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Borderlands review

It's the shooter that thinks it's an RPG. But can Borderlands excel as either?


  • Creates stats addicition
  • Guns
  • guns
  • guns
  • A world full of character


  • A lot of same-looking environments
  • Sort of grindy like an MMO
  • Enemies are brainless meatbags

We%26rsquo;ve discovered a new psychological condition: Gun Envy. It begins with a peek at another player%26rsquo;s weapon stats. Sleepless nights follow. You begin by coveting: opening crates, killing everyone, frantically searching for a bigger, better penis. We mean gun. You end up peeking jealously out of the corner of your eye at your partner%26rsquo;s gleaming Caustic Gamble revolver. You%26rsquo;ll feel inadequate. Less of a man. Just when you thought weaponry couldn%26rsquo;t get any more phallic, Gearbox goes and adds stats.

We warn you now, Gearbox%26rsquo;s bastard lovechild of an FPS and RPG unlocked something inside us: the atrophied part of our brain that couldn%26rsquo;t handle stats. We%26rsquo;re finally into our RPG puberty. A shotgun is not just a shotgun. Not when it could be shooting bullets with +12% firing rate, a 150% chance of critical hits and a 6x firing rate potential. As hardcore shooter addicts, Borderlands has altered our whole world view.

But it took a good few hours to get there. Mixing two genres requires a delicate touch: all too often you end up with too much of one and not enough of the other, and the weaker becomes merely %26lsquo;elements.%26rsquo; For the first five hours Borderlands is an FPS with RPG elements, and whether you%26rsquo;re playing solo or in co-op, you%26rsquo;ll wonder what all the fuss is about.

Sure, there are four character classes to pick from: %26lsquo;mage%26rsquo; (aka girl-with-psionics), hunter, tank and a support class. We specialised in the support class, the Soldier, and dabbled with the rest. And sure, the structure is classic RPG: quests that send you off to kill if not boars then the pig-like Skags, and to hunt for alien technology as opposed to magic artifacts. But while the opening area, Firestone, is interesting, it feels constrained: not big enough to inspire adventure, too small to be all there is. Quests lead off to instanced areas that don%26rsquo;t offer nearly as much variety as you%26rsquo;d expect. At this point it%26rsquo;s a very standard, slow-building RPG.

Because of that, it%26rsquo;s the shooting elements that dominate the opening. Borderlands will initially hold your interest by randomly generating weaponry. Every weapon%26rsquo;s stats are decided by a digital dice-roll, determining such things as firing rate, recoil, clip size, chances of elemental effects (electricity, fire, explosions) and more. Guns are Borderlands%26rsquo; loot, occasionally dropping from dead enemies and appearing whenever you find a weapon crate or vending machine.

It%26rsquo;s a revelation, in part because we%26rsquo;ve never had to think about guns in a shooter before: a revolver holds six bullets, packs a punch and makes a loud bang. Then we noticed our revolver electrocuted people. The human population of Firestone, mostly punks called Raiders, weren%26rsquo;t just dying: they were screeching, popping in blooms of electrified air, begging for their mothers.

More Info

DescriptionHowever you play it, Borderlands is a fun, addictive and overwhelming game. It’s a gun-nut’s paradise.
PlatformPC, Xbox 360, PS3
US censor ratingMature, Mature, Mature
UK censor rating18+, 18+, 18+
Release date:26 October 2009 (US), (UK)
Available platforms:PC
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