Borderlands (Xbox 360)

borderlands

Review: Borderlands

360

Roleplaying, First-Person Shooter

The best Pandora since Adrian Mole.

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Colin

First Person Shooters are a staple of videogames without a doubt, and although you may think there’s only so many ways you can wander around an area killing things, great innovations, improvements and immersion has been injected into the genre in the last few years alone. Whether it’s Armin Shimerman or a nice Irish bloke asking you to kindly do things, or perhaps Craig Fairbrass helping you shoot Johnny Foreigner there’s been more than a few FPS’s that manage to stand out in the endless sea and even bring something new to the table. Granted the idea of RPG elements in an FPS has been touched on in the past and again more recently with Fallout 3, but can Borderlands gameplay compete with, and succeed solely as a FPS, without the need for a VATS style aiming system. Hint, yes it can.

borderlands01

Midgets...why did it have to be midgets.

Borderlands puts you in the staple shoes of one of four treasure hunters on the desert planet Pandora. From the moment you step off the bus you start receiving messages from a seemingly altruistic guardian angel who’d like nothing better than to see you swimming about in the mythic treasures of The Vault, like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin. From here you essentially help (or kill) people in various ways that inch you ever closer to this treasure trove of money, guns, tech and alien babes of questionable virtue [citation needed]. Various characters you meet will call upon your services time and time again and on a few occasions you even get to find out a little of their back story but I would be lying if I said the character interaction was meaningful and he story was epic. The game will have you traversing the world, fighting hordes of nasties, driving in your own deathmobile and completing quests ranging from restoring the worlds teleporter like “fast travel system” to finding some dudes lost porn mags. “No Mr Story, when there’s fun like this to be had, you can just wait at the side”.

The game is unsurprisingly playing off its gameplay above all else. As mentioned, you have the choice to control one of four unique characters. Roland is the soldier, specialising with combat rifles and shotguns, Brick is the tank, he works best with his bare fists or the explosive weapons in the game, Mordecai is your sniper who mixes it up with his rifles and revolvers and Lilith (the mage for lack of a better term) works well with elemental modifications and fast firing weapons. The characters each have their own special ability, be it summoning a turret, going on a berserker rage, sending your pet after enemies or turning invisible. Gaining experience in game allows you to level up and from lv5 to lv50 you get a skill point to add to one of each characters 3 skill trees which greatly affords how you wish to build up your character, Roland the Soldier for example has trees focusing on Gun and bullet damage, Turret speed and deploy rate and Character/ally healing. By lv50 you will have enough points to be weakly adept at pretty much every skill, but it’s from maxing out particular skills that you will become more badass in the style you wish to play.

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We're gonna need a bigger boat.

Dabbling with each character for a while (or at the very least looking up their skill trees on the internet) will be advantageous in your selection of who to play as. The characters special ability and upgradeable skills are varied enough to more than justify multiple org- play throughs. If there was one thing to complain about, it would be that at the start of the game each character is practically identical to each other, bar the weapons they are holding – They all take the same damage they all have the same health and it really takes a while to feel that the characters become differentiated enough. As the game progresses, even if you become fed up with your characters stat placement you can for a small fee, respec your stat points – a feature that no self respecting RPG should be without.

As they say, XP doesn’t grow on skill trees, so you’re going to have to earn it (in addition to loot and money) from quests. As mentioned, your mysterious guardian angel, along with several adorable/irritating CLAP-TRAP robots, begin to steer you from hub world to hub world taking you closer to the vault along the way. Main story and side quests tend to merge into one, but for the most part you will be wanting to complete anything to help you level up. Advancing too far into the game world will produce very tough enemies, so you are, at least in the beginning kept on a fairly short leash, its best just to go where the quests tell you.

The missions and quests usually revolve around fighting to the end of an area, item searching and boss killing but somehow this makes it sound dull and unimaginative, its really not. Being that you are constantly on the look out for better loot, mods, money and even people to kill. Its not as if these quests are a chore, even just the sheer glee of setting someone on fire and watching the damage indicator numbers fly into the air, before your victim turns into a pile of dust with a lovely elemental death animation… its poetry in motion and a joy to play.

Mark

Mark

Wow, just fucking WOW! As I mentioned before on the Peowwcast prior to gathering together all the info for the new Incoming area of the site I was more or less oblivious to Borderlands and it’s mix of RPG and FPS elements but now that I’ve played it, and played it, and played it some more then played it until I’m at the point where I was dreaming about driving around the Dahl Headlands I think I’m safe in saying it’s doing something right. Every character class is balanced and the skill trees give enough variety and choice so that even if you’re playing co-op in a group of three soldiers every player is involved and having fun.

All the different elements come together amazingly well from Daiblo-esq weapon hunting and trading to GRAW style sniping and even COD4 last stands where you can save yourself an expensive respawn at a New-U station by getting a last minute kill before you bleed out. The game’s look is well realised with the cell shaded graphics deifying the last-gen stigma of games like XIII to make Pandora look like nothing else around today. Sure, like Colin said it’s a little rough round the edges but if you don’t mind a little rough (fnar!) and fancy losing yourself for a solid twenty plus hours with the chance for drop in co-op at any time cancel your pre-order for ‘Generic FPS VIII’ and get this today!

Secondary Score: 9/10

Enemies also initially appear to be wholly under varied with there only being a few species such as, humans, dog-like skags, bug-like spider-ants and a few more, but each species has a wide variety of sub-species, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, attacks and strategy for ending you. It won’t take long to learn how to tackle each fiend, and given that most have a weak spot that will allow you to do massive-damage, rarely will you be standing in front of them just holding the fire button.

One of the games selling points is the ability to jump into another players world to play co-operatively, or if you so wish versus. Four player co-op is really enjoyable, and with the promise of more difficult enemies and better loot, the challenge can be upped. Unfortunately if you want to play with friends, it’s certainly best (but not game breaking) if you characters are all round the same level. Having friends that can use abilities that will enhance the whole team, improving accuracy, generating supply drops, or providing elemental boosts certainly improves the experience. With the desire to reach lv50, and the New Game + mode with tougher enemies, this is one game I will be coming back to for some time.

I know a few other reviews out there have criticised a few graphical problems, or issues with certain character skills (apparently to be corrected in an upcoming update) but to be totally honest, this reviewer hasn’t experience or noticed any problems worthy of comment.

There are a hundred other good things to say about Borderlands that can’t possibly be squeezed into 1000 words (it’s more than that – sorry ed). This is a superb FPS with RPG elements that offers a fantastic single player experience and plenty of fun with friends. My only regret has to be, what can they possibly do differently in a sequel? FPS fans can get as much from this game as the most obsessive compulsive loot collecting explorers as myself, and that’s saying something!

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9/10

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