Review by ElDudorino
"87 bazillion guns? Sure, there's the pistol with +10% damage, the pistol with +11% damage..."
All right, gun nuts, it's finally here. Borderlands has arrived, and brought with it millions of guns for you to choose from as you blast your way to ancient treasure and permanently inscribe your name in the pages of history with the blood of countless enemies.
Of course when I say "countless enemies," I mean the eight or so basic enemy types you'll be fighting throughout the game. And when I say "millions of guns" I mean the roughly 15 weapon types, half of which are pretty much identical to one another, plus several grenade types. So are you disappointed yet? Maybe not, but the real disappointment comes once you begin playing the game.
Every time you load up the game, you are forced to sit through several short intro videos, and then when you start a new game you are subjected to an unskippable movie. Not a problem if you're only going to start the game once, but of course this is rather annoying if you want to check out all four of the characters and their unique skillsets. Once the game begins you are put through a short but unskippable tutorial, which much like the opening movie will not become fully obnoxious unless you start the game a second time. But once these events end, the game can really begin!
Right away fans of MMOs will be thrilled to find that many of their quests fall along the lines of "Kill five skags" or "Kill twelve bandits" or are essentially fetch quests, where you run or drive to some distant location and then come back for your reward. I mean, who doesn't love these quests? Of course I kid. I don't think anybody likes them. And then the game really trips over itself because the rewards for your quests are, almost without fail, pieces of crap.
That problem's root lies with the game's loot system, which is based on Diablo's system. When fighting enemies or opening chests, you are constantly finding new gear. A random collection of traits will be applied to each item, so you may find a pistol with an expanded magazine and high rate of fire but low accuracy and damage or perhaps a sniper rifle which deals extra damage to unarmored opponents and causes them to take damage over time. This is why the game is able to say that it has "87 bazillion" guns; although there are really only a few different types of weapon, most of which are indistinguishable from one another, they each have random statistics so technically there is an almost infinite number of them from which to choose. This can actually be pretty cool, and I think anybody who plays the game will find themselves feeling a little excited when they trade in their old rifle for a newer one with a higher rate of fire and higher damage. Unfortunately, the loot dropped by your enemies is often so overpowered that it makes your quest rewards seem trivial and even the unique and special weapons dropped by boss enemies become useless.
As an example, over the course of the game you will be assigned quests to locate the four components necessary to build a new sniper rifle, and later a new pistol, and after that a new shotgun. After running around finding the pieces of the firearms in question and finally coming home to trade them in for my rewards, I found EVERY TIME that the weapon I was given was only half as powerful as the one I found in a dumpster four hours earlier. So why bother going on any quests, right?
Exactly. By the end of the game, "Why bother?" had sort of become my motto. I began refusing new quests as they rolled in and instead focused on the main campaign, which made the game incredibly annoying at parts because any time I traveled through a populated area I would be bombarded by six spoken messages advertising that there are new quests available in the area, and these messages would be repeated 45 seconds later if I didn't run to accept them. Soon I got in the habit of accepting them and then just not doing them, which solved the bombardment issue at the cost of cluttering my quest menu.
So, weapons and sidequests aside, how's the rest of the game? ... it's okay. You fight your way through a horde of respawning enemies on your way to objectives while pursuing a vague goal tied into a story which despite being incredibly simple still manages to leave you with questions after the credits roll, such as "What the hell was that about?" The gameplay never really changes since you basically only have one special move per character, your weapon choices are pretty much rifle, shotgun, SMG, rocket launcher, grenade or lightning ball, and there are really only a few enemy types which are just repeated over, and over, and over, and over. And as for the bosses and their underpowered loot, there are only a few of them over the course of the game and most of them aren't very memorable. Even though there are probably only 7 of them I can only think of 5 off the top of my head.
To get a little more specific with regards to the gameplay, Borderlands is a first-person shooter with RPG elements such as inventory management, experience levels and skill points which can be allocated towards increased rate of fire, reduced cooldown periods for your character's special move, and other such perks. It controls like any other FPS, but with some minor flaws such as the platforming. Certain items can only be reached if you jump from platform to platform in order to reach them, but it is possible for your character to become stuck in the ground or in a "crease" between objects while doing so. At that point you have to die, exit the game, or spend the next 90 seconds mashing every button in the hope that your character breaks free. Aside from that, if you've played any other modern FPS you should feel right at home with the controls in Borderlands. Missions are acquired by talking to the people you encounter, and upon completing them you must return to that person to reap your reward. Nothing about how the game is played should catch you off guard if you've played more than a couple of video games in the past. It's pretty run-of-the-mill.
Finally, there's the multiplayer aspect of the game. Before you ask, yes, it's broken as of October 31st, 2009. But I hear they're trying to fix it! On the PC version, people have a lot of trouble connecting to each other. They have to mess around with port forwarding, and even afterwards many people just plain can't connect. This is of course better than the PS3 version, where the framerate can drop to several frames per second during fights with multiple players on one screen, and lag issues stall many multi-system games to the point where they just aren't worth playing - and this is just assuming you actually got the game to load, rather than freezing at the loading screen. I couldn't tell you about the 360 version but I doubt it's any better. BUT once you get the game to a point where it seems to be working, at least it's multiplayer, right? Well, yeah. It can be fun to play these types of games co-op if you have some friends who are into it as well. Playing online with strangers, though, the player who's closest to the enemies is the player who's going to get all the loot, so don't even think about being a sniper if you want any gear!
Sorry if this review is a little muddled, but I wanted to get it out the door. Seriously, I don't think this game is worth buying. I expect multiplayer to be patched soon for every system, so the last paragraph might not apply soon after I post this and there might be a solid cooperative experience for those who are looking for a 3D Diablo. But even if those issues are fixed, it won't fix the most important issue of all: Borderlands just plain isn't a very good game. But hey, don't take it from me. Find a way to try it out for a few hours. It'll probably be pretty fun for the first hour or two, but after that I have a feeling it'll go downhill for you the way it already has for me and so many other early adopters. So save your money. It'll do you good.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 11/02/09
Game Release: Borderlands (US, 10/26/09)
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