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Dead Island: Riptide review

Dead Island: Riptide
“Progress has been made and there is more fun to be had now than there was before, but the original Dead Island‘s “rough-edged gem” status makes it harder to forgive Riptide of committing similar sins.”
  • Beating the crap out of zombies with handmade weapons is still a delight
  • New systems and abundant resources place emphasis on action rather than survival
  • New zombies, vehicles, and environments bring fresh challenges
  • It's hard to escape the feeling that you're playing Dead Rising 1.5
  • Numerous bugs and stone-dumb AI turn simple tasks into a slog
  • No progression in co-op for players that aren't at the same point in their stories

Dead Island: Riptide is at its best when it gives you a horde of zombies and a nail-studded baseball bat – or some other lovingly crafted instrument of close-quarters re-death – to swing in their direction. Techland’s just-released sequel builds directly on the simple first-person brawling pleasures that worked so well in the studio’s 2011 original. It may boil down on the most basic level to Dead Island 1.5, but Riptide proves that such a designation doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

New Paradise, Same Spiel

Our heroes just can’t catch a break. After escaping the zombie plague that swept across the island of Banoi in the first game, they find themselves captured and locked away aboard a military ship shortly after Riptide opens. A corporate weasel by the name of Serpo is running the show, and he intends to conduct research on the four immune people – now five, but we’ll get to that in a moment – in an effort to save humanity. Or so he says.

The original game’s foursome meets up with Riptide‘s fifth playable character – a fellow immune – during the opening cutscene. John Morgan brings along a new hand-to-hand combat-focused set of skill trees and a new personality, but there’s no mystery here for Dead Island veterans. The newcomer fits right in alongside our established four in terms of how he plays.

Dead Island Riptide review 1
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It’s not long before Serpo’s plan goes sideways and zombies overwhelm the military ship, one of this story’s many leaps in believability. How exactly would zombies overrun an entire ship filled with armed soldiers who have no doubt been briefed on the undead situation? And why would the immune so vehemently resist the idea of cooperating with researchers who are presumably looking into a cure for this epidemic?

The outbreak results in a shipwreck that leaves our immune heroes and a couple of other survivors stranded on the nearby island of Palanoi. It turns out there are zombies here too. Surprise!

Riptide‘s multitude of narrative shortfalls all become inconsequential as you fall into the fun rhythm of whacking zombies upside the head with an assortment of weapons and weaponized objects.

The absurd plot gets a pass on one level since Dead Island: Riptide is basically just riffing on cinema’s own gratuitously gore-fueled zombie horror stories, much like its predecessor did. There comes a point, however, where the leaps in logic become too great to ignore. Moments when Riptide‘s video game sensibilities get in the way of telling a coherent story.

Consider this example: you’ll frequently encounter mini-missions that involve saving a trapped survivor from a horde of zombies. Dedicated explorers will encounter 20+ of these over the course of the game. In every case, the saved survivor chooses to go it alone on this sparsely populated, zombie-infested island. Joining together with the other survivors is never even mentioned as a possibility.

There’s always going to be a suspension of disbelief required when you’re talking about something like zombie fiction, but the beats at least need to make narrative sense. We frequently consume stories about space aliens and magic and other things that probably don’t exist, and the ones that we buy into are successful because they recognize the importance of telling a coherent stories within the constraints of the fiction. Dead Island: Riptide loses sight of that frequently, and the experience as a whole suffers for it.

Zombie Apocalypse Beatdown

Fortunately, Riptide‘s multitude of narrative shortfalls all become inconsequential as you fall into the fun rhythm of whacking zombies upside the head with an assortment of weapons and weaponized objects. The play is largely the same as it was before: first-person perspective brawling with an emphasis on careful timing, stamina maintenance, and weakness exploitation. It’s the flow of the action that sees the biggest change.

Dead Island Riptide review 4
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The first Dead Island was largely rooted in the survival horror genre, with resource collection and management used as a core component of your play. Weapons degraded over time, requiring players to find new ones and maintain old ones. Mods improved both durability and damage capabilities. New weapons could be scavenged, but money was required as well, both to keep them from falling apart and to upgrade them.

Riptide brings back those basic ideas, with one notable and very significant difference: you never actually want for resources. The regular course of play sets you up with all of the equipment, crafting items, and money that you could ask for. Weapon maintenance is still a requirement, but it’s more about upkeep than resource management. Make no mistake: this is a good thing.

The seemingly small change has a dramatic impact on the way Dead Island: Riptide plays in comparison to its predecessor. Action, rather than survival, is the focus. It doesn’t matter if you import a high-level character from the first game (completion not required) or start fresh with a new one (at level 15): you’re not going to want for effective zombie-smacking tools. The loot system feels more like a Borderlands or a Diablo situation now, where you’re invested in your gear collection and constantly looking for better loot drops.

Dead Island Riptide review 3
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Other new systems create a deeper experience. A new set of sidequests allows for survivors at the home base hub to upgrade their shops and their own skills, the latter of which makes them more effective as fighters during the game’s new siege defense missions. Motorboats join trucks as driveable vehicles, and they’re a necessity in the swampy Palanoi jungles. The variety of weapons and upgrades in general has been upped considerably. There are new boss zombies to use them on as well, such as the hardy Wrestler and the ever-annoying, stun-inducing Screamer.

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Not everything is improved though. Getting around in the world can still be a headache when you suddenly find yourself far away from one of the few fast travel locations with no nearby vehicles to commandeer. Quest paths are often unclear as well thanks to an on-screen radar that features no minimap and a GPS indicator that only activates when you’re within 50m of your target.

As the first sequel in a relatively new series, Dead Island: Riptide offers an odd mix of big improvements and “more of the same” shortfalls.

Then there are the bugs. In solo games, you’ll see technical issues manifest most on the AI side, with enemies and friendlies alike clipping into the scenery or getting lost as they try to navigate around a small boulder. The aforementioned siege missions can be a particular pain when you realize that computer-controlled characters won’t save others from grappling zombies. These are drop everything moments for the player, since grappling zombies drain survivor health at a steady rate and a dead survivor results in a game over screen and mission restart.

Co-op sessions fare even worse, with unpredictable respawns that will occasionally revive downed players clear across the map from wherever they just were. Another very obvious bug sees strings of pop-ups from completed quests appearing on the screen – for minutes at a time on occasion – when you jump into a co-op session with someone who is at an earlier point in the story. 

Dead Island Riptide review 2
Image used with permission by copyright holder

That also says nothing of the half-baked concepts at work in co-op. If a player joins with someone who is at a later point in the story, only character and inventory progression will be saved – not quest progress. Sure, it makes sense on some level, but it also effectively diminishes the value of playing in co-op when certain players are left with nothing to invest in. Especially since so many of Riptide‘s quests are designed for multiple players, to the point that some of the “carry these items here” tasks are straight-up tedious in solo games.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Loot-sharing is also a mess. All money pickups are shared, as are locked chests (with scaling loot for each character), but everything else is picked up on a first-come, first-served basis. This includes random weapon drops and crafting items scattered throughout the world. There is nothing cooperative at all about having someone – friend or stranger – jump into your game and stealing all of the good stuff because s/he gets there first. Many rare item locations are static and loot respawns regularly, but Techland’s approach to the sharing of loot feels a bit too restrictive.


As the first sequel in a relatively new series, Dead Island: Riptide offers an odd mix of big improvements and “more of the same” shortfalls. Techland seems to have settled into the right tone for its open-world zombie adventures, but some lingering issues from the previous game are joined by a host of new ones. Progress has been made and there is more fun to be had now than there was before, but the original Dead Island‘s “rough-edged gem” status makes it harder to forgive Riptide of committing similar sins.

(Dead Island: Riptide was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game that was provided by the publisher.)

Editors' Recommendations

Adam Rosenberg
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Previously, Adam worked in the games press as a freelance writer and critic for a range of outlets, including Digital Trends…
All Curveball locations in Dead Island 2
A pipebomb with kaboom written on it.

Your bread-and-butter method for dispatching the undead in Dead Island 2 will always be the strongest blunt or bladed melee weapon you have on hand. There's certainly no shortage of shovels, knives, gardening equipment, and even swords to choose from, but you can also mix things up with some throwable items as well -- and we don't just mean throwing your weapon. Curveballs, as the game calls them, are more like skills that can be equipped than weapons since they work on a cooldown timer rather than ammo. Your character can only hold two at once, but there are 13 in total to experiment with. You'll be given one by default, but the rest are up to you to collect. Here's a full list of all the Curveballs in Dead Island 2 and where to find them.
How to get all the Curveballs in Dead Island 2

We'll list off the Curvballs, their locations, and their effects in the order you should naturally come across them while playing Dead Island 2. If you miss one, you can always fast travel back to the area to collect it later. While you can only have two Curveballs equipped at any time, you can swap them out no matter where you are, so feel free to try them all out and change up your loadout depending on your current situation.
Meat Bait
Given as part of the story by Carlos in Emma's house, this lets you throw out a chunk of meat that explodes on impact into a pool of meat(?) that attracts all nearby zombies to it.
On your way to the Halperin Hotel, the Shuriken are lodged into a car door directly in front of you. Using these throws out three Shuriken in a horizontal spread that travels a short distance before falling. They don't do a lot of damage, but can stagger and even remove limbs if you aim them well.
Chem Bomb
This is the second unmissable Curveball and is given to you inside the Halperin Hotel to put out a fire. It is good for more than just fire control, though, since you can use it to make zombies wet and susceptible to electricity.
Caustic-X Bomb
Keep your eye out for "The Rav-Ages of Caustic-X" sidequest if you want to add this to your arsenal. Completing this quest will reward you with a bouncing bomb that deals some damage, but is mainly used for applying the Melting status on zombies and leaving behind damaging acid.
Electric Star
You'll be taken to the Brentwood Water Reclamation Project plant during the "Justifiable Zombicide" mission. While there, make sure to snag the Electric Star sticking out of the safety sign on the fence. If you missed it, you can also purchase it from Rodriguez later on. This Curvball is a straight upgrade over the Shuriken since it functions exactly the same, but is electrified.
Pipe Bomb
While going through the checkpoints between Beverly Hills and Monarch Studios, keep an eye out for an open crate with the Pipe Bomb in it on one of the tables. This is a basic timed explosive, so toss it into a group for maximum damage.
Molotov Cocktail
When you're brought into the Brentwood Sewer during "The Heart of Darkness" mission, the Molotov will be in the office next to the Filtration Access and Servicing room. If it wasn't obvious, this flaming bottle will light any zombie hit with it on fire, plus leave a lingering patch of fire on the ground.
Electric Bomb
This is another Curveball tied to finishing a sidequest, this time the "Jo's Rainy Day Stash" quest. Think of it as a Pipe Bomb, only replace the explosion with a dome of electricity that is great for stunning groups.
You'll need to pony up $2,500 and buy this Curveball from Rodriquez once you've completed the "Cremains of the Day" sidequest. What you get is a weapon that inflicts Traumatized on zombies, meaning they're stunned and available to be counterattacked.
Sticky Bomb
Bring Dougie at the Serling Hotel $1,500 and he'll part ways with the Sticky Bomb. This is just your old Pipe Bomb, but now it will stick to any surface -- or zombie -- it hits.
Bait Bomb
This is another item Dougie will sell you, this time only after you beat "The Search for Truth" main mission. For just $3,500, you can get what is essentially your Meat Bait and Pipe Bomb stuck together. Zombies will all close in on the bomb before it detonates
Nail Bomb
For the final Curveball you need to invest your cash in, you can buy the Nail Bomb from Ezekiel for $1,500. This is a simple explosive, but with the added benefit of inflicting Bleeding on anything it hits.
Military Grenade
Once you complete the "Boz Makes a Bang" sidequest for Hana, which you can only get after beating "The Rav-Ages of Caustic-X" and "Dez and the Mother of Satan" quests, you will be given the final Curveball in Dead Island 2. This high-explosive detonates on impact no matter what, which could be a good or bad thing depending on the situation. It isn't all that much more powerful than any other explosive, but the utility of it not having a timer makes it useful.

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How to get fuses in Dead Island 2
A group of survivors looking stressed and annoyed.

eThere are going to be tons of things blocking your progress when trying to escape LA in Dead Island 2. Aside from the, you know, hordes of zombies, you will find plenty of gates and doors that need power to open. Most can be worked around by installing a battery or circuit breaker, but some require something else. Fuses aren't required at any point in the main story, but instead are limited keys that hide away some of the game's best loot. If you've been spotting all these gates and garage doors taunting you to open them, but lack the fuses to do so, we'll tell you how you can get your hands on some in Dead Island 2.
Where to get fuses in Dead Island 2

Unlike batteries or circuit breakers, fuses won't be found anywhere on the map while exploring. Instead, the only way to get these electrical devices is to purchase them. Obviously, your local hardware store isn't open for business anymore, so your options are limited to the vendors you come across such as Carlos in Emma's house or Ezekiel on The Pier. No matter who you get them from, you're going to be paying a premium. Each fuse costs $1,500, and the sellers usually only hold a few at a time. Even if they had the stock and you had the cash, your character can only hold three fuses at a time before needing to spend them to get more.

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You played the Dead Space remake. Now check out its ‘demake’
The cut off their limbs sign in Dead Space Demake.

Three months or so in, 2023 has been the year of the remake, as some of this year's best-reviewed games have been new versions of Resident Evil 4, Metroid Prime, and Dead Space. Now, developer Fraser Brumley is looking to go the opposite way. Dead Space Demake is available for free on and clues us in on what it might have felt like if Visceral Games released Dead Space in the PlayStation 1 era.
It's not even close to the full game -- you should be able to get through it in around a half-hour -- Brumley's Dead Space Demake is a novel little Unreal Engine indie project that adapts some of Dead Space's iconic gameplay moments and locations into a much more retro-feeling formula. The PS1-era aesthetic works shockingly well with Dead Space's formula. The rough, pixelated edges of the space station corridors and the Necromorphs that attack Issac within them are just as creepy as the remake's highly detailed versions of these same things.

Even if you've played the original and EA Motive's remake, the Dead Space Demake should still be a novel experience as you now have another way to experience some of the best parts of one of the greatest horror games of the past two decades. It speaks to the appeal of something Digital Trends has written about in the past, which is that remakes that reinvent and reimagine something well-known are just as interesting as the remakes that give an already great game a simple coat of fresh paint.
Dead Space Demake is available for free on, although you should also pick up the Dead Space remake for PC, PS5, or Xbox Series X/S if you want to compare the two. 

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