Guns. Lots and lots of guns. While it's been said that the clothes make the man here on Earth, it's definitely the caliber and measure of the player's arsenal that defines the inhabitants of Pandora, the setting of Gearbox's Borderlands.
Pandora itself is a pretty miserable desert planet that's half Mad Max and half The Hills Have Eyes. It's an arid world overrun by feral bandits and alien monsters. Players choose between four interesting characters and, under the guidance of a mysterious woman, begin a trek through the wastes looking for a vault of lost alien technology.
Borderlands plays like a typical first-person shooting game, with players hiking through the environments, guns blazing. But unlike most games of the genre, the first-person perspective hides a more traditional role-playing game.
Yes, action takes place in real-time, but there's little question that players are actually doing RPG-like missions. For one thing, they collect the loot that sprays from fallen enemies as if the bad guys were gun-filled pinatas rather than living beings.
Like many action-RPG games of old, Borderlands floods the player with a ton of random weapons. It's one of the most fun and pronounced differences from a traditional shooter, where you might have five weapons with two modes of fire each. Here, there are literally millions of guns in many different weapon classes.
Sniper rifles that shoot flaming ammunition, shotguns that expel waves of lightning, pistols with rounds that poison foes. The combinations allow for some very wild options, and make the game a fun exercise in searching for your ultimate weapon.
Unfortunately for Borderlands, the story takes a back seat once the game begins to roll. While players will progress through story missions, it's doubtful their minds will be on solving the mystery of the alien vault. It's all about eliminating foes to find the next cool weapon.
Borderlands also rewards players who share their game with cooperative campaign modes and a few multiplayer options.
To encourage players to experiment, the developers wisely ramped up both the difficulty and the quality of the weapon drops for these games, allowing players to gain better loot the more they play with others. These weapons will stay with the character and, thankfully, can be taken back into the single-player game as well.
Borderlands is a fairly mindless game. But if you enjoy shooting games and appreciate insane variety, it's likely to keep you occupied for a long time.
System: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Rated: M for Mature
Who Should Buy It?: High-caliber heroes
GameOn! Grade: B+