And all of a sudden, we were playing an FPS RPG. We had been lulled in, made to think about our character for the first time since Deus Ex. And if the opening area hadn’t taken so damn long to get to the point, it would have been inspired game design, but the strange, lopsided pacing could easily put people off. Once the game hits its stride, it gets a lot more interesting. Beyond Firestone lie the Dahl Headlands, a vehicular playground. Missions get more plentiful.
A Fast Travel network opens, enabling you to teleport to previously visited locations – a real boon given Borderlands’ huge, interconnected maps. There’s stuff to do, characters to meet, guns, guns and more guns to find and test out. Areas are unlocked in an alarmingly short space of time: the lean-to town of New Haven acts as a local hub, leading you to the Rust Commons and The Tetanus Warrens. Evocative names, matched by a tweaked Unreal 3 engine.
We were a little unfair when we said that it’s just the guns that keep you going for the first few hours. Borderlands is full of character. Only Texans could have made it. The dialogue is tinged with local dialect and funny turns of phrase. Instead of finishing a mission, you’re to ‘turn in.’ When you meet an early boss ‘9 Toes,’ you’re helpfully informed ‘He also has three balls.’ The characters and the world are worth seeing, exploring, listening to. A late, late design decision turned Borderlands from a greyish brown serious world into something more inventive and silly. There are gun-toting, toothless old men, hermits, and a mechanic called Scooter who’s friend Lucky “ruined my mom’s lady parts.”
While other games we’ve played improve immeasurably when others get involved in a co-op session, Borderlands, despite being billed as a co-op game, is enjoyable no matter what mode you’re playing in. It’s the same game, but ‘accommodates’ other players.
Yet as we say, in Borderlands you don’t need other people in your game. As we progressed, as our character grew, as new areas unlocked, we found we didn’t need anyone else to drive us forward. It was just happening. Weapons needed unlocking, quests needed completing, our character was begging for better stats, and so the hours ticked by. It absolutely consumed us. However you play it, Borderlands is a fun, addictive and overwhelming game. It’s a gun-nut’s paradise.
Oct 26, 2009