I’m so happy to finally welcome you back to the super awesome TLYW Year of Console Gaming, which we are resuming following a break in October. Monthly game reviews and videos are back. The series is building to an exciting climax, scheduled for May 2018. It is a project I began last year because I wanted to develop more knowledge and skills in console gaming, after 25 years of PC gaming. It consists of a star-studded line-up of 14 of the most popular and critically acclaimed games of the last several years that can be played on a PS4 or Xbox 360.
I’m playing one game each month, in order of the date in which they are set. An exciting path through history is being carved out, a path that will ultimately project into the future. During 2017 we progressed from pre-history (Ark: Survival Evolved, Far Cry: Primal), through Antiquity (God of War III), the Middle Ages (The Witcher II), the Enlightenment (Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag), the end of the 19th century (Red Dead Redemption), World War I (Battlefield 1), the 1940s (Batman: Arkham Asylum), the 1990s (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), and finally arrived in 2006 on the first of October with Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide.
As the game for October, DI represented Month 10 in the series. I finally managed to get some play time over Xmas and during January and loved every minute. Here’s my review.
Dead Island & Dead Island: Riptide. DeepSilver (20011/13), Xbox 360. A first-person, open-world survival horror game set in the islands of Papua New Guinea in the early 2000s. I played in single player mode on the Xbox 360.
Plot and setting: Your character, chosen from a menu of four or five, attempts to escape a zombie-infested archipelago along with a handful of friends. Hours of gory action ensue as you hack, slash, punch, kick and shoot a variety of hungry, grey-skinned zombies that have overtaken a luxury hotel, a large beach resort, a couple of towns, some swamps and a ship.
General Remarks: On release in 2011, Dead Island was successful and critically acclaimed. It won Game of the Year, earned an IGN score of 8/10 and sold 5m copies. Dead Island: Riptide (2013) is a stand-alone expansion that adds some new locations, quests and characters, boat travel, new ways to level up, a slightly improved interface and continues the story of the original game. I played both games, latterly and mainly Riptide, in single player mode on the Xbox 360, which proved to be pretty free from glitches.
Harry and I played together and completed Riptide in about 30 hours of gameplay. This was enough time to complete a lot of side quests as well as the main story. We were gripped and played in long sessions, passing the Xbox handset to each other when tired, so that the other one could push the action forwards.
In Riptide we played as John, a tough Australian soldier who specialises in hand-to-hand combat. John is good with brass knuckles, claws and staves, plus he kicks really hard. If you do it just right, you can punt zombies down the street or across the room, giving the game a significant element of much-needed comedy.
It was certainly among the most enjoyable games I’ve played in Year of the Console. It has aged fabulously, even taking into account graphics which are clunky by today’s standards. It’s full of nail-biting suspense – the large maps are crawling with different breeds of zombies, some of them fast, some of them well-hidden, some travelling around in hordes, yet you must go out there with whatever feeble weapons you can acquire and search for food, buildings that could be made into a secure base, engine parts for your car, etc. There are dozens of side quests to keep you busy and you will spend most of your time outdoors. For me, trying to stay alive during a horrifying zombie apocalypse is a lot nicer if you can do it in a setting of luxury beach resorts and otherwise pleasant coastal towns. A few moments were even reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, as I skipped around the rooftops in the sunshine, admiring the mountains, palm trees and glittering bays in the background.
I found it a completely immersive experience and will probably remember the consistent feeling of dread for a long time. I became deeply involved in obtaining and modifying the best weapons. I had more fun with flares, molotovs, grenades, mines and even throwing knives than in any other game I’ve ever played. There’s something very rewarding about a crowd of zombies going boom as they lurch towards you.
Thumbs up: Nearly everything, but especially the suspense and the immersion. Some of the zombies make specific noises – they roar or scream when something has caught their attention and you become very alert to these sounds and their probable direction and distance as you creep around urban, beach and jungle landscapes, trying to stay alive. It reminded me a lot of Ark: Survival Evolved which I played last January and loved for the same reasons.
Thumbs down: The story is a bit thin, the characters are cardboard cut-outs and in a perfect world I would have liked a soundtrack as good as GTA: San Andreas. None of this marred my enjoyment of the game, though, I was on the edge of my seat throughout.
Return to? I don’t know, I feel like I’ve played Riptide now and it seemed more functional and a bit slicker than the original Dead Island, so I might not bother. I absolutely would play Dead Island 2 but development has been shelved indefinitely.
One of my favourite games of the year. A memorable and compelling experience.
We have video! Here I am playing Aussie soldier John near the start of the Riptide game. John has escaped a zombie-infested ship and washed up on the beach, on a terrible island. Gasp as I try to defend myself against a group of attacking zombies by amateurishly kicking them and randomly swinging a primitive blade weapon in their general direction, making contact about 50% of the time.
Tomorrow I’ll announce Game 11 of the Year of Console Gaming. It will be Game of the Month for February. Excited.