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Alexandre Guimond

Borderlands Review

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Has there been a genre more exploited than our eclectic war fests? It is becoming more and more evident that gamers have high attachment to first person shooters. They are willing to keep on buying these products regardless of their monotony or unoriginality, as long as it’s possible to shoot people in the face. Ever since we were able to chainsaw demons apart, or stick a grenade on somebody’s back and watch them explode, we had this reptilian instinct to keep on killing things in virtual worlds.

In all fairness, there have been a lot of improvements since the days of “Mein leben!” Some of which are closely related to RPGs, which permitted to transform first-person shooters into role playing games of their own. System Shock and Deus Ex might have popularized this new approach, but we see more and more FPSs being morphed into that prefix. A route that the genre hasn’t taken too much as of late is the MMO one. For connoisseurs, inventory systems and character attributes are nothing new, but coop based first person shooters are definitely an innovation. Borderlands fits exactly in these requirements having its entire campaign dredged in cooperative play, and has a lot of RPG, almost MMO-esque aspects to it.

One thing that is particularly unusual with Borderlands is its uniqueness in comparison to other first-person shooters. The game doesn’t go for realistic graphics and textures even considering the post-apocalyptic setting. It rather adopts cel-shaded graphics to bring a truly comic book atmosphere, in order to contribute to its over-the-top nature. Borderlands is a rather immature game in its plot and humor, giving a different, yet very entertaining take on the genre. With all of these elements combined, the game is definitely apart from the flock for this alien perspective on first-person shooter design.

In fact, many of the reasons why Borderlands is such an interesting game is by the way it is able to mix several aspects of largely different genres altogether. One of the main characteristics of the game is the loot-based system that gives access to the player hundreds of weapon combinations; spawning from range to brute-force damage. It also takes the coloring system from many MMOs that dictate whether or not an item or weapon is rare. This contributes in providing Borderlands with a much more open and elaborate design, which ultimately leads in creating a clever, yet very solid illusion that you’d, might actually be playing a Diablo-inspired shooter.

Everything is set out in chain quests that require you do kill a lot of stuff, or in fetch quests to gather different items for their recipients. Borderlands has a very classic progression; it’s fairly straight forward with each subsequent zones linking each other along the quest line. That means that you probably won’t miss anything the game has to offer unless you voluntarily disregard side-quests. The game is very linear, like many games, but it gives the appropriate illusion of open-endedness and freedom, so that it doesn't break the flow of the experience.

Borderlands is essentially a robust first-person shooter with added RPG elements in it, such as special class-based skills, or regenerative mana and health. The classes complete each other pretty well – of course, the main idea behind Borderlands is to play it with three other players via local or online coop, but you can easily play the entire story mode without having too much problems on your own. The gameplay in Borderlands is indeed very solid; weapons pack a serious punch, and their effectiveness can be upgraded depending on the character’s skill tree. Borderlands does feel a lot like Diablo in some sense, with its many in dungeons. Considering the importance aimed around shooting, the game is still a very capable coop RPG with various skills and perks that boost its rather monotonous storyline.

The game does have its fair share of technical hiccups and bad textures pop-ins, yet it’s not enough to spark rebuttal from most gamers. Even after losing a maxed-out character data to corruption, the will to play the game was as strong as it was in the beginning. The fast leveling, intense firefights and addictive loot gathering are all considerable arguments to keep on playing. Add to that the incredibly rewarding New Game+ mode that scales up every monsters in level and brute force, the game is a challenging feast to all thrill seekers.

Borderlands is very easy to recommend. The fast-paced action and the brutal violence make for a hilarious and tongue-in cheek experience that no first-person shooters fan should disregard. It is packed with features, as a very diverse play-style depending on which class you choose, and can be replayed almost indefinitely considering the solid coop mode and the perfect integration between solo, and multiplayer play. Borderlands is a RPG-shooter done right; It is extremely fun, hectic and simple, so that everybody can enjoy it without being lost in the clustered labyrinths of item management, and convoluted storylines. Here’s a gun – kill stuff, and have fun.

Alexandre Guimond
Assistant Editor

This game is available on GamersGate

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Updated 06-09-10 at 07:35 by SteveSawyer

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