Review by pinky0926
"Stylish and fantastic multplayer, but single-player is just a little boring."
It feels a little shameful to admit as a gamer, but this is the first game in years that I've bought as soon as it was released. Normally I wait until a game enters the realm of affordability for a poor student like me (*sniff*), but this was just one exception that I had to have. It was a good decision too: Borderlands is simply all about the online multiplayer experience, and who can expect your hardcore-gaming friends to stick around waiting for you to join in?
Enough waffling, let's break it down:
Overview & information on Offensive Content
Simply put Borderlands is a first-person shooter, Role-playing, class-based game with a twist on the generic graphic style of most FPS games. There is a single-player mode, but this game thrives on its co-op, which allows you to play the main missions with a party of 3 other players who fill up different roles on the battlefield. More on this in the gameplay section.
Concering graphic content: the game is bloody, occasional limb severing, decapitations, etc. Occasional swearing and sexual references. No nudity.
You take the position of a sort of rogue bounty/treasure hunter; think of it like what would happen if you crossed Indiana Jones with Masterchief. The game is set in the distant future and you and your band of grim companions have travelled to the planet Pandora to look for the fabled "Vault", some sort of alien treasure mine said to be nothing but a myth (yeah, sure). Pandora is basically just what Arizona would look like if you hit it with a few nuclear missiles and turned it into a trash dump.
There's nothing to write home about here, there's very little about the story that's engaging and your characters aren't given any history, presumably you're just meant to make it up. For that part, they fill generic archetypes: you have the beefcake, the creepy eccentric, the femme fatale, the bluff soldier. What little you discover of their personality is given in their amusing vocal outbursts.
I give Borderlands a relatively low score for plot not because there's anything particularly wrong with it, but because ultimately it fails to drag you in. There are few cutscenes and you piece together most of what's going on by reading mission descriptions, which is boring. This problem is only made worse because of the way multiplayer is set-up; when your teammates discover a quest you're not really informed, and unless you check yourself you won't get any hint of what's going on except for a waypoint to run towards. Sometimes it just feels like you're running from place to place killing bad guys.
Graphics & Art Style: 10/10
This is probably the reason I even looked at Borderlands twice in the first place. The game is fantastically stylish, I don't tire of just looking at stuff for the hell of it. I'm not even sure if it is cell-shading, but whatever they've done to make the game look like this has worked fantastically. Just go watch a damn gameplay video and save me the effort of trying to even describe it =/
This game is just plain fun. At first it plays like any first-person shooter, but after looting around you'll soon discover your backpack is full. Here comes the RPG element, because you'll be faced with having to choose just what kind of weapons you want to use and which ones to sell.
And this decision is important, because since you'll have chosen what class it's important to play to your strengths. There are 4 distinct classes (one for each character), and each loosely fits a role: sniper, soldier, mage, melee warrior. I say loosely because within each class there are several paths you can choose. For example the sniper could choose to forego the distance shooting and instead focus on being an old-fashioned pistol slinger, or he might even choose to depend on his pet bat (yeah, you heard me right). The beefcake might focus on rocket-launchers or perhaps he'll stick to battering enemies with his fists. You get the idea.
If their marketing was anything to go by, the team behind Borderlands are very proud of this "unique" weapons system that supposes to give you hundreds of thousands of possible weapons to choose from. Well I hate to break the news but it's not quite as fantastic as that. In fact I don't really see how it differs from what RPG games have been doing for years. Basically you have pistols, revolvers, sniper-rifles, shotguns, machine guns, shotguns, rocket-launchers, grenades, and a few variations of those basic weapon types. On top of that the weapons may have elemental damaged attached: acid, fire, electric, explosive, etc. And basically as you loot you find weapons that have different damage, fire rates, magazine sizes, etc. By combining these different factors the game can simply create thousands of possible combinations of weapons with different stats. The pick-ups aren't entirely random, but there's nothing ingenious about this system at all. However it is fun, and it does work, so even though it's not exactly ground-breaking it still gets the job done fine.
So I've described the classes and weapons, but what makes this game really shine is the multiplayer aspect. I've played this game solo, but it's just not nearly as fun as raiding and looting with your friends. And Borderlands was clearly designed to be played in company, as each different character fills a different role on the battlefield. Unlike a pure FPS you'll have to plan some strategy between your friends, particularly with the harder characters. You'll have to swap weapons and help each other out when in trouble. If you've played Fallout 3, imagine what that game would be like if it was multiplayer and you have an idea of what Borderlands is like.
If there's one problem with the gameplay, it's the repetitive mission style - it's the same kind of problem the GTA franchise always had a problem with. After a while it just feels like your missions involve travelling to point X to kill Guy A to get Y reward. It's this lack of deviation that knocks the gameplay down. That combined with the lack of plot makes singleplayer very boring to me.
Another thing worth mentioning are the gunner jeeps you can ride around in. It's little more than a method of transport as the guns aren't very powerful, but it's still fun to ride on the rocket launcher turret as your friend drives.
You can also change the colour of your character's clothes and hair, but there's not much in the way of visual customisation.
Some catchy tunes and often downright hilarious voice work. The characters often chime in with appropriate comments, which is always a nice tough.
I'm just not sure what's considered standard for new-release PC games these days, but this game is in desperate need of a patch. There are a few annoying bugs, some that can potentially break the game, ruin progress, etc. So far I've had nothing major, but I'd keep a back-up copy of your saved game files if I were you.
Borderlands is easy to get into but also manages to last into the deeper realms of RPG gaming. It's 10x more fun with 2 or 3 friends, but you can play with anyone online. It lacks plot and character development, but chances are you weren't all that interested to begin with. However for that reason single player can be quite dull. Finally there are some serious bug issues that need to be addressed. Overall I highly recommend this game, but only if your friends are game for it too.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/03/09
Game Release: Borderlands (EU, 10/30/09)
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