Borderlands Results

7
Borderlands
  • Unique graphical style
  • Lots to do
  • Some really fun weaponry
  • Weak, uninspiring storyline
  • Needlessly repetitive side questing
  • Very samey environments

Borderlands

November 12, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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Overview

Title: Borderlands

Release Date: Consoles: 20th October 2009 (North America) & 23rd October 2009 (PAL). PC: 26th October 2009 (North America) & 29th October 2009 (PAL)

Developer/Publisher: Gearbox Software Inc/2K Games

Genre: Shooter

Platform[s]: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Storyline

Borderlands is all about treasure. The Vault is a fabled place lying dormant somewhere on the distant planet of Pandora, said to contain immeasurable wealth, power and long-forgotten Alien technology. Taking control of one of four mercenary/treasure hunters, you set about relieving Pandora of its indigenous life-forms in a quest for The Vault, helping out the locals, slaying bandits and making an all-round nuisance of yourself to anyone who gets in your way.

Gameplay

Let’s get straight to the point here, a lot of ‘hoo-hah’ has been made about Borderlands’ supposed melding of our beloved FPS and RPG genres – promising an RPS (Role Playing Shooter, fact fans!) experience like no other, featuring infinite combinations of weaponry, enemies and missions. At first glance, it appears that Gearbox Software has managed to pull it off rather successfully, with elements from both genres clearly both present AND correct. RPG fans will be bowled over by the sheer amount of items there are to collect, buy and sell and FPS aficionados will be happy with the run and gun gameplay that lies at the heart of the title. But, upon further inspection (and after a lot of man hours invested), the cracks begin to show and you realize that the experience isn’t as deep as you’d been led to believe which, for a game that offers 160 quests, is quite a worry.

Now, don’t get us wrong – Borderlands has a lot to offer, and there’s plenty to see and kill on the way. For starters, the game has a random weapon generator that (at last count) offers anything up to 17,000,000 different combinations of ammo, barrel length, colour and size. So, every time you see a crate that looks like it has something interesting in it, the need to crack it open and get your hands on whatever lays inside is too much to bear. Handguns that fire shotgun shells, sniper rifles that cause your prey to explode into flames and machine guns that fire cats (we made that last one up) are some of the best examples we’ve come across so far, but for every exciting new kind of weapon there’s another humdrum revolver or bottom-end shotgun ready to clog up your inventory until you find a shop ready to take it off your hands.

These shops take the form of vending machines (a bit like those in Bioshock), stocking the usual health packs, weapon upgrades and shields that appear to be de riguer in any FPS worth it’s salt nowadays, as well as a “bargain of the day” that’s only on offer for a limited period of time – sometimes so tantalizingly expensive that you do all you can (without selling what you already have) to get the cash together to purchase it before returning and finding that you’re too late.

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Cash can be gleaned in a number of ways, from cracking open the myriad safes, toilets and piles of dung (yes, you read that right) that litter the landscape, to prising it from the cold, dead hands of your foes. When we say “prising”, we actually mean “button pressing” – instead of automatically collecting something when your character wanders over it, you have to stop and look at the item in question and then press X in order to retrieve it. It’s overly annoying and can easily disrupt the flow of the game, especially when you’re caught in a massive firefight with a group of bandits and run out of ammo: life would be so much easier if you just picked items up automatically instead. There is an alarming amount of stuff to be harvested however, and practically everything you kill either drops cash or ammo, and it appears to be relevant to the weapons you’re carrying at the time, meaning you’re never far from a full clip somewhere along the line.

Killing things earns you XP (experience points, for the non-initiated) which you use to level up, as does completing quests – which (in some cases), you need to do pretty quickly in order to progress through the story mode. When a quest is presented to you it tells you what level you need to be at to stand a chance of completing it, and most of the time you need to grind in order to do this. Unfortunately, most of these quests feel non-descript and samey, requiring you to “go here, kill him, collect this” in varying orders and it all gets rather repetitive rather quickly. Even the story-led missions lack emotion or anything worth remembering, and with little or no dialogue between you and the NPC’s (save the odd sarcastic comment when you kill something) it’s hard to build up a strong connection to your character. It’s like Gearbox read a list of all the things normal gamers care about (decent storyline and attachment to your character, for example) and got it mixed up with all the stuff we don’t instead. This may indicate a leaning towards old-skool gaming values of old, but without the core gameplay to back things up it just feels like urinating in the wind.

Graphics

Looking like a cross between Prince of Persia and Afro Samurai, Borderlands follows the underused cel-shading method, which at least gives it a unique comic book style feel. The landscapes are vast, and there’s a real sense of scope and distance all around you. Unfortunately, most of the terrain looks like the same arid desert landscape you visited earlier and save the odd bandit camp or wind turbine it could very well be. Likewise, the enemies on offer are quite varied, from the mutated canine Skags to the highly amusing Psycho Dwarf fraternity, but despite the odd random variant (Level 12 Corrosive Skag, anyone?) they all look and act exactly the same. Texture pop is also an issue, with it being glaringly obvious in some places.

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Audio

Sounding like a cross between a twangy Ennio Morricone Soundtrack in places and Deliverance on LSD in others, Borderlands screams “old skool Western movie” – most of the NPC’s have faux-texan accents and sound like every cowboy cliché extra you’ve ever heard in a Clint Eastwood movie. The bad guys really all sound the same, and tend to spit the same token insults and taunts, with only the high-pitched giggling of the Psychotic Dwarves providing any real giggles. The gun sounds are quite convincing however, and the explosions have some real meat behind them – but why are the vehicles so quiet?!! They look beefy, but make little or no sound at all…the track over the opening movie is fantastic, though!

Overall Score & Replayability

As scathing as this review may seem, Borderlands does have a quirky charm – it is quite unlike anything available on the market today and we can’t quite put our fingers on what that something is. It could be the overall annoyance and complete lack of satisfaction you get when playing the game (the effort/pay off ratio is very low on this one), or it may be the unique graphical flair and the fact that Gearbox have tried to create something a bit different and, to some extent, have succeeded. The FPS and RPG elements mould into each other quite well but (and I’m paraphrasing here) neither are remarkable enough to achieve an outstanding final product. Nevertheless, the time we spent with Borderlands was quite enjoyable and it’s easy to whittle away a few days on Pandora’s sandy vistas – just don’t expect anything life changing.

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Comments

4 Comments on "Borderlands"

  1. doomey on Thu, 12th Nov 2009 4:12 pm 

    hmm.. you do not “have” to play the side quests you know. I think a 7.5 would be a more fair score ;)

  2. Susan Taylor on Thu, 12th Nov 2009 4:18 pm 

    This game is 100% better when played with more than just yourself. I found myself getting easily distracted by games like DA:O until my fella jumped into the co-op with me on Borderlands. I found the graphics difficult to enjoy for the first 30mins of the game, but now I love how quirky they look. It makes the game stand out from the rest.

    As for it claiming to be the baby of Daddy FPS and Mummy RPG? No, it’s not. That claim can only be made by Fallout 3. Sorry Gearbox!

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