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Borderlands Review

When I was in my first year of college my friends and I made a video for my film class, of which the only line I really remember is, “I want your loot. Give me your loot.” It’s most memorable because the project itself was so forgettable and I’m reminded of it because every time I kill an enemy in Borderlands the thought crosses my mind, “I want your loot. Give me your loot.” Yes, Borderlands is a first person shooter/role playing game hybrid where vanquished enemies often leave behind items to further your quest to find the legendary “Vault”. Taking place on Pandora, a distant post-apocalyptic looking world (think Mad Max) where bandits and the local wildlife run amok and violence is commonplace, Borderlands is very much like a fast paced action-RPG with a collectors mentality. The only question is whether Borderlands can blend the two genres seamlessly or will it be borderline good? (See what I did there?)

Borderlands Screenshot

Borderlands lets you choose to play as one of four different characters: Brick the Berserker who specializes in hand to hand combat and explosives. Roland the Soldier who specializes in shotguns and combat rifles. Mordecai the Hunter who specializes in sniper rifles and pistols. And Lilith the Siren who specializes in elemental weapons. Each character has their own strengths in combat, but unlike so many other games of this ilk any character can use any weapon as long as they are the appropriate level. The main goal of the game is to complete as many missions as you can, build up experience, collect as many rare weapons as you can find, improve your characters abilities and discover the mysterious secrets of “the Vault”.

Borderlands Screenshot

So, now that you know a little bit about the story you’re going to want to know what makes Borderlands a very cool game. First off, you will notice the cell shaded graphics. The characters are nicely drawn and there’s a pretty cool look to the game. Mostly though, because the game is set in a post-apocalyptic world you’ll find environments of brown. Lots of dirt and sand. The world is huge, there will be lots of areas to explore when it’s all said and done. Plus, if you factor in downloadable content, which is more than just new missions in old areas, you’ve got new missions in new areas along with new items, weapons, enemies, and more. Add all that up and you’ve got one extremely deep and replayable game. The developers, Gearbox, have also promised lots more downloadable content for Borderlands in the future.

Borderlands Screenshot

Borderlands has quite a fair amount of recorded dialog, most of it comes from a mysterious voice that reveals bits and pieces of the story. Who this voice is comes into play later on in the game, but until then all you see is an image of her face in the corner of the screen, while she tells you about the conspiracy to keep the Vault hidden. The rest of the dialog comes when you accept a new mission and the description is essentially read to you. Regardless, it’s good, but the music is probably better. Though subtle, the music builds up during intense firefights and eases off once the last enemy has been defeated. And the other audio cues only benefit the player that much more, especially if you’ve got a 5.1 system so you can hear exactly what direction that cue is coming from. Normally, this sort of game might tend to over do the music, but Borderlands does a good job building tension with periods of little to no music that builds up to a crescendo in the heat of battle. You should dig it.

Borderlands Screenshot

The real meat of Borderlands is in taking on missions and the rares you collect either as rewards, loot from defeated enemies, or purchased in vending machines (and you thought those vending machines that dispense ice cream were a technological marvel). Weapons and shields come in different flavors varying from the elemental damage they inflict to their rarity. The more common weapons appear in your backpack in a white font. From there they go, in order to the most rare, green, blue, purple, and orange. That is, in essence, your main goal. Forget the story if you’re not interested. You can cruise through the missions on your way to rarer weapons and items, building your characters skill set the entire time.

Play the game solo and you should have fun, though, the game does have the chance of getting repetitive, but don’t all shooters? Team up with some friends (or strangers, whatever tickles your fancy) online and the fun should ramp up significantly. Expect tons of missions, lots of enemies, and even more weapons/items, with lots of character customization for endless possibilities. Pick a character for your particular playing style and just have at it, you’ll have more options that you can shake a stick covered in Skag poo at. The bonus? You can complete multiple missions at once, so if you take on a bunch of missions in one particular area, you can complete all the objectives without having to be specifically looking. You will stumble upon objectives from time to time, so not having to backtrack later is a definite plus.

Borderlands Screenshot

On the negative side, Borderlands does hit a few bad notes. For one, the game can get repetitive after shooting up everything under the sun for hours at a time. Rare items are a complete crapshoot, you may get them from drops, though, you tend to find better stuff in vending machines. 95% of the time, boss battles end with you being disappointed at the lack of a good drop, or in some cases, any drop all together. It’s understood that they’re rare for a reason, but the fact that you might be a level 46 Siren using a weapon accessible to a level 31 character won’t be lost on you when you’re cursing the higher caliber weapons laying on the ground that aren’t exactly worth keeping. One of the most glaring omissions is a ‘bank’ for your stuff. You’re going to collect so many items, some of which you can’t use, but maybe another character you’ve created can, that you’re not going to want to leave everything lying on the floor unclaimed. Except, you’re going to have to. You only have so many items that you can carry, which gets expanded as you progress through the game, but what to do with those other sweet weapons or shields some of which, you may actually want, but don’t currently meet the level requirements? Or what about the transfer from one characters to another? Again, no bank, and especially no central bank for all your characters in Borderlands to share to facilitate getting rare and usable items to lower or appropriate characters. So what to do? You’re going to have to find a workaround. Have a friend hold it for you and hope he doesn’t stiff you, create a new character who does nothing but transfer items to your character in need, or just get to dumping.

(Editor’s Note: Downloadable content Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot adds a bank to Borderlands, but you must pay the entrance fee of 800 Microsoft points or $10 USD) Biggest shame of the game, though, one could easily defend it by saying you’ve got to make due with what space you have and adjust accordingly. All in all, though, you should find yourself a big fan of Borderlands if you understand going in that it’s a grind and lootfest.

Final Verdict

The fact that I spent so much time playing Borderlands and enjoying it came a bit of a surprise to me. I’m not the biggest fan of first person shooters, but I do like an RPG if I’ve got the time to spare. This ate up a lot of my time and the fact that they’re committed to supporting the game with downloadable content gives this tons of replay value. Add that to the fact that upon completion you can play the game again with added difficulty, (but all your equipment) and begin to collect higher level weapons with increased rarity. Fans of shooters looking to experience more of a team oriented game, should take a further look at Borderlands. It really is a fun pick up and play game for one player or a group of friends, but whether you’re playing solo or with a team you will enjoy Borderlands.


8.5 out of 10

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Borderlands Review

Related Information

Posted by: Redeema
Date: July 20, 2010
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Release Date: 10/20/2009
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1-4
ESRB Rating: Mature
System Reviewed: Xbox 360

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Categories: PlayStation 3 Reviews, Xbox 360 Reviews, PC Reviews, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Reviews

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