Borderlands is an innovative game for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 that breathes new life into the tired, apocalyptic action game genre.
On my way to fight a hulking maniac called Sledge, one of Borderlands' boss baddies, a bandit's arm is ripped from his shoulder by my pet bird; my explode-on-impact grenade turns a frightening trio of "midget psychos" into spaghetti sauce; and my acid rounds disintegrate a steroid-pumping, shotgun-wielding thug. I am a badass. Borderlands is badass. The grueling, unfair fight with Sledge? Less so.
Borderlands: Lonely Planet
See, the encounter with Sledge, and the small side-quests leading up to him, made one thing very clear to me: Borderlands is built with multiplayer in mind, and since none of my friends are online to help me out, I'm taking him on solo. But each enemy encounter is so obviously designed with multiplayer in mind that it takes away from the single-player experience.
Each battle presents you with numerous tactically advantageous positions to exploit, one for each of the game's four characters. The sniper Mordecai has plenty of vantage points to take shots from; side routes let the sneaky Lilith slip by undetected before blowing baddies to bits; Roland's heavy gunning is protected behind plenty of cover; and Brick's fists efficiently clean any up-close-and-personal clocks.
Rolling around the open areas as a lone wolf is certainly enjoyable-solitude accentuates the tension of dangerous situations, especially when you can hear the phenomenal soundtrack instead of your raucous pals-but it's just not the best way to play. With nobody to cover your flank and no one to pull you out of the muck when you run into trouble, the single-player mode becomes a lonely experience.
But despite its intimidating, pseudo-open-ended scope, Borderlands is expertly controlled. It's a first-person shooter mashed with a role-playing game, and it aces both genres without sacrificing anything on either end. It even manages to sneak in a few of its massively multiplayer RPG-influences with similarly structured fetch-quests that are broken up into fast-paced, instance-like experiences.
Naturally, this means loads of leveling and loot. To streamline the madness of fighting for cash and experience points, Borderlands brilliantly awards everyone in the party an equal amount without cutting anyone short. Your 250 XP kill earns everyone 250 XP; when I find $50, everyone gets $50. And because awesome guns, grenade modifiers and class-specific equipment dropped so regularly I was never at odds with my allies over who should get what-we'd all get to tinker with new toys or sell our sweet finds sooner rather than later.
Everything fell into place perfectly based on our agreed roles and there's an addictive quality here that's on par with Diablo, where the constant promise of new doodads and skill tree bonuses were enough incentive to keep you up way too late. The back of the box brags about "BAZILLIONS" of guns to discover, and given the visual and statistical variety of each weapon I stumbled across I'm not willing to challenge Gearbox's hyperbolic chest-beating just yet.
NEXT: the thrill of the hunt >>