Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Borderlands (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC)

Reviewing a game nearly two years after it was released is something of a fool’s errand, since everything that can be said about it already has and gamers have had ample time to make up their minds on whether or not it’s good. However, I have been enjoying Borderlands so much lately that I feel compelled to write a review and perhaps assist the relatively small number of gamers who haven’t decided if this game is worth playing. Borderlands is a standout title from Gearbox games combines the best elements of the first person shooter (FPS) and the loot-based RPG genres and creates a game that feels unique enough to not feel derivative and consistently challenging and rewarding enough to hold your interest after many hours of gameplay. Accented by a striking visual style and a wickedly sardonic sense of humor, Borderlands is a game that you will be glad to have invest the time in.

Despite the game being full of colorful characters and some genuinely witty dialogue, the story itself is paper-thin. You play as one of four mercenaries who traverse the rocky and trash-strewn terrain of Pandora, a distant planet populated with a mix of humans, mutants and monsters. The main objective is to find the fabled alien treasure that is said to exist within a vault hidden on the planet, and the prospect of extreme wealth is enough motivation for you to spend hours gunning down the various nasties you will meet in your travel. You can choose to play as a hunter, a siren, a berserker or a soldier, and character has skills and abilities unique to their class, though they all feel similar in how they play and handle guns. The main difference is in the “action moves” that you have, which is a specific ability that aids you in battle. The hunter unleashes a ravenous bird onto enemies, the siren goes invisible and sneaks behind enemies, the soldier throws down a shielded gun turret and the berserker just goes nuts and punches everything in his path. The action moves become stronger as your character advances, and certain modifiers can be applied to augment your abilities, such as adding electrical or corrosive damage. Each character has a dearth of dialogue and the story is mainly advanced through the friendly (and not so friendly) NPCs who guide you towards your objective by giving you missions, providing valuable items and engaging you in battle. A few boss fights are mandatory to advance the plot, however many missions are fetch quests that are essential for leveling up but provide very little in the context of the main plot.

Gameplay in Borderlands will feel familiar to any FPS fan, but people who prefer a “run and gun” approach will find that this does not get you very far. Two elements are essential to surviving in Borderlands, and those are leveling up your character and scavenging for loot. Attempting to run through the game without taking the time to level up will result in your playing missions that are too advanced for you and you will die constantly, and not taking the time to search chests, lockers, and even piles of animal vomit for loot will result in your running out of money, ammunition and better weapons. Dying also carries consequences, as you lose money each time you have to respawn and large amounts of money can be lost rather quickly and bring your progress to a crawl. The main draw of Borderlands is the sheer variety of guns you can acquire, and the amount is staggering to say the least. The usual weapon classes such as rifles, shotguns, pistols and sniper rifles are included, as are rocket launchers and bizarre alien guns found later in the game. Each weapon has unique stats and augments, so gamers will feel rewarded as they find and equip better weapons, while selling unwanted guns for cash. Guns can be found all over Pandora, in vending machines, weapon chests, lockers, and dropped from dead enemies. The guns are randomly generated and you are unlikely to come across the same weapon twice, so there is an element of discovery, and finding the guns that really work for you is a reward in and of itself. In short, take the time to grind and progress through the game and you will be amazed at the fun you’ll have testing out a massive variety of guns.As a single-player experience, Borderlands is a fun game that will easily take 30 or more hours to complete, longer if you invest in the four DLC packs currently available. However, the game was made with cooperative gameplay in mind and this is where Borderlands really shine. The entire campaign can be played in co-op with up to three other players, either from your friends list or with random gamers online. The scaling difficulty of the game means that the enemies grow stronger based on the number of players and better loot will drop as a result. Co-op gameplay also increases the level of experience acquired from mission progression and enemy kills, so co-op is definitely a great way to level up your character quickly. Playing with your friends is a wickedly good time that can easily consume hours, regardless of whether or not you are playing through missions.

Playing with random people is a mixed experience, since many online gamers have modified weapons and shields that give them an unfair advantage, and some people are loot whores who will just drop into your game to steal loot and then drop out. Conversely, I have met some great people online who have helped me level up and have provided me with choice weapons, so you take the good with the bad. However and whoever you choose to play with, Borderlands excels as one of the best co-op experiences in this generation of gaming, and those opting to play solo will also have a great time.

I’m sure most people reading this have already played Borderlands, but as per usual, I am fairly late to the party with these games and I have only just discovered my love for it. Being a fan of shooters, I feel that the genre has become very stale lately with the endless steam of short and shallow FPS titles that appeal mainly to those who like competitive multiplayer, so it’s refreshing to play a game like Borderlands that provides a more substantial experience with an emphasis on co-op gameplay as opposed to the cookie-cutter deathmatches and dinky single-player campaigns that currently plague the genre. The RPG elements also work to the game’s benefit as they provide the sense of progression and reward that has kept me coming back night after night. If you haven’t played Borderlands, the “Game of the Year” edition is going cheap and it contains all the DLC expansions, so there is no reason to hold off any longer.

Rating: 9.5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment