Dead Island: Riptide Preview (PS3)

Riptide occupies that rather odd place in videogames – it’s not an expansion, not really a full-ledged sequel, it’s not really a spin-off either as it involves all the characters and events of the original game – it just IS. A combination of wanting to respond to fan feedback and to include anything that couldn’t quite make it into the first game, Riptide is essentially more of the same, but the studio hopes to provide a new experience that’s every bit as fun as the original game was.

Having escaped Banoi, the four survivors from the first game find themselves once again stranded on a zombie infested island – Palanai. They are joined by a fifth member – John, a member of the Australian military who features a larger presence in this game. Palanoi itself differs a lot from Banoi, as it’s a much wealthier island, a place where rich people go to retire or keep holiday homes. There are lots of different environments, from the low-level beaches to the multi-tiered towns, and like the last game it’s very open world. As before, you’ll have NPC’s to look after as part of the story, but this time they actually get in on the action and help you fight the zombies, to an extent. We played an early part of the game where we had to defend the hub for that portion of the game, which was quite neat. The NPC’s will be armed with their own weapons, and so will take some of the heat off you whilst you dismember as many as you can. Make sure they don’t die, though.

Breaststroke! BREASTSTROKE!

A main theme of the game is water – at the start of the game, you’re on a ship that gets thrown around by the waves, and as the games progresses, water becomes a constant theme. Techland want to give a sense that the water’s rising, the ‘threat’ is getting bigger and the steaks are ultimately getting higher, which is reflected in various plot elements you’ll see unfold, even early on in the game. There are new enemy types that lurk in water, especially the flooded lower levels of towns where a lot of dead bodies float. Techland want you to be weary of the water, even when it looks clear and peaceful.

Certain parts of the game require you to defend an area, like the Hub, and you can use static defences to do so. They never last long

Combat, whilst it hasn’t been re-invented, has definitely been one of the things the studio has looked at and improved. We’re told the ballistics system has been revamped (can’t really tell the difference myself, but there you go), and finding guns and ammo is no longer a ‘big deal’ in Dead Island – there’s a lot more of them to go around. There are a lot more “mêlée tricks” as well to beef up the non-shooty portion of the game, along with a host of new mêlée weapons and blueprints to go with them. We like the BBQ-blade, personally. Even the new character is more mêlée focused; specialising in unarmed and hand-to-hand combat, so there’ll be many an hour of you punching things in the face.

It’s abundantly clear that Riptide is just going to be more of the same- no brand-new mechanics or anything like that. Players who bought and played the original Dead Island should find the changes here welcoming, and we’d even hazard a guess that this may even attract new players as well. As always, it’s about the co-op elements, and it’s about having a team that works together – Palanai is just as lonely when you’re in a group who’s all over the place, as if you’re by yourself. Ultimately, time will tell If there’s enough ‘new’ here to attract the sales and to satisfy consumers, so in the meantime, make sure you’ve got your swinning shorts. You’re going to need them. Dead Island: Riptide is due out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on April 23rd in North America, and April 26th in Europe.

Most Anticipated Feature: The BBQ Blade is wonderfully inventive. We can’t wait to see what else Riptide has up its sleeves.

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