Borderlands - 360 - Review
It’s funny how much pleasure you can get out of a single shiny disc.
This is what I thought after a mere 20 minutes has passed after I popped Borderlands into my Xbox 360 console. I’ve played role-playing game/shooters before and I enjoyed an MMO more than twice but no game has ever caught my attention and managed to give me such a thrill quite like Borderlands … a game that blends RPG goodness with intense first-person shooter action.
The game takes place on the intimidating planet of Pandora, which is a wasteland filled with dangerous creatures and even deadlier human bandits and psychopaths. What makes visiting that planet worthwhile is rumor of a mythical alien structure known as the Vault that is said to contain a mountain of treasure. It is this rumor that has treasure hunters from all over rushing to Pandora to get rich or get killed.
Among those who have come to make their fortune is you as any of four character classes such as a Soldier, Berserker, Siren or Hunter. While these characters are given names, you can rename them and add a different color scheme so you can tell them apart if you’re playing with other gamers who happen to pick a similar character class. Of course, the four play differently thanks to their own personalized skills. Lilith, the Siren, is an expert in stealth and can turn invisible. The Hunter has a bird of prey named Bloodwing you can call upon and the Berserker has a powerful fist attack.
While most of the characters are trained to use specific weapons, you are free to pick up any and all weapons available and there are literally hundreds of different weapons to use in this game (everything from SMGs, shotguns and rocket launchers). The good news is that the weapon diversity makes for a seriously enjoyable shooter and the more you level up in the game the better the weapon becomes in your capable hands.
Speaking of leveling up, you do just that seeing as the game also incorporates RPG elements. Aside from leveling up to cause more damage to your enemy and become more proficient in using weapons, you level up to earn skills that cater to your character’s class. The Soldier class, for example, can earn the skill to launch the Scorpio Turret. Sirens can learn the phase walk ability that allows her to become invisible for a short while.
While the role-playing game elements aren’t as deep as in other similar games, there are more than enough skills and upgrades to keep fans happy. Whether you’re playing the game solo or co-op via a single console, a System Link setup or through Xbox Live with up to four players, there are more than enough missions as well. Pandora is a big planet with a lot of ground to cover and the numerous missions to take on immediately after you step out of the bus that carried you to one of the many outposts. The missions start as simple ones (gather items for Doctor Zed) to the more complex (find the gate that leads to a villain and then take out said villain).
As a solo game, there’s plenty of fun to be had but you can’t help but feel that the game’s world feels just a tad empty on your own. Luckily, the game pushes its multiplayer mode perfectly and joining up with a friend or three can really make a difference. Online or offline, the game moves at a rock steady framerate and what’s more fun than hitting the terrain in the buggies the bandits like to ride? My biggest complaint is that the loot isn’t distributed in equal shares. This means if you’re playing online with a gamer who likes to hog all the loot you will find yourself arguing over who gets what. This is the type of multiplayer experience you will probably should share with close friends or gamers you know well enough.
You’ll be glad to have a few friends as backup in the game and even more so since the mission variety is plentiful and the enemy comes in different shapes, sizes and species. Sure it’s fun blasting away at those pesky bandits as well as the mutated creatures of the planet but you’ll find yourself going up against a few bosses and creatures that are a lot bigger than the average mutated mutt. There are often times when you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of enemies so having a friend back you up with their specialties and modified weapons. Your friends can also level up in the game.
While the game’s story isn’t as deep or as structured as, say, Fallout 3, the game does have a very delightful sense of humor. With a colorful cast of characters such as the funny dancing Claptrap robot to the crude surgeon, Doctor Zed, the game never really takes itself too seriously.
Visually speaking, Borderlands has a unique look that works well for the game. The graphics are sharp, stylish and resemble a living comic book and that’s actually a good thing seeing as the details are plentiful. While the characters look somewhat zany, the backgrounds look particularly lovely and the visual effects (e.g. explosions) really stand out thanks to the unique visual style. The soundtrack is good but not quite memorable and there’s a great voice cast that’s actually quite stellar. I mean, you just have to love Claptrap’s charming voice.
Borderlands for the Xbox 360 is a clever and totally addictive shooter that makes us glad that you can definitely cross a FPS with an RPG and sprinkle it with MMO-styled multiplayer to make this one hell of an action game worth buying. While the role-playing elements aren’t as deep as in other similar games, the numerous missions and outrageously fun action will keeps shooter fans glued to their seats.
Review Scoring Details for Borderlands
The gunplay in this game is slick and loads of fun so shooting up groups of bandits and psychotic little people doesn’t get old. Pandora is a massive planet and there are loads of missions that will have you playing this game for a long time. The multiplayer action is simply amazing thanks to great co-op filled with weapons and buggies.
Sporting an interesting visual presentation, Borderlands looks just as unique as it plays and that is a very good thing. The environments are actually delightfully well detailed and there are spectacular special effects.
The voice acting in the series is top notch and the music drives home the feeling you’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. The background noises are excellent enough that you’ll hear mutated hounds and psychos before you see them.
Some enemies are way too dumb to pose much of a threat and some enemies will have you ducking for cover. The boss fights in the game will give you quite a workout, though, and some missions will really have you working hard.
The MMO first-person shooter concept the game introduces isn’t new but it does it with style and does it with enough to do that you will certainly not get bored with this game. The four characters add their own style and abilities and there are way too many guns to pick up. The RPG elements aren’t strong but it works fine enough.
Borderlands provides some of the best multiplayer action for a first-person shooter with RPG roots. This is the better way to enjoy this game whether it’s playing co-op with friends spit-screen style or online with other players. Sadly, there’s no good loot distribution system so beware of loot-loving gamers.
Wildly entertaining and loaded with enough bullet-fueled action to keep action aficionados more than pleased, Borderlands for the Xbox 360 should be on the very top of your Must Have list. Filled with more than enough missions, plenty of skills and loads of guns, this is over-the-top action at its most insane.