Definitely the surprise hit of the Fall 2009 game season, Gearbox astonished players the world over with its quirky, off-beat first-person role-playing shooter amongst the titans of the gaming industry. With only the Brothers In Arms series to back its pedigree, Borderlands was certainly a gamble for Gearbox. While the game is garnering much attention and praise for being “different”… does that make Borderlands a good game?
A science fiction role-playing shooter from Gearbox Software, Borderlands takes place on the world of Pandora and has players take on the role of one of four unique, playable characters: Roland the Soldier, Mordecai the Hunter, Lilith the Siren, and Brick as… himself. The narrative itself is a straight-forward affair where players must complete quests issued by characters or events on Pandora in order to receive rewards and special items. The challenge stems from surviving the hostile inhabitants of the world and finding the biggest gun to do so.
Borderlands takes the post-apocolyptic world concept and makes it a fun place to be. It’s as though Gearbox took Fallout 3‘s destroyed landscape and injected Saints’ Row 2‘s ridiculous, over-the-top action and attitude into the world of Pandora and it’s inhabitants. Who would have thought the two would mix so well!?
Scavenging & Exploring
Randomization in loot spawn and the fact that you rarely see the same weapon twice grants players a unique experience everytime they start a new game, adding immense replay value.
Playing through the game alone is alright, however, Borderlands really shines in the way it can bring you and three others together through an all-out assault to purge the wastes of scum and neat looking weapons. Massive firefights, tactical eliminations, and vehicular manslaughter… check, check, CHECK!
Unique, Beautiful Presentation
The graphics take on a heavy cell shaded look, not unlike Crackdown or last-gen’s XIII (remember that one!?). It presents a beauty and art style that many gamers don’t find in titles nowadays, giving Borderlands an overall fresh feel against the ho-hum of today’s shooters.
The sounds of Pandora offer much in the way of complementing the visuals of Borderlands. “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” by Cage The Elephant is an extraordinary song that summizes the journey players are about to experience. The soundtrack itself is pleasing to the action on screen. Looting around, you are accompanied by melodic and calming tunes… in contrast, fast and hard rock will back you whilst shooting up a raider camp.
Atrocious Vehicle Gameplay
The handling of vehicles in Borderlands certainly leaves much to be desired. Beyond the control of the vehicles themselves, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of tricking out your vehicle’s performance or looks. Now that I think about it, it feels as though the driving-based action in Borderlands was definitely neglected in comparison to its stellar on-foot gameplay.
Claptrap Needs His Own Health Bar
That annoying little bastard is in real need of a bullet to the CPU. At any moment while its dancing you should be able to smoke him… oh, and when you fast travel – the game should bring him back so you can do it again! Yes, we see that you’re dancing… now check ME out! My finger is gonna dance on the trigger to my rocket-shotgun pointing at your drive core!
Gearbox Software is certainly deserving of praise for risking its new IP, especially against blockbuster sequels like: Modern Warfare 2, Assassin’s Creed II, Uncharted 2, and Left 4 Dead 2 (anyone else seeing a pattern in that?).
The mix of shooter mechanics and role-playing elements pays off exponentially as it enables Borderlands to have the fun gameplay of a first-person shooter while lasting as long as a traditional action-RPG. The vehicular gameplay is there, but it definitely requires refinement. Though the game is fun and entertaining when you’re lone wolf-ing it, the best time one can have in Pandora would be with his or her back covered!
Review based on the Xbox 360 version.