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Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned
Score: 95%
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: First Person Shooter/RPG/Online


Introduction:

How do you make one of the year's best games even better? Add zombies, of course! Such is the premise of the first pack of downloadable content for Gearbox's wildly successful shoot-and-loot game. It's only been a month and a half since the release of Borderlands, and the first expansion is already ready for Vault Hunters to dig into. Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned offers everything you could ever want out of a Borderlands downloadable content package: it's hysterically funny, violent as hell, and very easy on the eyes. If Gearbox consistently releases downloadable content of this quality, it won't be long before it becomes the new king of DLC.

When the game notices that you've downloaded the expansion, you will be instructed to head to the nearest outpost and warp to an area called Jakobs Cove. Of course, Jakobs is the name of one of several weapons manufacturers on Pandora, so there's got to be something in it for you as a Vault Hunter.

The second you arrive at Jakobs Cove, it becomes clear that something has gone terribly wrong. Enter Dr. Ned, who is absolutely not to be confused with the original game's Dr. Zed (the game all but gives you a ::wink wink::). Dr. Ned admits that this contained zombie apocalypse is all his fault, and enlists your help. Borderlands is a hilarious game, but unfortunately it doesn't rely on its excellent sense of humor the whole way through. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is a step in the right direction when it comes to writing and mood.


Presentation:

If you don't like the stylish art direction of Borderlands, this expansion won't change your mind. However, one thing I really appreciate about Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is how it successfully makes the transition from garbage-ridden wasteland to foul, earthy bog. It's a noticable difference from the original release. In Borderlands, you got used to seeing dusty plains and trash... pretty much everywhere. Here, you'll see a spooky mansion (the cleverly-named Generally Hospital) and jack-o-lanterns. Jakobs Cove is a much more organic environment than pretty much everywhere else on Pandora, and you'll probably be struck by the fact that the only green things you've encountered playing Borderlands were piles of skag vomit.

Why create new enemies when you can zombify the ones you've already got? The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is only half guilty of this. Not only are there Zombie Psychos and Zombie Midgets, but there are new enemies as well, such as Tankensteins, Wereskags, and my personal favorite, the Suicide Zombie. These guys carry explosive barrels above their heads, but if they lose them, they can still carry out their self-destructive mission. All they have to do is pull their left arm off (like you would the pin of a hand grenade) and BOOM! Oh, and I forgot to mention: shooting a zombie in the head will Insta-Kill him and allow you the opportunity to collect the rotten brains that fall as loot. Need I say more?

The context of this new adventure doesn't call for too many changes in sound design. Rather, it simply calls for more exceptional voice acting and awesomely disgusting squelchy sounds. My personal favorite has to be the intercom system for the Jakobs Corporation, which absolutely steals the show. I won't spoil any of it. Just believe me when I say that you will laugh.


Gameplay:

Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned follows the template set by Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It gives you a huge new area to explore and a slew of new quests to dig into. This is really how DLC should be handled. There is a main questline, and as the title implies, it follows the predicament of Dr. Ned and the titular island of the undead.

The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned follows the same great Borderlands style of gameplay: pick up quests, kill random bad guys, take their stuff, complete objectives, collect loot and random stuff, turn in quests, repeat. It's Diablo-esque goodness at the pace of your average twitch shooter. Gearbox knows what Borderlands does right: humor, gunplay, and loot. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned doesn't tamper with any of this, but it puts extra emphasis on the humor while keeping what makes the original formula so great.


Value:

Ten dollars. That's how much money it costs to enjoy Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. Since several of this year's holiday releases were scared into the Spring 2010 quarter by Modern Warfare 2, it's nice to know that Gearbox has its fanbase covered. It's even nicer to know that they are offering us fresh content at such an affordable price. I guess what I'm trying to say is this: for 800 Microsoft Points, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is a steal, and penny-pinching fans of Borderlands have no excuse to miss out on it.

Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned serves as extra proof that the team at Gearbox Software is truly having a blast with this wonderful new IP, and they really want you to have a blast with it, as well. It's a fantastic start to what could be a very successful cycle of DLC. If you're a fan of Borderlands, you should already have The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned on your hard drive.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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