Dead Island: Riptide probably should have been downloadable content. Even at its attractive price point ($50 on consoles, $40 on PC), there's not much evolution from the original Dead Island's debut in 2011. After a less than engaging opening scene, you're washed onto the shore of yet another tropical island.
From there, it's like you're playing a bizarro carbon-copy of the first Dead Island game, replete with the same gory action that addicted gamers two years ago -- but also with the same forehead-slapping bugs and inconsistencies.
It's not unreasonable to expect somewhat of an uptick from where things ended in Dead Island, but fans of the original might be disappointed to learn that there's not much that stands out as "new and improved." In fact, it's tough to really come up with even a short list of new features, save for a new playable character. That said, with less than two years in between games, it's not necessarily a shocking revelation that Riptide hasn't marched forward.
Most sequels drive the core game further along, all while keeping intact the things that made the original great. But with Dead Island: Riptide, the stagnant set of characters, similar environments, and unimaginative and repetitive quests hold everything back.
I did love the fact that I could import my character from the original, so I started Dead Island: Riptide at a level 38. The game also scales enemies accordingly, so you don't just mow your way through the first half of the game.
Slicing and dicing zombies is still undeniably satisfying, but the ways you'll do so have gotten stale. Outside of some of the crafted specialty weapons, there isn't a whole lot of in the way of innovation here. You use a weapon a lot, it breaks, you repair it.
Visually speaking, the Xbox 360 version of Dead Island: Riptide is rough around the edges. There's an awful amount of screen tearing throughout and frame rates can take a huge hit when there's a lot of action onscreen. Things improve a lot on a capable PC, and the game performed gorgeously on our Digital Storm x17E.
CNET verdict: Dead Island diehards only
It's tough to recommend Dead Island: Riptide to gamers who fell in love with the first title. For those who just want more of the same, Riptide will likely fill that void. But for those who expect the franchise to evolve -- even on the simplest of levels -- Riptide is an unfortunate case of a sophomore let-down.