Graphics:
6.5
Gameplay:
7.9
Sound:
9.0
Control:
7.5
Replay Value:
8.5
Online Gameplay:
8.5
Overall Rating:
7.9
Publisher:
2K Games
Developer:
Gearbox
Number Of Players:
1-2 (4 Online)
Genre:
FPS/RPG


It seems like quite a while since the day Borderlands was first announced back in 2007. It probably feels like that because Borderlands went through an aesthetic makeover that commonly only games that have been in development for a long period of time go through. Somewhere during the middle of the game's development cycle, Gearbox took a step back and decided it'd be a good idea to ditch the realistic look of the game, for a cel-shaded cartoony look, which we haven't seen in a first-person shooter for a while. Last I recall seeing a cel-shaded FPS was Ubisoft's XIII. But beyond changing aesthetic designs, the game also incorporated aesthetic-presentation cues very similar to games like Bioshock and Fallout 3. That's all fine and dandy, but how does the game play?

Well, aesthetics aren't the only similarities that Borderlands feels like its borrowed from Bioshock and Fallout 3, as the game boasts mechanics very much like Fallout 3, particularly those relating to the game's RPG elements of gaining experience, leveling up, statistics, upgrades, and so forth. Furthermore, just like Fallout 3, you are thrown into a desolate wasteland where human presence is very low. Additionally, quirky and traditional technology, vending machines, and the like are what you'll rely on to keep you up to par throughout the journey. There is even a hit chart for enemies, so getting rid of an enemy quick all depends on where you shoot – headshots, of course, being the best and often leading to instant kills. Remember, as opposed to traditional FPS games, having RPG elements means enemies have health points (HP), so they don't just go down after a few shots – some can require quite a bit of attention.

Now, don't think for one second that this is a Fallout 3 rip-off, because it isn't. In fact, Borderlands does a good job of distancing itself from Fallout 3 by offering much more intense gameplay, as opposed to Fallout 3 which had a focus on other things. In Borderlands you'll encounter very aggressive enemy A.I. that'll often rush you, or play their cards and play a game of hide-and-seek by running, shooting, hiding, running elsewhere, and repeat.

The game starts off with a voice over introducing the story of a secret treasure hidden in the wasteland that is Pandora. This voice over introduces himself as the bus driver, and then introduces you to the cast of four in the game. Your four characters are Roland, Mordecai, Lilith, and Brick. Roland is the soldier of the group, who specializes in rifles and shotguns, with an action skill called Scorpio Turret. This skill gives Roland numerous different abilities, such as healing, spawning ammo, and multiplying damage. Mordecai is the hunter of the group, boasting long-range preferences, his specialties are sniper rifles and revolvers, and a special skill called Bloodwing. Bloodwing is the name of Mordecai's pet, which he unleashes, and it mauls nearly everything in sight.

Brick is the tank of the group, and is classified as the berserker. His preferences are close range combat with his fists, and explosive weaponry, with a special skill called Berserk. When Berserk is activated, Brick is temporarily invincible and significantly more powerful. Lastly, Lilith is the siren of the group, with a specialty in incendiary, shock, and corrosive weaponry. Her skill is the Phasewalk, which is her ability to cloak and become temporarily invisible, allowing her to sneak around enemies and kill them with a massive shockwave. Each one of the character's skills have a few layers to them, as variables affect various aspects of a character and his actions – you'll understand this more as you progress through the game. There are tons of guns and gun variations to be had – millions, actually – complete with elemental attacks and much more.

Now, while all four characters have a backstory, they still share more-or-less the same path throughout the single-player mode, so you aren't getting vastly different experiences with different characters. Furthermore, I noticed a number of significant gameplay issues that have caused not just an eyebrow raise, but also some frustration. One such problem is the game's long distance shooting: there is a serious limitation or collision detection issue here. Being that I have a knack for sniping, I chose Mordecai as my character. I was hoping to enjoy the stealthy aspects of the game, but unfortunately I didn't. Spotting enemies and letting off headshot after flawless headshot from a distance with my sniper rifle was pointless, all it did was cause attention to myself and the bandits started running towards me. None of my bullets made any contact with them. As they neared, I kept shooting them in the head repeatedly…and still saw no result. Now just a stone's throw away the enemies have drawn near, and I began shooting their torsos…no response, not even a flinch, their health bars are still full. I'm aiming at the heads again, and simply cannot achieve contact despite my aim being right on the money. Thinking the sniper is at fault, I try my hand at a revolver, to no avail. So finally, I just whipped out my knife and began hacking away with the melee button.

Thinking this issue was some sort of fluke, I actually managed to experience this numerous other times, albeit not to that extreme. For example, when confronted with enemies, one shot would be a total miss, while the other one would connect. And even though contact is based on the statistical strength of a weapon's accuracy, the sniper rifle I was using has an accuracy of nearly 98%. I've also come to realize that because the game seemingly doesn't allow you to pick off enemies from a distance, or at least that it has some sort of problem related to it, it makes a character like Mordecai and his preference for snipers totally pointless. And, having asked a few others currently playing the game, some have agreed that there is an issue with the sniper hunting. I can't say that I've noticed the same issues when I'm using shotguns and machine guns, but they are there for some of the handguns and sniper rifles. Also, why is it that after a near 3GB install, Borderlands has loading screens? Not to mention a number of which are fairly lengthy. It's sort of confusing.

As far as value goes, there are 160 missions to complete, most of which are actually side-quests not pertaining directly to the core story. Playing the game, I couldn't help but shake the feeling that it felt too much like a collect-a-thon. In addition to that, picking up items off the ground is even more annoying than it was in Uncharted 2, seeing as how in order to pick an item up, you have to be actually looking at it and I hate that. You can't just walk over it and press a button (like Uncharted 2) or have the game automatically collect it for you. This becomes an issue particularly when you need some replinishment, and you have enemies all around you. If you try to pick the items up, you'll most certainly get roughed up, because you have to be fairly precise at what it is you're pointing your sights at. Honestly, this kind of stuff just needs to be automated.

Once you're done with the single-player, you can try the multiplayer, which comes in the way of two-player split-screen co-operative gameplay, or four-player online co-op that supports on-the-fly drop-ins and drop-outs. That's a lot of hyphens, isn't it? Furthermore, you can initiate a duel by slapping your co-op player, which will allow you to engage him/her in a battle.

Visually, I think a number of people will find themselves disappointed. The cel-shaded visuals aren't very attractive, especially considering how nice the game looked originally. More importantly, and perhaps this is limited to the PlayStation 3 game, but the game engine isn't very good. First there are the long load times, but beyond that are the framerate hitches the game endures when there's some action on screen. It takes about three or four enemies to get near you for the framerate to take damage, and it's pretty annoying. On top of that, the game isn't exactly good looking to begin with, boasting lackluster texture quality that exhibit washed out properties. To add to that, the game engine isn't quick enough to draw-in the textures, so often times you'll find yourself looking at a flat texture-less object, only to see it get rendered in front of you. Again, why does this occur when the game installs so much data on to the system? Things like grass are pixelated and flat, and there's quite a lot of aliasing to be seen all over the screen, so if you don't like jagged lines on your screen, you won't like looking at Borderlands. I'm honestly quite shocked that Borderlands looks so bland, considering that the game isn't exactly pushing any envelopes here. At the very least, better texture detail surely wouldn't have been too much to ask for out of a cel-shaded title.

On the other hand, the voice acting is pretty good. Most of the humor comes from either the ClapTraps (the game's little helper robots), the narrator, or some of the random cast of characters you'll encounter along the way. A decent soundtrack that resembles what you'd hear in either a motion-picture or a Metal Gear game can be heard in the background on occasion, in addition to a number of other sounds. Because the game places such a heavy emphasis on weaponry, you'll be happy to know that the guns sound pretty good, for the most part, with the occasional revolver perhaps sounding a bit too weak…but perhaps it's intentional. All in all, not much to complain about here.

Borderland is not for those who are looking for the next blockbuster game. While it may feature a number of similarities with Fallout 3, it isn't as polished as Fallout 3 was, seeing as how Borderlands suffers from a number of awkward and unexplainable gameplay quirks, in addition to a graphics engine that can really be annoying. If you can get past the bland visuals, there is a very deep and solid gameplay experience, overall. But if you're the type of gamer who wants the complete the package, Borderlands may fall short of your expectations. A good game for the hardcore Fallout 3 fan, but one in need of a lot of polish.

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Qubex
Qubex
11 years ago

I wasn't really considering this game; now I probably won't at all… saving my pennies for the big AAA's.

The point being made about the "renderless" objects is one of my pet hates. Its difficult after seeing what the Unchartered engine can do now, to have these silly glitches and darn right ugly rendering techniques play havoc with a full priced game. I would really have expected now that these types of glitches would not be overly evident in games now days… I mean we have had a few years of this generation already!

Still haven't picked up Unchartered II, but I will during the Christmas rush. Waiting for an Unchartered II PS3 bundle 🙂

Borderlands can stay at the border.

Q!

"i am home"


Last edited by Qubex on 10/20/2009 11:14:20 PM

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
11 years ago

why do people continue to call it unchartered?

o-well…

btw its uncharted!

ExhumeART
ExhumeART
11 years ago

There's a typo in the first sentence of the second paragraph.

Good review. This game never seemed like too much, and this only confirms my theories. Well, time to get back to Uncharted!

ArnoldK PSXE
ArnoldK PSXE
11 years ago

The comma, right? Thanks. =)

Fane1024
Fane1024
11 years ago

It's the wrong "its".

Great review, Arnold. Nice to read a contrasting view to some of the glowing reviews out there.


Last edited by Fane1024 on 10/21/2009 4:16:19 AM

Fatcat3788
Fatcat3788
11 years ago

That's depressing… I have nothing else to comment about it.

enjoi
enjoi
11 years ago

Less polish than Fallout 3? Considering how bug filled Fallout 3 is does the game make your PS3 explode or something?

ArnoldK PSXE
ArnoldK PSXE
11 years ago

Hahaha, while Fallout 3 did have a number of bugs, it did have superb visuals and a much better game engine.

A2K78
A2K78
11 years ago

Just another FPS in the sea of the FPS's flooding the market.

The_R0gue_Ninja
The_R0gue_Ninja
11 years ago

Did you think that towards RPGs with the high popularity that genre held during the life of the PSX?

King James
King James
11 years ago

Ouch. And I'm strongly considering buying this game.

The_R0gue_Ninja
The_R0gue_Ninja
11 years ago

I have played this game now for about 10 hours, and I have not experienced any of the hit detection problems Arnold mentioned. In fact, after reading his review, who's verdict I disagree with by the way, I tried sniping enemies from varying distances.

I first tried at (now remember, all of the distances are only approximations since I am doing this in a virtual world) 20 yards, and I was able to snipe and hit my targets perfectly.

Secondly, I tried at about 50 yards, and still it was perfectly normal.

Then I tried at about 100 yards and it was still fine!

During this experiment, I shot and killed 3 enemies with each distance. No trouble whatsoever!

I do not know what Arnold experienced, but I have yet to see it.

King James
King James
11 years ago

If that Best Buy deal is true…I'm getting this game.

The_R0gue_Ninja
The_R0gue_Ninja
11 years ago

You won't be sorry, dude.

Scarecrow
Scarecrow
11 years ago

lol guess this IS more boring than Fallout

And they were trying to fool us lol

NightHawk17
NightHawk17
11 years ago

imo this score represents the game perfectly, its fun but only in co-op. and i just get a feeling like im playing fallout 3

Alienange
Alienange
11 years ago

Then you've never played Fallout 3.

SerendipityDeus
SerendipityDeus
11 years ago

i was hoping for a good game here but i guess some things are hard to ask for, might still pick up, but definetly not till summer of next yr, thats usually the dry season, could be a good game to help tide things over

oldmike
oldmike
11 years ago

lol with so many Q1 and Q2 games on the list there will be no dry spell next year just a "crap i still have 2 more games to play before R3 comes out"

slayerkillemall
slayerkillemall
11 years ago

Arnolds, review score is probably generous,considering the games nature,IMO this game should have been polished for at least another year,and most importantly have dropped the
cartoony (cel-shaded) graphics…

for now its a bargain bin for me…
lets see how well it sells…

___________
___________
11 years ago

still getting this day one.
loved fallout 3, its the only game i can play non stop without getting bored.
(thats if the game lets me,fuc**ng bethesda and there lazy programmers)
ill get it for the PC though since the developers have been bragging how much better the pc version is.

Fane1024
Fane1024
11 years ago

Bethesda's programmers may be lazy, but the "content" people certainly aren't.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
11 years ago

it released yesterday!

The_R0gue_Ninja
The_R0gue_Ninja
11 years ago

The PC version is probably the superior version. With the consoles, there is a slight drop in frame rate during large battles. Also, you'll probably have a bunch of graphical customization options.

JackieBoy
JackieBoy
11 years ago

Of course it has crippling framerate… Remember magnificent Half-Life that they f***ed up on ps3? Gearbox still sucks with ps3…
I love Fallout 3 but I definetly WON'T be getting this game. Cartoon crap.

Corak
Corak
11 years ago

Sad. I was hoping this would be good.
I have a thing for Diablo 2 and Fallout 1&2.
Couldn't get myself to play Fallout 3, for long, for being good but not in any way Fallout where it matters!
I even like the Cartoony style in the videos, but if Anrnold says it look crappy, well it looks crappy I guess 🙁


Last edited by Corak on 10/21/2009 3:31:55 AM

BigBoss4ever
BigBoss4ever
11 years ago

the low score is doomed long time ago, i never looked into this title

TheRaPtuRe
TheRaPtuRe
11 years ago

dont care im still getting, most sites have given it 8.5's so it cant be that bad.

Naga
Naga
11 years ago

I'm considering on buying this since Raging Blast got delayed in Europe.
But there is also Infamous ( lol I know I haven't 🙁 ) , Fallout 3 Goty which is a bit of godsend

LegendaryWolfeh
LegendaryWolfeh
11 years ago

Aw that sucks, I'll hopefully be getting Raging Blast as soon as it's released

Nickjcal
Nickjcal
11 years ago

IGN gave in a 8.5 i believe. Im picking it up today its been a little while since a good loot game has come out and i dont really look for bugs and all i just wanna play the game for the game.

oldmike
oldmike
11 years ago

IGN are sell-outs you cant trust em

Naga
Naga
11 years ago

lol IGN

Milonakis
Milonakis
11 years ago

Guess not every cel shaded game can be TF2

Akuma_
Akuma_
11 years ago

pokemon for consoles.

im actually a little surprised with this review, but cant say i didnt warn ya's =]

Beamboom
Beamboom
11 years ago

Wow, is this game even remotely comparable with Fallout? If that is the case I'll get it for the co-op option alone!

JackC8
JackC8
11 years ago

If they had stuck with the realistic graphics, this would be right around the top of my wish list. That cell shaded stuff just doesn't appeal to me at all though. I've seen cell shading used really well in other games, but this thing is just downright fugly. And considering the gameplay problems, maybe I'll check it out in a year or so when I find it in a bargain bin for $20.


Last edited by JackC8 on 10/21/2009 8:51:22 AM

big6
big6
11 years ago

The pre-release price reduction to $39.99 (at Futureshop and BestBuy in Canada) was an indicator that something might be wrong with it. I was expecting possibly horrible framerates, but they were acceptible.

I played it for about 2 hours, looking for possible flaws, since I'd not seen footage of the game running on a PS3 *at all* prior to release. I didn't really find any, until…

…I tried to go online. The Multiplayer and Co-op online plays is completely broken in this game. Broken, as in, IT DOES NOT WORK. The game just freezes when trying to connect to a Multiplayer game. In Co-op, the game will not find your friends list, and will show your status as "offline".

I won't feel too bad, if they fix this online bug soon. But, I am happy that I got it for the discounted price…

Alienange
Alienange
11 years ago

Batman was 38.99 in Canada upon release and it is a kick ass game. Price doesn't indicate anything.

Beamboom
Beamboom
11 years ago

Oh yiikes, thanks for your info big6! This game was intended to buy as a co-op game, seems I'll at least wait for it to be fixed in a patch!

Diggity Dan
Diggity Dan
11 years ago

Another problem I've read about this game is that there's no real weapons trade system for online. You just have to drop your weapons and hope the other player cooperates.

Alienange
Alienange
11 years ago

Well Arnold, another good review. I bought Borderlands and have played it for several ours as Roland. I saw this game for what it is, an FPS. I haven't tried the sniping but I'll take your word for it. My guns were all working just swimmingly.

You are definitely right about the item pickups though. My goodness what were they thinking? I have to scour around the floor looking for the health pack I desperately need while being shot at? Dang that's just wrong. Ok, we don't have to pick up the guns automatically but running over the ammo and health should just give it to you.

I do feel the comparison to Fallout 3 is not warranted one bit. Borderlands is Guild Wars but played like Halo with treasure hunting as its focus. Fallout 3 is Oblivion with guns.

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

According to another website, the PS3's online doesn't function properly. That's a big minus for a multi-player game. Hopefully, they will fix it. Yet another PC-first company still learning to get the hang of the PS3.

Everybody here in Canada went gaga over the $39.96 price some stores were selling it at this week. Methinks a lot of them are 360 owners who realized ODST wasn't worth $78 CAN and recouped a bit of their loss by snatching up Borderlands.

bOnEs
bOnEs
11 years ago

personally, i love cel-shaded games… and i don't think the graphics would be an issue for me with this game… even some jagged edges might be overlooked by me because, i love the cartoonish look… to me, it really does wonders for this game…

however, i am not too thrilled with the reviews i have seen so far… everyone else seems to have given this game some generous reviews considering what they have written about it… arnold told it like it was, and rated it like it was… i kinda thought other sites gave it too much benefit of the doubt…

thanks for the honest review, arnold… i am still gonna pick this up but, i'm putting it on my christmas list instead…

556pineapple
556pineapple
11 years ago

7.9? I'll pass. Never looked like it would be great anyway.

Streets_74
Streets_74
11 years ago

As soon as I heard they changed the graphics engine, I lost interest in this game, I mean come on this is the hd generation and I've never been that big a fan of cell shaded games.

redman479
redman479
11 years ago

That review confirmed exactly what I fugured!!! Pure unadulterated crap.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
11 years ago

cell shaded is kinda neat, POP did it great, while i will agree this game did it not too fantastic but not horrible!

my roomate picked this up yesterday and it looks fun, repetitive, and not a lot going on but fun! he isnt real far so itll prolly pick up, but i might get it for the co-op!

dfoz3
dfoz3
11 years ago

I got this game yesterday and played for a couple of hours. I think it is a great game!! Uncharted 2 is my game of the year, but this game was very fun in my opinion. The graphics are much better than a 6.5 in my opinion too. The environments look great to me but I don't like the cartoony character design. Overall it is a pretty good game though.

ArnoldK PSXE
ArnoldK PSXE
11 years ago

As far as the visuals, I don't mind the cel-shaded style, but the texture detail is very weak in a lot of areas, more so than it should be for a game like this.

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