Developer: Techland Publisher: Deep Silver Release Date: 23rd April 2013 (NA), 26th April 2013 (UK)
The original Dead Island was surprising. It surprised us twice, even. First by not quite tonally matching the CGI trailer that had initially caught our attention, but then not disappointing us for that either. It was a pleasant - gruesome - romp that took what we liked about first person combat elsewhere, added a crucial incentive to scavenge for better weaponry and of course had zombies! If you're looking for comparisons, to us it felt like an undead-infested Borderlands / Skyrim cross, with Multiplayer.
Those core features are still in play. Dead Island: Riptide does feel much more of an extension of the previous game than an entirely new take on the idea or setting. There are some additions that will serve to make the game more interesting, but it very much follows the same path.
One such addition is the choice of a new character, John. Intriguingly, his specialisation is using hand to hand combat but, rather than the game accordingly incentivising players to play without weapons, his extra skills aren't the most comprehensive set of martial arts moves we've ever seen. John can perform such moves as a running kick that delivers more damage than a standing one and send any enemies flying backward.
Further diluting the distinction, a hand to hand move of sorts has been added for all characters too. Fall upon an enemy from a height and you can unleash a vertical strike attack that delivers a massive amount of damage. A move of which Dishonored's Corvo Attano would no doubt be proud.
The biggest changes, then, are the setting and the NPC inhabitants. Previously you wandered the tourist-trap island resort of Banoi collecting missions from static characters that remained in safe locations. Now you’re on the island of Palanai, which is a proper lived-in town filled with people from all walks of life, giving it a grimier, grittier feel.
Also, NPCs will now travel along with you, and though you’re immune to the zombie outbreak, they certainly aren’t. They’ll hold their own in combat, but if they’re knocked down they’ll stay down. You can leave them alone to a point, but you’ll also have to manage what they’re going up against. Fortunately the game offers incentives to keep them alive, as during downtime they serve as equipment vendors.