was fairly noticeable that a lot of the survivors were toting guns this time around, and we were informed that due to the gun-centric end to the original game, the developers felt it would be a bit jarring to suddenly lose all those weapons and be back to fighting with sticks. As such, guns are now more readily available from the off, which does seem like it could affect the tension and atmosphere the first one afforded, with it’s close range combat using an assortment of sticks and hammers, but we were assured that the focus of the combat was still the close combat aspect.
The developers say that they’re aiming to make the game a lot more enjoyable, and that their focus is on having as much fun as possible. Yet, I always found the tension and fear I felt in the original to be the most fun aspects, and the action-oriented demo we saw made me worry that perhaps they were abandoning the scares for a straight-up action game. However, it’s clear that Dead Island Riptide has some way to come before it’s ready, so it’s highly likely I could be proven wrong and it will be as tense and horrific as the original.
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