Preview: Dead Island Riptide (Co-op)
Roving guest GGSer Sam Conisbee got busy at Deep Silver’s recent showcase. As a self-confessed fan of the original game, what did he think of his hands-on time with Riptide?
As far as first person zombie slaying experiences go, I was a huge fan of Dead Island. Yes it was undoubtedly a little buggy in places, but the core concept and excellent work done on the atmosphere and design of Banoi was sensational. Turns out a lot of other gamers felt the same way, and now we have a sort of sequel on the horizon in Dead Island Riptide.
I was invited along to a top secret and completely signal-free venue to finally get some hands on time with Riptide, and I absolutely loved it. Everything that made the first game so excitingly terrifying and engrossing is on show, only with a lot more love and care given to it’s creation. The team have clearly been able to finish polishing their game into a full blooded triple-A release, with everything from the animations and combat physics to the island’s cities and jungles feeling that much more detailed and alive.
We were only given a little something on the story. Things pick up pretty much straight after the events of Dead Island, with the gang – Sam B, Xian, Logan and Purna – still holding out on the military ship we left them on. New to the party is John Marshall, something of a martial arts specialist who suddenly makes the jump from ship’s cook to zombie slaying badass. New character aside, it’s a typical ‘just when I thought I was out’ scenario, as the ship is hit by a devastating storm and you find yourself stranded on the neighboring island of Palanai. That’s all we know for now, but you can bet anything you like that their will be some sort of mysterious cover up or devious plot at the heart of things.
What’s important is that it isn’t long before you are back to securing hubs around the map, filling them with survivors before undertaking horrifically dangerous missions to fetch supplies and try and contain the zombie outbreak. This isn’t going to be an easy task as things have escalated A LOT since the contamination of Banoi, hence the fact that the military is now overseeing everything. The virus has spread and is growing out of control, and along with the military presence the gameplay has been ramped up to reflect this. Battles are now bigger with the NPCs you’ll encounter throughout the game taking up arms to help you fight off the undead masses. They come in handy when the hub defense missions come in to play, fending off waves of zombies single handed is a big ask, even with the improvised barriers and turrets on offer.
Co-op is of course back, with the four player mayhem slightly refined to be more strategic. Communication is key especially when defending an area because as we all know, a human partner will always be better than an AI one. It was great to look around the room at the assembled media split into groups of four laughing gleefully as they teamed up to take on the undead hordes. There’s something so brilliant about co-op gaming that Dead Island got so right that Riptide had very little to improve.
There have been a lot of smaller but equally important adjustments throughout the gameplay too. Guns are now much more powerful than they were in Dead Island, making them feel like the game changer they should be in this melee heavy world. This includes head shots doing what you would expect to see a headshot do to a zombie. How this will be balanced out by ammo scarcity remains to be seen, but melee weapons have also been added to with more parts and decisions to make when customizing your ultimate head popping/removing tool. Talking of parts and weapons, the inventory system has been given an overhaul making it much easier to navigate and find what what you want.
That’s not to say that the human element are the sole beneficiaries of Dead Island Riptide’s continued development time and polishing. The zombies too have been tinkered with, not only giving them new moves and even a few new types but also changing the way they attack you and your team. The implementation of a dynamic weather system with full blown storms and torrential downpour that can hit at any time (even going so far as to effect visibility) spices things up a great deal. Boats become a big part of getting around, but with lurking zombies beneath the waters it’s yet another way of making you feel uneasy even in a ‘safer’ environment. It all adds to the immersive terror of the situation you find yourself in.
We also got to see a new city on the island called Henderson, the central town of Palanai. Here we saw the vertical nature of Riptide, and how it has effected the design and gameplay of the game. Whilst the weapons have been balanced to give the player greater choice in how they kill, the towns seems to have been designed to give greater choice of exploration. Heading to the rooftops will give you some respite and quieter ways to get around, whereas the lower and notably flooded areas are full of lurkers waiting for you to come looking for all the sweet sweet loot down there. It’s a balancing act of risk and reward, something that is essential to creating a truly immersive action RPG experience which this ‘not a sequel’ sequel is doing that bit better than it’s predecessor.
So after a few hours of stomping heads and fashioning electrified bats, I am really looking forward to the release on April 26th (UK/EU, few days before in the US). What we saw wasn’t in anyway revolutionary or redefining for Deep Silver’s first hugely successful franchise, but then was anyone expecting it to be? The formula had been hit right the first time out, what got me excited is that with the extra time spent on design, gameplay balancing and all around polishing of the engine and player experience, Dead Island Riptide is looking to be the finished product so brilliantly teased at in the debut.