- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2013

The zombie apocalypse rages on in another tropical paradise through the first-person, survival horror game Dead Island: Riptide, Special Edition (Deep Silver and Techland, rated Mature, reviewed with Xbox 360, $49.99).

The surprise hit from 2011 returns with a sequel highlighting its four unassuming heroes — former NFL pro Logan Carter, one-hit rap wonder Sam B, desk clerk Xian Mei and bodyguard Purna — stuck again on a lush island crawling with flesh-eating ghouls.

An opening scene aboard a doomed military vessel sets the stage for the groups continued, unbelievably bad luck while introducing a fifth warrior, disgraced soldier John Morgan, who is a bit of an Australian Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal’s character in “Under Siege”).

Deep Silver offers little innovation to the latest brutal B-movie mix here but sticks with the frightening familiar by giving players a quest-laden, open world to roam and take part in the careful, experimental study of ways to kill the average virus-infected mutant.

It’s an ever-mounting list of kill possibilities, consider it akin to Forrest Gump’s Bubba Blue rattling off ways to prepare a shrimp … broiled, skewered, fried, etc.

This steady stream of decapitation, mutilation, stomping, crushing, exploding and burning play out against a set of nasty creatures that can erupt, spew acid vomit, charge and smash the ground like the Hulk.

Weapons remain plentiful (from nail guns to awe-inspiring meat mallets and Chinese war swords) while helpful workbenches scattered around the island offer the ability to craft, upgrade and repair them. Of course, that only happens by collecting and using cash and items scattered on bodies and containers around the island.

For an example of weapon depravity, those owning the Special Edition begin the fun with a BBQ Blade that features a sharp instrument for cutting combined with propane jets for roasting, and I don’t mean marshmallows.

Moments to appreciate include new weather effects that can cause a creepy rainstorm when least expected, using a boat on water inlets (yes, the ghouls pop out of the water), building barricades to keep the flesh-eaters out and frenzied hordes of zombies now attacking,

It’s hard to believe amidst the action, but life can get really monotonous on the island of Palanai after literally smacking and dissecting hundreds of zombies so many ways.

Side mission tied to gathering junk, a plot about a mad doctor trying to turn the virus into a bio weapon by harnessing the immunity of the survivors and some glitchy collision detection (zombies get stuck in objects) won’t inspire in the least.

Relief comes through the clever as well as deadly use of vehicles, balancing your stamina to survive or escape attacks and the early use of traditional firearms with the modified weapons.

By the way, I chose the John Morgan character, and the guy eventually finds bladed claws that Wolverine would admire. He even has a fury mode that turns the screen grey like he’s having a migraine as he strikes out with mindless ferocity.

Although a single player can conquer the bloody carnage, clearly, the enjoyment of the experience tethers on finding up to three other intelligent individuals to co-operatively band together online through its multiplayer mode.

Working as either as a planned team of executioners or just hanging out with a random group of fellow zombie killers, either case can be rewarding.

Actually, I enjoyed the three hours I spent with two other companions, and they were as helpful as cordial. Not only did one fellow guide me out from under stilted houses in a watery area when I got stuck, but both patiently waited for me to join them in a vehicle and a boat.

We rollicked through forested areas looking for special medical tree bark together and fought off an incredibly gross and powerful ogre. They also apparently appreciated my powerful “kick in the butt” strategy that propelled zombies into the blades of my fellow warriors.

Amongst the many zombie games I have conquered, I still have find the frenetic terror of Call of Duty Zombies, the overwhelming hopelessness of Left 4 Dead and wild inventiveness of Dead Rising more satisfying.

Still, Dead Island: Riptide offers a budget-priced, stress-relieving way to interact with one of the most intense genres in pop horror culture these days.

Parental advice: The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), after watching Purna dispatch a group of crazed face-eaters with a bloody-hatchet frenzy, decided to label this game “M” and that stands for mature — adults 17-years and older need only try to visit Dead Island: Riptide. So don’t let your 15–year old convince you that “this is just killing a bunch of grossly comical zombies like The Walking Dead.” It’s a game that awards gratuitous slaughter and will be most appreciated by adults willing to simply not kill but strategize a plan of escape.

By the way, If you let one of your sniveling, profanity-spewing runts run amok in a co-operative multiplayer, it absolutely ruins the experience for Dead Island fans trying to enjoy the teamwork portion of the show. It also does a greater disservice to the developers who have spent months, if not years, building a fantasy world to appreciate and not simply take for gory granted.



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