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Review: Borderlands

Take a post-apocalyptic planet, smear it with lots of cel-shading, add a heaping helping of weaponry, bake well and what you get is Borderlands.

Boasting a ton of weapons and a desolate landscape to play in, Borderlands is action and bloodshed personified.

The first-person shooter/role-playing game begins with a choice – who do you want to be? You can be the brute, the soldier, the sniper or the female mystical type. Each has a specialty power/ability that distinguishes them from the others.

Lilith the mystical is able to become invisible for a short time. She can then sneak up on enemies and, when becoming visible again, damage nearby opponents.

Roland the soldier has a deployable machine gun turret that separately targets enemies and can be upgraded.

Brick the brute can transform into rage mode and deal heavy melee damage.

Mordecai the hunter can release a Bloodwing, a bird-like spirit that attacks enemies at will.

Of all the special abilities, the turret is perhaps the most powerful, but the game balances them out by making the time between uses variable – the turret’s is the longest.

Each ability is the major distinction between the characters. Beyond that, there is little difference. The diminutive hunter runs just as fast as the hulking Brick and each are equally as accurate with firearms, by and large.

Upgrading abilities and weaponry are key in honing your character’s skills. As you level up, you can allot points to different aspects of your skill tree. You can choose to increase your ammo capacity or more fully develop your special skill or strengthen your health.

As you gather money earned from missions or just found, you can visit dispensing machines that serve up ammo, weapons and health. You can also buy upgrades for your weapons and grenade mods.

The game starts slowly, with the first several missions meant to familiarized you with the game.

Things soon pick up with the ability to drive vehicles. This allows you to traverse the landscape more rapidly and use the firepower the vehicles have. It’s also handy for running over the skags (vicious rodent-like creatures) that populate the game.

Later in the game, the ability to “fast travel” really ramps up the action. Fast travel allows you to instantly transport between areas.

With a plethora of missions to keep you busy, the game never slacks off. Returning to areas already visited also repopulates them with all the enemies you’ve previously squashed.

One of the game’s selling points is the absurd number of weapons. The developer says there are millions of possible combinations, but I’m going to have to take their word for it. The arsenal is mainly divided between shotguns, sniper rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers and pistols.

Despite the ungodly number of weapons, it’s easy to settle on a few that you use regularly. As your character levels up, new and more powerful weapons become available. You can also sell weapons you don’t need anymore for cash.

Besides the usual ammo these weapons offer, some also deal in elemental powers, enhancing the ammunition to deal fire, electrical, corrosive or explosive damage. Dealing damage with a sniper rifle that also lights your foes on fire is a satisfying experience.

As missions become available, the choices of action grow. The game offers a very nice assortment of mission types, including assassinations, weapon parts gathering, mechanical efforts and others. There’s rarely any point in the game where you’re at a loss for things to do.

That’s an improvement over other similar games, such as Fallout 3, which was an excellent game in it’s own right. But there were times when it seemed that all you were doing was wandering.

Borderlands also handles the first-person aspect of the game well. The variety of weapons coupled with the number of targets available offer beaucoup shooting opportunities.

The game also offers a four-player co-op experience that your friends can join in mid-game. Two-player split-screen action is also available.

Borderlands is a slick game, with action and variety. It delivers a satisfying shooter experience with all co-op fans could ask for. The one thing I would have liked to see was a large-scale multiplayer mode.

Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360

Rating: Mature

Manufacturer: 2K Games

Score: 9 co-op chilies