Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned Review (Xbox 360)

Posted by Jim Cook, Dec 01, 2009 06:23

I’m getting quite tired of zombies at this point, so I was expecting the worst when it turned out the first expansion pack to Borderlands was going to be centered on the undead. Thankfully my fears were misplaced, since a mix of good enemy design, humor, and a reasonable number of quests make this worth your $10.

The vast majority of this add-on’s content can be found on its titular island, accessible as soon as you can use Fast Travel stations in the main game. Using a survival horror motif, this area looks very different from the Borderlands norm; dark swamps and abandoned towns are used to great effect here. While you’ll obviously be fighting zombies as you explore the island, they come in several varieties and are sometimes joined by a few other enemies to give you a reasonably creative experience.

Rather than adding any new skills or weapons, this add-on is content with just giving you a new area to explore and several quests to play through, easily enough for about four to five hours of play unless you intentionally rush through it at top speed. The quests and enemies try to scale their difficulty to your level, but this seems to only go so far since my first run through it as a Level 24 Brick was extremely easy. It seems to get reasonably difficult if you bring in some other players though, so that may be the best way to go rather than solo play.

The enemy variety is pretty good, and even the simple zombies aren’t what you would expect. Some of them just shamble in for close combat, but others will spew puke to slow you down for their brethren to get to you. Others still may fling explosive barrels at you, and zombie versions of old favorites (such as the midget psychos) are also present. Interestingly, it’s not just zombies; you’ll also fight various aerial enemies, and a few bosses during certain quests. These combinations work to keep things interesting, and it was only toward the end that I got tired of certain monsters and just run past them. Conversely, some quests were laid out so that they had very enjoyable ’zombie rush’ segments where you had to survive for a certain amount of time against an endless wave of attackers, and these were easily the high-point of this expansion.

New quests and monsters are the main draw here, along with some new achievements for those who care about such things. While no new guns or skills appear, it should be noted that the monsters on this island have a tendency to either drop items well below your level, or significantly above; the latter sell for a lot of cash, meaning characters arriving here earlier in their careers will most likely reap some major benefits for doing so. Of course random luck may result in you getting little of note, but fairly impressive item drops were the norm throughout my time on the island and I don’t seem to be alone in experiencing that.

It should be noted that this expansion pack has a few problems. The most significant is that the frame rate tends to massively drop in one specific situation: Fighting aerial enemies near the beach. I have had the game become borderline unplayable in this case more than a few times, and had to dash out of the area to solve it. Next, some obvious re-use of content occurs. Some of it is done for comedic effect, but other times it’s obvious they were recycling maps and enemy models to cut corners. A few areas are also confusing in their layout, with the map only helping so much in figuring out where you need to go. And finally, the fight right before the final boss expects that you will end it at a certain angle and facing a certain way; if you don’t, you will miss the sole clue on how to proceed (you have to make a blind drop into what appears to be a fatal pit-fall, but is in fact the way to the final boss).

Those problems are offset by what this pack does right. It offers a good four to five hours of more Borderlands ’shoot, quest and loot’ play, has some genuinely funny moments, and presents its themes very well. That said, if you’re already tired of Borderlands then this won’t change your mind; you’re paying $10 to get what amounts to a new area to play the same sort of game in. I was perfectly fine with that and feel my money was well spent, so if you’re in the mood for more Borderlands you should pick this up.

For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned Review (Xbox 360)
6.5 Replay
The quests and monsters do try to scale with the player on repeat visits, but don’t always get it right.
8.5 Graphics
The ’dark swamp’ motif mixed with abandoned towns and work sites do a great job of conveying the survival horror concept.
8.5 Sound
While many sounds are obviously and unavoidably taken from the main game, others are quite atmospheric and much of the voice acting is hilarious.
8.0 Gameplay
Essentially more of the Borderlands norm, but with new monsters and a new area to explore it remains fun for a while.
9.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
The new area works pretty much like any other as far as Borderlands multiplayer goes, but the layout and increased monster toughness makes this area in particular a very interesting one to play with friends.
8.0 Overall
Despite its minor problems, this is a pretty good addition to Borderlands and fans should enjoy it.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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