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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Borderlands (Playstation 3) 

Taking players into a desolate netherworld filled with destruction, Borderlands is a post-apocalyptic action title that mixes FPS action and role playing elements to create a unique hybrid title that sucks you into the action. It's quite innovative and has you alternate between quest missions and all out battles. The single-player mode is moderately entertaining, but playing online or over a LAN makes things even more fun. There are a few rough spots but, this is still a solidly entertaining title that brings a unique flair to both genres, making this an excellent choice for action gamers.

Arriving from the developers at Gearbox and publishers Activision, Borderlands for the PS3 feels destined to be a cult title that should please gamers looking for something different and unusual. Set in a desolate netherworld on the outer-edge of the galaxy, Bordelands puts you into the role of one of four unique characters. You start your journey in a desolate corner of the planet and slowly build up your character by completing missions and acquiring items, experience and leveling up. Unlike traditional RPGs, the battles take place in real-time which makes for some intense melees. However, the world is quite expansive, and you'll spend plenty of time exploring a massive game world in search of the rush of combat and its rewards. These can take the form of missions, where you're given specific tasks to complete and are rewarded at the end. You start with a basic character and a few minor weapons, which are effective against the first waves of enemies you face, but become increasingly ineffective later on. You'll have to upgrade your character relatively quickly, and one of the first things that you need to do is to purchase a shield. This increases your chances of survival immensely since it recharges automatically when you enter cover. It's become a fairly standard feature in FPS titles over the past few years, and while this regenerative health system isn't entirely realistic, its still superior to the alternative. Of course, you can hunt down health packs, but this reduces the annoying respawns and helps to keep the action flowing at a good, consistent pace.

The world you explore in Borderlands is filled with danger and you'll encounter packs of mutant animals roaming around the wastelands. Since they eat a lot of ammo and other things, shooting them releases plenty of things for you to collect. You'll also encounter crazed bandits, who usually roam in groups around the world. They're slightly harder to kill, but the rewards for doing so are usually greater. As you move out and explore a bit more of Borderlands, you'll find loads of ammo and weapons to collect. There are tons of munitions scattered around and you should take as much as you can carry, since you can also trade these in for additional credits. As stated earlier, the game offers a good balance between role-playing and strategy elements, and once you're done shooting foes, you'll earn XP points, which can be used to upgrade your character. Earning enough XP also allows you to level up, which increases your character's strengths while also giving you additional abilities. Each of the main characters in the game represents a specific class of fighter, and knowing their techniques can help you along the way. It takes a little while to learn the basics and things, which means the early levels drag on a bit, but once you get on to the harder missions, Borderlands becomes much more fun to play. The enemy AI in the game makes for some intense gun battles, and the plethora of weaponry at your disposal helps to give you plenty of options.

Obviously, there are going to be many points when your character doesn't make it. Fortunately, respawning isn't terribly difficult to do and only costs you a token amount of money. Add in plenty of save points and you have a title that encourages you to take risks and doesn't penalize you too much when they don't pan out. To help you along the way, there's a handy map feature which shows the location of many significant objects such as waypoints, med dispensers, ammo and other landmarks. In keeping with the RPG elements, the game also allows you quick and easy access to your inventory lists, mission objectives and includes a catalog of your previous encounters with main characters. The menus are straightforward and easy to navigate, making them a seamless addition to the game. While the main thrust of the single player mode is survival, the multiplayer modes offer more competitive action. Whether you're playing with friends in co-op missions or competing with them in deathmatch mode, Borderlands' multiplayer modes are consistently entertaining. Setting up online modes, compiling friends' lists and creating game parameters is a simple task and most players should be up and running in no time. You might want to make sure that your character is leveled up and that you have enough experience, or you'll be easy prey otherwise. There's a bit of a learning curve and some patience required before the game really comes into its own, but the frantic pace of Borderlands' multiplayer modes really is worth the effort. The wide range of weapons you can find are quite inventive, including flame-throwers, rocket-launchers, grenades, machine guns, and much more. This gives the gameplay plenty of variety and with literally thousands of weapons to find throughout the world, there's a ton of fun to be had so you can frag other players and NPC's without end in the game.

Obviously, many comparisons will be made between this and Fallout 3, which is a similar game in theme, but there are some significant differences. While both titles mix role-playing and action in a post-apocalyptic world, Borderlands' RPG mechanics are much simpler, and blend into the background for the most part. Its battle sequences are pure action, aim and shoot. It's decidedly pronounced array of weaponry makes the case that this isn't a clone, and is instead a unique game all its own. Additionally, the tone is much lighter and more fun here. For while they share a theme, Borderlands' approach is far more humorous, with its somewhat silly storyline and humorously over-the-top characters make for a far more accessible title. While its not exactly a shoot first and ask later type of game, Borderlands doesn't have the darkness and oppressive feel of Fallout 3, making it far more accessible for those just looking for a good time. Despite all of these comparisons, it definitely stands on its own two feet. As you might expect, Borderlands offers plenty of entertaining gameplay, but its execution isn't perfect. Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks in the game that can be annoying at times. Some of the enemies we encountered were a bit cheap, resulting in a series of quick dispatches for no reason. These opponents made the gameplay feel a bit cheap. Other points of frustration occurred when enemies got in close, since the melee attacks aren't nearly as effective or accurate as they could have been. Additionally, some of the missions were generally easy to understand and structured in a logical order, but there were a few long slogs while we traveled long distances. We encountered a few unpleasant ambushes in these long journeys. While we didn't lose the items we gained and only fell a couple of events behind, it was still annoying to have to make the trek once again, and fight the same enemies repeatedly, which made the missions become a bit tedious after awhile. However, these drawbacks were relatively minor and didn't significantly detract from the overall high quality.

Borderlands offers an immense world to explore, and the developers have done a good job bringing it to life. Instead of the dark, oppressive realism you see in other games, there's a more cartoony approach to it. Many objects feel cel-shaded, which makes it more fun to play. The enemies you face are also a little bit off kilter, and while you'll have to defeat bandits, rabid animals, the humorous plot points and dialogue make it feel fun. Everything moves at a smooth frame rate and the game's interface and controls are excellent, which gives the game a nice polished look throughout. While there are a few problems here and there, specifically some cheap enemies and occasionally tedious missions, Borderlands is a solidly entertaining and innovative title that breaks new ground. Its hybrid approach works for the most part, because the action is tightly wound and controls solidly, while the RPG elements add enough depth to keep you playing through the single player mode. Its excellent multiplayer modes gives Borderlands even more longevity and make this title one you'll definitely want to check out if you want something different and innovative to experience.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

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