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Borderlands: PC Version Reviewed

Updated Thu, Oct 29, 2009 by Dalmarus

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.

Cautions


Borderlands is rated Mature for the following reasons:
Blood and Gore
Intense Violence
Mature Humor
Strong Language

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

90Great
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.

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

90Great
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.

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

97Excellent
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 happen.

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