Review: Borderlands

John Funk | 29 Oct 2009 13:00
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The characters are all representative of the game's stellar sense of style. For lack of a better word, it's Westernpunk: It may be in the far future on some far-off desert planet, but the desert wastes of Pandora and hardboiled redneck-ish characters bring to mind a hybrid between Texas, Death Valley, and Dukes of Hazzard. The entire game has its tongue firmly in its cheek, from the snarky remarks your character quips after blowing some bastard's head off to the way it refers to its "Elite" enemies as "Badass" enemies. The cel-shaded environments and characters look fantastic (though I ran into noticeable problems with slow-loading textures), which is why it's a shame you'll rarely see them if you're playing it solo.

Here's the bottom line: Borderlands is not meant for a single player. If you're playing by yourself, the world of Pandora is lonely and desolate, and shootouts with bandits start to feel commonplace and repetitious. Thanks to the game's rather short respawn time on enemies, constant backtracking got very tedious, and while playing on your own, it's easy to dread getting into another shootout rather than looking forward to them. There are very few friendly NPCs in the game, and the slow pace of quests and the "main storyline" make it a hard sell if you're on your own.

But when you play with a friend, on the other hand, it starts picking up. Enemies get stronger, the loot gets better, and it's just fun to have a companion as you explore Pandora's wastes. Gunfights feel faster-paced and more frenetic when you're working as a team, and - though not without its flaws (notably a lack of any real loot-sharing system) - it's the multiplayer where Borderlands' solid core really shines.

You can still play it alone, of course, but be ready for a hard slog getting into the whole thing. It's not dangerous to go alone; it's just a lot more boring.

Bottom Line: It's the core concept of Diablo and the setting of Fallout 3 mixed with the visual style of Team Fortress 2. Borderlands has great style and aesthetic, fun characters, and lots and lots of guns just waiting for someone to come along and loot them. It's great fun when with a companion or three (though system link or online play is preferred to the view-squashing split-screen), but solo players will probably find it hard to get into the bleak and unwelcoming world of Pandora.

Recommendation: If you like guns and the prospect of hidden treasure gets your blood a-pumping, give Borderlands a shot. But make sure to bring a friend when you do.


John Funk sees purple items when he goes to sleep at night.

This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

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