Dead Island was a great game. It had its problems, but there was something particularly wonderful about Techland's open-world, survival horror, melee-focused game.
It might've been how particularly brutal the zombies grew to be. The Butcher is maybe one of the most terrifying enemies I've come across in a video game. He's gross-looking, super built, and has razor-sharp stubs of bone for forearms. Both he and the other slew of large and small, fast and slow zombies made surviving the deceptively gorgeous island quite the task. Dead Island's intrigue might also have been due to the many variety of weapons you could both find and create, taping electrical wires to machetes and nailing spikes onto baseball bats. It was a solid cooperative experience too, letting you seamlessly jump in on missions with players who were nearby.
All those reasons made Dead Island an enjoyable experience, even if it didn't live up to the emotionally-charged hype that one awesome cinematic trailer built up. So it's with excitement that I received news of the next instalment of the franchise.
I took a first real look at Dead Island: Riptide at this year's PAX Prime. It was a hands-off demo, behind closed doors. Here's a rundown of my thought process:
1. Oh, hey! It's Dead Island.
The characters are familiar, the zombies are familiar, the weapons are familiar, and the islandy feel is familiar. Though the four characters from the original title are making a return, there's a new character making an appearance that we haven't met yet. Logan and Purna led the demo at level 25s, and I instantly made note of the message on the screen that denoted a nearby player we could jump to to play with.
2. This is a very wet Dead Island.
It's the same resort we saw the same four characters trek through in the first title, but it's been transformed by a monsoon. There's water everywhere. So much so that the group has to man a boat just to get through the island. Zombies will get in the way, sometimes even pulling you off the boat. At this point I'm wondering what fish-like zombie will have mutated to survive the new, wet environment. Zombies seem to evolve fast, so I have to imagine it's likely.
3. Is that... is that a sword with electricity strapped on? Oh, my favourite!
It's fairly similar, and even more deadly with as much water as is around your enemies, electrocuting them in their own puddle of death. The neat addition is that it seems to be a double-blade sword. How deadly.
4. Ha, they still walk funny when they carry stuff.
The two characters — Logan and Purna — being led throughout the "Breaching the Tunnels" level of Chapter 6 had to carry water pumps with them on their way to a church. They carried the metal pieces through fallen trees and into a cave before arriving there.
5. Mines? Now we're talking.
Fortifying defence hubs are a new kind of mission in Dead Island: Riptide. You'll build fences with the barricade system to cover the gaps in the dilapidated church, and plant mines around the perimeter to keep the incoming horde of zombies at bay. The water pump you're using to help you escape makes a lot of noise. And every faithful zombie lore reader knows that noise equals lots and lots of zombies, so planting mines around your fortified church is a welcomed addition. It's not just explosive mines, either. There seems to be a healthy variety of mines, like poison mines and sonic mines.
6. Oh man, I think my head is spinning.
There's lots of running back and forth involved in these defence missions. Especially when you have a movable, mounted machine gun at your disposal, and can set it in the front or back of the church to rid the swampy perimeter of those fodder enemies.
7. Did that zombie just throw something at me?! What the HELL, zombie. I'm going to stab you in and around the face for that.
The Grenadier zombie can throw grenades at you. These are some sophisticated jerks! Even with the machine gun, you'll probably still want to run up to zombies to thin out the crowd before it becomes too massive to handle. So lots of close-ranged combat is still an emphasis.
8. It's cool, grenade-throwing zombie. I've got lots of grenades of my own.
Techland wants to conserve that desperate survival feeling of the first game, but let you have fun with tossing around grenades, too. So when the danger is amped up — like during defence missions when you have to deal with a huge horde of zombies — you'll get more grenades to play around with. But at other points you'll still have to worry about resource management.
The defence aspect seemed neat. It's a collaborative effort, and lets you get wild with ammunition for a short amount of time before stepping back into the difficulties of harsh and unlikely survival. I'm excited for a new arsenal too, but this demo didn't give me too extensive of a look to tell you how that's going. One last feature that I'm excited about, though, is that you can move your character over from Dead Island. Which we all know will make for even more brutal enemies, but there's something great about starting off strong and being asked to defeat even stronger enemies.