Borderlands: A first person shooter for freaks and geeks

Borderlands: A first person shooter for freaks and geeks

It's also got the worst case of gun envy we've ever seen, but let's contemplate one neurosis at a time, shall we?

Set on the desolate world of Pandora (not that Pandora), Borderlands pitches you as a mercenary in search of the legendary Vault - a treasure trove of alien artefacts that, at some point in the planet's murky past, was responsible for a gold rush of corporations, criminals and scientists. Nobody managed to find it, though, which meant that Pandora became an unloved world full of scavenged cities, dust storms and bandits.

The post-apocalyptic setting is immediately reminiscent of Fallout 3, but the two games couldn't be more different. Borderlands dispenses with Fallout's sinister landscapes for cell-shaded mountain ranges and giggling midgets with shotguns who tumble over every time they fire at you. There's very little on Pandora that isn't sillier than 13 clowns getting out of a car.

Psychos light themselves on fire and chase you with axes, while spiderants - yes, that's a combination of ants and spiders - emerge from the landscape to hurl themselves at you like demented bowling balls.

Borderlands' good guys have the dubious honour of being even odder. Friendly characters include Crazy Earl - who has sex with robots - and Doctor Tannis, whose best friend is her tape recorder. It's these mentalists who dispense the missions and, though they're never much more than ‘go here and kill everything', the tasks are dressed up in good jokes and epic rewards.

‘Epic rewards' is misleading, though, as there's only one type of reward in Borderlands: guns. Eviscerate an enemy and you get his gun; open a fridge and you get a gun; complete a mission and... well, you get the idea. In fact, the thought that there's a bigger gun waiting after the next side-quest soon becomes the only reason to accept it. It's the driving force behind everything you do, and the moment you weary of this compulsion is the moment Borderlands loses its grip on you.

In an effort to ward this off, developer Gearbox has littered Pandora with thousands of weapons, each governed by unique stats that determine how much damage they do and whether the enemy explodes in a gooey mess or is gracefully electrocuted.

This is why calling Borderlands an RPG is misleading: while the DNA is certainly there, the game has evolved only into a more efficient shooter. Characters level up in order to explode bigger enemies, and your inventory is actually a gun cabinet.

On the bright side, should you tire of turning bad guys into people putty, you can always invite a friend along to help. Borderlands features a rather lovely co-op mode that allows four people to jump into your game at any point, no matter their level.

Of course, if your chum is of a significantly lower level they'll likely have all the success of a Hanson comeback tour, but they'll swiftly power up. Or die quite a lot. Either way, you'll be having fun.

Borderlands is a strange beast. While there are a lot of tricks up its sleeve, ultimately they all end with the rabbit having its head smashed on a table by a progressively bigger hammer. As we said, Freud would have a field day. And so will you, providing you share its compulsions.

4 10
Freud would have a field day with Borderlands. It's a first-person shooter that thinks it's a role-playing game.
4 / 10
This review appeared in the July, 2010 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

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