Casual Bruisers Welcome in Borderlands

At first glance, Gearbox Software’s Borderlands title appears to offer not much more than standard post-apocalyptic shoot-em-up. The unexpectedly strong sales for this game are justified; read on for a casual gamer’s take on this title.

Although not post-apocalyptic in a fractured society sense – the storyline takes place on an alien planet where the only “civilization” to develop were bandits and thugs left behind from force-labour mining activities – the game features familiar blasted-earth crater-style terrain, sparsely populated areas and ‘towns’ with loads of decorative graves but no inhabitants.

Veteran FPS Players Will Feel At Home, Newbies Will Find The Action Accessible
If you’re not a veteran first person shooter, the regular confusion applies – it’s hard to keep up with the action if you’re not used to it. The enemy’s bullet tracers make it difficult to pinpoint where you’re being attacked from, and melee combat is stop-and-go when your enemy steps past you – causing you to lose your orientation while you spin around to find them again. Running around a 3D virtual environment isn’t as straightforward as moving from location to location in real life – it’s easy to find yourself moving in circles within the “world in a box”.

Fortunately, the game’s developers have incorporated no end of visual clues in order to help keep the player on track. Enemies appear as red dots on your on-screen compass, making it easy to turn and face your attacker. Goals are highlighted with diamond markets – getting around from mission to mission often involves following the markers around obstacles. When playing through complex missions, the re-spawn point is continually moved forward so the player doesn’t have to retrace all of their steps every time they get killed.

borderlandsKeep Fighting Even If You Suck
Disclaimer: I’m terrible at FPS titles. If you’re in the same boat as I am, you’ll be happy to know that your ineptitude won’t hold you back. Whenever your character gets beaten down, you’re given an opportunity to “fight for your life”; if you manage to kill any enemy your character will get a bit of health and you can continue your mission. In many cases, this will let the unskilled fighter limp through the game’s challenges.

Play Together
Borderlands was clearly designed to be played with friends. We weren’t fans of the vertical split screen (it would be nice if there were an option to split horizontally), but we very much enjoyed exploring the environment together. Since characters are spread out so sparsely, it would be a slow, cold experience to solve this game in single-player mode.

As a group, it’s possible to play two-player split-screen or 3/4 player cooperative by linking two consoles together. We don’t have two consoles to link together, but it would be worth gathering up some friends and trying the setup.

Fun for Everyone
This game is definitely worth playing, whether you’re a newcomer to first person shooters or a veteran, there is something for everybody to enjoy. The RPG-style level system adds an interesting element of character building which is unique for this genre.

Rating: Buy!
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