Zombies ate my Jacobs
Zombie Island of Dr Ned (who is totally not Dr Zed from the last story) is the first DLC pack for Borderlands. The pack sends you to the dreary swamps and forests of Jacob's Cove, which have been overrun by the living impaired. The storyline behind all the zombie-slaying is as corny as the classic horror cinema it parodies. This works in the pack's favour, however, as Borderland's offbeat sense of humour translates well to the cheesy premise of a mad doctor starting a zombie outbreak. The humour is hands-down the pack's biggest asset, and all the horror-themed pop culture references found on the Island mesh well with the ridiculousness of the thin narrative.
But we're all really here to slay some zombies, right? Or at the very least, for the loot. On the first hand, Zombie Island of Dr Ned is fairly solid. There are instances of some recycled enemy designs, such as skeleton rakks, but for the most part the monsters in the DLC are original, or at least have added attacks attributed to their undead forms. There is a decent variety, from your standard shambling zombie, to the goop-spewing Defilers that cause you to become dazed with their sticky puke, to the fast and agile wereskags that can heal themselves if you don't take them out quickly. The mission structure is much like in the main game, where you have a main quest line and a bounty board that recieves more missions as you progress, as well as a couple of quests hidden in the wilderness of Jacob's Cove. The game will scale the monster levels to around your level, so the combat can be enjoyed by character's of any level from 10-50, and on both playthroughs. This is a good thing, as Jacob's Cove is a nice change of scenery from the wastelands of Pandora if you're leveling a new character, and seems to be what the pack was designed for, as the DLC offers very little to max level characters in the form of loot.
On that point, Zombie Island of Dr Ned sort of falls over in a heap. As far as loot goes, you won't really find anything more or less than you would in any of the later zones in the main game. For those of you hoping for a lot of unique horror-themed weapons, like, I don't know, a rocket launcher that shoots pumpkin heads, then you won't find it here. The bosses and named creatures seem to have a high tendency to drop elemental artifacts, although because the loot is randomized there is every chance that those bosses can drop some measly amount of cash and white items for your efforts as well. This is one part where the DLC fails to deliver, and is a real disappointment.
The area of Jacobs Cove is fairly large, with a healthy amount of zones of varying size. One zone, Dead Haven, is merely a reskinned Old Haven infested with zombies, but the other areas are new and have their own character. While the areas can be fairly large, there isn't a whole lot to do in them. Aside from the main mission, there are only a handful of side missions, a little less than I would have expected from an area so large, so much of the time is spent taking a long walk to the quest marker. Thankfully, between you and the quest marker are hordes of zombies to shoot in the face, but even so it only helps a little with the zones' general emptiness. The main quest will only take a couple of hours to finish, and the sidequests will add on a couple more. While the size of the area of the package is great for DLC standards, I can't help but think about how much better it would be if there was a little bit more stuff to actually do in it.
The first (of which I assume will be many) DLC pack for Borderlands is sort of a bittersweet little package. On one hand, it offers the same sort of offbeat humour that Borderlands is known for, with a bunch of cool little references to various other horror-themed pop culture. The action is as solid as the main game, and Jacob's Cove is a nice change of scenery. On the other, it doesn't really offer too much gameplay-wise for someone who as already played Borderlands to death with their max-level character. At it's core, it is simply more Borderlands, albeit in a different theme, and that probably won't be a problem for most Borderlands fans. The lack of any real unique reward for max level characters really does leave a bad taste, though, so if you're the kind who's only in it for the phat loot, it is definitely something to consider when making your purchase.