Dead Island: Riptide Review
Microsoft Xbox 360Also available on PC and Sony PlayStation 3
These pages were hand delivered to The Digital Fix offices, wrapped around a curious model of a bloody decapitated corpse, no-one knows from where or whence they came...
I need to tell the world about what’s happening on this island. Word needs to get out. The dead are rising from their graves, zombies walk the earth... yet the strangest thing is that this has all happened before. I’m getting a weird sense of déjà vu.
Previously I was trapped on another Dead Island. An island filled to the brim with zombies, baying for blood. None however managed to avoid my rusty spade as I battered their brains across the leafy paradisiacal floor. Many of those unfortunates stuck in my same predicament complained how it was formulaic, predictable and failed to live up to the advertisement trailer which promised an emotional hurricane with a clunky piano backdrop. Yet few could deny it was still a zombie decapitating good time, especially if you had friends along for the ride. However all those pesky biting bugs really soured the mood. Finally, evidently, I escaped.
Yet I was caught in a Riptide and have somehow ended up upon another Dead Island, curiously similar to my previous experience. Another island littered with ignoramus zombies, irrelevant quests and infinite treasures. I find myself with a new companion, along with the four (including myself) from the last escapade. His name is John Morgan and he seems to be quite nifty with his fists. I had the choice to keep my skills that I had gathered from our former encounter with the undead, but I choose to let the tides of time eradicate my memory and start afresh. Now I am Xian Mei, and woe betide any zombie who stands in the way of my deadly blades.
As I slaughter the constant unending stream of respawning undead I am getting stronger. My mind drifts back to the time I spent in the Borderlands, so much reminds me of that place, but that’s another story. On this island I have acquired new techniques. One move that I have found particularly satisfying is using my, surprisingly comfortable, stilettos to stamp through the face of any downed zombie. They do not get back up after that. I am also in love with my shiny new axe, which I have honed at the workbench to become an awesome limb tearing machine. Finally I added a vicious poisoned blade which causes these beasts to choke and vomit. Indeed, by the looks of all the random bits of paper I have found lying around the island it seems like there is a huge range of upgrades that I could create. Next I fancy I shall fashion a tesla spade to electrocute the dead, before I bury them.
With my trusty axe in hand I am chopping and slicing through wave after wave of the undead, levelling my blade skill with each swing (this is something new that did not happen in Dead Island, though it’s not all that apparent what effect it has). Now I have the bloodlust (which builds with each zombies I kill) and I cackle as yet another limb flies off at a tangent from their body. I am beginning to wonder if perhaps I am the scariest thing on the island. Cleaving through yet another monster (this one seems to be disturbingly obese and has a habit of vomiting bile) I begin to realise that, despite the collapse of humanity around me, I am having a disturbing amount of fun. I don’t think I could ever get tired of this.
I am beginning to get tired of this. After all, the zombies do not seem to be a huge threat as they lumber towards me waiting to be eviscerated. Admittedly they do seem to be getting stronger as I progress, and there are more vicious monsters out there, such as the screamer whose howl freezes me with fear. Yet the strangest thing is that even if I get knocked out these zombies never seem to want to finish me off, and I find myself dragged a few meters back from where I fell and a few coins out of pocket. It seems even in the grip of the voracious undead plague these sick decaying tourists never lose sight of the all encompassing desire of capitalism.
The living people on this island are more a nuisance than the dead. They all seem to want me to go somewhere and get something, like I am the only one who can be depended on to do anything. They all seem to speak with terrible accents as if they were actors told to ham up the stupidest voice they can. My mission is find a way off this godforsaken island, but every single person seems to want to get in my way. I’ve had people ask me to find them drugs, strange mushrooms and even bits of tree bark. In the end I’ve ignored the ones I could, since all they seem to offer me in return are useless bits of junk and some cash. And the whole island seems stuffed with money, especially since some strange treasure imps seem to be going and restocking all the suitcases that litter the landscape while I am not looking.
I think there is a plot unfolding as I progress. It seems that perhaps there is more to this zombie outbreak than meets the eye. Yet I cannot help feeling I have witnessed this all before as well, in another time, another life, a place of Resident Evil. I think have already predicted what will happen. It feels like whoever is orchestrating these events has no sense of originality or style.
Some of those pesky bugs (as well as the plague of the undead) seemed to have also flown across the sea to this new island. I’ve found zombies appearing out of nowhere, magically glitching through walls and jerking like they’re doing the robot dance. Some sections of the island seem to cause my brain to stutter and my eyes seem to refresh at a shockingly low rate. It is disappointing that in the year and half since my time on the first Dead Island, no bug spray has been formulated to eradicate these problems.
I have been on this island for some time now and it is beginning to wear me down. Yet at the same time I must admit, especially when I have managed to gather four friends to take on these zombies together, I still find myself entranced in a ‘gorrific’ fever of fun. Zombies charge in from all angles and limbs begin to fly like splinters from a wood chipping machine. Some of my friends carry rifles and shotguns, discovered after we escaped the early stages of the jungle, their bullets ripping through the decaying flesh, but personally I will never put down this axe. Perhaps the most exciting times we have found are in areas named Dead Zones. Within these isolated locations particularly deadly creatures lay in wait, with bountiful treasure to be claimed if they are defeated. They all of course fall to the swinging blades of my axe.
And so I have reached the end of my time on this island. The finale feels somewhat anti-climactic considering what I have been through, but in many ways this does not surprise me. That weird sense of déjà vu that I felt when I first got dragged to this Dead Island by the Riptide never went away. In far too many ways my experiences on this island are so much like my previous escapade. All the things that were wrong with the first island: the repetitive action, the bugs, the embarrassing voices and the mind rotting story raise their head here too. In fact my mind is already clouded about which events happened on which island. Yet at the same time I cannot shake the feeling that when I have that axe in my hand and the dead are snatching at me from every side, that I really am having an insane amount of fun.