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Borderlands Game of the Year Edition


Looks like somebody's getting a treat!
Last year, Gearbox released Borderlands for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC to mass critical acclaim as well as a strong fan acceptance. Over the course of the year, they continued supporting the game with four expansion packs that increased the level cap and brought tons of new missions to sink your teeth into. All of these expansion packs, as well as the original game, now can be purchased in Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition, released for all three platforms. The narrative in the original game put you in control of a bounty hunter dropped on the planet of Pandora. This desert rock is rumored to have a mysterious alien vault of untold riches, thus you are competing to located ďThe VaultĒ with rival bounty hunters financed by major corporations. Itís a pretty involving narrative that keeps you playing in an attempt to discover the mysteries of Pandora.

borderlands game of the year looking at a dead skrag

One of the first things that you will notice is that the planet is just massive. While you are limited to a specific section of the planet at the start of the game, itís difficult to navigate only on foot and requires the use of vehicles to zip around the sandy wasteland. Thereís also a Fast Travel component for traveling around Pandora, but often only becomes available after completing a quest or visiting the area. You will also notice that Borderlands is a shooter at its core, but with light RPG elements scattered around character building. When building your character for the first time, you have the option of choosing between four different character classes, each with strengths / weaknesses in power, speed, defense and stealth.

As you level up though-out the game, you pour class points into the skill tree of your selected class, be it soldier, hunter, siren or berserker. If you like taking enemies out at a distance and silently, level up your skill with sniper rifles and invisibility time. If you like to get right up in enemy faces, pour points into melee or the shotty instead. Classes donít limit you to specific weapons, so you can also pour points into complimentary weapons or skills. Having great skill with the pistol might be good for a sniper when an enemy sneaks up on you.

The enemies arenít particularly diverse, but they do a good job of avoiding your gunfire with the relatively smart AI. Enemies will often react to your presence based off their size. Smaller enemies might stand from a distance to pop you with the assault rifle while the meaty lugheads will pound your face. As you take out the enemies, you will notice loot drops all over the place, typically in the form of weapons / ammo / modifiers. This means that you can easily spend hours in the game comparing weapon quality and forming new weapons to take on Pandoraís baddies.

borderlands game of the year shooting a big gun

The fastest way to level in Borderlands is completing missions, both the main story missions and the side missions given out by the lovable Wall-E esqe Claptrap robot. The side missions are often too reliant on collection quests, but there are some arching stories across the entire game. There are also plenty of fantastic boss battles to experience in the main story, many of which pit you against Pandoraís most gargantuan freaks. Unfortunately, the one caveat to playing through the entire main storyline is that the ending is far too abrupt and unsatisfying. But thatís when the DLC kicks in.

Expansion Packs

Beyond the original game (which is roughly 20 to 25 hours to begin with), the four add-on expansion packs are included, each of which sell for 800 Marketplace points or $10 a pop over Xbox Live. They include The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, Max Moxxiís Underdome Riot, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx and the recently released Claptrapís New Robot Revolution. Each pack offers many extra hours of playtime and some offer new storylines to explore

The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is a narrative heavy expansion pack that opens up an island for fast travel called Jakobís Cove (owned by the Jakobs Corp). The geniuses in charge of Jakobís Cove put the island in the hands of Dr. Ned, a mad scientist that went a bit nuts with experiments and released a zombie plague. You are tasked with ridding the island of zombies, specifically blowing all their brain-munching heads off. The main story missions are pretty involving and have the same high quality of dark humor that can be found in the main game. There are plenty of Claptrap side-missions to complete as well to save a few of he remaining humans on the island. The islandís environment is pretty diverse, compared to Pandora, and the swamp-like design makes for a creepy experience; extremely Halloween inspired. And in Left for Dead fashion, you can take all your co-op partners into the game to help fight off the zombie hoards. Overall, this expansion pack is fantastic for survival horror fanatics or thus simply looking for an involving story.

borderlands game of the year Max Moxxi cleavage shot

Max Moxxiís Underdome was my least favorite expansion pack of the bunch, namely because it veers away from the narrative and only provides an expanded arena fighting experience. Itís also difficult to be successful in fighting off the massive groups of baddies as the difficulty is extremely unbalanced unless you have a maxed out co-op team. Add in the fact that your character doesnít get any experience or great weapons for killing off the baddies and we have a nearly pointless experience. This may be something to revisit after maxing out your character, but itís easily the least entertaining expansion pack in the bunch.

Gearbox returned to their story-telling roots with The Secret Armory of General Knoxx and really extends the life of the full game as well in the form of a raised level cap from 50 to level 61. The level increase doesnít expand the skill tree, but allows players to jump into new skill-sets that they previously avoided. Due to the locale, the weapon drops have become substantially better as well adding a new class of elite weapons called pearlescent. The story revolves around the Atlas Corp tasking General Knoxx with killing you messing with their vaults. Itís a hilariously campy tale that has even more missions to sink your teeth into than Dr. Nedís pack. The mission structure, added levels, amazing array of weaponry and extremely strong story make this the best expansion pack of the bunch.

Finally, Gearbox rolled out Claptrapís New Robot Revolution at the end of September 2010, likely to round out their DLC releases for Borderland. Gearbox doesnít dedicate as much time in creating an involving story in Claptrap and the game devolves into repetitive behavior (like collection quests) to finish off the missions. One bright point of the pack is that it increases the level cap again by 8 levels. (This was released in a patch for the people that purchased the DLC recently.) This might help those looking for a more unique way to level grind rather than defeating the boss at the end of Knoxx over and over again, but it lacks the entertainment value of Knoxx and Dr. Ned.



If you donít want to play alone, a friend can join you for split-screen local play or you can go online to find up to 3 co-op partners to take on the single player game or the expansion packs Enemies increase in difficulty, but the rewards increase as well. Co-op play works really well over Xbox Live and I rarely ran into any lag issues. Thereís also still plenty of people playing the game, thus the matchmaking system works great. After everything has been played through, you are looking at about 80 achievements to earn for 1750 Gamerscore points. There are plenty of challenges, both for the single player campaign, multiplayer and all the story tasks in the achievement packs. Itís definitely a diverse set that has challenges for both the casual player and the hardcore player trying to max out their levels.

Graphics

  • The gameís cel-shaded visuals are quite colorful and do an excellent job of showing off the expansive landscape. The weapon models are extremely detailed, especially the higher-end weapons in the latter half of the game. Character models have solid animations effects similar to the vehicle animations. The particle effects for explosions and other body dismembering occurrences are also good, but not to the level of Fallout. The only problem that pops up from time to time are framerate issues on the Xbox 360. There are slight slowness issues when speeding along the landscape in vehicles or being swarmed by too many enemies at once.

Audio

  • While much of the dialogue comes in the form of text, the included voiceovers are really fantastic, both in their acting chops and their ability to deliver humorous lines. You will find yourself laughing repeatedly throughout the entire narrative. Gearbox really understood comedy when creating the game and it shines though in its ridiculous glory. The western-motive music is also excellent, giving exploration authentic wild-west flair most of the time. Thereís tons of sound effect work in the game as well, everything from the racket of Claptrapís metal body to the pounding thump of the Boom Stick. You will be surprised at the variety and sheer amount of different effects in the game, both in the environment and emanating from the various enemies.

borderlands game of the year multiplayer deathmatch

Conclusion

If you missed Borderlands when it came out last year or didnít have time to invest in just a lengthy title, you going to be hard pressed to find a 360 title with this level of quality content included in a single package. The original game alone is worth the original MSRP and adding in $40 worth of expansion packs offers the gamer that waited this long to pick up Borderlands an excellent value. (The game also comes with a paper map of Pandora.) If you have any interest in post-apocalyptic games, first person shooters or light role playing games, pick up Borderlands Game of the Year Edition for the Xbox 360 and enjoy the endless hours of gaming goodness. (Also available for the Playstation 3 and PC)



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