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Borderlands review

It's a dog-eat-dog world on the frontier, and the dogs breathe fire

Borderlands’ enemies are all variations on a few themes. For example: effed-up dog thing puppies, effed-up dog thing adults, effed-up dog things that spit acid, giant effed-up dog things, giant effed-up dog things that breathe fire, and so on. Alright, they’re actually called skags, and you’ll fight a ton of them, along with various form of bandit, psycho, Rakk (the aforementioned pterodactyl-beasts), antspiders, and more (spoiler: sentient aliens).

Above: Effed-up dog things…or “skags,” if you like the name they chose better

Enemies always come in groups, and the attack strategies are pretty standard. Stay back and take out the group patiently with ranged weapons, or sprint in and decimate several enemies at a time with shotguns and SMGs. Try to score critical hits (headshots for most humans, any part of the body not armored for animals), use cover to allow your shields time to recharge, and utilize your character’s special ability.

Above: A typical bandit, just before the head vaporizing

The ranged approach can be advantageous because the enemy AIs are sometimes a little busted. Animals will always chase you down. Certain bandits, however, are constrained to their areas, and won’t leave for any reason. Instead, they’ll just pace back and forth and spray bullets in your general direction. In that case, you’ll have all the time you need to hide and recharge between volleys (though enemy shields do recharge over time, so keeping the pressure on is important).

Despite that and a few other nitpicky bugs, the AIs are pretty successful, and there’s enough behavior variety to keep the fights interesting. Regular bandits stay back and take cover. Bruisers walk forward as if your bullets are made of rubber. Psychos sprint straight for you, clutching live grenades, lighting themselves on fire, or tossing axes in your direction. How fun for them.

Above: This guy doesn’t look very scared of us

The game’s difficulty is mostly self-regulating. If you’re stuck on a mission or boss, you can keep at it over and over, and you’ll eventually level up and have an easier time. There’s very little penalty for dying – you’re set back to the last “New-U” station you passed, and pay a fee. Recently-killed enemies stay dead, and quest objectives stay checked. All you have to do is get back to where you were and keep fighting. And you can always enlist the help of friends (or strangers). Four player co-op is really the game’s shining moment.

Above: When your health is depleted, you’re given a chance to revive yourself by scoring a kill from the ground

Most importantly, the combat is fun. Shotgunning, detonating, and knifing waves of ‘roid-raging bandits, squashing skags in rocket launcher equipped buggies, bringing down absurdly massive bosses with bouncing grenades and rocket launchers – it’s all enjoyable enough that the repetition is forgivable. But you must realize that this is all there is. It’s wave after wave of the same enemies, then waves of slightly more difficult enemies, and so on. It’s a bit of a grind, but grinding through a hostile wasteland with three friends can be a lot of fun. And it does feel nice to level up and discover new, more powerful weapons.

Above: With each level comes a skill point to assign to one of your character’s specialties. If you regret your decisions, you can always reset your skill points for a fee

More info

DescriptionHowever you play it, Borderlands is a fun, addictive and overwhelming game. It’s a gun-nut’s paradise.
Platform"PC","Xbox 360","PS3"
US censor rating"Mature","Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"18+","18+","18+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer