Borderlands 'Zombie Island' DLC Review: More Treat Than Trick

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While everyone is starting to pull out the Christmas decorations and hang up the lights, developer Gearbox has just doled out a Halloween-themed expansion for the console editions of Borderlands. And though the timing is a bit odd, I certainly don't mind.

Quite simply, if you enjoyed Borderlands before, you should probably check out "The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned." The $10 download brings new areas, enemies and missions to the shooter-RPG, providing a fresh excuse to grind more hours away.

It also delivers a new story, unsurprisingly centered around zombies and littered with references to everything from Pumpkinhead to Scooby Doo. And the new dialog, be it the warnings against zombie contact that loop over the town's announcement system or Claptrap's various quips, are easily the game's most entertaining offerings.

Of course, if you didn't enjoy Borderlands or were hoping for something radically different here, then you're bound to be disappointed. The structure and mechanics remain mostly unchanged--travel to the waypoint and kill anything on the way.

Though some of the enemies look familiar, what with being zombified versions of the raiders and midgets fought countless times by this point, they behave differently and more, well, like zombies. Gone are their firearms--the island only has a handful of encounters that put you on the receiving end of a bullet--replaced by a desire to get up close and personal in an attempt to bash your brains out with their bare hands.

Other new enemies include were-skags and hulking Frankenstein-esque beasts, both of which require a bit of strategy to bring down. The regular were-skags don't pose much of a threat until low on health, at which point they can go into a rage mode to gain more health and power, so once their health gets low, take them down quick.

As for the Frankensteins, don't use any weapon or abilities with an electric effect around them, as that will recharge all of their health. It's a lesson quickly learned.

But for all the good...
Most of my qualms with "Zombie Island" aren't about what was changed, but rather, what wasn't. Larger enemies and bosses are still prone to AI quirks that can leave them trapped on edges or corners, and the game's level cap remains unchanged.

In other words, if you've already battled your way up to Level 50 in the regular game, your character still can't progress any further. You can still play through the missions and hope that you'll come across some better weapons and items, but it's a bummer you can't take advantage of the experience points you're earning.

On the plus side, you only need to be Level 10 to access the island (the enemies scale to your level), so it's accessible pretty early in the game if you're starting again.

Another nitpick involves the lack of fast travel stations. Despite all the new areas, there's only the one station at the town's entrance, so you'll be doing a fair amount of backtracking to get from major area to major area, especially since that station is where you'll appear after loading a saved game.

Finally, though zombie headshots are rewarded with exploding heads and collectible brains, it's silly that when an optional mission to collect said brains finally comes along, any past collecting is ignored and you're forced to start from square one.

Braaaaaaaaaaaaaains!
Fortunately, the annoyances are just that. "The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned" is a solid expansion to an already addictive game, and represents a wonderful excuse to spend even more time on Pandora--in my case, about five hours playing solo.

Priced at $10, "The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned" downloadable add-on for Borderlands is now available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Both the "Zombie Island" DLC and a new patch are in the works for PC, but no word as to when they'll be available.

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