Most of you will be familiar with the story by now. Almost a year ago Polish developer Techland stunned the gaming masses with a splendiferous debut trailer for Dead Island. The three-minute short promised a survival horror experience like no other with an, emotional narrative core.
Despite an ample dose of optimism, when the final product launched in September it left a lot to be desired, especially where story-telling was concerned. A lifeless cast of lead characters did very little to alleviate the turgid, convoluted plot which only became relevant (and intriguing) in the opening and closing scenes of the game.[drop2]In short, the recently-released Ryder White DLC is a partial remedy to Dead Island’s lack of narrative substance. Players who download the expansion will be able to re-live a condensed version of the game’s events from the perspective of its main antagonist, Colonel Ryder White. Next to the slew of pre-release weapon mods and the belated Bloodbath Arena DLC, the Ryder White campaign is a welcome break from the main game and accessible enough for those returning to the blood-soaked beaches of Banoi.
As Ryder White, you and a team of operatives are dispatched to the inland city of Moresby to tackle a bio-weapon threat. However, things go south quickly when your chopper is brought down. Eventually you regain consciousness, only to find that the lethal virus has already spread. If battling against freshly re-animated cadavers of Banoi’s populace wasn’t bad enough, you also find that Moresby’s Raskol Gangs have gone militant and are trying to claim the city as their own.
The campaign does a good job of outlining Ryder’s character and his motivations (though it may feel a little forced at times), even introducing an element of romance and agony. However, aside from this emotive dynamic the campaign does little to expand on the events of the main game, even though it parallels the original script well.
Instead of being worked into the mass of stock content Dead Island has to offer, the expansion requires the creation of a new game save; none of the accumulated experience points, skills, weapon mods or loot are carried over. In a way the design choice makes sense; with the Ryder White campaign Techland was obviously trying to achieve a much more linear, action-orientated experience. Including a number of progressive gameplay elements associated with Dead Island’s RPG and open-world mechanics would bring in an unwanted sense of tedium and character management.
Though you will have access to number of melee weapons throughout the 4-5 hour expansion, firearms will become increasingly abundant, and near enough mandatory when facing a sprinting horde of the infected. As in the main game, workbenches are scattered throughout the campaign’s two primary locations allowing players to repair and upgrade weapons, as well as allowing you to go so far as to create new weapons.
Being a much more linear experience, the depth and quantity of salvage materials have been tuned to enable a constant yet narrow flow of custom weaponry. Mods such as the “Shocking Crowbar” and “Exploding Knife” are featured alongside two new schematics, the “Shockingly Blunt” morning-star mod and the “Taser.” The latter can be made from just a LP400 Battery and allows you to temporarily stun enemy targets, although it’s ultimately useless.
- Watching the events of Dead Island unfold from an alternate angle is satisfying.
- Linear design makes the DLC suitable for both new and returning players.
- No side-questing/open world to dilute the action.
- Fair in size, easily clocking in at four to five hours.
- Offers very little replay incentive.
- Voice acting is still patchy throughout.
- Not compatible with previous save data.
- No new trophies/achievements.
At £7.99 the Ryder White DLC will prove a hard sell for those who haven’t already booked a timeshare in Banoi. Despite being fairly meaty in size the expansion lacks any sort of meta-game reward or replayability, not to mention the awkward integration and occasional issue with pacing.
As much as Techland should be praised for taking a creative risk, the result is something that ultimately feels undecided, torn between a straight-up, set-piece laden FPS and an all-encompassing free-roaming RPG. Both have their appeal, but the current Dead Island framework simply isn’t diverse enough to reconcile the two genres, especially not in a well-rounded yet flawed post-launch expansion.