Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Review: Borderlands

I know Borderlands came out something like four months ago, so a proper review feels a little unnecessary at this point, but I enjoyed the game so much I couldn't just let it go unmentioned here on the blog. I finally got around to playing this gem through January and, yeah, it's as great as everyone says it is.

Basically, there's a planet called Pandora. Unlike the Pandora of Avatar, though, this planet lacks giant Smurfs and is instead inhabited by a large variety of savage alien creatures. Ranging from those that fly, crawl and burst out of the ground and coming in sizes tiny to gargantuan, there's a decent variety of killer wildlife to pump bullets into. You're an animal rights kind of person? That's okay! Pandora has you covered. Along with the small civilizations of wasteland inhabitants, the map is positively littered with devious bandits just asking for a face full of buckshot.

What little story there is goes as follows: somewhere on Pandora is a vault that will grant the one who finds it all the riches and power they could ever ask for. You just so happen to want to find that vault. You start off at a bus station and, from there, the various regions of Pandora are your playground. Talk to inhabitants, complete quests, upgrade your character and dive into massive dungeons as you slowly but surely find your way across the planet and, hopefully, to the vault.

You take on missions from random folks or a mission board and, as you complete them, you earn equipment and experience to make your character stronger. The further you venture into Pandora, the bigger and badder the opponents become. Easy, right?

There are vehicles for getting around faster (or blowing $#!& up in new and exciting ways) and a fast travel system that allows you to move across vast portions of the map with a single click of a button.

Feeling a bit lonely? Why not take the game online for up to four-player co-op action? Killing with friends is more fun and, to keep things challenging, the bad guys actually level to the number of people in a group.

Online is a blast, but it's also where my one big complaint with the game comes in. In co-op mode, any unfinished missions from one character will be automatically added to the list of missions for any other character who has not already completed those missions as well. Playing with someone a few levels above you and no qualms with keeping 20 missions going at once will result in your own tidy list of just one or two open missions skyrocketing. For someone as obsessively orderly as me, this proved to be a real pain.

The controls are tight, the shooting is fun as hell and the atmosphere is perfect, but the real star of Borderlands is the weapons. Try to imagine every combination of weapon variety, attachment, ammo type and stat adjustment possible and you'll understand why Gearbox's claims of sporting more than 700,000 weapons is likely accurate.

While a lot of the loot you pick up (and there is a LOT of loot in this game) will be just slight variations of weapons you've already seen, there's still enough big variety here to make for a staggering number of firearms. If you love a certain triple rocket launcher but wish it had a 3x scope and fired corrosive rounds, it's just a matter of time before you find exactly that.

I have personally fallen in love with an incendiary sniper rifle that makes just about any headshot (and many body shots) a genuine treat to behold. And then there's my pistol that sends about a million volts of electricity into whatever I aim it at...Things go boom.

Anyway, there's a quick look at Borderlands for those who have somehow managed to keep it off the radar. With three DLC packs available and even more on the way, along with rewards for playing through multiple times and the ability to bring your buddies along for the ride, I fully expect this disc to be spinning until the inevitable Borderlands 2 finds its way to store shelves.

P.S. The music is subtle, but appropriate, and the concept art visuals are a delightful treat in a genre that usually strives for hyper realism.

P.P.S. Really, this game is satisfying beyond belief. Go play it.

No comments: