Half a Million Guns
Can’t Be Wrong
August 27, 2008 – Initially announced at Leipzig GC 2007, Borderlands has grown from an interesting idea for a co-op shooter to a smooth and intricate fusion of FPS and RPG elements. Though the title is still relatively unknown, Gearbox Software is developing a game that should find mass-appeal when it releases for PC in Q4 2008 and for PS3 and 360 after the first of the year.
I was fortunate enough to get an extensive look at this game at E3 2008. The folks at Gearbox, currently working on Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway and rumored to be developing Halo 4 for the next Xbox, took us through a guided demo that showed off the game’s finer points. First, Borderlands is a co-op-intensive FPS. As such, playing through the game locally with buddies, system-linking via LAN, or getting matched online will be crucial to fully enjoying the title.
Second, Borderlands incorporates RPG-like power leveling and character growth. Don’t worry though; this is a shooter, not an RPG. The developers have kept this keenly in mind, as most of the leveling will be done for you as you progress through hot spots and objectives and become more proficient with various forms of weaponry. However, players will have some control over skill and ability progression. For example, players can choose from a host of classes that define your character’s role. The two character classes showed at E3 included a Soldier and Hunter, but there will assuredly be many more from which to select. As you can tell by the names, every class will have an aggressive bent.
Additionally, players will be fitted with hardware augmentations that amplify certain abilities. Progressing through the game will give players access to computer consoles. These console interfaces allow players to upgrade their hardware with updated software. These upgrades will both help and hinder various abilities; it’s a bit of give and take. As a result, players can tailor their characters to better suit a specific objective.
Also, character growth is persistent. In other words, whether you’re playing at home or getting online, your character will remain the badass you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. You can then hop in and out of online games to help others and further improve your avatar. The persistent nature of this character growth should provide gamers with a lot of replayability.
Third, Borderlands is a futuristic romp that takes place on a harsh and lawless planet called Pandora. Again, don’t worry; futuristic doesn’t mean sterile, boring, and irrelevant. Pandora is an immense, dirty, lived-in world with many different environments that are pleasing to the eye, while remaining familiar and accessible. Consequently, using vehicles to get you and up to three other mates from objective to objective is a must, as scooting and blasting around in modified buggies will be a major component of gameplay.
Along the way, bandits, similar to the road gangs in the Mad Max films, will try and kill your team and loot your corpses. Unfortunately for the brigands, you and your buddies are packing some serious heat. This leads us to the final crucial component of Borderlands. There are over 500,000 weapons in the game, and the title will likely ship with close to three quarters of a million.
How is this possible? The team at Gearbox has created proprietary software that generates unique and exciting armaments on the fly. Each weapon will have specific characteristics that are combined automatically in interesting ways. Fortunately, these characteristics are divided into manufactures, so the guns still maintain a real world feel; they’re not just randomly and awkwardly put together. Also, these guns have similar shooting characteristics to modern weaponry. That means the shooting will be more similar to that found in games like Call of Duty rather than Halo or Unreal Tournament. Nevertheless, many weapons will also have an auxiliary component such as acid or electricity that heightens its damage rating and effectiveness.
Details have not yet surfaced as to what the story entails. Additionally, we’re not sure if all the action in Borderlands will take place on Pandora or if it will spread to other planets. There was mention of many weapons being imported to the planet from other off-world sites. The existence of interplanetary trade does indicate a galaxy of possible environments, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Pandora remained the only lawless sandbox within which to play (at least in the first title – we may see more in future DLC installments).
Even at the alpha stage, Borderlands looked incredibly polished and quite well put together. Furthermore, the emphasis on co-op play should be a real treat. We’ll have more on Borderlands’ when the review code is issued. Until then, keep your trigger finger loose and at the ready.