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Dead Island: Riptide review: Zombie thriller swamped by familiar flaws

It's got the moo-oo-ooo-oo-oves like stagger

Zombies, eh? At least their hearts are in the right place. So are their arms, for that matter. And their torso, legs and at least one of their eyeballs.

But despite having all the basic ingredients they need to become a productive member of society, zombies can never quite hold it together and end up a slavering, flaky, inconsistent mess. So (drumroll) a little bit like Dead Island: Riptide, then.

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On paper, the Dead Island blueprint is as sizzling as the tropical archipelago in which it is set. It's an open-world survival horror thriller where you craft your own weapons from junk and then crack them round the head of a perpetual supply of shuffling undead types. What's not to like about that? Unfortunately, those already familiar with the series will know that the answer is plenty.

One of the most divisive games of its generation, the original Dead Island's incredible creative vision was badly stymied by clumsy mechanics and shoddy execution. This was reflected in its scattershot reception from both critics and the public alike.

For us personally, we found the combat - the meat and potatoes of the game - to be too one-note and repetitive to warrant the time investment Dead Island required of you before it unlocked the good stuff. But in short bursts - and, especially in co-op - there was a limited amount of fun to be had. We're not fans but your mileage, as the saying goes, may vary.

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More continuation than sequel, Dead Island: Riptide introduces a new island and a new character but otherwise makes only minor balancing adjustments, and so it won't do much to change your opinion on the series if you've already played the original. That said, the tweaks do much to make Riptide a better and less frustrating game, and on balance we'd have to say we much prefer the aesthetic of the new island, too.

The idea of the original game's cast somehow washing up on another zombie-infested tropical island is patently ridiculous, but that's precisely what happens, so the plot doesn't spend too much time dwelling on this fact.

As the story goes, after living through the events of the first game, the survivors (you can import your Dead Island 1 save) are whisked off by copter to an awaiting army ship, where they're immediately greeted with the sight of handcuffs. Despite their protestations, they're soon overpowered and drugged and are sent packing to the on-board laboratory for tests.

When they wake up in their cell, they find they've made a new chum - a former navy soldier imaginatively named John Morgan. Despite some initial hostility they discover that they have more than just a dodgy accent and a terribly hammy script in common.

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Like the original survivors, John is also immune to the virus that's wrecking havoc around the pacific, and so is eligible to join the cast as Riptide's sole new playable character. A brawler with a killer uppercut and a devastating big boot, John is a good choice for players who like to get stuck in, but he's nothing special, either to look at, listen to or play as.

Anyway, to cut a long, and terrible tutorial level short, the ship crashes into yet another island that's teeming with undead assholes, and our gang have to hop off and kick their heads in all over again, preferably before the US army nukes the place off the face of the Earth, because according to an army general who's also washed up on shore, that's totally going to happen. A shame too, because the wild, lagoon-streaked island of Palanai is quite the tropical paradise - if you can look past the smell of rotting flesh, that is.

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