Borderlands

Review

posted 11/12/2009 by Adam Dodd
other articles by Adam Dodd
Platforms: PS3
After spending countless hours with three of the games four possible characters, it’s easy to notice this game’s unique personality and just how addicting it is. Though, with the feeling of wonder I felt after each new weapon I picked up, trying to figure out if it’s better than the one I have equipped, there’s still something important missing from the game. Every time I found a new item there was always this brief feeling of excitement that washed over me as I investigated to see its traits and special abilities, and fired it to see if it was more satisfying to use. Borderlands has a weapon arsenal in the millions, which virtually guarantees you’ll never pick up the same weapon twice, and while this is certainly the game’s strongest feature, it’s missing something vital.

That something is customization, which is an element that could ha’ve made Borderlands Game of the Year. This is a loot whore’s paradise, but compared to the games that inspired it, namely Diablo, there’s really no variety in the loot. Sure, you’ll find the occasional shield, but the rest of the time you’ll be picking up guns. You can divide the weapon selection into the familiar pistol, shotgun, machine gun, rifle categories, but trying to go any deeper is pointless. Pistols can have scopes, shotguns can fire missiles, rifles can send out sonic booms, etc. Once you’ve played long enough, you’ll start to see some truly crazy stuff. It would’ve helped to have some level of customization though, allowing players to pick up laser sights, scopes, sonic boom cannons, or whatever else you can think of to attach to the weapons you find. Regrettably, you’re stuck with what you find.


There is a story here, though I rarely paid any attention to it because I was too busy admiring the shotgun-wielding midget psychos that ran at me with alarming speed. Oh yes, I could devote an entire paragraph to these insane little creatures, but for the sake of maintaining my journalistic integrity, I won’t. Instead all you need to know is that they are about three feet tall, sound like they’ve been sucking down helium for way too long, and carry shotguns that when fired send them falling on their butts. There’s a ton of side quests for you to complete that will be familiar to really any fan of the genre. They range from collecting this item, to killing this badass, and so on. Like Fallout 3, you know what your main quest is, but you rarely think about it as you constantly come across new and exciting items and locations. However, unlike Fallout, which had a ton of quests that contained separate stories on their own and were genuinely interesting to complete, the quests in Borderlands rarely sway from the generic.

If you hadn’t noticed this already, this game looks great. Its cel-shaded style is easy on the eye and the world looks grunged up and dirty, which keeps Borderlands from looking like Crackdown or the new Prince of Persia. There’s also a healthy amount of gore, which can be turned on and off depending on the audience. Since I’m a bit of a psycho myself, I turned the gore on so when I sniped someone I would be gifted with the sight of their arm flailing into the sky, or their head turning into pink mist. If there was a Gore Meter I would’ve turned it to maximum, though sadly that feature is missing. (Borderlands 2, perhaps?) Like the rest of the game, the environments are almost great, but they’re missing some thing essential: variety. Rarely will you explore something that doesn’t look like an enemy infested desert, and while it’s fun to explore and looks gorgeous at first, the locales begin to get stale after awhile.


There are four classes for you to choose from, most of which we’ve seen before. There’s the Hunter, who focuses on ranged combat, the Soldier spawns turrets and heal allies, the Berserker is great up close, and the Siren, who can go invisible and fire shockwaves. Each has their own special traits and abilities and they’re different enough to give you a sufficient reason to try them all. Once you find your favorite (mine was the Hunter) you can go online and see where Borderlands really shines.

The coop is by far the best reason to play this game, and when you have a full game you and three friends can truly see how perfectly balanced the character classes are. Alone the Hunter isn’t terribly strong, but when he’s providing cover fire for the Soldier and Berserker attacking in front and the Siren coming up from behind, this game becomes the amazing adventure I wanted it to be. When you get sick of being a team player all you have to do is walk up to a friend, give ‘em a quick jab, and if they reciprocate it’s time to duel. The good thing about dueling is you can gauge how strong your character is, and you don’t lose any of your loot if you lose. There really aren’t any glaring issues with the multiplayer, though I would’ve liked to see a four-person vehicle, since the vehicles only hold two. Even though you never have two people of the same class in one game, it would’ve been nice to be able to customize my character more than just choosing the colors of their outfit. Even a Halo 3 style emblem customization feature could be great fun.

If you’re a fan of shooters and enjoy a shallow mix of role-playing elements thrown in than this is a game that won’t disappoint. There’s very little wrong with it, in that most of my issues with the game are features I feel are missing. With a ton of weapons, a stunning art style, plethora of quests, and excellent cooperative play, Borderlands promises to keep gamers indoors for a very long time.


B
Borderlands is a ton of fun, and its massive arsenal of weapons makes it highly replayable. Unfortunately, a few big issues like a lack of customization and repetitive environments keep it from achieving true greatness, but that shouldn’t keep any FPS or RPG fan from checking it out.


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