Ryder White is not a bad man.
Despite what Dead Island would lead you to believe, Colonel White is an honorable man with good, if misguided, intentions. His wife has the virus. He finds her in a condition that no man would EVER want to find his beloved. He spends the rest of his life (literally) looking for a way to cure her. While he is guilty of some of the actions that made us angry with him before, we learn that White was not acting alone, but was instead being pushed down this path by another.
The ability to change a character from selfish to selfless is where the “Ryder White” DLC excels, skewing the entire story of Dead Island while dropping a huge cliffhanger for future games. The additions to the narrative are nothing short of superb; however, the story is the only thing that gets a boost here. Play remains exactly the same, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I would have preferred SOME new ways to interact with such an immersive world.
Ryder himself is, for lack of a better term, a brick sh*thouse. The man is more proficient with firearms and ordnance than any other character in the game (as you’d expect, he is a colonel after all). His Fury move is essentially Bullet Time with a ridiculously powerful pistol and infinite ammo. One-on-one, zombies don’t stand a chance against this man, but there are times when their numbers are just overwhelming, adding a bit of difficulty to the DLC. Not only that, but because Ryder is acting alone, there’s no one for any drop-in/drop-out co-op players to control, so that feature is out. You’ll be alone the entire time, so be ready for some really frustrating areas.
Co-op isn’t the only component missing from “Ryder White” either; some of Dead Island‘s best features have been removed. A few of the RPG elements, such as leveling up and the skill tree, are gone, and the open world of Banoi is no longer accessible. Instead, the DLC follows a linear path through the town of Moresby and the prison. Even the weapon crafting – my favorite part of Dead Island - is severely limited, as White only finds a few blueprints lying around (though I will admit, the Stun Gun blueprint is very powerful). All of these things were taken out to promote a more linear, action-oriented experience, and “Ryder White” is exactly that, but I’d prefer that the glitches that plagued the original release were removed sooner than these core components of play.
Aside from what’s been removed, playing “Ryder White” is exactly the same as playing Dead Island. You’ll control Ryder the same way, you’ll battle the undead the same way, and you’ll complete the story the same way. Nothing was added to the core functionality of the game – only taken away. Normally, this would be a type of digital crime against the player, but Dead Island didn’t play all that bad to begin with, and the story of this DLC is truly incredible, so I’m more than willing to forgive the lack of new content.
DLC is an interesting beast, as it gives developers new ways to expand on the universes they’ve created in their core content. Most DLC can be considered arbitrary, like extra costumes or *shudder* horse armor. There is an opportunity, however, for DLC to really change the way we think about a game. Some have gotten close to this, such as Mass Effect 2‘s “Arrival,” which serves as a bridge between two games in a series, or Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood‘s “Da Vinci Disappearance,” which offers a major clue to the future of the franchise that isn’t expanded upon until the end of the next game. Never before has a developer decided to rewrite the entire freakin’ narrative of its game, though. That’s exactly what “Ryder White” does.
The antagonist is no longer the antagonist. A man who is a friend at the end of Dead Island is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Most importantly, one character thought to be a beacon of hope is now, as the game puts it, “a ticking time bomb.” If this is the future of DLC, sign me up. If more DLC likes this sees release, the medium will seem much more viable and “fair” to gamers than it does now, finally arresting the, “they just do it for money; why don’t they put the content on disc?” sentiment once and for all.
The Dead Island “Ryder White” DLC completely morphs the storyline of a game from an open ending with many possible directions into one with established, undeniable narrative direction. Any lingering questions about the future of Dead Island are answered by the time “Ryder White” ends. While the game’s mechanics and design don’t get the same expansion, I’d argue that “Ryder White” has more impact on its franchise than any other piece of DLC before it. If you liked Dead Island and you’re interested to see where this story is going, play “Ryder White” right now. Just be ready to be shocked.
Review based on Xbox 360 release.