Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned

Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned
Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Recommended? No
Buy from Amazon

If there’s a formula that has worked the last couple of years for video games, it is that zombies makes things more fun. Call of Duty: World at War was wildly successful with Nazi Zombie mode, and the Left 4 Dead series is one of the most popular online games played today. In the near future, Dead Rising 2 will be released and Crackdown 2 will feature zombies roaming around the city during the night. Just about the only series moving away from zombies is Resident Evil, with both 4 and 5 featuring a lack of undead we know and love.

So it probably came of little surprise when Gearbox announced the first piece of downloadable content for Borderlands would be about zombies. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned to be exact. The name itself is intriguing to veterans of the game, as Dr. Zed was a friendly NPC that helped you on your quest for the Vault, raising the question: who is Dr. Ned compared to Dr. Zed?

The answers lie within this multi-hour extra, along with many, many zombies to blow away. This DLC is available via download or by buying the Double Game Add-on Pack disc which contains Zombie Island and Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot, which I’ll be playing next. The disc is useful for a number of reasons, while the initial price is the same as if you bought the add-ons online, you can pass the disc on to friends or even resell it. The only catch is if your hard drive gets wiped or you uninstall the content, you’ll have to install the DLC from the disc again.

What I liked: Well, if you’re looking for more of the same Borderlands, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth in terms of time investment. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned took me at least six hours to finish all the content and nab all the achievements. There is a lot of ground to cover and it is all very atmospheric, plus the 25 quests will keep you busy and force you to trek around.

It wouldn’t be Borderlands without the black humor, and Zombie Island is full of it. From the zombies wearing beer drinking helmets to the hilarious commentary piped through the levels’ intercoms, there is little to be afraid of in what should feel like hell. Zombie outbreaks can be funny!

New enemies abound too, and while most of them are just your typical staggering sapien, we also get midgit zombies, suicide zombies, and giant loot-carrying zombies. Not to mention the wereskags which is a bizarre combination of werewolves and Borderland’s native skag.

What I didn’t like: Zombie Island of Dr. Ned has a few problems that really hampered my experience, the main one being I didn’t really know what I was playing for except to finish it. I played the DLC after I beat playthrough 2, so I was sitting pretty at level 50. All the bad guys then were right at my level too, which is good for a challenge, the problem was I didn’t have any real goals. I couldn’t gain any more experience since I was at max level and from trading with friends, I was comfortable with my arsenal guns. If I didn’t need experience or weapons, all that was left was to have fun.

And even having fun was difficult with wave after wave of zombie around every corner. Most higher level encounters in Borderlands challenged you many different ways and you really had to use your entire skillset to survive. On Zombie Island though, it was just a frantic fight to stay alive against the horde. There wasn’t any real strategy to each encounter except to aim for the head, I was getting seriously bored as it dragged on.

It didn’t help that one of the achievements available in the DLC called for you to finish a brain collecting quest line. There were five levels of brains to collect: 10, 25, 50, 100, and 250, and the only way to collect a brain was to kill a zombie with a headshot. So you have to collect over 400 of these guys across five quests, and whenever you finished a set you had to run all the way across a very populated map to turn it in, dragging everything on even longer. Of course, you could complete them while you worked on the other quests, but you’d still have to return to turn it in and start the next one.

Yes, I know that this was basically just for an achievement, and while I don’t consider myself an achievement whore, I basically have Borderlands 100%’ed and I’m not going to leave one achievement unfinished, annoying as it was. So the Braaaaains quests just linger in the back of your mind the whole time, perhaps even forcing you to fight differently than you would have.

Circling back to my first point that there was nothing to play for, this hinges on the fact that there is simply no appropriate time to play this DLC in the game. Play it at level 50 and you won’t gain any experience. Play it before level 50 and you’ll gain levels during your undead adventure and unbalance the main game. Play the third DLC first (which raises the level cap to 61) and Zombie Island will be way too simple. My suggestion for Borderlands 2 is to make every encounter in the game scale to your level so that you could tangent off and gain a few levels playing some DLC and return to the main game and not be overpowered.

Not Recommended

Basically, it all comes to the point where you’re just going on for the sake of going on, Zombie Island of Dr. Ned just isn’t that much fun. It turns Borderlands into the mindless shooter it always struggled to avoid becoming.

Borderlands Zombie Island of dr ned


Some people say

borderlands is only fun in Multiplayer, with a group. I've adamantly disagreed with that on several occasions. Having played the game mostly in single player and loving it, I totally didn't understand that complaint.However I did come to recognize that in the Zombie Island DLC. I had a few opportunities to play it in a full group and it was more fun that way. I actually did enjoy the DLC solo, but mostly just because I loved the game and I found the zombies to be incredibly challenging when played at max level with a LVL50 character. I enjoyed the quests even though I wasn't getting experience, to see the new areas and listen to all the bizarre voice recordings. To me, zombie island was much like Left 4 Dead, in that it was the survival that made it fun.

You make a good point that there's no good spot to put zombie island in your playthroughs. This is absolutely true (and I hope they find a way to implement the scaling you talk about). Being someone who enjoyed the game most when my encounters were of an appropriate level, I found playing it on LVL50 to be perfect. The zombies would swarm, you'd get nailed by a few spitters and things would get quite hectic. I liked that. Personally, I fell so in love with the game, looting and killing with my various guns that LEVEL EXP actually became an after thought for me. I was focused on leveling up my capabilities with certain weapons, maxing them out, (which I'm still not completely done with btw). Leveling up your weapons is nearly as important as leveling up your characters. But I can totally see what you're saying.

My biggest gripe was in the loot dept. I absolutely loved looting in Borderlands. Even when the guns were not as "good" as what I had, I liked finding quirky features, or bizarre stats. But I found almost none of this in zombie island. It was like they put absolutely zero work into weapons for the DLC. Same thing in Underdome, the weapons seemed like they got totally forgotten. When a games awesomeness is so closely tied to the weaponry, the DLC needs to focus on that as much as it does on new levels, new enemies, or new enviroments. This was a definite failure of zombie and underdome.

Fortunately, they fixed that with General Knoxx.

Leveling weapons

Never thought about the whole leveling up weapons thing, if I had remembered that I probably would have actually enjoyed it a bit more since I would have been making progress on something.

Uncertain about DLC

Great summary! Braaaaaaaaaaaains.

I'm still pretty uncertain about DLC for Borderlands. Like you, I would have a hard time playing if I wasn't...accumulating experience points or getting better weapons. That's where I stopped in Fallout 3 during my first playthrough, once I hit the cap of 30. The only DLC here for Borderlands I'd consider is the one that raises your level cap, but even then, I might be a bit bored by shooting the same things over and over again just to ding 61 or whatever it is.

What LVL is your BL character?

If you don't do multiple playthroughs, all the DLC scales correctly. You can play the main game, then zombie, then knoxx and you'll get EXP and levels the entire time.

The problem happens with PT2 and PT2.5. You can either sacrifice your DLC experience, or your PT2.5 experience. In either case, if you do it right, Knoxx will still work out on PT2 and PT2.5.

My soldier is sitting at

My soldier is sitting at level 44, I believe. Last time I played was some co-op with Greg on my second playthrough. Still have a good amount of story missions to get through again. Thanks for the progression suggestion!


As I recall, the zombie island content scales with you on PT2 as well, but not quite as well as it does on PT1. If you've lost interest in the main game PT2, I would just jump into zombie island on PT2 and see how it goes. You should be able to check the first few missions to check their scale and see how you're sitting. Playing through zombie, you'll likely get close to 50 by the time you're done and then you could just jump into Knoxx and play it on PT2.


If you're soured on zombie due to Gregs review, you could work a bit further in the main game PT2 and then jump straight into Knoxx at Level 50 or so. Knoxx is actually a continuation of the story in the main game, rather than a side story like zombie. So if you skip zombie, you don't miss anything story-wise really.

zombie island review

Wow, I'm amazed. I normally agree with your reviews, but I have to disagree with this one. Zombie Island is the first and only DLC I was glad I paid for. It was long, humorous, challenging, and it had great art and atmosphere.


Thanks for the reply! I wouldn't say I regret spending my money on this DLC, because it was very long (especially compared to some of BioWare's DLC), and it was definitely humorous and challenging at times, but something about it dragged on for me.

I guess I kind of look at it this way: If I knew what I knew before going in, would I want to play this? Or would I ever want to play this DLC again? The answer to both for me is no, but I can definitely see why people like it.

I blame Mike in Omaha, who explained to me the perfect way to play Borderlands but somehow Zombie Island doesn't fit with that equation. :p

Hey now,

1. My "guide to getting the most out of BL" is based on getting every pennies worth out of the main game.
2. Based on what I love about BL, Zombie Island still doesn't suffer for this tactic.
3. The alternative is mostly for people who DO NOT want to do multiple playthroughs.

My recommendations are based on what works for me and I stand by them. Its a complicated issue, even after having done it multiple times with different characters.

If someone came to me and said, "Hey Mike, I want to get the most I can out of Zombie Island, how can I do that", or "Hey Mike, whats the best way to utilize the DLC, without regard for multiple playthroughs?" I would give different answers.

However, if your goal, (as mine is) is to MAXIMIZE your LVL50 content, then there is only one way to play the game and the DLC in combination. And in that model, yes a perfect zombie island experience takes a backseat to other goals.

BUT, had you played zombie as a goal unto itself, your PT2 and PT2.5 experience would have suffered and due to the massive amount of content (and higher quality of content) in PT2/2.5 I think it's a fair bet that one should choose that over zombie island.

Long story short: Getting the most out of the main game puts you in conflict with getting the most out of zombie. But to be fair, zombie had some problems anyway, the BRAAAAAAAAINS mission was certainly one of the big ones.

BUT, if gearbox listens to Greg, this will all be fixed in BL2, my most anticipated game.

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