Do you like your games with lots of brains? Well, Dead Island: Riptide, might be for you. On the one hand, it has brains by the bucketload, slopping about as you stride through its sanguine beaches. The problem is that the brains are in a bucket. They don't have the capacity to think, and have long been removed from their host. It all depends what kind of brain connoisseur you are.
Chances are, if you enjoyed the previous game, you're going to love this one - it's more of the same. In fact, it's a direct continuation of the previous - very loose - story, and just adds in bioweapons and the usual cliche tripe that lazy zombie fiction throws around to justify its narrative.
The best zombie stories focus on the human element. The internal conflict between doing anything to survive, and trying to help your fellow man. Dead Island: Riptide's idea of human interaction is to speak to a quest giver, who will usually say something like: "Hey, fetch me some batteries and I'll give you an electrified meat mallet". After they've said this, you can stand near them and listen to them repeat the same line of dialogue incessantly, if you wish, but eventually you'll go and fetch the batteries - even if you have about thirty in your inventory... because logic.
You will spend most of the game with an inventory fit to burst at the seams, with loot respawning after a time. In Dead Island, you're the most well equipped zombie apocalypse survivor ever.
With this being a direct continuation of the first game's story you can import your character, thus opening up more of the three skill trees early on. If you don't import your character, or you start the game with the new character, John, you will find you're already upgraded to level 15 anyway. Not that your level matters, because the enemies scale with you, nulling any sense of progression.
I chose John. Mainly because his name is so awesome, but also because I didn't give a shit about the stereotypical characters from the previous game. John is a master of unarmed combat, meaning that he's best when equipped with knuckle dusters and Wolverine-like claws. He also has the best kick in a game... ever. There is an upgradable skill of his, which adds power to a running kick. Once this is fully upgraded, I found myself just sprinting at every zombie I saw, and kicking them into oblivion.
The physics system evokes the comedy effects of yesteryear, when ragdoll physics were first introduced, generations ago. Kick a zombie into a fence that's fifty yards away, watch as all his limbs fall off from the impact, rinse and repeat. Sounds fun? Yeah, for about five minutes it is.
When the bigger enemies are introduced this tactic falls to the wayside, and instead you just run at them, hit them twice, back off as they take a swing, repeat until dead... again. The game is all about making dead things even deader.
Later on in the game you get guns - yes, it holds guns back for ages, just like the first game - and they all handle like your arms are made out of a crane. The only redeeming quality of the combat is watching the satisfying damage indicators pop up, and increase in value as you improve your arsenal.
Of course, crafting is back, and you can still make a range of deadly and comical weapons with which to bully dead people. There are a couple of new additions, with one being the new island that looks largely similar to the other island apart from there's more water - which means boats, which handle like an elephant swimming in custard.
Another new addition is a wave-based defence mode, which isn't exactly the innovation of the century either. In these quests you defend an area against a silly amount of zombies, and the game attempts to inject immediacy into proceedings by insta-failing the mission if a key NPC dies, because the player dying is just a minor hindrance with you losing a bit of cash.
The NPC's just let the zombies munch them as they dance with them in a looping animation, until the player frees them, or the mission ends. You can also build defensive, mesh fences, which will be torn down within a few seconds, and you're better off just running around and lopping off heads with gay abandon.
The whole game just feels like a lazy cash-in. It kind of feels like ordering a curry, only to find you've got a plateful of sauce, but instead of chicken meat, there are just a few feathers floating on top - and the rice is actually glass.
The first time it rained in the game, I was walking along, and suddenly there was a downpour, with the sky switching from bright and sunny, to black as night in the blink of an eye. I backed up, and it was sunny again. So I walked forward, and it was raining. I used invisible walls that changed the weather in my Little Big Planet 2 levels, and they were better implemented.
The game's only redeeming feature is its four player cooperative functionality, where you can whisk your character to a friend's game and stab more cadavers. People who like to game socially will have had an itch that they've been unable to scratch since Borderlands 2, and this game will be massively tempting for them - hell, they might even enjoy it. It won't be because of the game, though. They'll be enjoying it because of their friends.
The four player co-op space is wide open, which allows low budget cash-ins like this to succeed financially off the strength of that alone. If you have three friends, and you like to game with them on a regular basis you've probably already made your mind up, and you're going to buy this regardless of how much money you're about to part with for twelve hours of mediocrity. If you were looking at this game and are planning on playing single-player, then don't. Use your brains, lest they end up sloshing around in a bucket.
Dead Island: Riptide (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
Do you like your games with lots of brains?