When Borderlands was first announced, I – like allot of people – didn’t give it much thought. When Gearbox went quiet on the project, I didn’t even notice, to be honest. It wasn’t until it resurfaced a year or so ago that I finally took notice. A Role Playing Shooter (RPS) is something that seems like it was a long-time coming and way overdue, what with the Call of Duty and Battlefield series allowing you to evolve your avatar in multiplayer combat. In that sense, Borderlands needed an extra hook. It needed something that no one else had. That hook eventually became the marketing slogan “87 Bazillion Guns!”
No, there are not 87 bazillion guns in Borderlands, but there sure are a hell of a lot. For all the different guns, there are only a handful of ammunition types to keep track of, which is handy. Aside from the obvious ‘this gun does more damage but shoots slower then that gun’ shtick, you’ll find guns that do fire, corrosive, electric or explosive damage, or guns with blades on them, or even guns with unique traits (I once had a shotgun with a spread of bullets that left the gun in a wave formation, moving up and down as they went). Similar to an MMO, you’ll be comparing your different armaments to min/max your damage, and to help with that Gearbox has clearly listed the differences between guns and highlighted the nicer weapons with WoW-like green, blue, purple and orange colors. So, there are allot of guns here, but there’s one more major catch that really sells the game.
You can play the entire game with up to three other players over Xbox Live or with one other person via split screen, and this changes everything. The game gets harder, there are more enemies, better items drop, and there’s just something fun about having someone to work with in this inhospitable world.
Regardless of whether you go solo or with a team, you start the game by picking one of four classes. There’s the Soldier (my favorite), who’s skilled with shotguns and has a portable auto-turret; the Brick, who can take a ton of punishment and can go on a berserker rage and punch everything to death; the Hunter, who specializes in sniper rifles and has a killer bird; and finally the Siren, the only female who can ‘phase walk’ and use psychic attacks. Starting at level 5 (yes, you level up just like an RPG) you can invest talent points in one of three talent trees. The solider, for example, can increase his weapon damage, or learn support skills, or even train medical talents. This is a great way to customize your character to your personal play style.
Graphically, Borderlands looks pretty good, but not great. The ‘concept art’-style they chose doesn’t impress me a ton, but it’s better then just trying to be realistic like so many other shooters. Sound-wise the game fares much better. The voices of both your character and those you interact with are well done and fit perfectly. To summarize, Borderlands is great when played with a buddy or three, but it’s even fun played solo. You’ll find yourself thinking, “ok, just a little bit longer; I know there’s a cool new gun over that hill,” way past your bed time, and loving it. Alphasim out