A Fun Romp in An Alternate Zombie Borderlands
The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was the first DLC expansion released for Gearbox Software’s hit 2009 FPS-RPG Borderlands. In this first expansion for the game you’ll be dumped onto a mysterious island that has become over-run with mortally impaired, and where the scientist Dr. Ned (who looks suspiciously like Dr. Zed from the main game) needs your help to find a cure for the zombie plague.
The most immediately striking thing about The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is the spooky new environment in which it takes place. The DLC will guide you through murky swamps, eerie graveyards and an out-of-control laboratory before it’s done, all the while accompanying your adventure with fittingly cliché organ music. You’ll also be attacked by zombie hordes who match the standard undead archetype in just the way you’d want them too. The environments, enemies, and music help set a refreshing and likeable tone throughout your time on the island.
For me the best thing about ‘Zombie Island’ was the combat; the zombies are slow to advance but they’ll come in large numbers, from all directions and when allowed to get the drop on you they’ll do some serious damage. This not only changes up the combat in a way that presents you with something new but it’s just plain fun to experience. Constantly popping off zombie noggins makes you feel powerful but the constant threat of actually being taken down by them keeps you vigilant and on your toes. There were occasions where I felt like battles in one area went on for a bit too long but this issue isn’t big enough to really put a dent in the sense of satisfaction that the combat otherwise provides.
The narrative style of Zombie Island lines up pretty much exactly with what the base game offered, how much you enjoyed the characters and dialogue of Borderlands will be a good gauge of how much you’re going to enjoy the story-related content of Zombie Island. Personally I found most of the humour to be a bit of a miss, although I did smile at a few of the jokes cracked during my time with the expansion, and I generally enjoyed the light-hearted tone that the game once again took in regard to itself. There are a couple of minor twists in the story of Zombie Island but neither of them is that surprising or entertaining.
If I had to give one complaint about the DLC it would be to do with the ‘Zombie Brain’ items that drop from the enemies, and the quests that involve them. This one item and these handful of quests don’t sound like they could cause any significant problems but somehow they manage too. Every time you kill a zombie with a headshot one of these squishy little prizes will drop out for you to pick up. The instinct is to collect these items but I’ll tell you now until you have started the right quest they’re essentially deleted when you pick them up and just make it harder to sort through loot that drops from enemies, especially when loot gets dropped into the cloudy swamp water and you can’t tell what’s what without walking up to it. The quests involving these brains are fortunately optional, but none the less tedious; each quest simply involves going out, collecting a certain number of brains and bringing them back to the quest giver, and should you follow through with all these missions you will end up collecting 435 brains in total, that’s a lot of headshots. While it’s not necessary for players to finish these quests to complete the DLC it’s disappointing to know that the majority of the potential play time wrapped up in Zombie Island involves this mind-numbing grind of enemies.
Overall, while the gameplay and narrative of Zombie Island leave at least something to be desired this is an expansion to the game which introduces a fun new combat experience and a joyous exploration of what the world of Borderlands feels like wrapped in a zombie nightmare. I can’t help but recommend it to all the fans of Borderlands out there.