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Friday | December 9, 2016
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Borderlands (PC, PS3 & X360)

Borderlands (PC, PS3 & X360)

Borderlands is an unusual game – a shooter hybrid which combines elements of RPG games such as leveling, looting and fine tuning items in your inventory to pimp out your character. Gearbox are keen to point out that they have created a role playing shooter, an RPS. Imagine a shooter which feels like an MMO and you get the picture.

The MMO elements are clear to see by all charging across maps in the initial phase and picking up missions, collecting loot and taking on mutant dog beasts and low level punk warriors. Borderlands takes a little while to get used to and it really is a game which needs a few hours gameplay time before you fully get a grip on the overall experience. It is immediately entertaining and fun, but the concept is rather unusual so it is worth spending considerable time with before making an educated judgement.

Playing the first part of the game on your own is entirely a worthwhile experience but only when you start playing the cooperative mode with a friend does the multiplayer mechanic truly hit. Playing solo is more difficult because when you get badly injured and have to retreat to a corner to hide for a while it becomes much slower paced. With a friend helping you can rush to each others aid and pull your buddy back into the game. Sharing experience is truly worthwhile and boosts the enjoyment for everyone which really makes me feel as if this game should be played in company to be fully appreciated.

Single player quests are great fun and will keep players entertained and busy for some time but when another player joins then the game ramps up the enemy count to make it much more chaotic. Supporting the other player means that big battles last longer without you needing to make a quick escape from the action to recover. The game scales very well with more players and three in the party makes for a great experience as various player classes can be mixed. The soldier character for instance can operate as a healer, shooting health into his party and other passive effects from the groups can boost the effectiveness of the team as a whole unit.

If you manage to arrange a game with four players it is a blast because campaigns are configured so that three other players can just join the particular quest you are doing. As you host it is your game experience that these players will enter into but they will benefit from making the effort as the leveling, weapons and missions gained in the online game will transfer back to the single player of each gamer with items outside of your persona’s restrictions simply unusable until you reach the required level. I had a bit of a nasty experience once however with a group of strangers as one player just basically stole all of the loot he could and made the experience very ‘anti’ teamwork.

Playing the game as a high level character and bringing in a low level friend is an interesting experience as your friend will power level to be productive. They will however still get obliterated by other high level opponents so a little care is needed to keep them alive. Bringing them into a game as a support unit is the best idea and they will love the opportunity to get a lot of free kit as well as mega experience points.

Loot lovers will be salivating at the thought of playing this game because the system drops items at every opportunity. The environment is loaded with cash, weapons, shields, class modules and health containers, all of which need to be slotted into your inventory space. A portion of the game time is spent examining items via a neat pop up dialogue system as you compare with your own equipment which is worth dropping and those which are worth hanging onto.

Everyone will get used to the weapons and will isolate a few particular favourites and as they have various attributes related to speed of fire, damage, accuracy and reload speed there is a plethora of facets to play around with. There is also a great system of extra surrounding damage, so some firepower can melt things in the vicinity on impact, as well as set fire to other objects. This means that using a shield becomes a necessity as you progress to ensure you don’t suffer the wrath of a similar weapon in the hands of an enemy.

You start in a decent sized focal area for initial exploration and experience and the game quickly moves into Newhaven, a central hub which starts to show the massive scope of the true game – aided by a fast travel system to move from point to point (which is unlocked). Buggies loaded with weapons can also be taken from various outposts throughout the world. The map area is so huge that I can honestly not even begin to get the scope across in this review.

Borderlands as a world, is a kind of science based Fallout style post apocalyptic setting. It is an Alien world littered with trash and the remnants of messy and organised expansion and colonisation. The technology status of the planet is high due to a variety of space faring communities but the world is also in a mess. There are computers and cyborg style robots walking around as well as mentally challenged space cowboys with a tendency to shoot first and think later.

I mentioned Fallout earlier and there are some comparisons to be made because when head to head with Fallout 3, the shooting element is more enjoyable because in some regards it is a traditional style FPS. You have a shield recharge system very like the Halo mechanic and various guns require specific skill sets to accurately fire. As would be hoped, headshots are the ideal way to quick victory however they are tied into a level difference system.

The game levels the enemies according to your own level so you will generally be facing opponents with a similar skill set to your own, as well as some higher. Fighting bad guys with a lower rating to you generally means a few shots will take them down, but be prepared for some intense dueling if you aim higher. Some enemies are heroes too, so they get ‘named’ and these take massive amounts of ammo before they die. If you are looking for pure realism then look elsewhere as this game is pure fantasy combat based.

The Enemies are for the most part entertaining but after a few hours I had wished for a little more variety. The non human characters are very often all alike with one area you should aim for to take down with a critical attack and they often just charge head first right at you, like mindless zombies in Doom. The human enemies are actually the more interesting as their AI seems a higher grade and they often take cover, try to flank and even retreat if they are taking a pounding. That said, the AI is flawed and sometimes breaks with the human characters often standing still as if working out what to do next.

Borderlines unfortunately suffers from an issue of repetition because the game is so epic in nature and vastly scoped. It took me 50-60 hours to get to level 50 when most games in this genre style would be over in 5-10. There is a lot of grinding required, particularly if played in single player mode. By Level 50 I think I had maxed out all the skill trees.

It is not all plain sailing however as the characters I felt were slightly disappointing. The four styles don’t really offer that much of a difference to the player to warrant attention. Their powers basically mean they deal out damage in a different way.

Mordecai, is a hunter and he has a weak special ability, in the shape of a bird. It seems great at the start of the game as it deals out quite a bit of damage, but it can sometimes get confused and not hit the target at all, rendering it basically useless. You can however get rid of it and alter other stats to enhance different abilities. Another character called Roland, is the soldier – he has a turret which can pump up your health and offers ammo back up as well as attacking like a cover mechanism. Brick is another character who offers a massive attack strike with his berserk mode. If you enhance this ability throughout the game he can land some serious close range attacks to round out a well equipped party. On his own however it can prove difficult to run up close to some enemies and take them out that way. The last character Lilith has a ‘phase walk’ mode where she becomes a ghost who can inflict damage with an area of effect attack.

The PC version is the best of all the versions we tested, because the consoles can suffer from some frame rate issues when the action gets extremely intense. We used an AMD 955 black Edition processor, Nvidia 275 GTX with 4 GB of DDR3 with Windows 7 and the overall experience was brilliant. That is not to say it is perfect however because the PC version needs some voice options.

Borderlands is a very enjoyable game with a very unusual mix of genres which works very well. The graphics are very inventively created and the role playing influence should attract a wide audience not normally associated with a simple run and gun first person shooter. The only issue the game has is that after a while it gets a little repetitive, but if you like grinding and collecting Loot this should already be on your must have list.

Gameplay
87

Great FPS elements and solid strategy additions make for a rather unique experience.
Graphics
88
Very unusual art style which works exceptionally well.
Sound
90
Voice acting is strong and the soundtrack sets the fantasy/science mood perfectly.
Value
90
Massive amount of in game time both in single player and multiplayer. Slightly repetitive for me, but a huge audience will love this.
Overall
88

Highly recommended and extremely creative in a wide range of areas.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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