Dead Island: Riptide is the most fun Brenna has had all year, which probably means she needs to get out more.
First person melee in 2013 is mashing the buttons, vaguely aiming, and hoping for the best. If there is more than one enemy on screen, you can’t see a thing. If there is an ally on screen, you can’t see a thing. If TechLand turned friendly fire on, everyone would die while you’re still waiting for one of your mates to plug his headset in. It’s laughably cumbersome.
When the local PR representative for Dead Island: Riptide asked me to come play games one afternoon instead of doing any actual work, I didn’t even bother to look at the calendar. Do you know what they have at preview events? They have couches. Do you know what I don’t own at the moment? A couch. I don’t give a rat’s left buttcheek what game is being shown; if I can leave the house, speak to humans, and sit on something comfortable while holding a control pad, I am all over it.
At the time, Dead Island: Riptide was not high on my priorities list. When I sauntered across to King’s Cross to take a look at it I was just starting to get really, really excited about some other releases, including a couple of indies so deeply wanky they’ve been blind since before birth. The thought of playing what is – let’s face it – one of the stupidest game ideas ever conceived of did not pull on my heartstrings very much. I was there for the couch.
Let’s just pause for a moment so I can quantify my likely uncontested claim that Dead Island’s formula is one of the most wretchedly dumb the industry has ever produced. First person melee just does not work. Maybe it will, one day, but that day is not today; first person melee in 2013 is mashing the buttons, vaguely aiming, and hoping for the best. If there is more than one enemy on screen, you can’t see a thing. If there is an ally on screen, you can’t see a thing. If TechLand turned friendly fire on, everyone would die while you’re still waiting for one of your mates to plug his headset in. It’s laughably cumbersome.
You can sort of see how it came about, fiddling around with a mod, taking the guns out of a shooter, playing the hilarious awful result with some friends – and suddenly wondering if anybody would pay money for the experience. It’s an appalling mess. But just like that wince-worthy college significant other you pretend never happened, it’s somehow such incredible fun that you forgive it all its faults. Really, the only difference is, Dead Island does not deny you custody of your children, shag your best friend, and run off with your credit cards after giving one of your aunts a heart attack, leaving you filled with regret and a painful itch when you pee.
I really liked Dead Island: Riptide. Like Jack said, sometimes you just love things, genital warts and all.
I played the one with the knife. My friend played the one with the dodgy Australian accent. My other friend also played the one with the knife. We spent a lot of time talking about running in high heels on jetties and fly-kicking in short skirts that somehow always cover your panties.
Dead Island: Riptide does not get any less stupid no matter how long you play it. You can get kind of good at it, but only up to a point. After that, there just isn’t any more skill to attain. After about an hour, I’m pretty sure I became one of the best Dead Island players in the world. Every time I targeted a limb, that limb was hit. I used the flying-kick-head-stomp combo to such devastating effect that someone yelled “hack” even though we were all playing on PR-owned consoles connected via LAN. I power-gamed my way through the available story content so fast that my crew of three finished the demo with half an hour to spare while another team of four – guided by the PR reps, no less – were still wittering away at the first hub when they booted us out. Somehow, my mastery of the gameplay on offer did not lead to boredom.
Bigger and nastier enemies came, in increasing numbers. I mowed them down with my amazing shovel, the demo build’s ultimate bladed weapon, which I had upgraded with a venom effect and used incongruously with a backstab skill I’d stacked all my points in. One of my squad mates kept setting us all on fire, but we did not care; we just fly-kicked the flames out of existence. We drove a boat along a river filled with over-powered baddies, laughing hysterically every time one hit the hull with a “thunk” and was torn to shreds. We also laughed pretty hysterically when one of us was dragged from the boat and left to walk the whole way back, exposed to the afore-mentioned baddies. We laughed hysterically when we died, and we laughed hysterically when we won. I am not 100% sure PR was not pumping nitrous oxide into the room.
About the only thing that might have improved this experience was if I had been rascally drunk, but VG247 is staffed by consummate professionals and anyway I ran out of time to go to the bottleo first.
I’m going to buy Dead Island: Riptide, unless it turns up in the mail as so many things seem to do since I became famous enough to get a vague mention on a t-shirt. It’s ridiculously stupid. It’s pretty broken, too – the number of times we got caught on the geometry was astounding. The crafting is still a bit of a nightmare to understand and the skill trees still seem a bit unbalanced. The “plot” is still fetch quest after fetch quest after fetch quest after puzzled staring at the map to figure out which god damned objective you’re up to after fetch quest. The environments still look like someone’s just discovered the copy paste shortcut at age 45 and by god is going to make up for lost time.
But as long as I can fire it up on launch day and have online multiplayer actually work – something the original faffed up – I genuinely don’t care. It may be the multiplayer game I turn to most often this year. I am going to play the shit out of it.
Dead Island: Riptide is due on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in late April.
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