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Review: Borderlands (final GGTL article before the holiday)
by Linford Butler

Without a doubt two of the biggest selling genres today are FPSs and RPGs. Developer Gearbox obviously saw these two huge markets, and have decided to shove them both together and add a pinch of humour. And thus, Borderlands was born.

We can all name at least a few good FPS games: Call of Duty and Gears of War both jump immediately to mind. Furthermore, we can also name some awesome RPGs: Fallout 3 and Oblivion need no introduction. But it becomes more difficult when you try to think of a game that brings the multiplayer and weapons of a good FPS, and the storyline and massive area to travel typical of an RPG into one. Borderlands is the first one I’ve met. And with ‘hybrid genres’ gaining more and more popularity (Sport and RTS gave birth to Football Manager, in much the same way that Platformers and online creativity brought LittleBigPlanet into the world), it seems we have yet another to add to the bunch.

Borderlands boasts a lot of interesting enticements in its armoury. You have the massive area to explore and a great storyline, alongside the hop-in co-op and online arenas. But perhaps Borderlands biggest claim to fame - and the one you are most likely to have heard of - is the huge number of weapons. While figures are a little hazy, some sources claim that Borderlands plays host to almost 87 billion guns in total. Now, I don’t know about you, but 87 billion has got to be enough for anyone. Obviously, there are a few little tricks to get the number that high; combinations play a big part in boosting the number - I mean, there might only be 10 different guns, but if you add an effect to those guns, it soon becomes 20 guns, and so forth. While some may see the staggering number as a cheat or a lie, I see it as the complete truth. I’ve had many conversations with friends about which weapons we’ve both found, and there’s only been a few occasions where we both picked up the same gun.

Another interesting point about the weapons is their descriptions. Take this for an example – a pistol is picked up with only fifty-six damage points. Naturally, the player wants the best and so goes to sell it but, just as he does so, he notices a small description reading ‘I hate reloading’. Hmm… a subtle hint, perhaps? Armed with this new information, the player tests it quickly by loosing off a few shots, and finds that his ammo count hasn’t dropped. A nice surprise.

However, if you do need to sell something, then there are plenty of vendors around. These machines look like vending machines, and tend to litter nearly every check point. When you use them, you’re greeted by a variety of people, my favourite being the weapons vendor. There are a number of great additions to the vendors. One is a countdown timer that sells a random item at a low price. This can be useful at the start and allows you do get some pretty sweet guns at a hammered price. Another great idea is the ability to buy back some of the items you’ve just sold. So, if you accidentally sell your awesome automatic machine gun, instead of your rusting and frankly embarrassing old pistol, you need only buy it back.

In total, there are 4 different classes to choose from. A soldier, whose special skill is a deployable turret; a heavy, who specialises in beating the crap out of anything; a Siren, who can use her charm and invisibility to defeat enemies; and a Sniper who uses a bird to rip the heads off enemies. You get the usual level system with the top one being level 60. Each time you’ve got enough XP, you get access to one skill point. This can be spent upgrading your character with such things as extra damage, elemental damage or even health upgrades. One thing you might notice if you jump online is that there a helluva lot of soldier-class players. The simple reason for this is that you get a massive turret to mow enemies down, for Pete’s sake. Add corrosive damage, and a ring around the turret which heals you, and you’re pretty much unstoppable.

Talking of online, it is extremely well supported. For example, a glitch was found with the PS3 friend list menu in-game and on the second day of release a patch was already out. It shows that Gearbox is dedicated with Borderlands, and wants their customers to get the best experience. Another example of this dedication is the confirmation of a DLC pack, despite the game being out only a month. Gearbox is a company who deals with the people, not with the sales figures.

Humour is a main highlight and guilty pleasure of the game. There are too many instances to name but one of the best has to be the description of the first boss – the aptly named ‘Nine Toes’. It’s great to see this comedy reaching games, firstly with Tim Schafer’s new outing, Brutal Legend, and now in Borderlands. It really does add something to the game, and draws the player in. Another way this is achieved is that your character actually speak - shouts such as, “That’s gonna hurt in the morning” can be heard often when questing with the soldier.

Graphically, it’s a very tasty game. Some may dislike its radical comic book, cell-shaded style, but I’m all for trying out new ideas. And this new idea has certainly been executed extremely well. Given that Gearbox have been working on this one for an awfully long time, it has certainly come out on top. The colour depth might be a little restricted, with the usual ‘war-torn browns’ making up the palette, but you do get the odd flash of colour from the cars and the green glow that draws you to some swag. Due to its unique art style, washing machines and safeboxes stand out in the dust bowls, even in the dark. This makes it much easier to navigate, although it’s never too tough as you get a nice big map to use. However, it would be nice if you could place several waypoints so you don’t end up running into an un-scalable mountain of crap.

In terms of gameplay, there is a tonne on offer. Given the fact that you need to do a bit of levelling to complete some of the main storyline, you’re probably going to take 2 weeks at least to get some enjoyment out of it. If you decide, and I recommend you do, to take up some of the side missions along the way, then you might want to take another week out to complete all of those. Trophies will obviously take you longer, perhaps 1½ - 2 playthroughs to reach the level cap.

Overall, it’s an extremely polished game. No glitches or bugs to report from my experience, which is always nice. If you’re a fan of Fallout 3 then check it out, although I’m not comparing it to Fallout as they are two entirely different types of RPG. It’s also one for FPS fans to check, as it gives plenty of shooty-ness (is that a word?) but also adds a storyline and some length, unlike most modern shooters. It’s such a good game that I’d even go so far as to call it ‘Hidden Gem of the Year’.



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- Linford Butler

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