Been back from the North for a couple of days, but Borderlands has been pre-occupying me for the last couple of evenings. I’ve already completed the main campaign once, and on my second playthrough I’ve knocked a couple more achievements on the head, levelling my soldier up to 50 and getting a full set of backpack spaces from the claptraps.

Just at the point where I was playing the game without the pressure of points-grinding, the first DLC came along: The Zombie Island of Doctor Ned.

As the title says, this is Borderlands entering the not-exactly-deserted zombie shooter genre. There’s the ‘Thriller’ video aesthetic and the shambling masses of undead, but there’s also less cosmetic borrows from the sub-genre, especially Left4Dead – there are a couple of ‘hit a switch and fight off the horde pinch points’, and ‘special infected’ type creatures who vomit and so forth.

I’m kind of hoping that this goes beyond bandwagon jumping, and that future DLC will pastiche other genre tropes – what would a Borderlands version of Modern Warfare look like, for instance? Or a World War II pastiche, or a heavily vehicle based Grand Theft Auto parody?

And parody is what this is – infamously, the cel shading and cartoony humour of Borderlands came along quite late in production, and that shows in the finished product, with the wackiness dropping away after the opening sections and only intermittently reappearing, with the game’s roots as a more pious generic SF narrative showing, especially with that preachy voice-in-the-head girl wittering on.

Doctor Ned, however, has clearly been developed from day one with that vein of humour in mind: the missions are shot through with jokes and in-jokes, and the whole story is based on the premise of Doctor Zed from the main game wearing a false moustache and pretending to be his own twin brother. There’s also some fun with claptraps, the most distinctive element of the Borderlands world.

The Zombie Island of Doctor Ned is a fun add-on for Borderlands addicts, which adds a good-value new area to the game, and has the odd innovation to throw in. The zombies, which appear in greater numbers than most baddies in the main game, make a change from the usual enemies, and the horde attacks provide a frantic alternative to the attrition of the usual Borderlands boss-battles – rather than dodging and circle-strafing, you need to spin and fire off rounds at multiple opponents to hold back/thin out the crowds before they overpower you.

Although DLC like this does require an additional payout, these doses of additional content do freshen up the whole, as you can head off to the Island at any point over level 10, and as such it will provide a neat break in the narrative on any future playthroughs. I’m looking forward to future additions, and with my soldier now insanely over-powered (that turret can chew through most things easily, although it still can’t win me the final round in the West Commons Colosseum) I’m tempted to shift my attention to my level 18 Hunter.

Of course, I could probably do with playing some other games as well. But if Gearbox keep turning out content of this quality, I’ll likely be paying Pandora the occasional revisit for quite a while yet.



November 26, 2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

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