Giant Bomb Review19 Comments
by Jeff Gerstmann on
It won't offer any additional opportunities to build your character, but if you're looking for new places to visit on Pandora, Zombie Island is a fun new twist for Borderlands.
Though zombies are dangerously close to becoming "the new World War II" when it comes to saturated game concepts, there's something sort of refreshing about the way The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned fits into Gearbox's shoot-n-loot, Borderlands. That's probably because the zombie-related content doesn't completely overrun the game. Rather, it feels like some sort of crazy "what if" scenario that takes a world you've already experienced and spins it in a new way. It's not very long, and it doesn't increase the level cap or offer new items, but Zombie Island is a good new environment with some decent quests and a final boss fight that's actually a little tougher than the one you'll see in the main story.
The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is presented as if Marcus Kincaid--the guy who runs the weapons vending machines--is telling a bedtime story to a child. The story he's telling makes it sound like Zombie Island is set after the events of Borderlands, but you can actually fast travel to the island at any time with any character that's level 10 or higher. To account for that 40-level range of characters with access to the island, the enemies there scale to fit your level every time you visit, ensuring that dealing with the zombie menace won't feel like a complete afterthought. Also, players who haven't yet hit level 50 will get the extra added bonus of actually gaining meaningful experience while on the island. Though I enjoyed taking my level 50 soldier through the island's quests, it still felt a little hollow, since I wasn't really building onto my character in meaningful ways. Don't expect a rush of new zombie-themed items, either. Though I did manage to find a couple of shields that were better than the one I came in with, the loot is the same sort of stuff you'll find in the main game. That said, seeing a rocket launcher pop out of a zombified torso is pretty funny.
That's actually where Zombie Island puts in the most work: on laughs. The only non-monster (though that's debatable) you'll see on Zombie Island is Dr. Ned himself. Dr. Ned is the Dr. Zed model from the Fyrestone section of the main game, but with a big, fake-looking mustache. Over his surgical mask. He's quick to point out on several occasions that he is most certainly not the same character as Dr. Zed. And you'll also find some funny little bits in the quest text, like one spot where Ned realizes that maybe he should have been a villain instead of just an NPC.
Most of the landscape in Zombie Island is fresh and doesn't look like anything you've seen in the main game. The main area is full of dead trees and has a huge moon that's often used as a backdrop for buildings. It gives the whole thing a spooky, haunted house kind of vibe while still coming across as lighthearted. These zombies are coming to eat your brains, sure, but when you shoot them in the head, their brains pop out, letting you collect them for a rather annoying series of quests. Of course, there's an exception to all this. One of the zones, Dead Haven, is just a reskinned version of the Old Haven zone from the main game, with a few walls thrown up to force you to take a different path through the zone. It's unfortunate to see content get reused like this in a pack that isn't all that long to begin with, but the dire-looking sky and alternate path through the area manages to change things up just enough to feel acceptable.
Of course, the whole time you're moving through these areas, you'll be attacked by various zombies. The zombies typically move really slowly, but if they get up close, they dish out some serious damage. Also, if you go down while surrounded by zombies, further hits actually make your bleed out timer drain more quickly. This makes a mass of zombies a bit tougher to deal with than a mass of, say, spider ants. Also, zombies frequently spawn behind you, so you'll be surrounded a lot. In addition to the regular zombies, there are also defilers, which puke onto you when they close in, slowing your movement. You'll also occasionally see some lance zombies, which can throw down a turret. The most evil non-boss zombie is probably the suicide zombie, which first tries to throw an exploding barrel at you, then rushes you, exploding upon death. Overall, the combat feels a bit different than anything you've fought in other parts of Borderlands, but it's nothing that a little situational awareness and a lot of circle-strafing can't handle.
The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is a solid addition for anyone who wants more Borderlands, but the lack of additional items or further opportunities for character building feel like a missed opportunity that could have given this content a lasting effect. Without any of that, you're really just paying $10 to tack an additional few hours of content onto an already-long game. As someone who played the heck out of Borderlands and desperately wants more, that's totally fine with me. But if you've already moved on and want something with a little more substance, this might not be the DLC for you.