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Borderlands Review

Brad Gallaway's picture

Stranded (And Bored) In The Wasteland

Borderlands Screenshot

HIGH Millions of guns to choose from, theoretically...

LOW The "adventure" is pure contrivance, utterly lacking a soul.

WTF Where's the onscreen mini-map? Why do weak guns auto-equip?

Several years in the making, Gearbox's Borderlands has been a highly-anticipated title since 2005. Originally envisioned as a kind of open-world Halo/Diablo hybrid, the developers have combined FPS gameplay with a structure that borrows character-building elements from RPGs. In addition to this intriguing combination, the game sports another notable hook—an absurd number of randomly-spawned loot guns for players to find and employ with deadly purpose.

Set on fictional planet Pandora, the game occurs in a barren wasteland that exudes a vaguely post-apocalyptic feeling thanks to ramshackle settlements, large stretches where creatures and raiders attack, and a serious amount of the color brown. Into this environment, four characters are bussed: Roland the soldier, Mordecai the sniper, Brick the brawler, and Lilith, the token stealthy female. This group is searching for The Vault, a legendary cache of advanced alien technology hidden somewhere on the planet.

Although it has a good premise and seems to have all of the elements necessary for success, Borderlands fell quite a bit short of what I would've expected from a well-known studio with such significant time in development. Primarily, the biggest issue with the game is that it has a painfully narrow scope and ends up being nothing more than one long, extended, totally overt grind. It's more a platform for play than a complete, well-rounded game. Although I'm not a fan of grinding for grinding's sake, I have no problem with it if it's implemented well. With engaging gameplay and sufficient reward, it's entirely possible to have such a structure comprise the base of a successful game. In Borderlands' case, I don't think the necessary tricks have been pulled off.

The first sign setting off warning bells for me were the character interactions, or lack thereof.  Basically, the NPC "characters" hardly qualify as such, being nothing more than personality-free constructs placed to dispense quests. Although I didn't expect hours-long backstories for each one of them, there are a number of games today that at least make vague gestures at spicing this end of things up. Borderlands' missions are presented to the player in we-know-you-won't-read-this text blobs and are never interesting or original, being mostly comprised of kill or fetch-and-kill. The situation might not feel so blatantly mechanical if there were actually some kind of minor plot-based cause-and-effect to show achievement upon completion of tasks, but there's absolutely no concern for this sort of thing.

Borderlands Screenshot

Yet another example illustrating Borderlands' tunnel-vision, there's no effort spent trying to make Pandora feel convincing or deep in any way. Rather than a living, breathing world to explore, the areas created are simply places where quests are fulfilled. There are no citizens to interact with; no ambient energy animating the environments. Why bother exploring the wastes when interesting items and events aren't present or active unless the player has accepted the correct quest? Deserted plateaus become hotbeds of activity once the right switch has been flipped, but remain otherwise unmemorable no matter how many times the player passes by. This sort of old-school design offense completely annihilates the potential value of exploration or discovery that's become fairly common in the game's contemporaries.

In fact, such a choice makes me wonder why the developers were so keen to have such a huge play area in the first place. A considerable amount of time is spent simply traveling between locations over and over again despite players having access to a rudimentary warp system (which only becomes available several hours into the game) and awkwardly-controlled vehicles steered by moving the aiming reticle. The world of Borderlands feels as though there's entirely too much dead space presented to players with nothing significant to fill it. It holds no inherent entertainment value.

With an empty world, empty characters and repetitive quests, what does Borderlands do right?

I have to admit that the variety of weapons is interesting, especially once some of the more exotic things start appearing. Pistols are just pistols, but pistols that set enemies on fire are noteworthy. Sniper rifles that explode enemies into nuggets are even better. I can't say that having this ridiculously robust selection of guns was really effort well-spent while everything else feels so painfully thin, but there is some value here.

Besides being an immense firearm fetish opportunity, the co-op (obviously a main focus of the game given its structure) is also well-done. Players online can drop in and out, and there's even splitscreen for those that need the option. Although it's a fine platform for friends to play together in, I hesitate to celebrate it too heartily since I believe that just about any game is improved by having a buddy or three along for the ride. This title in particular receives only moderate benefit from the company of another living, breathing person. The content's just too transparently grind-happy and dull no matter how many jokes are cracked between partners on a couch or online. When teaming up myself, the most common sentiment expressed was that both of us would have rather been playing something else. Despite being positioned as a mainly co-op title, it lags behind the excitement delivered by titles like Left 4 Dead, Gears of War, or even Resident Evil 5.

Although Borderlands seemed ready to be one of the next big things, the overwhelming focus on grinding and gun-collecting can't carry the entire game, in either co-op or single-player. With only cursory attention given to story, characterization, variety, incidental content and world development, the result is a very lopsided final product that will likely find more favor with the nothing-but-action FPS crowd than those craving more balance in something termed an FPS/RPG hybrid. Borderlands' one-note design and myopic implementation has resulted in a product that's woefully empty, unconvincing, and out-of-touch with current standards. Iit may be brand new, but I think its age is definitely showing. Rating: 5.0 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS3 Approximately 9 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. An additional 3 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore,intense violence, mature humor and strong language. It should be pretty obvious, but this title is definitely not for the young ones. Tons of guns, tons of shooting, and tons of monsters and freaky-looking dudes getting killed. Plenty of salty language, lots of blood... do I even need to say anything else? I think you get the picture. No kids.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: You will be at a slight disadvantage when playing this game. Although there is an on-screen enemy indicator that functions fairly well and there are visual cues when the player is under fire, there are still plenty of times when hearing the sounds of growing beasts or gibbering enemies will go unnoticed by players with hearing impairments. In such cases, it's likely that the player will take some cheap hits and be surprised from behind or from the side more than a few times. Gotta stay on your toes with this one, and even then, a few issues during combat will still crop up.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3   PC  
Developer(s): Gearbox Software  
Publisher: 2K Games  
Series: Borderlands  
Genre(s): Shooting   Online/Multiplayer  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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OK, im picturing a game

OK, im picturing a game where I can run around and shoot, on a big FarCry2 map. So the RPG stuff is not that good (I hear everyone saying that), but why is it not a good shooter?

This game is not Fallout 3.

This game is not Fallout 3. That seems to be what the reviewer expected. The story and motivations for doing anything are completely contrived to get you from one zone to the next in order to kill tougher enemies and get better loot. It worked for Diablo, it works for WoW and it works for Borderlands.

What it does better than those games, though, is provide instantly gratifying, twitch-shooter combat that is visceral, intense and liquid smooth. The controls are precise (the default scheme is CoDs layout), the skill trees add endless hours of min/maxing to get your character just the way you like, and the co-op is truly a blast.

This reviewer clearly was expecting a full-blown RPG experience with shooter elements. He didn't even comment on how well the game works as a shooter. If you play it how it's meant to be played, it's a total time-sink and well-worth every penny.

agreed...

My first few days with Borderlands was the most fun I've had playing with my friends in a long, long time. I think the reviewer completely missed the point. I had a great time coordinating our party of 4 to defeat enemies, using the synergies of the skills each character brought to the table (we had a siren, sniper, and two differently-spec'd soldiers). The "grind" in this game is a grind, yes. It's the same solid, super fun experience of shooting and killing stuff for hours and hours on end, with the same ante-upping reward that Diablo gives you: "sweet! a shotgun that shoots rockets! ...SWEET! a rocket launcher that shoots 5 rockets and lights dudes on fire!" I think some expectations need adjusting (not down, just in a different direction).

SEriously...

Seriously, I don't think your review of the game is accurate, and I sense a lot of illogical hate. You must play a lot of point and click games or something, because I find the shooting system extremely well done, a la traditional Gearbox style. (We're talking about the base shooting mechanics in this particular instance).

Granted there isn't a single storyline, but this game is really meant to be played as co-op. Play with some friends... Yeah, you can play with random folks, but as long as you all communicate and are on the same page, it's really a lot of fun. It's a shooter RPG with lots of looting in the vein of Diablo. How can that NOT be fun?

I've been playing this game for a week and half now, almost every day, with my boyfriend and our buddies. It's like a habit that can't be kicked.

As a reference point, I enjoyed Fallout 3, and love Call of Duty (MW, WoW, etc.), Gears, GRAW, etc.

torn

Brad I'm torn by this article because I often really enjoy your criticism, but this seems a bit problematic. Basically reading this review makes the game sound like an FPS Demon's Souls with guns.

Lots and lots of grinding in order to progress thru a world that isn't really created for limitless exploration, very goal-oriented with RPG elements thrown into the bag for a greater feeling of customization.

Unless you were expecting another Fallout 3 I'm not really sure from your article how Demon's Souls succeeds where this game fails, unless it is as simple as personal bias. Is Demons Souls third person perspective more suited to the genre than Borderlands first person perspective? You don't like Gearbox's take on a modern barren environment? You say the story is underdeveloped, but other than the few Heroes you can save and barely talk to in Demon's Souls, how does it differ?

I absolutely love Demons Souls, and since Im still lost in it and will probably move onto Dragon Age afterwards (with MW2 soon to follow), I can't see checking out borderlands anytime soon. But after reading your review then reading the comments above I gotta say what initially was dismissal has now become peaked curiosity.

As always love your straightforward style, this one just raised a few questions for me.

To the first few folks, i

To the first few folks, i repeat:

"the result is a very lopsided final product that will likely find more favor with the nothing-but-action FPS crowd than those craving more balance in something termed an FPS/RPG hybrid."

To Goat: fair questions.

first of all, i do want to state that i never expected BL to be Fallout. that was not what i was looking for, and i wasn't comparing the two, at least consciously. BL is its own kind of empty and barren, totally apart from what Bethesda crafted.

Secondly, BL and DS are worlds apart, in every aspect. grinding isn't really a central part of DS, IMO. of course, it makes the game easier, but the real goal of the game is to get the player through each level, to defeat each demon, and eventually get to the last conflict. along the way, the devs have crafted incredibly detailed and intricate levels, very carefully plotted and designed. there's an insane amount of atmosphere, the levels themselves almost being characters. tons of customization, tons of strategy, and an incredibly cohesive and purposeful design overall.

BL is the complete opposite. the level of effort put into designing the world is totally different. infinitely less detail, and a different focus. most of the world is simply open space to be crossed, with nothing to be discovered or explored. the game is OBVIOUSLY about the grind since the quests are mere excuses to send the player back and forth for the express purpose of leveling up. the skill trees are a joke, and very little customization available. every encounter basically plays out the same, and the only strategy needed to fight the one-note AI is making sure you have enough ammo, strong guns, and room to run. there's no believability to the game's world; no consequence to your actions.

I could go on and on, but BL feels like a very bare-bones, simplistic and artificial experience, whereas DS is a showcase for game design and production that really strives to be something more.

WTF does "why do weak guns

WTF does "why do weak guns auto-equip" even mean? If you don't want to auto-equip a given weapon, don't hold down Square, fuck. Just tap it.

Anonymous wrote: WTF does

Anonymous wrote:

WTF does why do weak guns auto-equip even mean? ... don't hold down Square, fuck. Just tap it.

Two F bombs in only 3 sentences.
He must really mean what he says.

Ouch

thanks

thank you for clearing that up. In the end I envisioned your answer while I was typing my questions. The explication of Borderland's atmosphere was exactly what I was looking for.

btw I completely agree with your comments on Demons Souls. The levels ARE characters ha.

"Disclosures: This game was

"Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS3 Approximately 9 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. An additional 3 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes."

I think this may a reason for your differing view, although I agree with your points for the first part of the game in single player - its pretty bland. However, playing this game with friends for hours on end is the best fun I have had in a video game in years. I think you are doing readers a disservice by providing such harsh criticism when you've only played the multiplayer for 3 hours.. and haven't played the game where it actually excels - a chaotic blast with friends with rocket pistols and flaming smg's. you don't care about the lack of story, nor the enemy AI nor anything else for that matter. it's not an atmospheric, realistic, lonely trek through the wasteland.. its just pure unadulterated fun :) just felt to the need to put my view out there for those considering the game, and unsure about it - if you enjoy playing with friends (not randoms), you MUST get this game.

Fun is in the eye of the beholder

Michael S wrote:

I think this may a reason for your differing view, although I agree with your points for the first part of the game in single player - its pretty bland. However, playing this game with friends for hours on end is the best fun I have had in a video game in years.

We're going to talk about this more extensively in our upcoming podcast about game review myths, but I jump the gun anyway and say that just because a game is loads of "fun" does not necessarily make it a good game. As critics using such an abstract criteria would lead to poor criticism. We certainly factor it into our opinions, but there are other judging criteria that are better suited for intelligent discussion that is less abstract and subjective.

Based on the reviewer's

Based on the reviewer's review history it's obvious Brad favors RPGs. Given this bias, it's unfair of him to review a game that is as much an RPG as World of Warcraft or Diablo (read: Barely at all).

Again, Brad is not reviewing this game as an FPS with RPG elements but rather as an RPG/Adventure game which it never claims to be. If someone isn't very good at or doesn't really like first person shooters, I wouldn't expect them to like this game. But I would say the same about Bioshock or Halo.

Zelazny7 wrote: If someone

Zelazny7 wrote:

If someone isn't very good at or doesn't really like first person shooters, I wouldn't expect them to like this game. But I would say the same about Bioshock or Halo.

Not untrue. I have spend the better part of the last 15 years avoiding shooters. My entire experience with the halo series ended about 2 hours into the first game. Half-Life... didnt care. Doom, not for me. Far Cry, you can keep it.

When I started playing Gears of War, I was so unskilled at console shooters, I had to play on "casual" and still struggled. Since then, I have completed gears of war 4 times. Once on each difficulty setting, and once more on Co-Op.

Gears of war, in a genre I did not like, is now one of my favorite games ever.

I dont buy the argument, that some how your opinion is only valid, if you are ninja-level good at the genre.
Or even if it is outside your preferred play styles.

It sounds like a method of eliminating every opinion that differs from yours.

joe wrote: I dont buy the

joe wrote:

I dont buy the argument, that some how your opinion is only valid, if you are ninja-level good at the genre.
Or even if it is outside your preferred play styles.

I agree with you, opinions don't have to be based on much. And in the case of Borderlands, they were based on a mere 9 hours of single play and 3 of co-op with a half-leveled character.

You wouldn't have written a review of Halo based on the two hours you played it would you? Well what Brad did here isn't a whole lot better. I'm not saying he has to pump 100 hours into every game he reviews, but if he expects his writing to be taken seriously, he has to invest a little more time...

1> Basically every one who

1> Basically every one who likes Borderlands says the same thing: i had a blast with my friends.

That's great. i don't begrudge you the experience. The thing is, my personal philosophy is that 98% of games need to stand on their own legs to be considered 'good'. if a game NEEDS multi to be fun, then that's a fail except in very rare instances.

basically, multi makes a game BETTER, but it doesn't make a game good.

that aside, i played the multi and didn't like it any more than i did the singleplayer, so this needed-to-be-reviewed as multi point is moot. playing MORE multi wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference.

2> Chi, i definitely agree. we'll discuss this on the podcast.

3> people never complain about how many hours were put into a game when the review is good, it's only used when someone disagrees with an opinion.

from what i've heard, a basic campaign run-through in BL can be done in 20-25 hours. putting in 12, that puts me at about halfway, roughly. if you don't think my writing can be taken seriously after putting in 12 hours of a 25ish game then when can it? 2 more hours? 4? 50?

the advantage of being an experienced gamer is that you can tell when a game's run out of tricks. you can see where it's going, and what it's shooting for. we state up front how much time we putinto a game, and IMO, no purpose would be served by putting in any more. i've related my thoughts and opinion on BL, and another 20 hours with it wouldn't alter what i said.

incidentally, i find it a little funny that assumptions are being made about my preferences. i like RPGs or i don't like shooters, therefore i don't like BL.

OR, it's just an average-to-middling game with multiplayer as its high point.

Why, haven't you heard? Any

Why, haven't you heard? Any game that gets a rating less than 9 is clearly utter crap that should never be touched by the lowest of the low.

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui wrote:
Michael S wrote:

I think this may a reason for your differing view, although I agree with your points for the first part of the game in single player - its pretty bland. However, playing this game with friends for hours on end is the best fun I have had in a video game in years.

We're going to talk about this more extensively in our upcoming podcast about game review myths, but I jump the gun anyway and say that just because a game is loads of "fun" does not necessarily make it a good game. As critics using such an abstract criteria would lead to poor criticism. We certainly factor it into our opinions, but there are other judging criteria that are better suited for intelligent discussion that is less abstract and subjective.

That's a fair point, game reviews are a form of objective criticism, and 'fun' is very subjective. Maybe I'm having fun with Borderlands because I love games like Diablo II, with its loot drop mechanics. I mean, all you did was click in that game. Heaps of people loved it, and still play it online after 9 years today. If you don't like those sort of games, or you don't like the FPS genre, I don't think that you could like Borderlands.

Sure, it's only got specific things going for it - great FPS gameplay and loot. But is a game that a certain audience will love but the reviewer finds uninteresting a 'bad' game? Game criticism and objective criteria are good and all, but it's not the be all and end all. Everyone has opinions. The reviewer has his. Those who love the game have theirs. Neither is superior.

Borderlands

Brad, I appreciate the review. I suggest that most gamers read multiple reviews to see what everyone thinks. Some reviews are quite poorly written and poorly organized -- there are many terribly written reviews of Borderlands out there -- but this is not one of them. While gamers may disagree with some of your criticisms, they are helpful to read. If I am going to drop $60 for a game (which is not a lot of dough, but money I could spend somewhere else), I want to know WHY some people didn't like it, as opposed to everyone saying, "Wow, this is the greatest game ever!" This review allows me to make judgments as to whether or not the things Brad didn't like are things that matter to me, and that's why I find it useful.

people get different

people get different opinions basically based in what they like, even critics tends to like or dislike somethings.
Borderlands obviously is not a 5(A 5 game is completely unplayable shit that absolutly no one would buy or even download), yeah it has an incredible co-op system that renewal gaming experience, the singleplayer lacks a bit of history and the npcs looks so unnatural, but who cares about that? this is a Shooter/Rpg game, the only thing you really needs to do is to shoot at things loot and then looks forward the next level, nobody cares about exploring huges maps(like fallout, why the hell i would explore that gigantic map for nothing?).

in 9 hours i got 19 levels in BL and is incredible, i even must say that i really doubt you even tested 9 hours in singleplayer and 3 on co-op, or if you even completed the tutorial.

That was the worst critic i ever saw about a game period

Learn the review scale

Anonymous wrote:

Borderlands obviously is not a 5(A 5 game is completely unplayable shit that absolutly no one would buy or even download)

For you to think Borderlands didn't deserve a 5.0 is one thing, but you clearly don't understand our (or most outlets') review scale. A 5.0 game is an average game--that's 5.0 out of 10.0. Brad felt Borderlands was an average game so he gave it the score that reflected that. It saddens me a bit that you think a 5.0 is such a worthless score. It saddens me more to think that there are other gamers just as ignorant as you.

Seconding what Dale said.

Seconding what Dale said.

We use a scale that goes from 1-10... Unlike the majority of the internet that seems to grade based on a 7-10 scale, we actually try to use ALL the numbers, and a 5 (since it's exactly in the middle) is just AVERAGE.

Again, just for clarity's sake: Borderlands received a 5 because Borderlands is AVERAGE.

At this site, anything below a 5 is BELOW AVERAGE and anything above it is ABOVE AVERAGE.

No, It isn't Fallout 3.

It'd be silly to compare it to Fallout 3, at that.

Borderlands lacks atmosphere, humor, and sadly polish that Fallout 3 had. A game that could of used another polish pass itself.

It lacks even the depth of the games it takes it's nods from. If Diablo II's entire length took place in the trappings off the first campaign, Borderlands would have much more in common with it. But instead you're relegated to the same set peices and small handful of enemies, using guns that all function alike whether it has a blue paint job or green.

I don't believe he was expecting a full blown RPG, I know I wasn't. I was expecting a bit of depth and polish. I could have lived with one or the other, I received neither.

Apologies

Hi Brad, I am writing to apologize about my attitude in earlier comments. I treated your review unfairly and for that I'm sorry. The Gamecritics' podcast and the other commenters in this thread have opened my eyes and made me realize what reviews are really all about. Please forgive my earlier snarkiness as the poorly-thought ramblings of an un-enlightened reader. I'll give more thought to my comments in the future.

Hi Z, Thanks very much for

Hi Z,

Thanks very much for the apology, that's damned decent of you, and more than 99% of the internet would ever do. Much appreciated, and no hard feelings at all. I hope you'll keep coming to the site and listening to the podcast. = )

Regards!

The need for multiplayer

"...if a game NEEDS multi to be fun, then that's a fail except in very rare instances..."

Out of curiosity, Brad, where would that put fighting games, MMORPGs, and multiplayer-only action games (i.e. Team Fortress 2) -- games that have the single-player experience as a secondary consideration at best?

That's a good point and a

That's a good point and a great question to ask, and exactly why I left myself a little back door in that statement.

as for fighters, i find that most quality fighting games are at least enjoyable enough to finish with multiple characters. are they better with real opponents? absolutely, but they're still fun to play by yourself if nobody's around. (the good ones, anyway).

As for MMOs, i don't play them so i can't really speak to them with any degree of authority. However, from what i've heard talking to people and the bits i've gleaned, i wonder how something like WoW would hold up in a 1P mode. pretty terrible, from what i would guess. in that case, it seems to me that the game should improve aspects of itself so that it's at least tolerable for a solo player.

however, we're seen the rise of a new class of games in recent years - the multi-only action genre that you mentioned. these are special cases, and i've been thinking about them a fair amount lately. i almost want to say that they need to be their own genre, really. they eschew the traditional structure that supports the 1P experience and present something more akin to a platform or a structure than what we think of as classic game design.

it's something i definitely want to chew on a bit more, but i'm pretty sure we need to establish the genre and start reviewing them accordingly. would Borderlands have fallen into such a genre? it's hard to say. there's clearly an established 1P omde that's more than just an extended tutorial, but on the other hand, it's pretty clear that multi was a huge focus (to the detriment of the 1P experience, certainly.)

in BL's case, it seems to straddle the line between traditional game with multi and multi-only action. perhaps it's a tentative step towards carving out new, soon-to-be-commonplace teritory.

I felt this review perfectly

I felt this review perfectly described my feelings. I'm sure there will be many who enjoy the game, in the end it's a matter of preference.

But there's no denying that the average expectation and the game's promise exceeded the actual result, and that it is in the end a long grind, with no storyline, no interesting missions, no interesting characters, no exploration etc.

Artificial Intelligence in Borderlands is a complete joke, with enemies running straight at you, or just standing still when fighting. And when not fighting, they walk around their camp 24 hours of the day, everyday, with their guns waiting to shoot you, and you alone. It's like there's two factions, one peaceful civilians living in settlements, and one infinitely reproducing gang of males that wait for you to come kill them. Variety in enemies is low, there's midgets, regular caucasian men and big dudes. Then you have the same thing with the creatures, small, medium and large dogs/spiders whatever.

I think the choice of graphics style is debatable. (The choice was pulled off very well, but the original graphics style suited the gritty near post-apocalyptic harsh-life atmosphere much better.) They clearly tried to bring humor into the game, but apart from boss-introductions, it didn't get funny.

In the end it's nothing more than a FPS, only instead of letting you actually shoot things like in a true FPS, they make sure you have to walk a few hundred miles to get some action. I often spend 30% of my mission time walking back to the guy who gave me the mission just to tell him it's done, while he's been on the phone with me somehow throughout the entire mission.

It's an FPS with a big and necessary grind, requiring you to fetch stuff or kill the same enemy 500 times so you can get access to another place. In between this you are to walk hundreds of miles through places that become interesting only if you've started a certain quest.

yes

Even as a FPS this game is a clunker.
XIII without a story. XIII was a crappy shooter, but the story at least made it work! Borderlands is dry as toast, disappointing & dumb. Oozes wasted potential. After all the noise Gearbox made over the past 2 years about "redefining the adventure genre", this is a joke. Sold my copy after about 15 hours of relentlessly repetitive gameplay.

Good review. I think I'll stick around :)

Good review. I like! Is nice!

Ok, first things first I have to put out there that I have enjoyed playing Borderlands lately, and have gotten to level 25 without too many speedbumps along the way. That being said, I do agree with this review for several reasons...

Gripe #1. The grind: it is rather (read: very) repetitive, and having only played it in single player mode I feel that while the boss missions themselves are fun and challenging, getting to and from them is merely a drawn-out chore. Which brings me to my second gripe.

Gripe #2. The AI: also quite repetitive, both on the friendly and enemy fronts. When I got to New Haven I expected the 20 different people standing around doing nothing all the time to at least say more than 5 different things but this was not the case. (A bit of an exaggeration but you get the point). Interaction in this game is brief and over-simplified to the point where clicking on a bounty board is more interesting than engaging in dialogue with another "character".

The enemeies are another story entirely. While I have only encountered one female character in person as far as I can remember, the enemies are so plentiful and respawn with such rapidness that I would expect human birthing farms lurking about in unseen locations just to pump these guys out every second of every day. Example: I am destroying my way through Treacher's Landing, get through the whole thing, literally every square inch of it, I am running back towards the exit from the dock area where the save-point is, and- WTF is this? ALL OF THE ENEMIES HAVE RESPAWNED to block my exit??? I can tell you that while I equipped my shotgun and blasted a few in the facial region when they positioned themselves directly in front of me, I decided that rather than waste another hour fighting these guys who I had already fought literally moments ago, it was easier and more efficient to just run through them all the way back to the exit, which I did with minor problems. I think I will be adopting this strategy more often, as I am tired of having to fight the same baddies 2, 3, or more times in the course of a single mission within an area.

Gripe #3. The AI again: ok, if I have to use game glitches to beat bosses solo (Mad Mel - hiding behind the entrance ramp, Mothrakk - hiding under the vehicle shelter, etc.) what is the f-ing point? 'Nuff said.

Gripe #4. Cost of items, difficulty of enemies, power/abilities of weapons, etc. are ALWAYS directly correlated with your skill level and cash flow. I know the game revolves around me because I am the one playing it, but I don't know that every enemy should necessarily level up at the exact same time that I do. Or that a transport from the New-U station should cost $150 or so when I have $1000 but then somehow cost $5000 when I have $100,000. Does it cost the transport company more to do the same job? If so, why? It is just very frustrating that no matter how good I do or how quickly I level up I am always a step behind the enemies, who are somehow always as powerful as me.

Gripe #5. Looking for shite: another repetitive aspect of the game and only made worth it by those times that I find a gun/item that is far better than what I already have by random chance. I typically end up using that gun for quite some time because I can open 100 more trunks and cabinets without finding a single item that even comes close. But I have to open them of course, because you never know where that next badass item might be. 1,000 trunks later... you get the idea.

Ok this is a longer review than I intended but I feel that these issues, among those mentioned by others here, are strong detractors from what could otherwise be a very interesting an in-depth game. Instead it comes across as shallow and frustratingly repetitive. Were I not such a big FPS fan, nor a RPG enthusiast of the casual variety I don't know that I would rank this game even as highly as Brad has. I think his review was fair and well-written, and has many valid points that look past the biases and pre-conceived notions that many people have about this game. Again, I would not have played it to level 25 if there were not redeeming qualities to it, but overall whilst playing I do often find myself scratching my head and asking myself two questions - the first rhetorical and the second one with so many answers that to me seem easy, but then again I'm no game-developer - those questions being: WTF?! and How could this be made better?

Play on, playa!

Why do weapons autoequip?

Why do weapons autoequip? Lol. Learn the game's controls before writing a review, hack.

Great Review!

I was pondering for some time if I should get Borderlands, since it got pretty good scores across the board. But when in doubt I always check out the reviews in which the game scores the worst and read why the game gets a bad score. And this review put the last nail into the coffin, since I hate games that build solely on grind.

I don't mind some grind, as long as there is a story interesting enough to pull me through. But I rather play a game that's 6 hours and fun than 24 hours of mind-numbing grind killing the same enemies all the time. I simply don't have the free time to allocate to playing video games, since I have enough other things I do and want to do in my precious spare time.

One thing about the comments here that I find funny: seems to me that people who complain about 5 being a too low score are people who already bought the game and seem disappointed about an opinion differing from their own? If you bought the game and feel it's the best thing ever there's no reason to make a person down who doesn't agree with you.

Besides I don't think 5 is low, it's average. I don't pay attention to sites who grade only between 7 and 10. A let's say RPG or shooter that's a 9 should be a game that also appeals to someone who doesn't normally like RPG or shooters, while a game that's a 5 might be not for someone who doesn't like the genre but still delivers to fans of the respective genre.

Now I'm waiting for the review of Modern Warfare 2, gogogo ;-)

Don't let the review stop you

I don't think you should let this review stop you from buying Borderlands. I think the review reflects a matter of taste, rather than any fatal flaws in the game. First and foremost, this is a shooter's game, and it does it better than many I have played. The targets are varied, and the enemies are tough. (BTW, It's easy to avoid repetitive battles, just exit the game, then start again, you automatically respawn at your home base without losing anything) and the loot is great. Secondly, this game is about guns, guns and more guns! You can try out hundreds of different weapons, and they all feel great and are fun to use. There is nothing like using a sniper rifle with the incandescent option to set an enemy on fire from 100 yards away! This game reminds me a lot of the first FEAR game, especially the A.I. Enemies are smart, they will swarm you, and they take cover when necessary. I really like the art direction, too, textures are well rendered and the cell-shading is very good. I feel like I am really in an alien environment when I visit Pandora. I have spent nearly all of my spare time playing just the solo campaign in this game, and at level 23, I have just scratched the surface of the game-play. I think this game is a great bargain, and well worth owning.

Brad Gallaway wrote: We use

Brad Gallaway wrote:

We use a scale that goes from 1-10... Unlike the majority of the internet that seems to grade based on a 7-10 scale, we actually try to use ALL the numbers, and a 5 (since it's exactly in the middle) is just AVERAGE.

Again, just for clarity's sake: Borderlands received a 5 because Borderlands is AVERAGE.

At this site, anything below a 5 is BELOW AVERAGE and anything above it is ABOVE AVERAGE.

I've always had a problem with GameCritics scoring system and the attitude that goes with it.

It doesn't actually matter what scale is used as only *relative* scores matter. The comment that other sites grade from 7-10 is disingenous -- they score from 0-10 except the scaling is somewhat exponential (whether or not by deliberate design). Under such a system 7-8/10 is about average and it gets harder and harder to increase score by an extra %age point.

In fact I'd go so far as to say it's slightly misleading to use a 5/10 score as Average on a linear scale, considering most (all?) other games sites use 7/10 on a psuedo exponential scale.

I've just listened to the

I've just listened to the relevant parts of the podcast and that still doesn't change my basic argument that absolute scores don't actually matter, only relative scores.

It's called inflation. But inflation is a nominal phenomenon and doesn't affect real value. It doesn't matter if prices double if everyone's wage doubles.

The problem with game score inflation comes about because 10 is the absolute limit, but then the natural human response to this is to subconciously adjust to using a logarithmic scaling system. It really doesn't make sense for an average game to marked 5/10 when the industry perception of 5/10 is a game that is way below average.

The review did a horrible job!

You are totally right, the review came in with preconceptions - played the game for a very short amount of time (not even enough to get into the whole vault story mystery going) and provided a review more boring, lacking, & and falled than he would make the game out to be!

Just to clarify for the

Just to clarify for the polite, open-minded people who commented-- anytime you come across a cache of items, it's a pain in the ass to click on each individual item to collect it. Holding down the button will 'suck in' all the items at once, and if there's a gun there, it will auto-equip it even if it's weaker than what you currently have active. it's a stupid decision on top of a stupid decision, thus my comment.

Thanks for reading.

Hype Hype Hype. Thats all

Hype Hype Hype. Thats all this game (coaster for my drink) is. The review is spot on. I have not read all the comments but one thing is clear, Fallout 3 is the first FPS/RPG hybrid not IMHO. Randomly generated loot doesn't make a game an RPG fyi. Dry garbage. Go here get/kill x item/creature, bring back. As for the person that said this crap "game" was the same premise as Diablo you are sadly mistaken. Diablo had a story that made my mouth water, bl made me feel dehydrated. You "gamers" that like this kind of grind just remember this, the industry that puts out this kind of unpolished fodder loves "gamers" like you, they make sequels for you to think your even more fulfilled. I knew this was complete crap about 10-15 hours in and it isn't getting any better. Play 25+ hours just for the sake of getting the chance to come upon a great gun is a weak parlor trick that only fools non-hardcore gamers. For others to assume that the reviewer didn't finish the game makes the review incomplete is petty at best. The game is also way to easy.

Improvements I would make:
Make you pay for the runners, keep the one you buy till you purchase another one, make them customisable other than color and not look like all the other ones. (Horses in Oblivion)
Pay for ammo/repairs on said runners.

Stash spot for your stuff like a real RPG (Oblivion/Witcher)

NPCs have something other than idle banter to say. Improve interaction by getting NPCs to give clues rather than poorly scripted banter.

A real time cycle...15 mins of day and 15 mins of night? Does Pandora have more than one sun? Mayhaps add a moon light effect once in a while?

Different enemy layouts. Fallout three had different looking enemies, why can't this game come up with randomly generated characters. Its all the same...just different names/stats/colors.

All these improvements can be implemented well within the time constraints that Gearbox put forth and should've been there to give the game realism and value. There are so many more improvements but these are just a few right off the top of my head. I will never buy a Gearbox game ever again.

Loving Borderlands so far

Nice review. You raised some valid points but I disagree for some parts. Granted I've only had the game for about 3 days now but I'm really loving it. I think of it as more of a FPS with RPG elements, instead of a RPG with FPS elements. I used to play World of Warcraft a lot, and the quest system reminds me of that. I don't mind that style of play at all. I've only played solo (I don't have a headset and I rarely play anything online) but I can see how co-op can be a whole lot of fun. I think the game is fine as is. And, I love the fact that they have DLC with a whole new area to play in. $10 seemed a little pricey to me but I still like the fact that it's there and they're adding to the game instead of just releasing it and forgetting about it. Overall I think they did a great job with the game. I can see this one being stuck in my PS3 for a long time to come.

QUESTION

I got borderlands with my xbox 360 but i do get the big fuss about it it's borring! can you tell me what is the big fuss about

I agree wholly in agreement

I agree wholly in agreement with the reviewer.

I played through the game from start to finish in the course of about two weeks with two of my best friends.

First of all, the PC version is a very VERY clear port of a console game. They didn't even try to disguise it as a reasonably ported game. Playing it on PC feels like they intended for us to play it on the XBox. Controls feel awful.

Secondly, there is little replay value here. In Diablo 2, I was very compelled to play more, get more crap, and play through the game all three times (Normal, Nightmare, Hell). With Borderlands I had no desire to start a New Game +.

The loot is random and unimpressive, and me and my friends rarely found anything remotely impressive. By the end of the game we each had one or two beefy guns, but they still felt underpowered and weak. In this regard, the biggest slap in the face was that, while none of us were using SMGs (and we didn't have a Siren in our party) the game dropped more awesome rare SMGs on us than ANY other weapon type.

The reviewer also hit the nail on the head by saying that the game feels empty and lifeless. Game developers are all too much like many movie directors now--they forget to add humanity. When there's nothing substantial in a game to connect to (in regards to modern gaming; Excitebike fans need not troll) it feels like a severe lack of care went into the game's creation. The game's many areas are nondescript and have nothing that distinguishes them from any other area. Even when you're in a town with citizens standing around (i.e. New Haven) they don't even seem to be there. They're part of the background.

With Diablo 2 we at least followed each quest given reasonably. Even with the main quests in Borderlands...there is nothing. The main quest is meaningless and I did not feel inspired to find the vault. I didn't give a shit. And then a "plot twist" involving the identity of the Angel and of the vault's true purpose were lackluster and meaningless.

The reason this game is awful to play by yourself--and the only reason my friends and I had a small modicum of fun while slogging through it--is that there is NOTHING in it. No characters, no distinguishing locales, NOTHING. My friends and I immediately uninstalled the game when we completed it. We wanted our two weeks back. We had hoped the ending might contain some sort of satisfaction to make the entire grind experience worth it...but it did not.

The ending reminded me of the end of the SNES 'The Tick' game...where after button mashing for 6 hours through endless hordes of enemies, you are presented with a giant "THE END" and nothing more. Where I come from, it translates to "FUCK YOU." Borderlands' ending had a similar effect.

the industry must think like

the industry must think like a school system in which you fail if you have below around 75%, thats why i appreciate sites that use letters as I consider a C as a much better showing of average.

Nice

I just played this game few days ago (LATE), and i love it. It have a nice loot system, and the procedural-item-random-thing made want to kill more badass and open more catches.
I agree with brad about the gameplay it's so repetitive, it's like if it's moving you have to shoot it, and the areas are pretty much the same. I don't know about others but the loot system seems made me want to comeback for more
the graphics(cel shading) is brilliant, it's not like a true barren land like Fall Out 3 but rather comic style.
I don't like comparing games, specially when they are from different genre, but i'll try
Fall out 3 and BL. they are definitely different, FO3 is Third Person/FP shooter (unless you don't want to enjoy the view of third person) with great RPG, but more like RPG than FPS, it's also quest-driven-game. BL is a super-thick FPS (and multi), with only a little taste of RPG, and it's a loot-driven-game.
if you ask about the single player, i prefer FO3, it's more enjoyable. While if you ask about the multi i definitely choose BL(not even L4D).
And Brad about the "weak guns auto equip", i think it will be hard for gearbox to tell which one is "weak guns" because there is a crazy number of variation for the guns, even the rarity and the price of the gun doesnt help at all. so i think it's kind of homework for gearbox to define "weak guns". And i never actually auto equip any gun accidentally, maybe you just not lucky :)
I like this review, most review i read is written through the experience of the reviewer, if it's fun, it got praise, if it's not, it got a slap.
But i gotta say, if you love playing FPS like L4D, you'll probably like this one
nice review Brad

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