Sunday, November 8, 2009

Life in the Borderlands

Waiting for Diablo III? Need an action RPG fix that allows you to play with a few of your friends?

Looking for some First Person Shooter (FPS) action, but would like something you can play with your friends instead of against them?

Look no further than the Borderlands. This game combines the squad based FPS tactics of Call of Duty or Rainbow Six type games with action RPG of the Diablo Games with a heavy dose of Fallout 3 for flavor. If that sounds like a strange combination how about this: the game’s setting is a clear combination of Mad Max meets Firefly. The alien landscape looks eerily similar to the Australian outback. As if that wasn’t enough you run into characters like Mad Mel (aka Mel Gibson as ‘Mad Max’) and Bruce McClane (Bruce Willis as Officer John McClane from ‘Die Hard’). The developers clearly understand they are crossing a lot of genre boundaries and they do a magnificent job of it. Easter eggs abound for the Action/Sci-Fi fans who want to look.

But the real treat here is the game play. The game opens up with you being dropped off the bus at a rustic little town with a bandit problem. You are thrown directly into the action and you pick your character type and name as you go through the game introduction. And the action if plentiful. This is First Person Shooting top to bottom, no matter which of the four character classes you choose you get a gun to start out. But this isn’t a Quake/Unreal Tournament style shooter. There is a premium on solid tactics. Running straight into the bad guys with guns blazing will just get you thrown back to the last save point in the game. You quickly learn to approach with caution, use the long range weapons when you can, find cover and figure out the enemies weaknesses wherever you can.

If you are lucky enough to play with a friend or three (four player are the max) you get a real treat. A knowledge of basic squad tactics will allow you to succeed, which is important because the game difficulty ratchets up a bunch in multiplayer mode. Find a place to lay suppressing fire and find who is good at flanking the enemy. In some cases, this is the only way to get through in multiplayer as some creatures are virtually impossible to kill head on. Having friends who understand this is key, and good communications will help in that regard. There is no in game voice on the PC, so I highly recommend a voice connection before starting to play.

All of that, and a pretty good story line. Nothing very original (find the keys to the “Vault”), but there are numerous quests and lots of scenery to see along the way. And a whole lot of laugh out loud humor that keeps you coming back again and again.

A word of warning for the timid or parents: this is a fairly mature game, there is a lot of immature language (who would call that adult language?) There is a lot of gore in the game as well, and no way to turn it off that I can find. Then again, I didn’t look very hard for a way.

It’s also good to know that this isn’t a “twitch” type of game. While the action can get very hectic, there is almost always a way to retreat when it gets too heavy and find a different approach to the problem. Again, smart tactics will beat heavy hitting at every turn.

Given the big competition in games this season, Borderlands my be overlooked by a lot of gamers. That would be a shame, because for those who play it, they will remember the experience for a long time.

Borderlands Gameplay Video at Youtube.

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