Entertainment, Software Programs

Short Attention Span Reviews looks at Borderlands, and Our Attention Wanders


Borderlands is an interesting looking game from Gearbox Software and 2K Games. It comes in a few flavors, Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3. It advertises itself as an original game that combines the features of a role playing game with a first person shooter while graphics are a combination for CGI and hand animation. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world and you take on the role of a mercenary in a "story" being told by someone else.

The current advertising model is shoving several 9 out of 10 reviews with lots of quick in-game videos and is enough to give you a headache. So let?s see if the ads equal the real game or if at the end of our 30 minute run we will need a few Tylenol.

As this one is another Steam available title many will forego the option of paying for physical media. However if you are one of those that likes to keep your games on a physical shelf there is a DVD for PC as well. Again as with most games no matter the copy that you get you will have everything you need to play. We did not find any special edition copies that offered any extras.

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Installation was very straight forward and once done you will lose 8GB of space on your HDD [or SSD]. This is about what you would expect from a modern FPS [First Person Shooter]. If you grab it from Steam it will take about an hour to two from start to being able to play depending on the time of day and your internet connection.

After you get the game installed it is very easy to launch the game. Borderlands follows many new games in one very annoying fashion. They force you to watch a ton of opening cut scenes and ads for the developer, distribution companies, and in this case nVidia. You cannot by pass these at all. You HAVE to suffer through them, but that is not all. After they are done you have to sit through an opening "movie" before you can even adjust the settings for the game. In the end just launching the game will waste about 5-6 minutes of your time. Once in it is pretty easy to get things up and running.

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This was another game we played on our AMD Radeon HD 5970 so we again maxed out all the settings and eye candy. Unfortunately, Borderlands does not support AA on AMD GPUs so we still had fairly poor image quality in terms of jagged lines. We could not even get FSAA [Full Scene Anti-Aliasing] working through the AMD CCC [Catalyst Control Center] it just would not work on an AMD GPU, as you can see from the screen shot below of an HD 5970 running 8x MSAA.

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Game Play
First things first, Borderlands is not original. It is a very bad take off of games like System Shock and Bio Shock.  It even has the friendly voice that guides you through things offering advice and praise when you do things. Items you purchase are in vending machines even the atmosphere reminds you of Bio Shock after a few minutes.  What you do get that is new is a Cooperative mode that allows you to play through the single player campaign with up to four other players. These can enter or leave the campaign without affecting your own progress making for some interesting play.

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But all of that aside, the game was not enjoyable to play. I found it boring; the opening takes far too long and forces you to take almost 10 minutes to actually get into the game.  I do not know who thought it would be ok to make you wait for a robot [Named "Clap Trap"] to give you your HUD [Heads up Display] but they did making the actual "getting to the game" about as much fun as a root canal.

I played with a pair of friends and we took turn shooting the same thug until he was dead, the others would rush forward and back, then side to side in an easily predictable pattern. They were also incredibly inaccurate.  The game is objective based but you can gain experience for both combat and objective comp
letion. One thing that I found very annoying was that if I killed off enemies in an area that I had to return to for a later objective all of the same enemies were re-spawned. They were even in the exact same places.

The graphics are also distracting and do not make for an immersive game. Instead they make the game seem childish, as do the quotes from your character and the enemies. "I?ll Gut you", "Yeah that?s Gotta Hurt" I had a very hard time playing for the full 30 minutes. I kept looking at the timer hoping it would be all over. At the end of the 30 minutes I shut down the game and only re-entered it to get a couple of extra screen shots. I have included a few screen shots from the game taken during my 30 minute play time.

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Borderlands recommends at least a 3xxx series AMD GPU or a GeForce 8 series from nVidia. I can tell you that I have artifacts running on a GeForce 8600M though. It was not able to really handle the load at 1920×1200 which we don’t expect on a GeForce 8600 – but we didn’t expect to see texture corruption. I would say that if you have at least a Radeon HD 3850 or a GeForce 9800GTX then you will have more than enough power to run the game. I did not have frame rate issues just artifacts and glitches in rendering that made the game experience not enjoyable.

Final Thoughts
I am sure you can guess that I have a low opinion of the game. After playing games like System Shock, System Shock 2 and Bio Shock I feel like this was a cheap imitation [especially considering that 2k is the publisher]. In the "Shock" series at least the AI and combat was exciting and fit the dark and stressful environment. In Borderlands the cartoonish environment did not fit the setting the game was trying to portray. Also the comic relief of the one wheeled robot "Clap Trap" made the game something of a joke.

The Cooperative play mode is an excellent idea but was put on a game that offers very little in terms of playability and continued enjoyment. I doubt I will be returning to it except for GPU testing, even then it is of questionable use as it only supports Anti-Aliasing from nVidia cards.

Was it worth it?
In a word, No not for $50. Borderlands [or as I have been calling it Bored-erlands] is not a fast paced game. It is boring, long winded, had terrible AI and a poor combat system. It claims originality yet takes a lot from previous games. At the end of playing it for 30 minutes [of which about 10 -15 was actual game play] I felt ripped off and wished I could return it. We will be taking a deeper look and following up with this title, but I can tell you that as of right now I am not looking forward to it. I can only hope that it gets better very quick or I might not be able to make it through the next play session at all.