Game Review: "Borderlands" (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

12/08/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Michael Lee

Within the last couple years, there has been a slew of First Person Shooters (FPS) flooding the market--and with good reason. With the success of many FPS franchises ("Call of Duty," "Half-Life," "Halo," etc), many publishers are following the cookie-cutter mold and pumping out title after title. So, when something new emerges within the genre, you can’t help but recognize that breath of fresh air. That cooling gust you’re feeling at your local game store is "Borderlands." "Borderlands" is a refreshing take on a FPS by combing RPG elements while still retaining those satisfying fast-action shooter characteristics.

Typical action RPGs can be slow and cumbersome with lots of monotonous exploring. "Borderlands" has a slightly different approach which allows them to avoid these problems. There is a leveling-up system that could be time consuming. The difference is that it’s very action oriented and because of this heavy action, you’re never burdened to grind and level up. Leveling will occur naturally over the course of your many battles, but you’re hardly ever going to feel compelled to level up anyways. Battles will depend less on your level and more on your guns, and you’ll find a lot of guns as you play. (More on this below.) Also, exploring in most games tends to be pretty tedious, but in "Borderlands," you will get early access to vehicles, so exploring feels more adventurous rather than tiresome.

Another positive to "Borderlands" is the graphics. When you start the game, the thing you’ll immediately notice is the artwork. This is not your typical 3-D, pixilated game. Instead, it has a black-bordered, cell-shaded, comic-book feel to it that’s reminiscent of something Frank Miller would create. This type of artwork creates an atmosphere of freedom in the storytelling, mainly in the use of humor and over-the-top theatrics--all of which is very enjoyable. HDTV owners will really appreciate the appearance as the game looks much crisper and the level of detail becomes much more noticeable.

While there are many great things going for "Borderlands," there is one particular weakness--it’s the story. It serves its purpose by taking you from one place to the next but it feels very thin and you can’t help but want a little more. You’re in a world called Pandora and within Pandora contains this mystical vault that gives you power and wealth. The protagonist is a vault hunter in search of the legendary vault. As you search for the vault, you’ll come across various people who will give you things to do--find this, kill that, and so on. That’s basically it.

You can choose from four different characters and each character has their own distinct style of play. While they can all use every type of gun available, they are inherently adept in a particular style. So, you can snipe with the brawny heavy weapons guy but since he’s so good with the heavy weapons, you’ll be inclined to stick with it. Then again, since there are so many weapons, you really can’t go wrong with whatever character you choose. Gameplay will roughly be the same for everyone.

The area where "Borderlands" truly excels is the gameplay. Like I said before, this is an action-oriented RPG with heavy emphasis on action so it will play more like a straight FPS. Imagine everything that was fun and addictive about "Diablo," put that into a FPS and you have "Borderlands." Controls are tight, kills are satisfying, and there’s enough variety so the game rarely ever gets dull. While the single player mode is enjoyable, it’s in multiplayer where the action really gets exciting. The A.I. compensates for the additional players with more bad guys who are stronger. You can play with 2 - 4 people, but when you play online with four players, that’s when the gameplay is at its peak. The action can get hectic at times, but it’s nothing short of enjoyable. Another benefit of playing with more people is that the items dropped also get better, so be sure to call dibs as soon as possible.  That said, you’ll find so many guns that it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

So, what’s with the guns? Well, in "Borderlands," weapons are generated based on an algorithm combining different characteristics. They are not pre-made then inserted into the code, but created in-game instead. It is reported that the total number of weapons possible within "Borderlands" is 17,750,000. That’s a lot of weapons. Will you see every single weapon?  Probably not, but you’ll find so many over the course of the game that it will feel like you’re getting close.

Overall, "Borderlands" is an exciting FPS with RPG elements that should keep you engaged.  That said, given its price point of $60, I find it hard to recommend for purchase. Rent the game first and give it a try. If the gameplay and style really appeals to, you then by all means go and pick this one up. You will definitely have a good time.

View the trailer for "Borderland" below. Thoughts?

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  1. Priscilla said...

    good post! can't wait to check it out

  2. sokker said...

    nice review! def looking forward to the online multiplayer mode - but it'll take a lot to sway me from L4D2 =)

  3. Dan said...


  4. Rob said...

    Seems like online multiplayer/co-op is really what sets games apart these days. Next step is some how unifying all gaming platforms so that you're multiplayer experience isn't restricted by what system you have.

    Or everyone can just go out and get the same system :P