Let me just start off by saying that if you like Fallout 3, you can stop reading this right now, save time, and miss out on my well thought out descriptions and riveting humor to go get the game right now. If you require more than a vague mention of Fallout 3 or by some curse of Satan actually like reading my written word, then continue on.
Labeled as an RPG Shooter in the vein of Fallout 3 and Mass Effect, Borderlands is set on planet Pandora and due to symbolism, accents and scenarios within it, comes across to us a lot like what it would be like if Earth were populated by hillbillies. You take the role of one of four hunters looking for a mysterious area known as The Vault filled with everything you could ever want (money, women, a secure job, spicy lamb pizza, etc.), you enter Pandora and begin to explore as you level your character and learn skills as you go.
Graphically Borderlands certainly has an interesting style. It’s not quite cel-shaded, but it’s almost like you can see cel-shading trying to jump out at every turn. The odd thing is that it really works. A lot of environments could be condemned for being wastelands (hence the link to Fallout 3) but every so often it varied. Nothing is perfect and there were hiccups such as shadows flickering and texture pop-up after loads, but these don’t hinder play.
RPG fans will certainly find the level grinding fun. But as you level up, so do the enemies you encounter, and the same enemies for that matter. While traversing from one point to another, you’ll encounter enemies known as scrags which you will of course have to take down. However, as you complete your missions, and head on back down the same path, you’ll notice those enemies have respawned and have also leveled up like you. This is a real pain the old behind, but a necessary evil. This has long been part of what an RPG is as you need to keep fighting enemies in order to level up, so there needs to be a lot of enemies to kill otherwise reaching level 50 may take forever to achieve. Why the same ones seem harder is beyond me though since grinding usually means busting the heads of low level chumps.
In addition to leveling up, collecting loot is the other big RPG element here. Much like other RPG’s money is used to keep you interested. There are always a host of bigger and better tools of destruction that are available when you reach the next level or enough money to purchase. This is a common strategy in RPG’s and Borderlands does a great job at maintaining that. Speaking of weapons, there is an absolute orgy of weapons available for you to use. However given the limited amount of space in your backpack, you’ll only be able to carry a few. Because of this you’ll be making plenty of trips back to the various vending machines scattered throughout Pandora. You can also sell weapons to the various machines which will earn you cash. It’s the typical RPG fare when it comes to this.
Surprisingly, the online experience in Borderlands is fantastic. You can play cooperatively up to four players. You can share any missions you're on with the person you've partnered up with and both of you share experience and money, while items are a free-for-all. Naturally, if you want that epic weapon or shield generator, be prepared to run for it. You can also go toe-to-toe with your buddy by meleeing them. If they do the same, the area is instantly transformed into a head-to-head dome fight, where the strongest player can earn themselves an achievement for their prowess. Two men enter, one man leaves with the achievement.
Borderlands is a great game, but there are some letdowns here and there. For example, the AI can be pretty dumb at times. An example of this is that you can walk up to a group of enemies who’ll just stand around until you provoke them, much like the human enemies which also wait for you to make the first move. By comparison, the AI in Fallout 3 was way more aggressive and raiders attacked you every chance they could.
2K’s first attempt at copying Fallout 3 manages to stand on its own. The cel-shaded style visuals, interesting story and open wasteland works well. There’s plenty to do, whether it’s alone, or with a group of friends. It’s a great title that will keep you busy for hours. For some, this game may be a little too slow paced at times. Running back and forth across the same areas and encountering the same enemies can become tiresome. But for those that like the grinding, you’ll love it. Now that you’ve finished this entire review, grab some friends and a copy of Borderlands. You’ll have more fun playing coop than you will alone.