[Feel free to check out Christopher Matulich's review of the Xbox 360 version.]
Are you tired of playing first person shooters that pigeonhole you into using the same old small selection of weapons? Do you believe in the old saying that you “don’t need to be a better shot, you just need to shoot more bullets?” Are you constantly yearning for wide open spaces on distant alien worlds inhabited by talking robots, bandits, and secret alien artifacts?
If any of the above apply, then you need to grab your mouse and keyboard and take a seat, as I tell you about the wonderful world of Borderlands. Make sure you grab three of your closest friends though, because you won’t want to go on this journey alone. But if you don’t have any friends, don’t worry. You’re only going to have about a bazillion guns to keep you company.
At it’s core, Borderlands is a FPS with RPG elements thrown in, but don’t be fooled into thinking that it plays like an RPG. All the talent trees, special abilities, and high levels in the world won’t help one bit if you don’t know how to aim and fire a gun; or if you’re oblivious to the idea of getting your butt behind cover when being shot at.
No shooter would be complete without a solid line up of weapons. What makes Borderlands unique is it has roughly a million-billion guns to choose from. The game is able to create this unending supply of firepower thanks to an ingenious system that mixes and matches hundreds of different weapon components. The end result is a large array of guns in which no two are the same.
Perhaps you’ll want an accurate weapon with high damage output and a scope for head shots. Maybe you have terrible aim and just want to spray as many bullets as possible in a short period of time. Or, you could be the type of person who likes big booms. No matter what type of gun crazed maniac you are, Borderlands has the weapon for you.
What’s great is that every class of weapon in the game packs a big punch. The fun part is trying them all out, because what seems like a weak weapon might have a secret ability that makes it a force to be reckoned with. Oh, and don’t be fooled into thinking that repeaters and revolvers are for babies, because they can be just as deadly as the best rocket launcher.
Before you can begin finding guns, you’ll need to choose one of the four classes. The first is Roland, a jack of all trades soldier who comes equipped with a deployable turret. Next up is Mordecai, a hunter with a pet falcon who excels at sniper rifles and pistols. Then there is the voluptuous Lilith, an expert assassin who can phase walk right through enemies to injur them. Finally there’s the tank of the group, Brick. His name kind of says it all.
Each class has a set of three unique talent trees, which let you customize your characters traits as you level up. At level five you begin earning points to fill in these trees, each subsequent level providing an additional point. Talents range from increasing health and weapon clip size, to granting special offensive and defensive abilities. If you find you’ve built a character you don’t like, you can always spend cash to reset your talents.
Besides the billions of guns and talents to choose from, you’ll also be able to customize your characters with shield, grenade, and class mods. Each of these provide you the opportunity to create a character who is entirely your own. Like all the items in the game, these mods can be dropped by enemies after you kill them, or they can be purchased at vending machines strewn all about the world.
Speaking of the world, the entire game takes place on the planet of Pandora. This desolate wasteland is filled with rolling desert hills, shanty towns surrounded by towering piles of trash, and coastlines filled with raw sewage. There’s lots of it to see, because the world is gigantic. The great thing is, Borderlands does a good job of slowly introducing you to it all by telling you where to go so you never feel overwhelmed.
Notice I haven’t really mentioned the story yet. That’s because there really isn’t much of one. There is a big vault that contains enormous amounts of wealth, and you are a vault hunter who is out to claim it and become super powerful. Sure, there are some colorful characters who help you along the way by giving you plenty of quests to do, but this isn’t a game you play for the story. You play it for the hundreds of quests, the chance to discover the billions of guns, and the opportunity to play with up to three friends.
Four player co-op is where the game really shines. While the single player is fun, having others in your group really helps to balance the difficulty. While enemies aren’t any harder in multiplayer, there are a lot more of them, which drastically increases the amount of rare loot that drops. While you have the option of joining random online games, I highly recommend you find some close friends and start a private game.
The visuals in Borderlands are absolutely fantastic, thanks to a hand drawn art style that gives everything a real edgy and gritty look. This is accompanied by a spectacular sound track and some incredible effects which make the weapons feel extremely powerful. It really is a treat for the eyes and ears.
Unfortunately the game suffers from some problems. First, it’s very obvious this PC version is a port of the console version. The menu system was clearly designed to be navigated with a controller, not a mouse and keyboard. This makes it very difficult to get around in the menus.
At least you’ll have no trouble seeing them, because all the menus fill the entire screen with huge font sizes. This is something that was clearly done to help console gamers see the menus while sitting 15 feet from their TVs. It’s painful on the eyes though when you are only two feet from your monitor.
Another serious issue is that you won’t be able to host an online game unless you go into your router and forward some specific ports. I honestly can’t believe that in the year 2009 you are required to do something this archaic to play a PC game. Once you do connect to a session, don’t plan on using the in-game voice chat to talk to other people, because the volume is extremely low, and unfortunately there is no menu option to turn the sound up. Other menu options are missing as well, including disabling mouse sync and disabling voice chat altogether.
While all of these problems are really annoying, most of them can be overcome by searching the internet for solutions, and none of them really detract from what is an incredible single and multiplayer experience.
After 30+ hours of gameplay, you’ll probably beat Borderlands somewhere around level 32-36. A second playthrough can then be started with harder enemies and even rarer high level weapons. Be careful though, as the game gets much more difficult the second time around.
If you can get by the problems, you’ll have an absolute fantastic time with Borderlands. Gearbox has really gone out of their way to create a FPS with RPG elements which is completely different than anything else out there right now. Even after 60 hours of gameplay, you’ll continue to come back for more co-op, and to find that next gun which kicks a little bit more ass than the last. If you are a fan of the genre, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.
While Borderlands oozes style and has a great coat of paint on it, this PC version suffers from being a direct port of the console version. Connection issues, menu navigation problems, and poor voice chat will have you wishing you purchased it on the PS3 or the Xbox 360.
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Having an endless supply of different weapons to choose from really brings this FPS to life. Mix in a fair amount of RPG elements to create a character all you own, some great 4-player co-op, and you have an incredible gameplay experience.
There might be a bazillion guns, but they all feel completely different and extremely powerful thanks to a wide array of incredible sound effects. A great soundtrack rounds it all out to create a wonderful treat for the ears.
While your first playthrough will probably take around 30 hours, a second, and more difficult playthrough will give you the opportunity to get even higher in level, and find more rare kick ass guns.
If you can get past all the problems that plague the PC version, you'll discover an extremely fun and addicting FPS that sprinkles in some RPG elements, and a "bazillion" guns, to create a unique experience unlike anything else.