Almost two years ago, I hit a lull with console gaming. I had played Batman: Arkham Asylum to death, and was looking for a new game to re-invigorate me. Then I caught wind of Borderlands and, although I liked the look of it aesthetically, I wasn't entirely convinced that it would be as good as I later found out. The first-person shooter genre was being largely dominated by Call of Duty which didn't give Borderlands many chances, but considering at the time I wasn't interested in modern warfare (preferring WW2 renditions) I was happy to give it a go.
The opening cut scenes tell you of a mysterious Vault, almost like a Pandora's box (hence the planet's name of Pandora, I guess) which is said to hold untold alien technology and secrets. You choose one of four mercenaries - a hunter, a siren (she goes invisible, or 'phase walks'), a berserker (tank) and a soldier - and your mission is to find the Vault, if it exists at all.
You arrive by a not-very-modern bus in the wasteland of the Arid Badlands and are met by a cute, enthusiastic robot called Claptrap, who introduces himself and explains the situation. You are then attacked by a group of bandits who scare Claptrap into hiding. Once recovered, he lets you in to Firestone, a wreck of a place, where you gain access to your first mission.
The game is mission-based, which means there are lots of side-quests to be done to gain new weapons and items, as well as experience. The RPG element of this FPS game adds another dimension that other FPS games lack, giving it more depth and more reason for you to go out of your way to complete those optional side missions.
Much like World of Warcraft, you have talents to be gained as you level. Your first talent is your class's ability - the Hunter has Bloodwing, a winged pet that attacks your enemies on command - with three different talent trees to explore, each of which helps you in different ways. Again, this gives you a bit more to think about, other than just point and shoot tactics. There is strategy involved in planning how you want to 'spec' your character.
Your inventory gets larger as you progress, and it is where you store weapons, health kits, shields, grenade mods and class specific items. You can hold 4 weapons, which are accessed via the D-pad. One of the selling points of this game is the sheer number of different weapons you can get. There are hundreds ranging from shotguns to pistols, assault rifles and rocket launchers. Each weapon has their own stat, which indicates how fast they are, how big their magazine is and how much damage they do. Although there isn't a cover system like in Gears of War, you will need to take cover more than you may like, particularly if you are the Hunter or Siren, but that's what health kits are for, right? If/when you do eventually lose all of your health through a barrage of bullets, you will have the opportunity to gain a second wind. You can rotate but you cannot move, and you are crouched, meaning your screen is also at an angle. However, if you successfully kill an enemy by any means, you will get a second wind and will get straight back up with full health. A pretty useful feature to have when playing solo. If you team up with friends, they can revive you, but that leaves both of you exposed to gunfire.
Speaking of friends, this is a drop-in/out game, which means you can join anyone's game no matter what they are doing and leave without the game ending. This makes it very accessible, particularly if you want a quick 5-minute game before work (not that I've ever done that, of course).
The graphics are comic book-like in appearance, and many a gamer have debated whether they are cel-shaded or not. Regardless, they look great as they show the gritty world of Pandora as well as highlight the crazy and colourful characters you will meet along the way, such as Psychos! The explosions are nothing to write home about, but the overall appearance is solid, with the bold outlines really making the characters and enemies pop out.
The music doesn't play a massive role (although the opening track by Cage the Elephant has always been a personal favourite), which is fine as it sits in the background as you blow the heads off bandits. The weapon sounds aren't groundbreaking by any means, compared to a more authentic COD or Battlefield, but they're not bad. They certainly won't detract from the experience. The characters do not have a huge amount of depth to them, and this is reflected in their speech (or lack thereof). The most you will get is a comment or two when you do a certain action, such as enter a vehicle ("Let's get our feet outta the dust) and if you are playing co-op ("Come on, get up!") etc. The enemies are slightly more... charismatic, with axe-wielding psychos shouting "time to play!" as they lunge at you, arms swinging.
Because of its inclusion of side-missions that deviate from the main story arc, this allows you to put more hours into Borderlands, rather than powering through in one day. Although none of the characters have specific missions tailored to them, it is worth checking them out, for they each specialise in different weapons - the siren specialising in sub machine guns, whereas the soldier is more of a shotgun fanatic, for example. It also has a great sense of humour, Claptrap being one of the main contributors to this, as he dances away to his own beatbox.
Borderlands is a great game packed with loads of fun, particularly if you can get 4 friends online together, that will have you coming back for more. If you like RPG's as well as FPS games then this game is right up your street, and even if you just like a good FPS, Borderlands will not disappoint. When you are done with the main game, there are plenty of entertaining DLC's to obtain, such as The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, which gets even more silly than the main game (in a good way of course 'cause I mean, zombies are always awesome). This is a diamond in the rough, especially with an over-crowded FPS scene, so go and get it!