Dead Island Riptide review: uninspired and boring

Dead Island Riptide is hopelessly crushed under the weight of the same problems that bogged down its predecessor.

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I was not a fan of the first Dead Island. I thought Deep Silver's zombie-killing adventure was filled with uninspired tasks, ridiculous characters, and more technical glitches than you could shake a barbed wire stick at. That's not to say I found the game to be an irredeemable mess, because it did have some interesting ideas--ideas I had hoped to see shine through in a more-polished sequel. Dead Island Riptide is not that sequel. Rather, it's hopelessly crushed under the weight of the same problems that bogged down its predecessor. Riptide picks up right where the first Dead Island left off. The main characters from the first game have gone from the island of Banoi to a naval carrier, where the army is looking into what makes them immune to the zombie outbreak. The zombie outbreak, however, quickly overtakes the carrier somehow and the party winds up on a whole new island of Palanai--an island that also happens to be experiencing a zombie outbreak. What are the odds? The plot's paper-thin, but it's almost redeemed by acting and dialogue so terrible that it nearly comes all the way back around to becoming an entertaining B-movie. Unfortunately, any fun from the Riptide's "so bad, it's almost good" story is lost amid another round of uninspired missions and fetch quests. Just like the first game, the bulk of the game requires players to traverse the area and either kill a horde of zombies or, more frequently, search for something and bring it back. Inevitably, players will encounter zombie resistance and have to fight their way through to complete their task. Once one quest ends, it's time to do it all again. The repetitive mission structure of the first game is fully intact. I could forgive the dull tasks if fighting the zombies was fun, but, often times, it's not. Taking down zombies is usually a matter of hacking at them with melee weapons and hoping you can either dismember them or score a lucky decapitation. Otherwise, zombies will withstand a lot of punishment, especially as weapons tend to dull over time. It isn't a difficult endeavor--it's a tedious one. Just because zombies are easy to beat doesn't mean that you won't die, though. You will die a lot in Riptide and it's often because of several inherent disadvantages. Zombies will often travel in packs and if they outnumber you, it's almost assured death. You can try and fight them off, but one of the biggest issues from the first Dead Island will rear its ugly head again--it's almost impossible to judge where you're swinging or how far your weapon can reach. I constantly felt like enemies had a longer reach than any of my weapons, so while my swings would miss, they would always find their target--usually, my head. Distance perception issues are not just limited to melee weapons. Just like in the first Dead Island, there are objects that can be thrown, like propane tanks. The downside to this is that bulkier objects will obstruct your first-person view and it's impossible to aim them with any sort of accuracy. In one instance, I tried to inch closer to my target before throwing a propane tank, but that only resulted in an explosion that killed me instantly. To add insult to injury, the Thug-class zombie that was also caught in the explosion was still alive. That's Riptide in a nutshell. Whether it's a misjudged explosion, a horde of zombies that suddenly swarm you, or a Suicider-class zombie that always manages to kill in one hit, cheap deaths run rampant in this game. Palanai's jungle feels just as expansive as Banoi's tropical island setting and can be fully explored with nearby vehicles. That would be great, except the driving mechanics have not improved from the first game. Driving still feels clumsy, there's still no rear-view button (which is a major issue in a game where zombies constantly sneak up from behind), and it takes far too long to enter and exit vehicles, leaving players open to attack. Clumsy driving mechanics haven't stopped Riptide from expanding this concept to motorboats. Operating a boat features all the limitations of driving a car, only here you can't run over zombies and new Drowner-class zombies (who can run at full speed through water, while you can't even sprint in waters as deep as a wading pool) will often climb onto your boat, triggering a hasty quick-time event. Miss this QTE and you'll get tossed overboard, where numerous zombies will munch on you like undead piranhas. Exploration should be one of the pleasures of Palanai, but the minimap often proves to be a major burden. Quest markers are haphazardly placed on the minimap and waypoint paths will only appear when nearby. Players will have to blindly journey towards their destination and will wind up running into a dead end or going down the wrong path, which becomes problematic when zombies can pop up in numbers at any time. Getting lost and subsequently having to fight off seven or eight zombies ranks up there as one of my more frustrating Riptide experiences. I still won't go so far as to say that Riptide's a complete waste. Collecting components and using them to build outlandish weapons is still a lot of fun and an idea I wish more games would use. Even if an electric sword doesn't always find its mark, it's still an electric sword! Its mere existence helps up Riptide's cool factor and there are dozens of other weapons just like it. Even if firearms (which remain a scarce resource) are more effective, they aren't as fun to use as some of the more outrageous melee weapons.

It's easy to get lost on the island

The first Dead Island had quite a fan following and those fans will be happy to learn that their characters can be imported seamlessly into Riptide. This will make the early parts of the game easier, since imported characters can take advantage of their unlocked skills. It's a nice incentive to lure in veterans looking for an early boost, but won't help newcomers at all. I went into Dead Island Riptide hoping to see some marked improvement from the original. Instead, I feel like I got more of the same game, for better or worse. Beyond its iffy design choices, Riptide still feels like a buggy mess, whether it's because of zombies getting stuck in pieces of the environment, clunky animations, framerate drops, or the game's sound outright dying on me--twice! Riptide is a zombie nightmare, but not the one I was hoping to see. [2]
This Dead Island Riptide review was based on an Xbox 360 version of the game provided by the publisher. The game will also be available on PC and PlayStation 3 when it comes out tomorrow, April 23.
Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 22, 2013 9:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Dead Island Riptide review: uninspired and boring.

    Dead Island Riptide is hopelessly crushed under the weight of the same problems that bogged down its predecessor.

    • reply
      April 22, 2013 9:07 AM

      Sweet, just as good as the first one then? EXCITED

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        April 22, 2013 10:30 AM

        This is what I thought!

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        April 22, 2013 10:53 AM

        Yeah, I loved the original. this is fine with me

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        April 22, 2013 1:35 PM

        exactly!

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        April 22, 2013 3:00 PM

        Yeah that's what I thought. I liked the first one. Wasn't a 5 star game but it was fun enough in co-op.

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      April 22, 2013 9:12 AM

      If Riptide is just more of the same Dead Island you can sign me the fuck up. I hope Dead Island Helper gets an update as well.

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        April 22, 2013 9:21 AM

        Yeah pretty much.

        What's Dead Island Helper? Let me Google that for me.

        Oh, neat? I'm not sure what I'd tweak, it ran fine for me.

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          April 22, 2013 9:24 AM

          I just emailed the guy and begged him to release an updated version for Riptide. It was a really useful little tool and fixed a bunch of engine quirks.

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        April 22, 2013 5:41 PM

        I'll be picking it up after work on Wednesday. Fuck yeah!

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      April 22, 2013 9:20 AM

      The first Dead Island was one of the best zombie game i've ever played and so far it seems like riptide will be just as good!! : )

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        April 22, 2013 10:20 AM

        Agree ^^^^ it's my fav zombie game I can not wait to play it today, i am READY \m/

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      April 22, 2013 9:30 AM

      i guess like the newest duke game, its just cool to bash dead island. its the thing to do.

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        April 22, 2013 9:33 AM

        Well he didn't like the first game, and apparently Riptyde is more of the same, so it makes sense he wouldn't like that either. I would have preferred a review from someone that could at least appreciate what the first game offered, but oh well. "Sucked like the original" is enough of an endorsement for me to pick it up.

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          April 22, 2013 9:41 AM

          well there you go. you just helped me make my point. someone else probably should have reviewed it.

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            April 22, 2013 9:48 AM

            Your point was some grade school bullshit about disliking a game because it was "cool" to do so. That has nothing to do with what I posted.

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              April 22, 2013 10:04 AM

              cool fight bro. hope u win.

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        April 22, 2013 9:33 AM

        Don't see how it compares.

        Duke had huge hype for 10+ years. Dead Island is from a Polish dev (that also made Call of Juarez). Maybe some hype for it, but not for very long.

        Sure some people hate Dead Island, and others enjoyed it. I know it had flaws but I enjoyed it and finished it.

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          April 22, 2013 9:40 AM

          im comparing them only in that its just cool to bash them for some reason. there was a lot of shack hate for both games.

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            April 22, 2013 10:49 AM

            Probably because a lot of Shackers didn't like the games.

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        April 22, 2013 9:48 AM

        Why say "it's just cool?". The first game had serious issues and it sounds like they didn't address them. Isn't that "just reviewing"?

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          April 22, 2013 10:36 AM

          it had some big bugs the first week of its release. but they fixed them. i never even experienced the bugs that were there. the game was fun. i dont know what starts the trend of when it becomes the thing to do to just trash a game. but i remember that happening here when the original was launched.

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            April 22, 2013 11:19 AM

            Pointing out bugs is not 'just trash'ing a game. This is why everyone is stomping on you. If you experience a bug, that's an issue, and it should be mentioned in a review and reflect on the impression.

            Just because you didn't experience them does not make them any less valid. Now, if he didn't have fun, that's his opinion, so disagreeing with that is fine. But your attitude that any negative opinion = trashing is flawed.

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              April 22, 2013 12:58 PM

              i agree that pointing out bugs isnt just trashing the game. much more than that happened.

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            April 22, 2013 12:20 PM

            i dont know what starts the trend of when it becomes the thing to do to just trash a game

            Do you feel this way about every game that gets a bad review or just the ones you are interested in? Why are you saying this is a "thing to do?" Is it that unbelievable that people would take issue with the games flaws?

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        April 22, 2013 12:42 PM

        They sure do feel like arguing today, you'd think they were lawyers, I agree with you though, there's not many middle of the road reviews anymore and if there are they get buried while reviews like this, which say the game basically sucks, gets attention. Which is the reason it's done. A middle of the road moderate review wouldn't stir emotion in anyone and no one would care.

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      April 22, 2013 9:36 AM

      Yep!!! I disagreed with the reviews of the first game, and will treat this one the same. Yes there was frustration but Christ Almighty did I have FUNNNN with that game!!!

    • rms legacy 10 years mercury mega
      reply
      April 22, 2013 9:50 AM

      Gleefully leaping onto the Defenders of Dead Island shackpile, I am a bit worried about the sound engine bug mentioned in the last paragraph, which was a major aggravation in the first game; guess we'll see when the PC version hits.

      Much of the article complains about the combat mechanics, but wow, I enjoyed DI combat immensely: so visceral and immediate. The slightly more advanced stuff, like waiting for your 'rage meter' to fill, then attracting a crowd at the beach with bait, and mowing through them with a scythe or blowing up the lot with a well-placed propane tank: very satisfying. I never did experiment with the 'analog' aiming method, did anyone use that with m+kb?

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        April 22, 2013 10:14 AM

        Unless there was a mod that implemented it I am pretty sure you couldn't do analog aiming with kb / m and you had to use a controller to get that option.

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        April 22, 2013 10:27 AM

        I enjoyed playing baseball with ricocheting dead bodies when my friend's elemental power went off. It was so awesome.

        Co-op is where this series shines by far.

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      April 22, 2013 10:26 AM

      More Dead Island is exactly what I wanted. So far every review that "bashes" this game just reaffirms that I'll probably enjoy the hell out of this.

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      April 22, 2013 10:34 AM

      I loved playing the first one co-op with friends so this actually excites me. I'll wait until tomorrow to see what you guys say though.

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      April 22, 2013 10:38 AM

      I was bored of Dead Island by twenty hours in but at the same time, I was bored of Dead Island by twenty hours in.

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        April 22, 2013 10:50 AM

        We took a break after beating the game once, then went back and started NG+ with all of our equipment/levels/skills against higher level zombies. Super fun all over again. :D

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          April 22, 2013 5:47 PM

          I just started a NG+ with the bladed weapon chick. I'm having a good bit of fun again!

          I've been rocking a Zed's Demise with some crazy damage mod. So so much damage, and good head slicing!

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        April 22, 2013 11:32 AM

        LOL. getting 20 hours out of any single-player game is an accomplishment

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      April 22, 2013 10:54 AM

      the most important question; are the dead chick queef sounds still there?

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        April 22, 2013 11:41 AM

        What!?

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          April 22, 2013 12:48 PM

          when you killed some of the chicks in game they'd make this high pitch random squeak sound when they died that sounded like a fart

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            April 22, 2013 1:07 PM

            I don't remember that at all actually.

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            April 22, 2013 2:11 PM

            I do! LOL! What a world where this game gets trashed on, yet Dragon Age get's accolades and recommends all across the board. Reviews = comedy :)

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              April 22, 2013 2:31 PM

              Dragons Age was good! (not DA2... although I liked the storyline)

    • reply
      April 22, 2013 11:08 AM

      [deleted]

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      April 22, 2013 11:21 AM

      [deleted]

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      April 22, 2013 11:38 AM

      Monster Lv scaling still there? If so I'm going to pass, I like when a game lets you lv up and become higher lv the enemies in old areas.

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        April 22, 2013 3:57 PM

        i always thought games that scale with you made the leveling pointless.

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      April 22, 2013 2:08 PM

      This year's CoD is the same as last years - down with Actiblizztard!!!

      This year's Madden is the same as last year's - you suck EA!

      This year's Dead Island is the same as from two years ago - WHY Y'ALL HATIN' ON MAH GAME?!?

      /Shacktarded

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        April 22, 2013 2:34 PM

        Because CoD and Madden actually suck shit.

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        April 22, 2013 2:42 PM

        Because Dead Island isn't a damned annual franchise. It isn't something that adds in a few maps here and there throughout the year for $10-$15 a pop.

        Comparing long standing annual franchises to Dead Island is downright idiotic.

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          April 22, 2013 3:58 PM

          Watch the Quick Look. Read more reviews. This is exactly the same game they released two years ago. Same assets, same structure, same problems. But because it's the 2nd, not the 10th version of a flawed and disappointing game, it's okay?

          Should I have used Left 4 Dead as an example? I probably should have.

          Remember how people lost their shit because Valve dared to improve a great game with: better graphics, AI, scripting, levels, weapons, abilities, enemies and locations?

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            April 22, 2013 4:08 PM

            Yes. It's okay because it's an expansion, not a sequel. You can literally import your character and start Riptide at level 50. If you like, you can think of it as Dead Island episode 2.

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            April 22, 2013 4:17 PM

            People lose their shit over the dumbest things. You still cannot compare annual full priced releases from Call of Duty or Madden with something that is coming out with just its second game in TWO YEARS that is priced at just $40, below the normal going rate for a new release. That's a far cry from having it priced at $60 or more like a new Madden or Call of Duty would assuredly cost at launch every single year.

            The fact still remains that you simply cannot compare regularly annualized, full priced, franchise releases with this.

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              April 22, 2013 4:49 PM

              Yeah, I guess if you approach it that way it's not fair to compare them.

              Techland had two years. They made the exact same game again. This is what's bugging me. They're lazy and instead of fixing the damn formula, they do nothing. But hey, can't expect them to do that just yet. It's only their 2nd release in this IP.

              Can you see why I have a problem with that statement?

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        April 22, 2013 2:46 PM

        Yeah except there have been what, 10 Madden games? 9 CoD games not counting stuff like handhelds?

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          April 22, 2013 3:56 PM

          Madden titles started in 1988.

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      April 22, 2013 2:52 PM

      I liked the first Dead Island, just haven't played all the way through it. Eventually, I will get to this one. The mix of zombie games + rpg elements (which seems to be on the rise with some of the MMOs coming out soon/lately) was pretty awesome to me. Kind of a Skyrim esque zombie game.

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        April 22, 2013 2:57 PM

        "The first Dead Island was long on good ideas but short on skillful execution, and while there's still a truly great game lurking in there somewhere, Riptide is not it."

        Couldn't have said it better.

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          April 22, 2013 3:01 PM

          I want to see a Review Off between you and Rudds judged by David Bowie.

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          April 22, 2013 3:14 PM

          I love when people throw a fit about a review on the shack but they're totally ok with another site saying the same thing.

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          April 22, 2013 3:48 PM

          IMO, Riptide is an expansion, not a sequel. It's exactly "more of the same". The B-movie story is intentional. Crazy combat moves and ridiculous weapon mods don't fit with a serious story. And your gripes about combat are due to your ineptitude with it, I think. I thought there was a finesse to it. I had no problems connecting my swing to a limb, and being overwhelmed was never a problem. Playing Xian as a ninja with a katana feels exactly like it should. Dodge a charger, swing, and the zombie flies past you while its limbs shoot forward. You can take a head off with a forward stab with pinpoint accuracy.

          It seems like you and Brad are expecting the game to be Dead Island 2 with massive improvements, new game mechanics, and new shit. Is that accurate?

          • reply
            April 22, 2013 4:18 PM

            I had hoped that with two years having passed since the first game, they could have taken what was wrong with it and refined it. The first game was a buggy mess. I should not still be seeing those bugs and glitches two years later. I shouldn't still be seeing zombies get stuck inside textures or having my sound die out on me. I shouldn't still be seeing characters fall through map holes. I shouldn't be able to stop at a point, look around 360 degrees to see everything's clear, and then take a step forward to find out I got jump by a zombie that magically spawned from thin air two inches behind me. Driving shouldn't feel as bad as it does. Animations shouldn't look crooked and stilted. Aiming with melee weapons shouldn't still be a pain in the ass.

            If it was the same exact mission structure as the first game, I wouldn't have been so aggravated by it. I'd have said it's mediocre and just moved on. It's already been mentioned that if you have friends with you, Dead Island can even be fun. And ultimately, that's why I'm so aggravated by Riptide. It has POTENTIAL! It CAN be an awesome game! But there are so many lazy mechanics, glitches, and repetitive gameplay (kick zombie down, curb stomp, repeat ad naseum) that it's a test of my patience.

            That isn't to say I don't think they'll get it right someday. I really hope they do. A next-gen Dead Island that's polished with refined mechanics could be awesome. As it is, it's a wretched single-player experience and a half-decent four-player romp.

            Can't emphasize it enough. When you guys play this, always play with friends. Then poke and laugh when they fall through a map hole.

            • reply
              April 22, 2013 5:01 PM

              I didn't experience the buggy mess. There were only two animation glitches in all of my 150+ hours in singleplayer. Never fell through a maphole, never had sound die out. Mouse control was terrible till I changed a few lines in an .ini. If that's what you meant by aiming with melee weapons, I agree with you. If you meant you just couldn't judge if your weapon would hit your zombie, watch the GiantBomb video and see Brad break and cut limbs like a pro.

              The game can certainly be improved in a lot of areas, and I agree that the bugs should've been fixed, but I can forgive a lot of it because the combat was just so good. "Kick zombie down and curb stomp" isn't how you should be playing. It isn't even the best way to play. The small pause after the jump off leaves you vulnerable to rape by chargers. Often, it's better to dodge and cut. It's not game of the year material, but it still can be a ton of fun.

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              April 22, 2013 5:23 PM

              I'm glad I played Dead Island a bit late. I heard about the bugs but my game was pretty much flawless.

              And, yeah, play with friends.

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                April 22, 2013 5:25 PM

                A round of patches could do wonders for the PC version. If you're planning to get it, I'd say do like you did last time and wait for some patches to hit first.

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              April 22, 2013 7:55 PM

              I played the week of release all the way through with 4 friends, 2 amd systems, 2 intel systems. 1 with a aftermarket sound card, 3 with onboard. No one had any issues. Fix your junk

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              April 22, 2013 8:11 PM

              I had a preorder on the first game and I can't honestly remember any serious bugs in it. I was on PC, maybe it's a platform thing? The only gamebreaking issue was the duping people were doing, and that was mostly just a level 50 jumping in my game and spawning shit all over the place. That got patched out.

              I never saw anyone fall through map holes, and really don't remember any insta spawns other than scripted events.

    • reply
      April 22, 2013 4:33 PM

      It was a little disappointing how much more useful Sam B and the other dude were over the sword chick. Sam could elbow his way out of most dangerous areas and the other guy could get explosive death daggers as his special attack. The black girls' gun ability wasn't half as good in comparison and the sword chick was so fragile and her sword skills just weren't very powerful at all. I'd hope Riptide would balance things a little but I haven't heard mention of that.

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        April 22, 2013 5:04 PM

        I liked Xian the best. One shotting everything felt so much more powerful than Sam B's brute force.

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          April 22, 2013 5:55 PM

          No shit. I got to be a master at lopping off heads.

          Playing as some of the other guys a horde of runners would be an "oh shit!" moment. As Xian I just stood my ground and had a huge pile of headless bodies all around me.

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        April 22, 2013 5:27 PM

        This is hilarious to me as my buddy and I played Sword Girl and Gun Girl. Had a blast with them, too!

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        April 22, 2013 8:13 PM

        I played through the first game 4 times with all 4 characters. I agree in that I started with ninja chick my first run thorugh and she felt brittle. My favorite of the 4 by far was purna, her abilities were pretty good all around.

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      April 22, 2013 5:18 PM

      Why have someone who hated the first one, write the review of the second?

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        April 22, 2013 5:21 PM

        Sequels to bad games can be good.

        See: Assassin's Creed

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        April 22, 2013 5:38 PM

        Check out Giant Bomb's review. Brad gave it 2/5 stars and he generally enjoyed the first one (he gave the original game a 4/5 stars) and was pushing for it to be on some of their 2011 Game of the Year awards. Maybe the game is just not that great?

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        April 22, 2013 10:25 PM

        Got to agree there.

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      April 22, 2013 10:23 PM

      Sorry I stopped at "I was not a fan of the first Dead Island".
      I enjoyed it, quite thoroughly actually. Being a wow fan, i like loot games, plus this one actually has fun and satisfying mechanics. Not a bad story either.

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      April 24, 2013 5:12 AM

      I enjoyed the first 20-30 minutes of the original Dead Island and from then on it got very repetetive and uninspiring - not going to go back to that. With Riptide they had the chance to beef of the week parts of Dead Island but obviously decided against it and continued with what they had.

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      April 25, 2013 4:01 AM

      The original was mundane as hell. Wasn't expecting this one to be any different.

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      April 25, 2013 10:28 AM

      I played the first part for an hour or so... and never touched it again..
      Looking back, even downloading the game was a waste of time and hard disk space
      I still don't get, why people are so excited about this game x)

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