Giant Bomb Review


Borderlands Review

  • PS3
  • X360

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.

The island has the atmosphere of an amusement park ride. Spooky, but in a kind of fun way.
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.

You're going to want to shoot that guy in the head. Or burn him. Preferably both. 
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.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
Posted by Luke

This is basically $10 for 5 more hours of fun and 5 more Achievements, which is worth more than your standard movie ticket. 

Posted by Xeiphyer

The end boss fight was great!! Plus the first achiement made me go "What the fuck?!" but then you realize quickly your going to be all right.

Posted by pctx

Fair assessment of the game DLC.  I've got a lvl 50 hunter of which I realized that I want to go back and play this as a lower level character.  I think the thing that would benefit this add-on later is the inclusion of exclusive loot (read that as "fire weapons") within the zones.  At this point, who knows, Gearbox might do it, might not.  It's apparent now though that they need to address the level cap and end game design.
Great add-on though and if you haven't beaten the game... hell, even if you've played through 10x, this is worth the $10 bucks for the fun. :)

Posted by OneKillWonder_

Spot on review. I'm playing through it with my level 50 solider on playthrough 2.5, and it's really fun so far, and actually pretty challenging in parts. I'm about 3 hours in and maybe half-way done at this point, so it seems like a fair price to pay for this additional content. And yeah, there is definitely a lot of humor in this. I've laughed more so far in this DLC than I did in the entire main game. I'm not too concerned about the level cap raise right now, but I would have liked to see some new weapons or something. I know Gearbox is aware of both of these things, so hopefully they have something addressing those issues planned for the next DLC.

Posted by Kohe321

Great review Jeff. I still need to get borderlands.

Posted by Yummylee

Looks to be really good despite its lack of new content concerning the loot. The humor like Jeff mentioned, looks to be the highlight of the package.
Posted by cstrang

The humor is certainly there but, without more items or an increased level cap or something, I don't think I can justify the $10 price tag.  I mean, I played through the DLC in its entirety last night, in one sitting, and I just didn't like it enough.  I may be finished with Borderlands.

Posted by Bubahula

sounds pretty rad. i might have to pick it up while waiting for christmas

Posted by bluemantra

A little tip: Start the braaaaaaaains mission first so you can do the other quests while you're collecting the brains and that way it doesn't feel like you're grinding the whole time. I am enjoying myself very much with the DLC

Posted by MajorToms

This is a pretty accurate review, however, I would note that there is another series of artifacts for your character development. 
if nothing else, this is a great add-on for your playthrough with a new character; you'll get experience when you run through the areas, you'll get a change up in the enemies you're fighting, and lastly, it's got some great dialog and interesting characters, especially the couple of Claptraps.
Well worth the $10 in my opinion. Being in end-game detracts from this DLC slightly, but any character in progress would benefit from it.
The only issue in continuity is the opening sequence saying something along the lines of "after our heroes finished the playthrough", but really, who is still looking for continuity from Borderlands?

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

Saw Borderlands for $40 last night. Gonna scoop that up.  Looks like the new DLC kills any S-ranks people might have with it.

Posted by Jayzilla

I would be all about this if it offered new weapons, a trading system for on-line, OR a new character class, and I am all in. This is just more of the same, which isn't bad, but it's the same old, same old. It's like getting a cloth map in a Collector's Edition of an RPG. Been there, done that.

Posted by NumbThumb

Seems a fair DLC package, which is nice to see. The game was fun, but the lack of variety in locations really hurt it - so this support will help the longevity of the game.

Posted by Myrmidon

I can't believe no one has mentioned the fact that they don't even have a date for PC DLC yet. It really does take the piss when a game out on multiple platforms clearly favours one - it reminds me of GTA IV. Except obviously this is actually going to be available for PC players.
This kind of thing just makes me want to pirate games instead of buying them, which I imagine is the sole reason the PC platform is treated as it is now. It's just a bad way of going about things, it punishes the paying customer far more than the people who don't pay at all. 
waaah waah, etc etc

Posted by bybeach

5 more hours, well cool. And yes,on the next dlc, more substance in terms of level cap, and in game achievements. 
But the complaint I wholly agreeed with..Keep up on the PC. that would have been my platform of choice, but i knew it would go this way. Consoles these days are good enough, but I still love the PC.
Posted by spilledmilkfactory

just got it tonight and i'm loving it so far. i was getting really tired of the same old desert environments in the main game, and my game seems to have glitched up on me so i can't actually progress into the alien vault, so it's good to be able to get some fresh environments and enemies.

Posted by Media_Master

good to hear the dlc scoring well

Posted by DarknessMyOldFriend

Really my only issue with this is that it's even more content for a Firefly Siren to completely dominate.

Posted by ZeroKarizma

Just beat this last night.  I think I definitely got more than 5 hours out of this.  This might be the most worthwhile DLC I've ever seen.