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Borderlands’ concept is easy to get excited about: take first-person shooting, add role-playing elements, customizable vehicles and potentially millions of weapons, and our brains could very well hemorrhage. We recently had a chance to stop the bleeding by playing a bit of the game’s single-player and co-op modes, an experience that revealed four important facts - one for each of the game’s playable classes - about the wildly ambitious Borderlands.
Most of the quests we completed in the single-player campaign were guided by Claptrap, a little Wall-E-inspired robot with a voice eerily similar to that of the guide droid from Star Tours. At first, we worried that being followed by a tutorial-bot would be obtrusive and annoying, but the little guy surprised us by being a mildly entertaining source of comic relief. However, when we switched over to co-op and were boosted up to level 20 (from our initial level-one character), our robot friend was gone. Maybe there’s a heavy, tear-inducing, Aerith-style death in store for Claptrap? Probably not, but it’s clear that you leave this guy behind at some point.
All of Borderlands’ different play modes – single-player, co-op and versus – are set within the same vast, monster-infested wasteland on the planet Pandora. This means you can play by yourself, and then have up to three other friends jump in and out with their own characters at any moment. Whether you quest together is up to you, but if you’re feeling competitive, Pandora also has a few arenas where you can meet up for player-vs-player battles. We don’t yet know how many different game types these will offer (although hopefully there’ll be more than just deathmatches), but with only four players battling at a time, arena fights will probably take a backseat to questing and grinding for loot.
Four characters to play means four different classes: Brick the tank/berserker, Lilith the assassin/siren, Mordecai the hunter/sniper, and Roland the soldier/engineer. And yes, you could potentially have four of the same character in a single game. Each character has three different skill trees, and each has a unique ability (triggered by pressing LB in the 360 version we played). Playing as Brick, for example, enables you to trigger a berserker ability in which he ditches his gun, puts up his fists and longs for the taste of blood. The screen turns red and Brick becomes harder to take down, maniacally laughing while you massacre enemies.
Other abilities include a “phasewalk” that enables Lilith to sneak around and execute enemies, a shield turret for Roland, and a pet bloodwing bird of prey for Mordecai. All of these abilities have cooldown times, but are meant to be used frequently on the battlefield.
Borderlands generates its weapons on the fly, randomly combining parts, ammo types, schematics and manufacturer preferences to potentially create millions of weapons. However, among the millions, there’s bound to be plenty of, well, garbage. Borderlands combats this with a detailed pop-up window that hovers above each item to help you decide if you actually want to pick it up.
In addition to munitions, money and healing items, Pandora’s wasteland is also filled with alien artifacts to discover. Details on these are scarce so far, but given that the game takes a lot of its cues from Diablo, they’ll probably be something along the lines of that game’s rare and powerful “unique” artifacts.
Our time with Borderlands was brief, considering how deep the game felt. We left the session with an aftertaste of Crackdown, Call of Duty and Fallout 3 in our proverbial mouths, tinged with an art style that fell somewhere between Valkyria Chronicles and long-forgotten shooter XIII. Borderlands feels fresh, and there’s still a lot to learn about the game, which will hopefully make its scheduled release date of Oct. 20.
If you're looking for more information on Borderlands, check out GamesRadar's Charlie Barratt interview the president of Gearbox (developer of Borderlands), Randy Pitchford:
July 30, 2009
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