Borderlands – hands-on

The other main aspect of the game is growth. There are four main character classes, although we were only able to play as Heavy, Siren, and Hunter. Within each of these classes there are specific ‘Focus’ abilities. For example, the Siren can ‘Phase Walk’, which means she can turn invisible for a brief period of time and move quicker than other characters.

Then you can develop your character within these classes, boosting abilities in a similar way to Fallout 3. The Heavy class has a Rage ability that at a very basic level will boost your strength and shielding. Here you lose your guns and go in physically with Condemned 2-style FPS uppercuts. However, leveling Rage unlocks extra ways to play. For example, one boost will see enemies spill cash instead of blood. There are also the usual health, armour and combat developments to boost accuracy, health and protection. And just like any RPG, experience points govern leveling, while extra weapons and items can be found that have been dropped by dead enemies or bought with cash. This is the core RPG element of Borderlands that plays like all dungeon crawlers from Baldur’s Gate to Marvel Ultimate Alliance to Fallout 3.

“I find it generates the same compulsion I had from playing Diablo all those years ago!” says Pritchard, adding: “It’s got that same need to trawl for loot, cash, items and leveling that I loved about those games.” This was evident when we switched from single-player to co-op. Borderlands supports drop-in multiplayer, so you can begin a campaign on your own and then have friends join in as you play – just like an RPG. With four of you charging around looking for the kills, trying to scoop the loot and competing for items dropped by the recently bloodied mutant midget with the Mohawk, Borderlands really does begin to shed its FPS looks and play like a bona fide dungeon crawler.

The downside is that the game quickly becomes chaotic as the screen becomes packed with enemies large and small, and you’ve got three buddies taking up your line of sight. Add in explosive attacks, special abilities that light up the screen in a whoosh of blue lightning and Borderlands really turns up the heat.

Of course, teamwork settles the game down. The classes come into their own in co-op, with the Hunter sitting back sniping from distance, the Heavy up front pounding cash out of a giant spider, and the Siren flitting in and out picking off enemies unawares. Now things are less cluttered - there’s a focus and the game begins to show off its subtle ideas. For example, when your health depletes you don’t just sit there waiting to be healed by a teammate - the screen flashes ‘SECOND CHANCE!’ and you get 30 seconds to mop up some enemies and boost your health marginally for every kill. You can’t move from the spot, but you can spin around and shoot. It’s a neat touch that works best in single-player – as without a teammate to save you it can prevent any frustrating deaths at the hands of a giant rat-spider-thing, forcing a respawn miles from your quest (Fallout 3 take note).

The melding of a shooter with RPG elements is topped off by a visual direction that distances Borderlands from like games. The hand-drawn art style is colourful and dynamic; it places the world of Pandora miles away from shooters like Fallout 3. Before the shift in visual style, Borderlands was looking increasingly like a ‘me-too’ title, a game aping Fallout 3 while taking none of Bethesda’s risks. The new look at once makes Borderlands fresher than most other shooters.

“A bunch of guys came to me and said: ‘We’ve been working on a new look for the game using our original design sketches.’ When I saw it I was wowed, it reminded me of working on Duke Nukem. It was kind of like ‘F**k it, let’s do it’!” We’re glad they did. The result is a beautiful, original-looking game that’s truly representative of the gameplay, where an explosion of colour and crazy creature design, chaotic combat and competition for loot replaces greys and browns. In many ways it’s the visual style of an RPG, but it’s an FPS.

Aug 26, 2009


  • Godstrike3020 - August 30, 2009 4:58 a.m.

    this game is ganna be one of the most revulutionary games ever, nothin could beat this game
  • Spybreak8 - August 28, 2009 3:50 a.m.

    I gotta say I read only half of the first page and browsed through the rest. I don't want to spoil anything, so want this! lol repatcha "Saigon neptune"
  • shockolate - August 27, 2009 1:13 p.m.

    looks ballin
  • crumbdunky - August 27, 2009 10:55 a.m.

    GR-don't call Fallout3 a "shooter" when the aiming mechanic is so broken as to be totally insulting. VATS was sh1t as well, imo. In actual fact this looks like being a whole lot better at the hybridisation of the RPG and FPS genres than F3-which, imo, was the most overrated game I've ever played and after loving the first two Fallout games that's really sad. I know the look of Vorderlands has split folk but I think it adds something by taking the game away from the Fallout/Killzone/Gears brown world.Looking forward to this one actually.
  • cart00n - August 27, 2009 9:23 a.m.

    Already pre-ordered this puppy...
  • Samael - August 27, 2009 3:51 a.m.

    I hate the super-cluttered HUD, but otherwise I'm interested.
  • DarbonX - August 27, 2009 1:51 a.m.

  • erreip199 - August 27, 2009 12:48 a.m.

    is it possible to reobtain a weapon set uve used before? like building another copy of ur existing weapon so u can still use it when original wears out
  • Ninja-KiLLR - August 27, 2009 12:08 a.m.

    i really want
  • Dexsus - August 27, 2009 12:01 a.m.

    Oct 23rd can't get here fast enough.
  • shadowless92 - August 26, 2009 11:49 p.m.

    WOW i want this so bad i wonder when ill get my xbox back from my mums safe lol
  • Mittenz - August 26, 2009 11:09 p.m.

  • Makk_Mizzy - August 30, 2009 10:26 a.m.

    I will say if there are more achievements online than offline Im not going to buy it because I don't have LIVE! That would be so koo' if it was like Left4Dead 2 where you can achieve all of the achievements online or offline, I will wait to see!
  • Wonderwolf - August 29, 2009 7:14 p.m.

    I really want it!!
  • Csheroe - August 28, 2009 3:01 p.m.

    Pre ordered yesterday. Sweet.
  • Tymiegie - August 27, 2009 10:23 p.m.

    I am truly pumped for this game. It reeks of uniqueness. Even the cover is special. A guy with his fingers to his head like suicide. Can not wait.
  • demonDogg88 - August 27, 2009 12:17 p.m.

    i am soooooo going to love this game!!!!
  • Liquidocleot32 - August 27, 2009 11:41 a.m.

    This Game Looks Amazing, although the characters are nothing special. lol my captcha is weasel fusion
  • shadowmike75 - August 27, 2009 5:55 a.m.

    at erreip: Weapons dont degrade or break.
  • BlackIce575 - August 27, 2009 12:40 a.m.

    it might be OK i might rent it but that's it

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