In my December blitz of full reviews, this is my last one of the year. I'm not going to say I saved the best for last, because that falls to either Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Mass Effect 2 at this point, but Borderlands is certainly way up there. Like Mirror's Edge, Borderlands paves its own genre and does it beautifully. The mash-up of first person shooter and RPG with a zillion guns tacked on for extra destruction gels perfectly. The classes feel distinctly different, four player online co-op just works super well, and the game features over 30 hours of content on just your first playthrough (and you will play more than once).
Borderlands was released in October of 2009, so it's been out a while and is very cheap if you want to get into it now. The team is currently developing Duke Nukem Forever so there's no fear of Borderlands 2 coming out for at least a year and a half, I would think. I plan to continue writing about Borderlands well into next year as I still have three sets of downloadable content to review after just covering the first one, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. But as the end of the year is imminent, I really feel like I need to get my thoughts on the main game out on the table.
Mike has gone into great detail already on what makes Borderlands so great, and after re-reading his review, I honestly don't have a lot to add. This is one of my favorite games of the year and I'll detail why I personally liked it so much below, but if you're looking for an in depth review I would recommend you check out Mike's.
It's Thanksgiving in the U.S., and that means we take a look at our lives and consider the things we are thankful for. Family, food, and shelter immediately spring to mind when surrounded by them on this day, and then we think about friends and the time we spend together. And as gamers, nothing bring friends together better than a few good multiplayer video games.
I'd like to take a quick moment to talk about some of my favorite multiplayer games over the years and how they brought my friends together on a Friday night better than anything else.
Hope you're having a great holiday, be safe!
So it's been a while since I've written about games. It's actually been a while since I've played more than a few minutes of one. A crazy summer of children in the hospital, surgery, putting our dog to sleep after a nasty month-long illness, and planning a family reunion has meant that gaming has taken a back seat to lots of other things the last few months. My wife and I have made a name for the summer of 2010. It is, “The Summer of Suck”.
So that explains where I've been. But what is the reason I'm back? Well, to write a Beyond the First Hour review of course! But what game could be significant enough to get me out of my pitiful stupor of gamelessness? That game would be a little FPS that takes place on a planet called Pandora. That game would be Borderlands.
If you've been around The First Hour long enough, odds are good you've seen me comment on Borderlands, either from my First Hour review of the game, or via the comments section where we've discussed it several times. If you haven't, let me get you up to speed; I really enjoyed it. Ok, sure, that's a bit of a spoiler of the review you're about to read, but at this point in my life, I'm willing to do that. The reason is because the fourth and final DLC installment was just released on Sept. 28th.
I've been waiting for this ever since I finished the 3rd DLC back in March. So enough about me, let's get to the review.
If there’s a formula that has worked the last couple of years for video games, it is that zombies makes things more fun. Call of Duty: World at War was wildly successful with Nazi Zombie mode, and the Left 4 Dead series is one of the most popular online games played today. In the near future, Dead Rising 2 will be released and Crackdown 2 will feature zombies roaming around the city during the night. Just about the only series moving away from zombies is Resident Evil, with both 4 and 5 featuring a lack of undead we know and love.
So it probably came of little surprise when Gearbox announced the first piece of downloadable content for Borderlands would be about zombies. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned to be exact. The name itself is intriguing to veterans of the game, as Dr. Zed was a friendly NPC that helped you on your quest for the Vault, raising the question: who is Dr. Ned compared to Dr. Zed?
The answers lie within this multi-hour extra, along with many, many zombies to blow away. This DLC is available via download or by buying the Double Game Add-on Pack disc which contains Zombie Island and Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot, which I’ll be playing next. The disc is useful for a number of reasons, while the initial price is the same as if you bought the add-ons online, you can pass the disc on to friends or even resell it. The only catch is if your hard drive gets wiped or you uninstall the content, you’ll have to install the DLC from the disc again.
New Game Plus is probably one of the coolest, most obvious, and underused features in video games today. There is no better way to get me to immediately replay your game than to give me every single item, weapon, magic, and point of experience that I finished the game with at the start of the my next playthrough. Yes, it makes everything Win Button easy, but it is so very satisfying returning to the boss the gave you so much trouble the first time and one-shotting him into oblivion. New Game Plus should be a required feature of every RPG and adventure game.
For the unaware, New Game Plus means starting the game over but loading your characters from when you last beat it. You generally retain most non-story items and weapons, and keep your existing level and stats. It's generally a nice reward for conquering a game, but as we'll see, can also be used for a variety of reasons.
When I first heard about Borderlands,
I somehow just knew it was going to be a game that I would like.
I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. It reminds me of the days
when I was 12 years old and shopped for video games by looking at the
pictures on the back of the game box in the toy store so long ago.
I don’t know how it worked, but I could look at those 2 or 3 screenshots
and read that lonely paragraph and know with certainty if I would like
the game or not. Just like shopping in the toy store years ago,
I actually knew very little about the details of Borderlands.
I knew it was an FPS, and I had heard it had RPG elements. I had read
a story on Kotaku that discussed a drastic shift from “realistic”
graphics to a more “cartoony” cell shaded design. There was
little else I could tell you about the game. But somehow, I wanted
So, I added it to my mental list of games to play without too much thought. I wasn’t in a big hurry, simply because I’m generally pretty patient about getting games. This allows me to scoop up great deals from the Target clearance game shelf. As Greg, purveyor of First Hour, noted in a recent conversation on LIVE, I’m a person who often likes games that other people don’t. Well, I’m also a person who loves to get a bargain and both traits suit me well for the clearance shelf. If I wait that first month to buy a game and it’s a critical and commercial failure, there’s a good chance it will see 50% off on the Target clearance shelf. It wasn’t long before I realized that Borderlands would not be one of those games. Apparently, people were liking it. Good for the developers and bad for my wallet. This only fueled my desire to play the game sooner rather than later. I finally found a Sunday ad with the game on sale for $39.99 and decided it was fate. You’re about to read the first hour of what fate decided was a game I must play.
I received Borderlands from my brother-in-law for Christmas, but didn't have the opportunity to play it until my other brother-in-law was over to visit and asked to play it. I watched him play while trying out the new Miles Edgeworth game, but Borderlands really grabbed my attention.
He chose to play as a berserker, and after the initial bus ride cutscene, he was on Pandora and kicking butt. The game was very open but it always seemed like he had something to do. There were a couple of quest givers, he was leveling up, finding new guns, shooting more and more enemies. He played for about two hours and had taken out the game's first boss after a few attempts, and then it was my turn to give it a go.
I can't believe I left this game on my shelf for so long, it's... awesome. I haven't played a game like it since World of Warcraft. The open world feels big and intimidating, but it's one of those perfect examples of sandbox non-linearity with just the right amount of linear guidance. The quests keep coming and I just kept leveling up. There were skill points to earn and bigger and better guns to collect. I'm already hooked.