If you already have read my<a href="http://
gamerant.com/borderlands-preview-review-zac-530/”> preview coverage of Borderlands, the you know about the basics on controls, leveling and the health system.
Now, after dozens of hours logged into the game all I can say is that it’s excellent. This is exactly what I have been waiting on for a very long time. Borderlandsperfectly blends an action FPS with an action RPG. I can easily say it is one of the best games of 2009, and one of my personal favourites on the Xbox 360.
Check out Game Rant’s full review after the jump.
First of all, I want to get the game’s weakest points out of the way. The game’s story is lacking. You are treasure hunters looking for a “Vault” that is located somewhere on a planet filled with bandits, mutants and evil creatures. That’s it. As you play, there are no developing points in the plot at all. You know your goal right away and it doesn’t change. Find the Vault.
Another soft spot is the game’s customization for characters. As I wrote in my preview, the only customization you have for your character is color selection. I was hoping for an upgradable armor system. Instead, it is limited to different over shields you can get. Not bad, but I wanted to be able to get new helmets and vests for my character.
One more down point is the game’s map. Often, different quests will take place on the same section of map as another quest. Revisiting the same area and killing the same guys (even some boss characters re-spawn) can get a bit tedious after about the third or fourth time being in that area. It’s not all bad because you can use your new weapons to kill the enemies that you used to hide from in mere seconds.
I do want to clear-up one of my negative statements from my preview regarding the controls though. While playing Borderlands, if you want to pick up a weapon without equipping it, you need to lightly tap the “pick-up” button. Otherwise if you hold the button, the gun instantly replaces the gun you had equipped. This bit of information will alleviate plenty of headaches, trust me.
Even though the story of Borderlands is pretty weak and it has some minor drawbacks, it doesn’t hold back the fact that this game is a blast to play. It is so much fun for several reasons.
Its Diablo-like addictive gameplay keeps you playing and wanting more. Even as I write this I want to be playing it. You are constantly looking for the weapon that is better than your current one, and when you get it, you feel like a kid on Christmas. This coupled with the fact that you always want to level up so you can spend your next skill point is the reason why I have found it hard to put it down. I keep telling myself, “I’ll stop playing when a reach the next level”. Three levels later four a.m. arrives and I finally go to bed and dream about all the bandits I will kill with my new sniper I just picked up.
It’s that type of balanced reward system that keeps players feeling a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
The amount of weapons in the game is superb and weapon balancing is some of the best I have seen. There is no dominant gun class. All are equally as good at dealing death, which is a nice change because you can use the weapon you want to play with without feeling left out. The only weapon that seemed a bit off was the rocket launcher, it seemed to be too weak. Then again, I am comparing my brief experience with the low-level rocket launcher to my amazing shotgun which is a much higher level. I would still like to see an option to build your own weapon, even if it were just selecting colors or designs on the gun.
About four to five hours into the game, you get the vehicle. It controls exactly like a Halo warthog and has guns mounted on the front that the driver controls. It can also be equipped with a machine gun turret or a rocket launcher. If you are playing on your own you can control this turret. In co-op play, the second player jumps in and controls the gunner seat. Using the vehicle to kill enemies gives you less experience, but while in it, you cannot take damage. Instead, the vehicle has health that can re-charge while not taking damage. If the vehicle runs out of health, it explodes causing tons of damage to anyone in or near it. The vehicle is a great addition and makes those long treks to other parts of the game a lot easier, and often more enjoyable.
Graphically, Borderlandsis one of the best looking cell-shaded games I have played. It is very clean and normally runs without slowdown. Even playing the co-op mode was silky smooth for the most part. The only time I noticed it lag up was when the action was intense or if I headshot a couple of guys up close. Even then it was only for a split second, not like other games in the genre.
Borderlands’ AI level balancing is perfect. It is not like Oblivionwhere the enemy difficulty scales with you, so the goblin you killed at level 5 is almost as hard to kill at level 10. Instead you are facing the same type of enemy, it’s just a bigger more bad ass version of it. For example, the most common enemies you will find are skags, which remind me of the creatures from Tremors 2. They start out as just pup, pot belly pig size, skags. They get bigger as you progress into skag whelps and spitter skags. Eventually, by about level 13 or 14 you start seeing Alpha skags which are the size of bears. Even further, different versions of them start to be introduced like fire breathing skags and corrosive skags. This allows the game to stay fresh and it is always exciting when you see a skag bigger than the one you thought was huge an hour earlier. Of course they still throw in some of the lower level enemies so you can feel how powerful you are becoming.
I love one shot killing enemies that used to kill me earlier in the game. It’s a nice payback. I should note that the game does a great job at adjusting difficulty for multiple players. When you are playing with other players, Borderlands will throw more difficult enemies at you, but you will be rewarded with better and more frequent item drops.
One of the biggest reasons Borderlandsshould be in your library is the fact that it supports four player co-op. You can play two players split screen, four players system link (unfortunately only 1 player per system) or four players online. To me this was just the icing on the cake. Co-operative game play is always my favorite feature in games. It is shocking there are so few four player co-operative games seeing as it almost always guarantees greatness. Left 4 Dead, Halo 3: ODST, Gears of War 2 come to mind. Borderlands can now be added to that list because not only does it support four player co-op, but it does so over a lengthy campaign. It’s not just an extra game mode you play with a few friends or a campaign that is over in a few hours.
Plan on having friends over for thirty hours or spending that much time on Live or the PSN. The only problem I thought Borderlandsmay have with their co-op setup is the fact that if a new player joins your game, they will be level 1 and you may be ten levels ahead. Your worries can be put at ease. It may be a bit frustrating at first for the newb, seeing as they are fighting enemies that are much tougher than them and they won’t be able to use certain guns because of level restrictions. On the other hand, you’ll never see anyone level up quicker. In one play session, my character was a level 13 and my friend joined as a level 1. Before I reached level 15 he was at level 10 and was able to keep up. Experience seems to be semi-shared with players getting some for damage dealt, but the most is rewarded for the person getting the kill. I should also note that all cash pick-ups are shared between players, but each have their own inventory for it and can spend it how they please.
In closing, Borderlandswould be perfect if it had a more compeling storyline and had more character customization. Here’s hoping that Borderlands 2 is made and can address these few issues. If you are a fan of Diablo and you love games like Halo, then this is the game for you. Heck, even if you like one of those titles then I strongly suggest you try this game. Borderlands’ blend of FPS and action RPG is very welcomed breath of fresh air and it deserves to be played by all fans of either genre.