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PLATFORM: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER:
Gearbox Software
PUBLISHER: 2K Games

Gearbox Software’s long awaited “Role Playing Shooter” is here. Can it live up to the hype?
    
THE PITCH
 
The story is nonsense. You’re a merc on a planet inhabited with dangerous creatures and foes ripped right out of Road Warrior, searching for a vault that’s supposedly filled with riches. You’re guided by a vision of a woman who appears sporadically to tell you what to do, at the beginning even asking if “you’d kindly” do something. A slave obeys, indeed. There’s no motive for your character, no backstory- you’re just murdering thousands of people and animals to buy new guns.

I guess that could be your motive. So yeah, don’t come to this one for the story.


CHUDTIP- That guy’s trying to kill you and you want his loot. That’s your motivation.

   
THE PLAY
 
Diablo smashed into a first person shooter. That’s the quick and easy way that everyone’s been describing Borderlands, and it works. The game is completely quest driven and all about finding new loot. There are literally hundreds of thousands of guns in the game (each one small variations on the others) that you can find and use, and you’ll find that most of your time is spent hunting for better ones dropped by enemies.

It’s really all about the guns here. Just wait till you find your first case full of them- you’ll wet yourself a little in excitement. The gunplay is incredibly satisfying and you’re given the choice of four slots (two which you have to unlock) to quickly change weapons in combat. You’ll find yourself using almost all of the weapons at some point, changing them up when they’re needed. Big group of the doglike Scags coming at you? Pull out a shotgun and take them all out. Midget Sharpshooters giving you trouble? Pull out your sniper rifle and blow their heads off. Large group of Badasses run out of a tent? It’s rocket launcher time.


CHUDTIP- Don’t scoff- the pistols can be just as powerful as the other guns.

 
You can find weapons with various elements attached to them that can keep damage going, like fire and electricity, and this adds to the strategy. Electric weapons are perfect for knocking off the Halo-esque recharging shields that everyone wears (including yourself) and fire is perfect for setting them on fire if they’re not wearing one. Corrosive weapons do all kinds of incredible damage and there are explosive rounds that can take enemies out with one hit.

Killing enemies and completing quests gives you experience points and you’re made well aware of what level you are and how strong the enemies you’re fighting are. It’s right there on your HUD and when you kill an enemy how much XP you got pops right up. The game is quite difficult if you don’t watch out what levels you’re fighting against and level up accordingly, and you will inevitably die during some of the harder boss fights. There is one of the best features in a game yet, though- called a Second Wind. When you die you don’t respawn back at the checkpointright away, you fall to your knees and have a few seconds to kill an enemy. If you do, you jump back up in fighting form. It makes combat a whole lot less aggravating… although if you get run over by a car you’re dead right away.

You have the choice of four different characters to play with. Each character has different “perks” (powerup moves that assist you in killing your foes) but otherwise they’re all exactly the same. They level up the same way, can use all the weapons, and even all run at the same speed. It’s just a question of whether you’d rather have a deployable turret (Soldier), invisibility and a shockwave attack (Siren), a falcon to send off at your enemies (Hunter) or a Berserk mode that lets you smash your enemies to pieces with your firsts (Brick). Guess which one I went for.

Sometimes when you level up you get skill points that you can use to advance your skills, whether that be your maximum health, gun proficiency or to make your exclusive skill better.


CHUDTIP- If you end up spending your points on skills you find worthless, don’t forget you can get them all back (for a fee) at a New-U station.


Fortunately you won’t be without help, as Borderlands is all about co-op. Your character’s experience always gets saved no matter whose game you play in and you can start up and save multiple characters.
The only problem is that it’s hard to play with anyone more than a
couple of levels above or below you- you’ll be so under or over-powered
that the game won’t be as fun. The ideal way to play this game is to do
it all the way through with the same buddies.

Still, there’s nothing like playing with three other friends to take down some of the harder bosses. Playing with more people increases the amount and level of the baddies, but also increases how rare the weapons and items that they drop are. It’s worth the risk.

They’ve also included a handy dueling mode for anyone playing with friends who wants to fight over some goodies you’ve found. Just hit someone with your gun to start a duel and if they hit you back, it’s on. A duel to the death (the loser really only loses most of his health) will clear up those disagreements pretty quickly. Just hope you’re not playing with pricks that will grab up everything for themselves.


CHUDTIP- You don’t really have to worry about any strategy as a team besides “Kill all sons of bitches”.
     

The game shines in co-op, but playing solo is just as much fun. In fact, it’s almost freeing to be able to take the game at your own pace, reading every quest and actually know what you’re doing, instead of having everyone running around grabbing everything they can.

The one big problem with the game is how repetitive it is. The beginning is especially boring as you’ll be running back and forth to the same areas to complete quests, and the levels aren’t particularly interesting. It’s the same brown environments no matter where you go, and walking around fighting the odd enemy gets old fast, especially with the glitchy environments that you’ll find yourself frequently stuck in.

Over the course of the game you can spawn a car from a dealer, which
makes getting around a bit easier. Your path is very restricted,
however, and since this isn’t one big massive world but rather small
connected levels, you really won’t be driving for very long. But it
makes it faster… provided you can control it. The cars (both of which
are the same, and carry two people at a time) control much like Halo‘s
Warthog, if the Warthog’s steering wheel had broken off. It doesn’t
help that you will come to a complete stop if you try and run over the
smallest little rock or fence, and get stuck in the scenery almost as
much as your character will.


CHUDTIP- While the weapons are good for taking out cars, don’t even both shooting at enemies on their feet. Just run them over.

 
But you can run over pretty much any enemy and splatter them with no
trouble, even tough boss creatures, so it’s definitely in your interest
to wrestle with their controls. The attached rocket launcher and machinegun only
sweeten the deal.

Later on in the game you also unlock quick travel, which lets you
travel to the various levels instantly, and makes getting to quests
much, much easier.
 


CHUDTIP- There are tons of film and game references, from the more obvious like the “Boom Stick” shotgun (description says that it’s Beyond Groovy) to fighting a road warrior named “Mad Mel”.


While the grinding can get old and the enemy variety ironically leaves a lot to be desired, the one thing Borderlands does better than any other game this year is suck away your life. This is the kind of game you’ll try halfheartedly to put down a couple of times, but with each successive quest and gun you find you get drawn right back into it… till it’s way too late at night for you to get any sleep.
     
THE PRESENTATION

Gearbox was incredibly smart to change up the graphics style from a more realistic wasteland to a cellshaded one. The environments are boring and repetitive (it is a wasteland, after all) but the character and weapons really pop. The guns themselves are all colored differently and easy to tell apart, and the game itself is just a joy to look at.



There’s not enough music in the game, but once it starts pumping during battles you’ll really appreciate it.

Special mention must be made of the gun sounds, which not only sound powerful as all hell but are loud as can be. Possibly louder than any other shooter out there. Seriously, I was playing another FPS before popping this one in without changing the volume levels and my wife came in to tell me to turn it down cause it sounded like a war was going on.
    

THE REPLAY
 
Beating the game will take you around 25 hours, but once you’re done you can start up a new campaign. This definitely expands the replay value and is the only way to get achievement/trophies for getting to level 40 or 50, as the enemies don’t give you enough XP in your first playthrough.



CHUDTIP- Find an enemy’s critical hit area and exploit it. For people it’s the head, obviously.


But the most horrible part of it is that you start completely from the beginning. This means that you’ve got to go through all the tutorial missions again, all the backtrack-laden original quests before you find a car or get the quick travel going. Not fun when you’re a level 36 character and just want to kill some things.

Still, it’s just as addictive, and there is DLC on the way.
 

THE VERDICT

A truly solid game, but not without its flaws… stupid foes, repetitive quests and a lackluster end boss disappoint. But when you’re having so much fun with the combat, you might not even notice, and you will sink many, many hours of your life into this one and not know where they went.
 

8.8 out of 10