Borderlands PS3 Review

Fallout 3 may be plagued by game breaking bugs, but concealed behind it all is a wonderful game that mashes the FPS and RPG genres (perhaps because of their acronym titles, these two were always meant to be together) convincingly. Gearbox’s Borderlands attempts much the same thing, but with an additional focus on multiplayer.

Borderlands takes place on the planet of Pandora, a dangerous wasteland filled with creatures and bandits and also your ultimate objective, the vault. All of that may bring about further comparisons with Fallout 3, but the visual style, a combination of bold hand drawn textures and more traditional methods, is certainly its own and even though a struggling frame-rate is an incessant issue throughout. From a style standpoint, it’s still certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing games released in 2009.

Pandora is sizeable, though is much less interesting and is on a much smaller scale than the world of Fallout 3. The initial area of Borderlands is big, but it isn’t until much later on that the world really opens itself up to you and the choice of quests increase, which is when the game is truly at its highest level of quality. The quests are generally kill or fetch affairs; they may be devoid of imagination, but they’re still absorbing enough and, as a way of levelling up and getting yourself some rare equipment, they do their job admirably well.

It may have plenty of RPG flowing through its veins, but that doesn’t include a substantial storyline. What’s there isn’t terribly interesting either, though the sense of humour apparent throughout is likeable enough, giving some degree of life to boring old objective descriptions.

Of equal importance to the RPG genre is levelling up and Borderlands has this in abundance. Every kill and completion of quests will earn you XP of which will level you up when you mass enough, increasing your health. It’s compulsive stuff, and perhaps enough of an attraction for the RPG fans that aren’t typically entertained by the fast paced action of the FPS genre.

Further RPG convention is fulfilled with the character classes. It’s hardly surprising that these have an initial proficiency with particular weapons, so soldiers are adept at using Combat Rifles and Shotguns to begin with for example, whilst hunters have a liking for Sniper Rifles and Revolvers, but all of them can use every weapon available and even become more adept at using them through continued usage.

Once you attain level 5 status, further RPG options reveal themselves to you. From this point onwards, every level increase will award you a skill point, with which you can spend on learning new skills. The first one you’ll learn is your action skill, a skill that is unique to each individual class, for example a soldier is able to employ a turret to have a less hands on approach to enemy blasting, whilst a siren can turn invisible for a set amount of time. Once used, each of the skills go through a cool down period, therefore you’re not able to over exploit them for your nefarious means and break the poor game.

Another thing that plays an important role in the compulsion of RPGS is the lovely loot found strewn around the environments or dropped by defeated enemies. In Borderlands there’s money (which can be used to purchase equipment) and plenty of guns to be found, thousands of variations to be more precise, so one minute you might find a scoped pistol and the next you might find something more outlandish such as a machine gun that has a chance of setting your enemies on fire, studying the stats and abilities of freshly discovered weapons is all part of the fun in Borderlands. With all players in co-op (more on that a little later) contesting for discovered loot, in a way it’s even more satisfying taking that deadly gun from right under a comrades nose, just don’t get too greedy.

FPS elements, whilst perhaps not quite as much of a focus as the partnering RPG elements, are still a vital facet of the game, more so than is the case with Fallout 3. You’re able to sprint, you have a recharging shield and there’s no equivalent to the VATS mechanic featured in Fallout 3, so it‘s fast paced action all the way. The main variables that determine the amount of damage you’ll inflict upon your enemies are their levels in comparison to your own and, of course, the quality of the gun you’re brandishing. Such constraints could frustrate seasoned FPS players who would rather their head popping was always achieved through good old careful lining up of the crosshair, than be governed by underlying stats.

In regards to co-op, it can be played in two player split screen or by up to four players online. Essentially this is the way that the game was designed to be played, which is not to say that the solo play is weak in comparison; the core mechanics work just as well when you’re alone. The support skills of the classes obviously come into their own in co-op and happily you can drop in and out as you see fit, retaining all your progress for single player or any other future multiplayer exploits. In a pleasant touch, cleverly the game will adapt to the number of players present, presenting you with weaker enemies with less players and stronger enemies with more, allowing for an experience that is always reasonably balanced and, as a result, never less than entertaining.

The weak story of Borderlands is its most disappointing feature, but elsewhere it’s largely a successful concoction of two genres, with all the compulsion of an RPG but also the tactile feedback of an FPS. Though the RPG aspect outweighs the more action orientated side, there’s still likely going to be more than enough to appease fans of both genres, leaving it as a game with broad appeal, though one that is not without minor frustrations for both parties.