Undoubtedly, the biggest complaint about Dead Island was its failure to deliver the sweeping emotional experience depicted in the trailers, the tension and intrigue lost amid anticlimactic cutscene intervals, shoddy character development, and a vast but poorly mapped open world structure. The plot device surrounding the Island's outbreak (a mutated form of Kuru infecting a local cannibalistic tribe) in its cliche lent itself to easily dismissing the drama inherently present in a zombie apocalypse, effectively dispelling any cohesion of the story. While the zombie apocalypse format itself is essentially a writer's blank check -- a vehicle for senseless but justifiable violence with little need for an elaborate plot -- a sense of mystery can compel the audience to continue playing even as the hours wear on. Sadly, this dynamic was absent.
The game's last chance to convey any sort of dramatic narrative -- the notes and recordings scattered throughout the island -- was often easily overlooked, thus creating gaps in the player's understanding of the plot progression. This was not helped by the lack of meaningful interaction between the four main survivors, each cutscene merely a shallow means to carry them to the next burst of action. With little room for mystery or emotional investment, it's unsurprising that, for many, Dead Island simply failed to engage on a long-term level.
If anything, the fan reaction to the disparity between the game and its trailers illustrates how important that oft-heralded "emotional experience" truly is. If Deep Silver capitalizes on that by following through on the fans' initial expectations, it will play a key part in contributing to Dead Island Riptide's lasting impact.