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Combining the RPG and FPS genres has been attempted before, all to
varying degrees of success. The main problem developers have faced has
always boiled down to figuring out how to satisfy both camps of players
without alienating either. FPS players are concerned mainly with
reflexes and accuracy, while RPG players flock to games for story,
quests, and more loot than even old Smog could hope to hoard.
While the results aren't perfect, Borderlands proves it's not only
possible to pull it off, but to do so with style. From the moment the
intro music kicks in and you're introduced to the different characters
you can choose from, you know this is going to be an interesting ride.
The planet of Pandora is a harsh world with harsh people. With the promises of treasure and power hidden in legendary vault, you hit the road and begin your search. Tales talk of a guardian angel that guides the vault hunters forward. You're hoping that explains the crazy lady talking in your head.
Borderlands is rated Mature for the following reasons:
Blood and Gore
These warnings weren't put on the box just for the sake of having
something there. When it says Intense Violence, it's not exaggerating
in the least. You'll see heads explode, bodies blown apart, dead
monsters and humans flopping on the ground with full rag doll effects,
and more. There is also *no* filter for naming your online games, so be
warned that you may have some explaining to do if Little Johnny sees
some of the more colorful possibilities come across the screen.
Heed the warnings. They're there for a reason.
Gameplay - 90 / 100
The gameplay of Borderlands has both serious highs and depressing lows.
Fortunately for all of us, the lows are far outnumbered by the highs,
but they still exist nonetheless. Let's get the bad news out of the way
first, shall we?
The biggest complaint I have with Borderlands is being unable to save
the game at any point. At the very least, I wish there were more save
points scattered throughout the game. In a game setup like an FPS as
Borderlands is, I can understand not wanting to give players the
ability to save anywhere they choose, especially since the team will be
sucking in huge numbers of RPG players. As an RPGer myself, I can
attest to the inability to keep from saving my game every 5 minutes, so
I understand some decisions had to be made in this regard.
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When I've spent 20 minutes and more nerves than I can count in an
attempt to get to a quest objective though, it's a bit disheartening to
die and have to fight my way back through a decent amount of the same
content again. I will give the team credit for including a
“fight for your life” option where if you get a
kill before your timer runs out (as the screen goes to black and white
while getting continually darker as you slip ever closer toward the
maws of death), you’ll get a Second Wind and be right back on
your feet again.
Fortunately, that's really the only nagging issue I have with the
gameplay of Borderlands.
I'll freely admit that while I enjoy the actual gameplay and combat of
most FPS games, I get bored far too easily in them. “Hey, you
have to attack X position because the aliens have landed - get there
and hold it at all costs”. Aside from the fact that the
generally simplistic and rehashed stories of most FPS games get
annoying, add in the fact that I only get four or five weapons to
choose from and I'm bored just thinking about it. Inevitably, I'll play
for a little while and then put the game down, only picking it up again
when I go to trade it in towards some other shiny new title.
Putting in honest to goodness quests with experience, and *tons* of
variable loot in an FPS is awesome. Doing it without upsetting the need
for actual player skill though is pure genius. All of this adds up to
me not being able to quit thinking about the game, even when I should
be concentrating on something more important, like how much laundry I
should do today.
This would all be entertaining enough, but by giving the players the
ability to level up various skills, the fun factor increases ten fold.
Want to make Mordecai a total bad ass with his sniper rifle by lowering
the sway of his weapon? Go for it. Want to make Lilith a walking
hurricane of electrical damage? Why not? You can do all these things
while I make my version of Mordecai a master hunter with a seriously
killer pet. There are plenty of options to let everyone play the game
how they choose.
That's a homerun in my book, no matter how you slice it.
Graphics - 90 / 100
The graphics of Borderlands are highly stylized. Think of it as a cross
between standard cell shading and those comics every local wannabe-hip
news rag has scattered throughout it. While those results sound hideous
even to me, take what you'd get and then give it to a truly talented
art team and you won't believe what can result from it. The game
completely oozes style thanks in large part to the vision of
Borderlands' Art Director and their team.
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I'd give the graphics an A+, but I'm making a stand. Why any game still
lacks an anti-alias option in the graphics setting confounds me. I'm
sure it's a programming nightmare of biblical proportions, but we've
had the technology for over a decade now, so why am I still forced to
deal with jagged edges? To be fair, they're only noticeable when
you’re standing still. When you're on the move, you'll barely
be able to notice them.
If jaggies don't bother you at all, then Borderlands deserves the
highest graphics rating we offer. It's been a long time since a game
looked so original in a good way.
Sound - 97 / 100
Borderlands gets an A+ in the sound department for the best reason I
can give. Not once has it made me cringe, wish I had turned on my
stereo before I sat down, or begin debating whether or not to start up
Pandora in the background. The sounds are crisp, clean, and completely
appropriate to the game. The fact that the game starts off with a kick
ass song doesn't hurt any either.
The sound team did a bang up job in this department. The voice acting
is spot on and is staggered throughout enough that it actually brings a
smile to my face instead of a grimace of annoyance. You know the
face… that one you make when the character you're playing
never shuts up and sounds like a dying porn star. I'm looking at you,
Aion. Extra credit to the Borderlands team for making sure this didn't
Multiplayer - 82 / 100
This was a difficult category to score and I'll tell you why.
Setting up or joining an online game is an absolute breeze. Log on with
your current GameSpy account, or create a new one, all from the game
interface. After that, it's a simple matter of selecting whether you
want to join or host a game. The setup could not be any easier.
Unfortunately, actually connecting to a game is sometimes a different
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The Join game page could really use a ping monitor or something of the
sort to list beside each game name. Some players have taken the
initiative to name their games things like Korea Players, Aussie
Server, Midwest Badboys, and so forth. This at least gives others a
small piece of information to help them pick a server they may actually
be able to connect to.
Be prepared for being unable to connect to a lot of games, and keep
hitting "E" to refresh your list. When you actually manage to get into
a game though, it's a lot of fun working as a big four-person team,
especially when you use a character you've been leveling for a while
and have some decent weapons.
Games can be made of up any four players, without the need for each one
taking the role of a different archetype. Want a group with four Brick
players? No problem at all. Those times when you get a group of all
four different character types though, it's a thing of beauty. The
wanton destruction the four of them can unleash together is awesome.
The game adapts the strength of the monsters to whatever characters are
currently on your team. If your fellow players are level 10, one person
drops out, and a level 15 player joins in, the mob levels are going to
go up. The reverse of this is also true in the sense that if you have a
low level character join you, mob strength will drop. All of this is
accomplished without you having to lift a finger, making it a very
Another highlight of the multiplayer experience is just that; you get
to keep all the experience and loot your character gains while playing
online. If you’ve leveled at all during an online game,
you’ll need to be sure to spend those skill points again once
you go back to your single player game. It’s a bit of a pain,
but could end up proving useful if you decide to change your mind in
how you spend them the second time around.
There are things that could be done differently to make things a little
smoother, but overall, the multiplayer experience of Borderlands is a
lot of fun. The team also gets bonus points from me for making sure a
LAN Party option was included in the final release of the game.
Value - 87 / 100
Whether you bought the game for the PC, Xbox 360, or Playstation 3,
you're going to get your money's worth. There's a ton of content, and
while sometimes you end up repeating a lot of it, that's not
necessarily a bad thing. Play as a different archetype, engage in
online battles, or have your buddies over for a LAN party. There are
plenty of other games that have shipped with half the content and style
of Borderlands that cost as much and sometimes more.
Lasting Appeal - 82 / 100
The replayability factor of Borderlands is pretty high. Four different
archetypes, all with their own styles, strengths, and weaknesses means
you'll have a reason to hop into the game over and over. Combine this
with the Diablo-esque loot system and you'll never run out of things
to go hunting for whether you're alone or playing with friends.
Having to go through the same content more than once if you die can become a pain. Even when you do, you're still gaining experience and loot, so the sting isn't quite so bad.
Pros and Cons
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- This game absolutely oozes
style and character.
- Fast paced and fun.
- Plenty of loot and quests to
keep the RPG player focused and happy.
- Plenty of weapons and pure
skill requirements to keep the FPS player happy.
- Getting into a multiplayer
game can be a pain.
- Respawning a long distance
from where you died, thus having to fight your way through the same
content you just completed.
- No apparent ability to mute
specific players in online games.
Whether you're a long time FPS player looking for something new, an
old-school RPG player that's always
thought FPS games looked
interesting but found they just didn't have enough to offer, or a mix
of the two, you should find a lot of enjoyment in Borderlands. I know
I've said it a few times in here, but it can't be stressed enough.
Borderlands has more style than the latest America's Next Top Model.
Combined with a complete smorgasbord of treasures to loot, this is the
most unique, yet instantly accessible game, to come around in a very