Borderlands Preview


posted 9/15/2009 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: 360
The majority of the missions I played in the build of the game were fairly standard stuff. Collect X number of item X, kill X number of beast Y, kill this bad guy, etc but there were a few missions that were chained together which fleshed out some of the plot of the game. There were a few more interesting missions in there that filled in some of the back story of the planet and the optional quests in the game do more than just offer filler to help you level up but I am hoping there's some more variety in the final product.

What doesn't need any work is the art style of the game. It's hard not to be impressed with the way the game looks and the change in style absolutely makes the game. Sure it doesn't feature the highly destructible environments we've seen in others and the textures don't look that great when you're two feet away from them but if you're taking that kind of time to analyze things you're missing the point. The game just looks beautiful and ran without any hitches or stuttering even under heavy load on the 360. I also like the little touches like the damage numbers that pop up when you land a shot on an enemy, sure it's a bit more JRPG but it's a cool effect when you land a burst of shots on a bad guy.

So far what I've talked about are the things that make up a good FPS, but what really separates Borderlands from the other FPS games in the world is the amazing amount of loot you're going to be collecting. Monsters, especially bosses, explode into foundations of color-coded loot when they die. General weapons and ammo are white, money is gold, and unique items are green, blue, and purple based on their uniqueness. When you are playing with friends the ammo and loot are divided between the team members while the weapons are on a first come first serve basis. It can be difficult to read some of the weapon descriptions when you're close to the item (especially when it's at your feet) but the game does hold the description open so even if you can't read it at first you can look up to see what you're missing.

The real focus of the game though is the guns. With over 1 million guns possible in the game, thanks to the game's random generato, you're not going to be attached to one gun for long. The game has a wide variety of pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and other assortment of killing devices. As you use a particular class of gun, your proficiency with that weapon will level up allowing you to do more damage with it. It is a bit hard to manage everything as you're only allowed a limited number of spots in your backpack at the start of the game so you're going to be constantly balancing your gun collection with your supply of healing potions, shields, and other items you find around Pandora. There is a bit of active management here which could get in the way of some multiplayer games but the game sorts everything in your inventory so you know what's worth more than something else.

If you're wondering how that much variety can exist I can tell you in the time I played the game I found a shotgun that fired a wave pellet, a sniper rifle that set people on fire, an extra penetrating sub-machine gun, and a pistol with blade on the front that did extra melee damage. I didn't find anything that featured an acid attack (something alluded to in one part of the game) or electricity (which I saw at E3) so I'm guessing there are more things that I just haven't found yet. Ammo is based on the class of the weapon so you don't have to worry about finding the right type of ammo for a gun as the shotgun ammo that shoots the particles is the same kind that can set a monster on fire. Sure it's a bit of a stretch but it's a nice compromise to the gods of good gameplay. Ammo, weapons, and equipment can be bought or sold at vending machines placed in well populated areas of the game.

The game controls well with your typical FPS controls in place for movement and aiming. The left trigger is aim while the right fires. The left bumper sets off your special ability while the right one throws a grenade. A is your jump button with the X button serving as your method for interacting with the world and for picking up items. If you hold the X button down while over a pile of loot the game will automatically pick everything up and if you hold down the X button over a weapon it will auto equip the weapon. The d-pad selects which weapon you want to use although you are limited to just two weapons at the start of the game. I was a little frustrated that I couldn't equip four weapons at the start and hopefully it's something you won't have to earn in the final code.

Missing, or maybe I missed it, was a button that let you use a health kit while in battle. Instead I was forced to open the inventory and use one which was a bit hectic in the heat of battle. Hopefully this is also something that's fixed in the final version of the game.
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