By Alex Sisko
It’s tempting to go easy on “Borderlands” merely because of its genre, or lack thereof.
There aren’t many first person shooting games that combine vehicular combat, fast-paced cooperative action and an expansive loot system. “Borderlands” also lets you modify your character’s abilities as you gain experience and level up one of four unique character classes.
This all sounds like a gimmicky attempt to mix disparate styles of gameplay with the obvious pitfall that these elements won’t complement one another. Surprisingly, this is where “Borderlands” gets it right. The mix of high-octane shooter action combines well with a loot system and gameplay that echoes action/role-playing exemplars like the Diablo franchise. But what has the developer done with this match made in heaven?
Guns, guns, guns! The game’s developer, 2K Games, alleges that the game has “87 bazillion” guns in it just waiting for you to collect and use in devious ways. Liars! Fine, they may not be far off in their estimate, but this is certainly a half-truth. Most of the weapons in “Borderlands” differ only slightly from one another and there are only a handful of item types in the game, principally the pistol, rifle, submachine gun, rocket launcher, shield and a few others.
These weapon types may be sufficient for most shooters, but in a game driven by loot and not storyline, the variety of firearms leaves much to be desired.
The stylish cell-shaded feel of the graphics distinguishes “Borderlands” from similar games. However, the post-apocalyptic setting of “Borderlands” is underwhelming. The landscape and set pieces are often uninteresting or repetitive.
These flaws are all the more glaring due to the wild popularity of “Fallout 3,” released nearly a year ago. If you are looking for a post-apocalyptic adventure that oozes character and originality and can do without the multiplayer, there is no reason to get its ugly sister, “Borderlands.”
“Borderlands” has decent sound design and the most important things (the guns) sound great. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is forgettable and there isn’t enough voice work to make the game world come alive.
Enemies are easily recognizable and the combat feels good overall. It’s what you do outside of combat that can be frustrating. The game’s scattered save points make it cumbersome to save your progress.
Borderland’s boss challenges are anticlimactic, and ironically, they tend to yield worse weapons than the average dumpster.
Quests are usually mundane tasks that require you to kill a certain number of a specific enemy or fetch something. Again, the items you are rewarded are usually worse than those you find while wandering around. The New Game option, though, allows you to play through the entire game again with tougher enemies and better loot, which adds replay value to the game.
“Borderlands” is a game best played with friends. Having some players join you makes enemies more formidable and livens up the pace of the game, and if they can look past flawed gameplay elements and a bland setting, you can go gun-crazy with “Borderlands.”
Immersive – 6.0 – The setting is generic and uninteresting but Borderlands can be addictive.
Technical – 5.0 – Graphics are mediocre and gameplay lacks refinement.
Value – 8.0 – Replay value and engaging multiplayer help make up for the lack of guns.
Average = 6.25/10