Zombie stories never have happy endings. So when the heroes of 2011’s Dead Island made it out alive, you knew there had to be a catch.
As Dead Island Riptide (Deep Silver, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $49.99; PC, $39.99) begins, the zombie virus has infected the ship that rescued the survivors — and they soon wash up on another undead-infested tropical paradise, called Palanai.
So Rapper Sam B, hotel clerk Xian, ex-cop Purna and jock Logan, along with a newbie, a Navy cook named John, sharpen their machetes and get back to work. You can play as any of the four, and you can team up with friends online.
The core zombies, called Walkers, are easy to kill mano-a-mano but can take you down quickly if they gang up on you. Other creatures can strike from a distance, throwing explosives or vomiting acid. The Suiciders, who explode if you get too close, are the deadliest until you scrounge up some firearms. The most troublesome new monster is the Screamer, whose wails render you briefly powerless.
Your weapons start off simple — say, a baseball bat or a kitchen knife — but you’ll discover more effective tools, from machetes to machine guns. Riptide also carries over the original game’s clever weapon-crafting system.
This is not a moody character drama like Telltale’s The Walking Dead. It’s all about the thrill of lopping undead heads off. The unapologetic gore and squishy sound effects are amusing for a while, but start to get old.
Riptide is essentially the same game as its two-year-old parent. There are a few new additions, but almost every mission is the same. A handful of sieges, in which all the characters defend a base from undead swarms, break up the monotony, but too often I was asking, “This again?”
Deep Silver is justifying the repetition by pitching Riptide as an expansion of the Dead Island world rather than a true sequel; perhaps its creator, the Polish studio Techland, has some genuine innovations up its sleeve for Dead Island 2. But Riptide is beset by glitches including graphical hiccups, goofy artificial intelligence, inconsistent maps and disappearing inventory items.
Despite such sloppiness — as well as plotting that’s ridiculous even by zombie-story standards — Riptide is amusing in spurts, especially if you can gather an online posse to deal with the hungry hordes.