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November 4, 2009
Borderlands - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
23/10/20092K Games2K GamesGearbox1-22-4
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Borderlands looks fantastic visually.
Gearbox are a developer that would be well known to many gamers. As well as the Brothers in Arms franchise and Halo: Custom Edition on PC the developers did the might fine port of Half-Life to PS2 in 2001. Borderlands is a new prospect however as an all-new IP from the company with publishing being handled by 2K Games. Can the developers blend FPS action and RPG elements to create something unique? (Even the back of the retail box brands this a RPS or Role Playing Shooter). Read on to find out...

Borderlands is set on an post-apocalyptic alien world called Pandora, which was once inhabited by people looking to find mineral resources. When little is found, those rich enough leave the planet leaving behind the poor and those struggling to survive. Seven earth years later the seasons are turning from Winter to Spring, with the planets non-human inhabitants emerging from hibernation. Borderlands sees players struggling to survive on this hostile planet all the while searching for a mysterious alien vault which promises a great prize. Exactly what that prize is remains to be seen, that is, if it even exists!

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That's Brick with the big gun!
Upon starting Borderlands gamers must select one of four different characters. One option is the Berserker named Brick, who likes to use heavy weapons and his fists and is able to take a large amount of damage. Mordecai is a hunter who prefers sniper rifles and revolvers and has a flying alien pet called Bloodwing which Mordecai can send off to attack enemies. Roland prefers combat rifles and shotguns, can deploy a turret which has a shield effect which can also heals nearby friends. Finally we have Lilith, a Siren, who likes to use incendiary, shock and corrosive guns and is a specialised assassin who can become invisible for short periods of time.

We selected Roland, a fairly all-round soldier but primarily due to his special ability of deploying a gun turret, not dissimilar to those seen in directors cut of James Cameron's Aliens movie, but with a small shield as well. When you start the game and jump off the bus into the Arid Badlands to commence the game you receive a video message from a mysterious woman who tells you the vault is real, and there begins your quest to find the treasures within.

Within moments you'll have your first missions, doing what a little boxy robot tells you, finding locations (the paths to which are marked on a small directional radar) and taking on a few enemies. With 30 main missions, and 130 side-missions this isn't a game that will be over in a couple of hours. Indeed, you'll be looking at 20+ hours of gameplay ahead of you, and considerably more if you work on every side mission in the game, so settle in.

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Weapons in Borderlands are extremely varied.
By far the most unique selling point of this game is the random content generator which randomises the enemies and weapons found throughout the game world. Indeed with so many variables there are literally millions of different weapons in the game, each with differing and unique properties. Even your standard projectile type weapons may include powers the give electrical shocks, or cover the enemies in fire thereby inflicing more damage. Many of these weapons are either purchased in vending machines or found in crates, but many enemies will also drop weapons. Of course the biggest and best are reserved for when you defeat the boss-like characters.

Whenever you come upon a new weapon the game displays the weapons stats and shows if they are better, or worse, then you currently equipped weapon. At the start of the game you can equip two weapons, but as you progress further this increases to three, and then four. In terms of RPG elements you can apply skill points to modify various attributes such as shield regeneration, amounts of health, weapon power and so on. It's pretty simplistic.

So what else do we like about this game? Well some of the boss encounters are pretty epic, and if you go into the battles a couple of levels lower then the boss you will have your work cut out for you. When you complete the game you can restart it, but at your currently level with all the enemies suitably beefed up as well for an extra challenge. The number of missions impresses. The side-missions are varied enough to hold interest for a while and can certainly chew up a tonne of time as you travel around the maps, although this is later cut down with the introduction of vehicles in which you can enter combat with enemies in their own vehicles, and then a rapid transit system. We were also pretty impressed with the little loading in the game which only occurs when you move from one area to another. Finally, and this is very cool, if you do get killed within a level you do have around 15 seconds to kill an opponent which revives you and gives you a "Second Wind" saving you the hassle of needing to go back to your previous checkpoint.

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Preparing to take a few punches.
Where Borderlands comes into its own however is with the multiplayer modes. It's possible to play the game with 2-players on a single console via a split-screen mode and the game engine manages to hold up pretty well overall although the menu hasn't been resized to fit the screen for each player meaning a bit of effort is required to look around the menu at items and stats.

If you want the real-deal however you'll want to enter the online gameplay where 4-players can work together to complete missions. It's a good idea that these players be of a similar character level to the quests are suitable (if you're a level 30 character playing someone starting the game on level 1 will restrict you to their few available missions and so on). When you enter the battlefield together it does make taking down enemies a little easier as you can flank them, pool resources, and devise tactics. The debate comes in though as to who will collect the loot. If you with people you know, no problems as there's a bit more diplomacy, but if you're playing with some people it becomes a scramble to grab whatever you can. Online gameplay is pretty lag free and this is certainly the way to play this game to get the utmost enjoyment.

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Character design in Borderlands is impressive.
Having said all that, we do have some issues with Borderlands. First of all despite their random nature the enemies, and in particular the skags, are too similar. Surely there could be some variety in the wildlife although we can't criticize their variety in attack patterns. I also found that the vehicle handling was a little awkward, although I got used to it after a little while. Finally this isn't a game that will impress you in the first couple of hours. Indeed it will take you a little while to get used to the massive number of weapons, skilling up your characters, and getting past the first "main" enemies in the skags. When you get to more humanoid enemies, and some better locations then the original wastelands area, the game becomes a lot more enthralling. Stick with it though as it pays dividends.

As you would have seen from the surrounding screenshots the visuals are certainly a key selling point to this game. Originally following the traditional "realistic" visuals before the art department forced the project in a different, cel-shaded, style direction similar to that found in Prince of Persia on the PS3, or XIII on the PS2. So is it any good? Hell yes it is. Powered by Unreal Engine 3 the game looks unique, runs silky smooth, and offers something different on so many levels. Characters are bold and brash, while the post apocalyptic styled world, while a little repetitive in style, manages to open up to more unique locations in the second half of the game.

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Now that's a big, bad enemy.
Also managing to impress is the audio in the game. Music is atmospheric and changes tempo according to the action on screen. Audio effects such as gunfire are meaty enough, but the highlight is the speech which not only occurs in cut-scenes or when talking to characters, but even while you're working on missions. It's good stuff with solid directional support for those with surround sound systems.

Borderlands is a competent shooter with interesting random weapons, somewhat intelligent enemies, intense battles and strong multi-player support. Still one can't help feel let down by the lightweight RPG elements, the lack of storyline and repetitive enemies. Still, as a shooter, and with the lack of Bioshock 2 this year, this is pretty entertaining substitute, and on that count we give this game a strong recommendation.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSAbsolutely gorgeous cel-shaded artwork is a highlight and a visual treat on the PS3.
SOUNDGood music and effects are present, and some great dialogue.
GAMEPLAYIt's more FPS then RPG, but it's still an entertaining shooter. Enemy variety could have been improved though.
VALUEWell over 20 hours if you work on side missions, and then you can replay the game. It's good value.
OVERALLBorderlands isn't groundbreaking but it's visually impressive and also an entertaining title which is all you can ask for really. Worth a look if you like shooters.

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