Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: Borderlands

As Brutal Legend proved to be pretty disappointing and not warranting a purchase, I decided to buy instead, Borderlands, Gearbox's new shooter slash RPG thing. I has a couple of doubts at first though, naturally.
The whole idea is a blend of RPG elements like loot, classes (sniper, rouge, tank, the usual), talent trees and most importantly numbers. It's all set in a sci fi wasteland full of Mad Max style bandits, all with a twisted sense of humor.

Hmmmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Where have I heard that before?

My biggest problem with this game initially was the fact that I am still, to this day, playing Fallout 3. That game is unbelievable, and nothing will ever come as close. Nonetheless, I wouldn't say Borderlands is trying to cash in on Fallout's success. Well maybe. The biggest unique bit about Borderlands is it's graphics however, which to be fair, are totally fucking awesome:

I apologize for the gratuitous ass shot but just look at those fucking graphics! They're gorgeous! All hand drawn textures with cel shading providing a total rad, totally fresh way of looking at things. Instead of making another paint by number Unreal engine blandfest, Gearbox did something different. Bravo, I say bravo. So how is it then?

The intro shows off the graphics beautifully, all to a really appropriate rock song with plenty of banjo. Excellent. I am pleased, despite the story apparently having to do with a mythical Vault (cough cough).
Then comes the tutorial. You're treated to a shitty AI "guardian angel" woman and a shittier (so much shittier) robot named Claptrap, who is as likeable as he is useful. It was around this point I got mad. I actually stood up and yelled "you're not Fallout!" at my TV.

The "plot" revolves around a vault, it's an RPG shooter blend, it's got wasteland all over it, there's a Pip-Boy wanna be (every item you get has a little cartoon Claptrap holding it) and there are fucking bobbleheads.

And yet there is not an ounce of charm. The dialogue (that isn't just text, which is predominant) is awful. The only NPC you ever actually talk to a crazy red neck doctor that doesn't do anything, and a red neck vehicle salesman. Everyone else is either trying to kill you already or stands there and communicates in text. There is essentially no narrative; playing it is like driving a luxury sports car with all the interrior ripped out, there's just the chassis and an engine.

Enduring characters notwithstanding, how are the graphics, which I am so totally in love with? Well they look totally revolutionary in the intro, and after that... almost entirely negligible. Up close they're unbelievable, but you will never ever get close enough to anything to appreciate it because if you do, you'll die. And at the proper killing distance, it looks like any other shooter.

Despite it uncannily trying to steal Fallout's charm (and miserably failing), I realized that it's not trying to steal it's gameplay. It has a rechargeable shield system, a super human jump, vehicles and co-op. It's Halo! And it has randomly generated guns ranging in quality from green to blue to purple to orange and co-op. It's Diablo!

It's HALABLO. Beautiful.

And it really is. As soon as I was preforming acrobatics around alien monsters and then swiping at them with my melee attack, running over shit, and most importantly (MOST importantly) getting loot, I was totally fucking hooked.

SO: It may be totally devoid of successful humor and charm, or really any fluff whatsoever, the engine at work here is so good it doesn't matter. It can be really hard and frustrating and the AI can be really bad, but it all just kind of disappears when you get your hands on a really awesome gun. They put there attention on making it fun, and they sure fucking did, but my heart skips a beat to think of what this game would be like if the narrative was good, and you got to look at the pretty graphics in cinematics, and there were actual characters occupying the world, but alas.

It's kind of like crack. It's not very smart or charming, it's ultimately bad for you, but it's addictive and fun, and you can do it with your friends!

Okay maybe not like crack so much.