Welcome back to Dead Island – it’s like you’ve never left. At the very least, developer Techland certainly doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere or learned anything in the two years since the first turn for this particular take on the oft-prophesised zombie apocalypse.
Picking up where its predecessor left off, with the four main player characters having escaped the ruined Banoi resort, things are initially promising. What looks like refuge on an aircraft carrier turns into a case of sudden but inevitable betrayal courtesy of a military-industrial conspiracy, leading into a genuinely thrilling effort to escape from the predictable outbreak of the undead while the ship sinks around you.
After that, it’s straight back into the familiar zombie-killing fray on the nearby island of Palanai. While there’s something to be said for maintaining the ‘paradise gone to hell’ motif, the game as a whole just feels like going through the motions. The same core gameplay persists with nary a change – pursue objectives, upgrade weapons, beat the unliving daylights out of pesky walking corpses, rinse and repeat. The quests themselves are too samey, frequently resorting to basic fetch missions, and the combat that should be central to the whole experience remains clunky and imprecise. Even the voice acting brings the same hammy, melodramatic performances as before. If Riptide was at least presented with tongue-in-cheek humour – more ‘Shaun’, less ‘Dawn’ – its flaws could be a shade more forgivable but its attempts at seriousness instead make them all the more apparent.
Barring the addition of a new character – soldier John Morgan – and a few admittedly inventive weapons that can be crafted, it’s hard to spot anything of substance that’s significantly different or improved upon from the first entry. The greatest strength remains its co-op element, as teaming up against ravenous hordes proves far more entertaining than slogging through the game solo.
Those who did enjoy the original Dead Island can at least import their character from that game and continue charting their growth, adding and modifying abilities through a basic experience points system but overall this feels more like an add-on pack than a proper sequel.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen