Monday, November 1, 2010

Played Lately: Borderlands

  • Sometimes, and it's not often but sometimes, you just want to shoot dudes in the face. There is little chance that I will ever buy a Halo or a Call of Duty or a Medal of Honor (yes, I am a game snob), but that doesn't mean I don't like shooting stuff. It's just that you have to trick me into it by making your game about something else. That trick, that hook, is what got me playing Borderlands.

  • I actually played Borderlands before on the PC. I bought it during Steam's Christmas sale and enjoyed it quite a bit. But after my video card melted down and I had to shift to a cheaper backup, my system can't keep up with the game. I put it away for a while, looked at it forlornly on my game list, and wished that I could try it again.

  • When Gearbox recently released their Game of the Year Edition with all of the DLC included (actually we'll get back to that in a moment), I knew it was time to try again. And this time, I would do it on my 360. The game pretty good on the console, too. A lot of the graphics come down to the style and that comes across no matter what system you are playing on. I must admit to being exceptionally pleased whenever I saw the hashed shadows on the terrain. The toon shading is quite mild, but very effective. It gives the game a unique look without going overboard.

  • The heart of the game, though, and the reason I'm playing, is to shoot dudes and take their stuff. As I mentioned in the earlier article, Borderlands borrows the broad outlines of Diablo while going its own way as a game. It is a shooter and a comfortable pretty comfortable one at that. Whether you're shooting from the hip, looking down an iron sight, or aiming with a scope, you can pretty much shoot what you're aiming at. How much damage you're going to do is another matter, though.

  • With a level based system, disparities between you and your opponents makes outleveling your challenges an attractive option. I rarely ended up taking on quests at the appropriate level. (And yes, of course there are quests.) You still get all of the rewards, but the baddies aren't quite as difficult. Still hard mind you. Not of this was a cake walk. But I haven't really faced a huge challenge until I started up one of the DLC packs, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx.

  • I have played all the way through the campaign and I was really happy with how it went. Gearbox hits just the right level of humor mixed with the seriousness of the story. That's a pretty fine tightrope to walk and I think they did an admirable job. Whether that was their intention or they just stumbled into it is a matter for debate, but my hat is off to them. The ending was great, pleasantly taking the story in a direction I didn't expect.

  • During and after completing the campaign, I was eager to try out the DLC. So eager in fact that I jumped into The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned even though I had just crossed into the Dahl Headlands. Shooting zombies was perfect for this Halloween holiday. And it had a great atmosphere. The change from the campaign was night and day. Quite literally in this case because the sun always shines in the campaign but Jacobs Cove is continually shrouded in darkness. But it proved that Gearbox really does know what they are doing.

  • At least they know what they're doing where their art style in concerned. I'm not so sure about packaging GOTY editions. The included DLC amounted to a single sheet of codes that you plug into Xbox Live to download the DLC from the marketplace. (I didn't even get that sheet in the first copy, so imagine my surprise when I couldn't access the DLC on the disk. Many thanks to the Borderlands forum and Best Buy for helping me straighten that out.) You know what? In an online world, that's fine. But one of the reasons you get GOTY versions is so that all that stuff is on the disk. That's enough ranting for now.

  • I don't want to overdo this post, so I'll wrap up by saying Max Moxxi's is a bad as everyone says, but I'm looking forward to finishing Secret Armory and Claptrap's New Robot Revolution. When the guys on the Giant Bomb podcast (Jeff Gerstmann, I think) referred to it as the Best 2009 Game of 2010, I have to agree. And yeah, I'm happy that Gearbox will finally get Duke Nukem Forever out the door (and I'm really going to buy it) but let's not forget Borderlands. I want to see what they do for a sequel.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. When I picked up Borderlands on the Xbox I remember thinking that I had made a mistake cause the game starts off really slow. But I am sure glad I stuck with the game cause it turned out to be great.

    I picked it up on the PC for two reasons: Xbox died and a Steam sale, again I am glad I did. Borderlands is a great example of a game with a mediocre story but great gameplay which makes the game awesome.

  2. @ Jayedub - Very true. The game does start out a little slow. I think it has to build up some momentum before you're completely hook. But once I was, I didn't want to stop.

  3. I think borderlands is a great example of the advantage that consoles have over PCs when it comes to game graphics. Sure, I can get slightly better graphics out of it on my PC that cost 4x what my X-box 360 did and has 4-10x times the hardware specs (at least on paper). However, due to the fact that they were aiming at a specific hardware spec the developers were able to get Borderlands to look damn good on my $200 X-box 360. Certainly more than good enough to max out what my TV can display.

  4. @ Yeebo - Absolutely. And honestly, computers haven't been leapfrogging technology in such noticeable ways for the last couple of years. I think that has helped this console generation.