Player(s): 1-4 (online)
Developer(s): Gearbox Software
Publisher(s): 2K Games
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3 (reviewed), Windows
Addictive, that's what Borderlands is. It's a first person shooting loot-a-thon with RPG skill trees thrown in for depth. Sure you can play through it alone but you're much better off if you tackle the game with three of your friends. It's the multiplayer component combined with tons of guns that makes this such an addictive game. Welcome to Pandora, Vault hunter, you'll be spending hours here without realizing it.
There are two camps when it comes to cell-shading, those who approve and those who don't. I'm in the former camp as cell-shading doesn't bother me at all. I find that it really helped Borderlands to achieve that Mad Max look, that desolate wasteland full of sand, ruins, and trash. Everything looks like it's been pieced together from various other parts. Town walls look like sheet metal, toilets are left just lying around, and buildings have collapsed. It's a cell-shaded dust ball of a planet and, for the most part, it works. The characters are stylish and full of personality and the visuals really "pop" out well.
Gameplay is pretty simple. You'll pick one of four characters that each represents a different class or, in some cases, more than one class. Each of them, upon reaching level five, has access to a special skill that's set on a timer. Once you liberate the town of Fyrestone, Dr. Zed will begin the main quest line for you to follow. Not long after that the town's Bounty Board will open up, allowing you to complete side quests for additional experience.
Like most RPG titles, gaining enough experience levels you up. From there, you can spend an ability point on one of your character's various skills. These skills are broken down into three different trees and each tree has its own particular focus such as more damage or helping you survive longer. Each one of the four characters feels very unique with their own skills and weaknesses. You'll get enough points during your 50 levels to customize as you see fit by placing priority on whatever focus is more important to you or, if you play with a group of friends on a regular basis, whatever your team needs.
The game stays addictive by throwing tons of loot your way. Enemies drop anything from rare guns to more ammo, chests actually restock themselves after you exit the game, and the game scales the number and level of enemies according to how many people are playing at the same time. Of course, the higher the level of enemy, the better chance you'll have of finding that rare gun, shield, grenade mod, or class mod. Your group will be more than happy to run through an area until every corner is explored for that off chance of finding something really good. Frantic and fast paced gunplay helps out the loot hording as you'll never tire of blowing a psycho midget's head off at point blank range with a shotgun.
I want to get this statement out of the way and make it clear. I had fun with Borderlands. But, it needs to be said that the game is much more fun with more than one player. One of the biggest issues that I had with Borderlands is how repetitive everything is. Even though the visuals "pop" really well, they really begin to grow old quickly as every area looks so close to the last. Enemies are plentiful but there is little difference between them. You'll kill thousands of the same bandits throughout your time on Pandora. Even the music repeats itself as there is almost no variation to speak of in sound effects and music tracks. This repetition makes Borderlands boring very quickly if you're all by yourself.
The other major issue that I had was with the frame rate dropping. I'm not talking about a little dip here and there. I'm talking about a full blown stuttering affair. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it is highly annoying. There is really no excuse for this. It was enough at one point that I thought I was going to have to restart the game but it let it up as I was preparing to do so. Again, there is no reason or excuse for a title to do this anymore on any console.
Unfortunately, there are two more minor issues that need to be brought up. First, the AI is about as intelligent as a box of nails. Enemies don't flush you out of cover, they can't throw a grenade with any sort of accuracy, and sometimes they don't even turn around when you shoot them! You'll also notice that sometimes they'll run at you shooting, but they're doing this weird sideways moonwalk looking thing. Second, there is no sort of storage system other than your upgradeable inventory. In a game with this much loot you're bound to get something you just don't want to sell, but you're basically forced to because there's nowhere to store it!
I don't want you to think that I didn't have a good time with Borderlands because I did, for awhile. At this point, it sits on my desk unfinished. Why? Because I needed a break from how repetitive it became and because I am having issues finding good people to play with. When I do find a great group of people, it's hard to put the game down. With other people, even just one, it becomes a great title. Multiplayer was what Borderlands was designed for, and it shows. There is a great idea here, combining a FPS with a RPG, and with more polish it could've really been something special. Let's hope they improve on this idea should there be a sequel in the works.
What You Should Know:
+ Tons of guns!
+ Multiplayer is fantastic
+ Cell shading works well here, Mad Max would be proud
- It's way too repetitive
- Frame rate issues!
- No storage system
- A rock is more of a threat than the enemies
Rent or Buy?
If you're going to play Borderlands online, like it's meant to be played, then it's pretty much a must buy. You'll spend way too many hours playing it to justify such a lengthy rental.
LOOK WHO CAME: