Dead Island: Riptide Preview - The Drowning Dead
Written Thursday, November 29, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Imagine for a second that you've just survived a gruelling zombie apocalypse. An overwrought, non-stop ordeal, chopping and bludgeoning your way through seemingly endless hordes of undead. You've escaped to apparent safety; you can finally breathe a well-earned sigh of relief and put your blood-soaked feet up for a bit. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Except in Dead Island: Riptide, it isn't, as you're thrown out of the frying pan and straight back into the fire. Although fire isn't exactly an accurate description, because where Dead Island was a sun-baked tropical paradise, Riptide takes place in a submerged and inhospitable location.
Relatively speaking, you had it pretty good in Banoi, but in Dead Island: Riptide's new Palanai island, situated within the same archipelago as your previous holiday destination, you'll find yourself facing the elements as well as the unrelenting armies of infected. As we saw at Gamescom, Riptide sees you having to brave the flooded climes of the monsoon-plagued Palanai, which means trudging or wading through water and relying on boats as the primary form of transportation. There'll still be cars and trucks to use on dry land of course, but you'll need to find your sea legs this time around, that's for sure.
For this particular showing of Dead Island: Riptide, Deep Silver wheels out the fortification and defence part of the game once again, which won't be confined to pre-scripted set-pieces. Defences are something you'll be able to build around your hub areas, or in particular locations wherever a bit of protection might prove useful. As we're shown in the demo situated within the ruins of a church surrounded by shallow waters, you'll grab resources like rolls of wire fencing that you can use to patch up broken barricades and keep the ravenous waves of zombies at bay. Salvaged miniguns snatched from a decommissioned helicopter can be used as makeshift turrets that can be moved from one part of the church's ramshackle battlements to another, while floating mines scattered about in the wet stuff form an explosive perimeter.
Here, the goal is to defend your position with the help of AI-controlled NPCs who appear to be largely self-sufficient and handy in a fight. What's more, if you're playing alone or without the full team of four co-op players, the AI will take over, so you'll never be without your fellow survivors. Holding off the zombies while an expendable AI character operates a noisy water pump (that inevitably attracts the brain-munching massive) to drain the church's subterranean tunnels, maintaining and reinforcing the barriers is vital, as is assigning roles to each player to ensure you've got all of the angles covered.
As the action wears on, the weather shifts and rain starts to fall. Riptide's weather system is dynamic, but is often used to enhance the mood and ramp up the drama according to Deep Silver. With the rain pattering all around, the tension mounts as the water level very slowly drops and the undead manage to infiltrate the walls, sending in a spike-armed, long-haired and fearsome-looking butcher zombie, who sets to work carving up any isolated allies. When a friendly character is under duress like this, a gauge will pop up on screen indicating how much health they have. Fail to protect them in time, and they'll bite the dust, unless they're one of the five main protagonists that is.
Speaking of which, Deep Silver also revealed a little bit more about the fifth member of the Dead Island: Riptide team, the ex-US Navy man who's consigned to the kitchen when his career takes a bad turn. Yes, newcomer John Morgan is heavily inspired by Steven Seagal's character (Casey Ryback) in Under Siege by Deep Silver's own admission, but that does mean that he's a hand-to-hand martial arts expert with some pretty over-the-top moves. Seriously. The only thing he's missing is a questionable ponytail and some mumbly one-liners.
John Morgan's addition to the character selection doesn't mean you can play 5-player co-op however, so you're still restricted to 4-players, but you will be accompanied by a fifth AI-controlled character, which should prove handy. You can also transfer your save data across from the first Dead Island and pick up where you left off, much like the story, which also directly continues after the events of the previous game. In terms of your character, you'll find that some of their skills have been changed too, so you'll have some new abilities to learn for Sam B, Xian Mei, Purna and Logan, although their disciplines remain the same, meaning Purna is still the firearms expert, but she'll get more out of the guns this time.
Gunplay and physics have also been improved for Dead Island: Riptide, and the whole package looks a bit prettier, which is always a plus. We're not expecting much in the way of huge, sweeping changes in Riptide, but it looks like the sequel is bearing up nicely, boasting a few fresh gameplay mechanics, as well as some more minor, incremental improvements. We imagine it'll play largely the same, although we can't definitively make that judgement having yet to go hands on with the game. And that seems to be Dead Island: Riptide in a nutshell: it looks to be another dose of the same tried and tested zombie-battering action, albeit with a welcome twist in its waterlogged island, guns with added impact and some new abilities. For us, any excuse to bash more zombie heads like watermelons is an offer too good to resist.
Dead Island: Riptide is scheduled for release on April 23rd, 2013 in North America and April 26th 2013 in Europe.