Zombies, zombies, zombies; they’re everywhere. In our games, our movies, our books; whether they’re the classic slow moving kind, the crazy sprinting kind or even those that aren’t technically zombies, though we all know they really are (you’re not fooling anyone Resi 5). It seems we can’t get enough of the brain-hungry undead, even when they’re becoming about as stale as their own decomposing bodies. As a result, it’s a surprise to see Borderlands take the zombie route and come out of the other side with a completely unique and refreshing experience with its first piece of downloadable content, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned.
Moving events away from the wasteland, Dr. Ned goes for a much spookier atmosphere on this derelict island gone wrong. It carries a Halloween vibe with many classic horror clichés, including scary giant pumpkins, enormous looming trees, an ominous full moon and a creepy uphill graveyard complete with an eerie abandoned mansion at the peak. It’s completely different to anything else in Borderlands, and the six vast new environments are fantastic fun to explore with some great level design and plenty of looting opportunities. The only disappointment is that Dead Haven is essentially Old Haven re-skinned with some added zombies. When there are only a few new environments to explore it’s a shame that one of them has already been used in the main game.
Nonetheless, shooting the hordes of zombies never fails to get tiresome. For the most part you’ll be facing off against some regular slow moving zombies. They’re fairly easy to mow down but if you let them get close enough they can cause some serious damage, especially if their numbers begin to surround you. They’ll often spawn behind you creating problems, and the special Defiler’s will spew toxic liquid that will damage and slow you down. The zombies are different to any other enemy in Borderlands so taking them down is fairly unique, and there’s no doubting the joy to be had popping their heads off and collecting the brains afterwards. Though, of course, they’re not the only enemies you’ll come up against, with giant Wereskags, Tankenstein’s and many more adding an extra degree of challenge and brilliant enemy design to the Borderlands package.
And your reasons for eradicating them tie into the plethora of new story quests and side quests available. Much like the beginning of the main game, Marcus Kincaid opens things up with an introductory cinematic, explaining that a zombie outbreak has broken out and a Dr. Ned (not Dr. Zed) is trying to find a cure. Dr. Ned is the only human character you’ll interact with and his writing stands up with the top quality of the rest of the game. Once again there’s a very prominent sense of humour throughout with various references to pop culture. As you can imagine, it’s a lot of fun contained within this horror setting, and while I won’t give too much of it away you can probably expect a Skaggy Doo to pop up at one time or another.
The main quest is enjoyable, moving between all six locations and culminating in an explosive and hilarious end boss fight. The majority of side quests are equally fun, especially when dealing with audio logs and the predicaments some of the islands residents found themselves in when the outbreak first started. All in all, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned should take around four or five hours to complete if you do everything, and there a few new boss specific weapons to collect as well. You can begin it once you reach level 10 and the enemies will continue to scale to your level, though those coming in at level 50 may find it a little redundant since none of the new experience will be going towards anything (unless, of course, you pick up the recently released Secret Armory of General Knoxx and its level cap raise).
The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is a fantastic way to kick start the Boderlands’ DLC. The new setting and enemies offer a refreshing change of pace, and the comedic writing, characters and pop culture references are as good as ever. It might not look appealing to those already on level 50, but if your trigger finger is itchy then there aren’t many better ways to spend five hours.