Reviews - 15 December 2009
Author:Anthony Arriaga

BorderlandsThe Digest: Borderlands has to be one of, if not THE sleeper game of the year. If you’re not prepared, you’ll see the wrong game coming. This is a game that I felt took inspiration from the original Xbox title Deus EX with its brand of RPG/FPS gameplay or as those in the “know” call it, RPS (Role Playing Shooter). I’m not in the “know”, but it says it on the back of the box.

THE FACT SHEET

RELEASE DATE: October 20th, 2009
PUBLISHER: 2K Games
DEVELOPER: Gearbox Software
ESRB RATING: “M” for Mature
GENRE: RPS (Role Playing Shooter)
PRICE: $59.99

PRODUCT OVERVIEW:
Featuring extensive co-op integration that seamlessly blends the single player and multiplayer experiences, Borderlands will allow players to freely join or leave each other’s games at any time for collaborative mayhem or the freedom to choose to play in full single player mode to experience the world on their own. Borderlands will also include a groundbreaking content generation system that adds nearly infinite variety in the amount of weapons that are available to the player. These features, along with addictive nonstop action, will combine to form a breakthrough experience that challenges the conventions of modern shooters and RPGs.

PRODUCT FEATURES:

  • Enjoy unique first person roleplaying shooter gameplay
  • Create a fully-customized character tailored to your playing style
  • Explore and battle enemies in frantic FPS combat
  • Choose from a near-endless variety of weapons and items
  • Join and leave other players’ games at any time, or choose to face the challenges of Borderlands™ alone
  • Get behind the wheel and engage in intense vehicle-to-vehicle combat
  • Play co-op with up to four players Talk about a buzz kill A life without borders is no life at all. Now, I just want to say that I’m not an RPG fan (although I feel in my old age, that’s where my life will head) and I’ve never played Diablo. So when I booted up Borderlands, I thought FPS. My mind was made up. Then I started playing it and realized, I had no idea what was going on. After some internal discussions with El Peruve, I began playing the game the way it was meant to be played, in order! Borderlands is all about leveling up and if you try and take on a mission way above your means, you’ll end up re-spawning more than El Peruve. This is when the game started taking over my mind! One of the biggest keys to the game, as with any sandbox type game, is navigating using the in game map. It works great once you learn and understand it. Early on traveling in the game can seem tedious as you have to actually drive or walk to your destination. Driving, if you’ve never been behind the control of a Warthog, can be difficult. Luckily, I was actually born on this planet and played Halo so I was straight. You get vehicles that look like Lucious Fox made them himself with the Hummer/ Rocket launcher combo. What can I say; they’re fun to drive around in especially when you have a partner handle the turret action. There was one mission that I came across fairly early on that required driving and shooting. I had such a difficult time with this particular mission and it wasn’t until I had help that I was able to complete it. You’ll find yourself wandering the desert so much, you’ll think it’s some bible adventure game starring Moses. This is why it’s extremely important to become one with the map otherwise you’ll find yourself lost more than an Oceanic flight. It’s not until I leveled up into the mid-teens that I was able to access the fast travel feature in the game which allows you to teleport to your destination (as long as you’ve completed a mission in that area). The mission structure is pretty straight forward. Each outpost you visit has a set amount of missions to complete and just because the mission post is in one area, doesn’t mean the mission itself takes place there. Various missions will have you traveling all throughout Pandora’s borderlands so having access to the Fast Travel and knowing your map will be integral. Completion of each mission will net you XP and money.  There was one mission that I came across fairly early on that required driving and shooting. I had such a difficult time with this particular mission and it wasn’t until I had help that I was able to complete it. 4 is never a crowd There are four characters to choose from and each offers their unique style in the form of action skills that are broken down into 3 levels. Leveling up each character will improve on their combat, while increasing the power and strength of their action skill.

Roland (Soldier) Rifles and Shotguns are his specialty and he’s pretty much the healer/medic of the crew. Having Roland with you when playing on co-op can save you more times than you’ll remember. Roland’s action skill is the Scorpio Turret which, when deployed, not only provides cover but will also provide a temporary shielding area that will allow anyone who’s in it to recover some health.

Lilith (Siren) Weapons that have incendiary, shock and corrosive rounds are her specialty. The longer you stick with Lilith, the more you’ll learn to appreciate what she can do. You won’t notice it at first but, Lilith can quite possibly be the most powerful character in the game. Her Phasewalk action skill combines speed with invisibility and gets you out of some tight spots if you need to retreat to recover some health.

Mordecai (Hunter) Sniper rifles and revolvers are his weapons. His action skill is his pet bird Bloodwing who will hunt down enemies, attack them and return back to him. Nothing like a pet bird to help you in battle.

Brick (Berserker) Brick is like Bane from Batman with an appetite for explosives. His action skill pretty much sends him into berserker mode in which you can just melee away. Brick is a straight up brawler who will be down to just charge at enemies with his fists.

There is an insane amount of weapons in Borderlands. In fact, it can be overwhelming at first to deal with. There are so many weapons, even Bush could find them. You may want to just pick the best 2-3 weapons for your character and make like eBay and sell the rest. See, in each weapon class, you’ll find a substantial amount of weapon types which would be overwhelming if it wasn’t for the fantastic yet simple system. In this game is great they are basically broken down as follows:

  • Pistol
  • Repeater
  • Sniper
  • Rifle
  • SMG
  • Revolver
  • Launcher
  • Grenades

Upgrading weapons is simply tied into the ammo system. So, ammo for one weapon is ammo for all weapons in that class. In fact, the only thing limiting you from using a weapon is the level you’re on. So, that level 15 weapon may seem nice and you probably have all the ammo for it but, if you’re stuck on level 10, you’ll have to wait a little while before using it. This may seem like a minor thing to some but, to me, this is just a hint of the addicted nature of “Borderlands”. As your character levels up, how they use the weapon and how destructive its use is will be dependent on the level of the weapon which will only make you want to level up more and like puberty, the more you mess around with Borderlands, the more fun it becomes…especially with a partner.

Multi-player action The single player experience in Borderlands is fine but can seem to get repetitive especially once you get really into this game and begin to immerse yourself in the “loot” system, a simple mission can easily last for an hour. You may find yourself emotionally exhausted after a mission and at the same time taking on more than one mission at a time just so you can level up faster. Co-op is where it’s at with Borderlands. This is where the game gets its legs. Playing through this game with up to 4 other players can be super addicting especially when everyone is generally in the same level. Playing co-op will also give you harder enemies which will in turn give you better loot. Bear in mind that with Xbox Live, the game controls the mission progression so if a player is too far ahead of you in the story, even though you can play the missions, it won’t count toward your mission progression. Luckily you’re given a warning before even starting the mission. The icing on the cake for me is the fact that everything carries over. So, all your single player experience carries over to any online play and vice versa. Again, this is a feature that may not seem like a big deal, but it provides added motivation for playing the game and making you come back for more. Using the Unreal engine, Borderlands provides a very stylized look that lets you know the game is not to be taken too serious while providing such an engaging experience that you’ll be tested not to put the controller down. From achievements to various character names, Borderlands drops lots of pop culture references that will no doubt give you an appreciation for the craftsmanship put into the game. Animation can seem limited at times for example when the characters speak, there is no facial animation. It’s not a deal breaker but, it will kind of remove you from the experience at times. I don’t want to speak too much about the story because, well, I didn’t find one. It was actually disappointing in the end. You start off on a Planet named Pandora (I don’t know what it is about the name Pandora but, you have to admit, it seems to be everywhere lately) that’s not created by James Cameron. It’s the story of government corruption and the search for some Mythical Vault which is pretty much the same thing you’ll get on the 6 O’clock news without a bailout. After all is said and done, you won’t even notice the story taking place as you run through mission after mission.

Conclusion: Whether it’s GTA or any other game with a sandbox world, you can only complete so many missions before it all begins to become all too familiar. Its the games that rise above that will stand out. Borderlands is one such title. It manages to keep you engrossed with its RPG element of leveling up and grabbing loot, all while providing the GTA experience in a Mad Max world. It also does what GTA hasn’t done to date, an online co-op option. With DLC already dropping and more to come, Borderlands promises to remain a compelling experience that will be tough to walk away from.

PROS CONS
- The pseudo Cell Shaded/ Stylized look of the game lets you know that it’s not to be taken too serious while offering such a deep experience that you’d be tested to put the controller down
- RPG/ FPS Element works really well. (Very Deus Exish with online co-op)
- Addictive Xbox Live Co-Op
- Can feel repetitive at times especially if you’re playing solo but you can say that about any game nowadays
- Characters lack animation and facial expressions

Single Player: 8/10 | Multi-Player: 9/10

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Anthony Arriaga

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