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FEATURED VOXPOP oblivion437 Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that.  It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece.  I strongly recommend anyone...

Borderlands Review

Blake_Morse By:
Blake_Morse
10/30/09
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE Shooter 
PLAYERS 1- 4 
PUBLISHER 2K Games 
DEVELOPER Gearbox Software 
RELEASE DATE  
M Contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Strong Language

What do these ratings mean?

The Road Warriors.


The last week of my life has been a blur. I haven’t taken out the trash, washed the dishes, or tidied up the house. My beard has grown long and scraggly, and natural sunlight hurts my eyes. No, I haven’t been playing WoW, but I may have gotten hooked on what appears to be its FPS counterpart.

click to enlargeBorderlands is the shooter for those who may have dabbled in Diablo or World of Warcraft but find them boring and monotonous and prefer a more hands-on approach. Sure, the amount of depth to the RPG elements isn’t really the same, but what is there is substantial enough to addict the get-up-and-go kind of player.

You play as one of four mercenaries who have come to the planet of Pandora seeking the legendary “Vault” and its many promised treasures. All four classes have their unique perks, such as the Soldier’s ability to drop an auto-turret and the Siren’s stealth mode, but I ended up with the Hunter class with his sniper skills and killer pet bird. All the FPS archetypes are represented by these characters, so really it just comes down to how you want to play it through. Are you into being sneaky and meticulous? Then pick the Siren. More of a "bash their face in, and then desecrate his remains" type of player? Be the Berserker. Either way, your guaranteed to have fun.

However, what really stands out the awesome kickass-ity that is Borderlands multiplayer. Players drop in and out of games fluidly with no lag. Enemies get tougher and the loot drops get more valuable as more friends join in too, making for harder missions and tougher bosses (wait until you come across Skagzilla). Really, the multiplayer is the heart of the title and what really pushes it over the edge into greatness.

click to enlargeVisually, I have to give the game credit as well. I was very reluctant to believe that changing the background from its original more life-like, Wild West theme to its current cel-shaded, over-the-top, Mad Max, sci-fi theme was a good idea, but it works well and has more polish that any other game I’ve played done in this style (I’m looking at you XIII). The contrast between the vibrant, saturated colors and the desolate setting of a dry planet helps keep the settings from getting too mundane and played out. Plus, there are a lot more interesting environmental backdrops than another popular game featuring a Vault.

The RPG elements are light but full enough for this kind of title. You’ll be able to make tweaks to your avatar, making him more proficient with certain weapons, adding bonuses to special abilities, and amping up stats, but it’s the weapons system that really gives you the sub-menu manager experience.

The weapons system is very, very much RPG, almost to a point of being overbearing. Much like in Diablo, weapons are generated randomly, meaning you never know when you’re going to find something awesome or complete crap. But managing all that schwag can be tedious sometimes and once you're loaded down, you’ll want to pawn stuff off quick since loot pretty much falls from the skies Pandora. Figuring out what weapons work best for you or best in a specific situation can leave you staring at numbers until the cows come home. You may end up spending more time staring at weapons at the ground than the Emo kid at a dance party.

click to enlargeEven though managing your equipment can seem like a daunting task at times, it’s not really that bad. The only real problem the game seems to have is a textbook case of the glitches. I haven’t encountered too many, but I did get stuck between a wall and a fence early on and couldn’t get out, even when I called upon a friend to join me and try to beat me out of the space. Duke and his brother encountered one early on that forced them to reboot their games as well. But in modern times, what with the Internets and all, these are issues that will most likely be addressed and dealt with soon by patches. Still, I’m sure PS3 owners would prefer to have a working game from the start since they forked out money for it.

Still, even with its technical drawbacks, Borderlands is a shooter for people who want something a little more engaging. It will remind you of every FPS you’ve enjoyed over the last few years, stealing bits of brilliance here and there to make its own enthralling experience. Seriously, if you know how annoyed I was when I had to stop playing and write about it, then you are probably playing it too. And if you’re planning on picking it up, just make sure work knows that you’re going to be out sick for the next month or so.

A- Revolution report card
  • FPS/RPG mash-up done right
  • Looks great
  • Fantastic multiplayer
  • Crazy weapons
  • ...that you'll micromanage for a long time
  • Glitchy-ness

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More information about Borderlands
Also known as: Border Lands


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