Borderlands Updated Hands-On - Exclusive Look at Shooting, Gaining Levels, and Exploring the Wasteland

We finally got our hands on this desert wasteland-based role-playing/shooter hybrid. After blasting some bandits, gaining some levels, and picking up a whole bunch of ammo, we have much to report.

Gearbox Software's Borderlands will combine the aiming and shooting of an arcade-style shooter with the hacking, slashing, experience levels, and loot of a traditional Western role-playing game. And we've finally played it from the perspective of two of the game's four character classes. While we weren't able to run through the game's list of some 30 different primary quests (and 140 side quests), we did get a chance to play through an early portion of the game and get a look at multiplayer. We have much to report, but please be advised that this story may contain minor spoilers.

Borderlands begins with a bus ride where you choose your character class from either the soldier (a standard class that specializes in assault rifles and shotguns), the siren (which tends to acquire weapons with alternative properties, such as incendiary bullets), the hunter (a sniper profession), or the berserker (a close-combat profession that uses short-range weapons and fisticuffs). You then get dropped off at the starting town of Fyrestone to be guided by a smart-mouthed robot that never seems to run out of things to say. Though the reason your character is on the abandoned mining world of Pandora to track down a mysterious "vault" that's said to house powerful and valuable alien technology, your first order of business is to figure out the interface. The robot walks you through the game's onscreen interface, which displays your character's health and ammo supply, which is standard stuff for a shooter. Your character's experience bar and minimap will also be displayed, which is standard stuff for an RPG and a good sign you won't be playing your average, everyday arcade shooter.

The stealthy siren is one of four playable classes in Borderlands.

As a soldier, your experience will be a pretty standard one if you've played a first-person shooter before. This profession seems best equipped with automatic assault rifles and shotguns and eventually learns the ability to deploy stationary turrets, which can take on different properties as the soldier gains levels (either spitting out regular fire to fill your enemies full or holes or to actually distribute healing or other support features to yourself and any nearby teammates).

Sirens, on the other hand, have the "phasewalk" ability, which shifts them in and out of this dimension, essentially cloaking them for a few moments. Phasewalking also gives you a short speed boost and the ability to perform powerful melee attacks and cause damage to nearby enemies when shifting. Because special abilities have a cooldown time, it seems best to save your character's special powers for when you really need them. Like the soldier, the siren can also learn additional skill trees. In this case, the controller, elemental, and assassin paths help you regenerate health or daze enemies; add elemental damage, such as fire or corrosion, to your attacks; and increase your melee or critical hit damage, respectively. While you gain upgrade points by earning experience levels, you won't be able gain enough points to max out every single skill tree in any single play-through, so you'll want to choose those skills that best fit your own playing style.

Things start off easy while you get used to the game's premise, and the first few missions involve flushing out a few pesky bandits and killing the local wildlife: skags. Skags are hideous doglike creatures that live in packs. While the pups make for some basic target practice and their lunging attacks are a great way for you to practice doing some melee pistol-whipping, it's not long before you discover the larger whelps and some that are the size of a small rhino.

Pandora is home to plenty of colorful characters. Some of whom you can fill with lead.

In any case, the early mission structure seems to do a good job of leading you around as you gradually restore the ruined town of Fyrestone and blast randomly generated hordes of enemies to kingdom come. These low-pressure encounters are a good way to get used to the shooting mechanics, which, at least in solo play, will absolutely require you to make smart use of cover. Early on in the game, you'll pick up your first regenerating personal energy shield, which works the same way as the shields in Halo do--they absorb damage until they run out, and unless you duck behind cover, you'll then start taking health damage.

Borderlands doesn't have a ton of evasive maneuvers aside from ducking and sprinting, and if you try to spray-and-pray, your guns will regularly run out of ammo, which makes you a sitting duck until your characters can slap some more bullets into their weapons. Fortunately, if your aim is true, you can score Borderlands' version of headshots. These are "criticals" and deal huge amounts of damage if you can hit an enemy in a vital spot, such as hitting a human bandit in the head or pouring bullets into a skag's open mouth. After killing enough enemies or completing enough quests to fill up your experience bar, your character will gain a level that is complete with a giant onscreen "LEVEL UP" message. Your character will also receive an automatic increase in maximum health and weapon damage, as well as an instantaneous refill of health and shields, which is very handy in tougher fights when you're up against multiple foes.

The game's randomized loot system means you never know what goodies your enemies will drop.

When the going gets tough, one of the best resources Borderlands offers is the ability to play with up to three friends in cooperative, drop-in/drop-out multiplayer. Multiplayer opens up plenty of new tactical possibilities because a well-coordinated group can offset the lone-wolf player's shortcomings of always having to duck behind cover to replenish shields or reload weapons. Multiplayer lets you use group tactics to pin down enemies with covering fire while your buddies circle around for the kill. This is especially handy for the short-range tank character and his fists of fury.

Borderlands has a wicked sense of humor along with some colourful characters, such as the town doctor, Dr. Zed. He doesn't actually have a med school degree, but he'll keep you supplied with med packs nonetheless. TK Baha is a crazy blind hermit who sends you on a mission to recover his prosthetic leg from a particularly formidable skag. While the local fauna are vicious, there's some equally dangerous local gangsters too, such as Nine Toes (who we're informed also has three testicles) and his boss, Bone Head. Naturally, killing these outlaws will earn you valuable experience points and new weapons, and you'll be able to curry favor with the townsfolk. However, over the course of the single-player game, your character will also receive missives from a mysterious female character that occasionally materializes in a static-filled transmission. The character reveals that you've been chosen to find the vault, advises you to ally with the townsfolk to get them to help you on your quest, and gives you occasional guidance along the way.

The game seems to have a rewarding loot system. Your enemies will often drop piles of loot, and you'll be encouraged to be a pack rat by pawing through every last little box and crate for a wad of cash, an extra pack of bullets, or the odd randomly generated weapon. These can include submachine guns, pistols, rifles, and grenades. Loot is color coded according to its rank with five levels, and the more difficult a mission or boss is, the better the reward. Bosses tend to drop the best weapons, so it's definitely worth grabbing them once the coast is clear.

At the beginning of the game, you can equip only two different weapons, though you can later unlock four different weapon slots. However, you can only carry so many weapons in total, so it's a good idea to keep the best and sell any weaker weapons you find to the local arms dealer for some cash. Fortunately, buying and selling is a breeze because there are conveniently located vendor kiosks (which look like oversized vending machines) in Fyrestone, around key locations, and near boss battles. So you can buy any needed supplies, sell off your unneeded loot, and even purchase a randomly generated "special" item from the kiosks, which are available only for a limited time. Over the course of the game, you'll find weapons and items with all sorts of different abilities, such as energy shields that also heal damage to your character's health; weapon mods that cause your grenades to split into multiple projectiles; and guns that shoot rounds that deal fire, electricity, or corrosion-based damage.

There aren't any alien mutants that a little four-player co-op can't deal with.

Borderlands' cel-shaded graphics look distinctive, and anyone who enjoyed XIII or Prince of Persia will likely welcome this approach. Borderlands makes use of the Unreal Engine, and the characters, weapons, and environment are detailed and have a vibrant color palette. If, like us, you're looking forward to Borderlands, then you'll be glad to know that the wait is almost over. The game will be shipping next month for the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the PC.

Written By

Former staff writer for GameSpot.co.uk, now marketing guy for a certain major online retailer....

Want the latest news about Borderlands?

Borderlands

Borderlands

Follow

Discussion

238 comments
StJimmy15
StJimmy15

Ok, so this is basically an awesome version of Fallout3 meets WoW.. I couldn't get into WoW, and Fallout3 was a little lonely for me, so this is gonna be awesome to play with the guys.

buft
buft

since quitting world of warcraft i have been looking for a great multiplayer experience, if this game can provide that and cater for my love of the rpg then i will be over the moon.

OpusMaximus
OpusMaximus

I've been waiting for a good FPS/RPG hybrid since Deus Ex. Fallout3 was a good answer to that, and this game looks to fill the bill as well. Fallout3 was more of an RPG with shooter elements, but Borderlands looks vice-versa. I've had it preordered for a few months now!

amill68
amill68

i have to agree with superlag, im not sure if i like the cell shading stuff, but if this game is a good as it looks (though it will probably get rated poorly, which means that all of you players, write your own reviews and post them so that i can see if people actually like it, and not just read what the gamespot editor likes...) then i will probably get it. i want to like cell shading, i really do, and thats why im hoping this hits as strongly as it should

dg3215
dg3215

this game looks way better than say brutal legend for instance 10 to 1 the fanboys at gamespot give BL a better rating tho.

kayvanmsh
kayvanmsh

combination of halo3 and fallout3 what a game

balla4162
balla4162

Even though I have a gut feeling this game will get a bad rating, but it has the exact same aspect of fallout 3 wasteland that changes my mind. It is basically a cell shaded fallout 3 with more action and coop. We'll see in a couple weeks. Looks pretty cool nonetheless have been following it for almost 2 years.

Piell72
Piell72

The game looks great and the skill trees have some very interesting options on them. The only thing I might hope for is an add-on pack some time in the future. Maybe even something like Diablo 2; add a couple of new character classes, lots of new weapons and armor, new ways to customize your equipment and a new area.

superlag
superlag

I want to love cell shading but so far can not. Hopefully this game will change my mind because it looks like an instant classic!

Timzor
Timzor

Wow... Haven't been this excited about a game for a loooooooong time! Everything looks great!! :D

djr1118
djr1118

"While you gain upgrade points by earning experience levels, you won't be able gain enough points to max out every single skill tree in any single play-through, so you'll want to choose those skills that best fit your own playing style."- this says they know what it means to offer customization or at least have a good idea. it sounds interesting so far and the co-op will rly help it too, my only complaint would be only 4 character types i guess but it seems to be coming along nicely maybe more class types thru dlc =]

Hakud0ushi
Hakud0ushi

So true, Borderlands keep getting better and better. Oh my...! :P

oista
oista

The more I read the more sick it sounds. Hardly getting any hype though... It's coming out in only a few weeks and it's not even coming up on the front page of game's website.. and only just makes it onto the coming soon section on gamespot. Wtf?!!? Co-op, over half a million guns and rpg stuffs. What more do you want.

sushiroll
sushiroll

nina_pro is right... it looks really amazing

Nina_Pro
Nina_Pro

Looks like a great game, I especially love the way they went to a cell-shaded look to distance itself from other shooters out there. I am a little worried about how deep the game will be, and how they plan to keep people playing 6 months from now when the launch forecast is looking pretty promising. Constant updates are a must, add more areas and bosses, change up the story or something like that. Either way I'm going to wait for an official review before I buy this.

DFen
DFen

any games from 2k games now a days definitely sell

bennae66
bennae66

if noone has worked it out yet the funky music on the xbox live trailer (the promo video) song is called 'no heaven' by dj champion.

bennae66
bennae66

in a month there will be no heaven. why? cause the rpg and fps made a baby!

joshocat
joshocat

it looks like champions online graphics how its all cartoonish but in a FP prospective

xxxCr00k3dxxx
xxxCr00k3dxxx

This game is gonna be SICK!!I pre ordered already and i cannot wait for CO OP.

ngulong99
ngulong99

this is is something like fallout but i thing this game is better than fallout

Redhunt_86
Redhunt_86

looks like nearly everyone on gamespot had grown up on a diet of Halo , with no Hellgate supplements. some piece of innovation and a new cross genre game it is not. Of all things Hellgate did wrong, they got unlimited ammo right.

blkstr89
blkstr89

woooooooooh! borderlands! i have been looking for a replacement to fallout 3 now its here. october and november its gonna be awesome.....N Gearbox, thanx for not chickening out coz of modern warfare 2 man. u brave n i pray to God to bless borderlands n make it d awesomest game of october

jiffygiggle
jiffygiggle

I'm pre-ordering Borderlands right now. YAAAAAAAAAAAY BORDERLANDS!!!!

bodylotion
bodylotion

Game looks interesting and i probably going to pre-order it. I don't expect a very good story but the gameplay seems like a lot of fun.

ThePurpleBubble
ThePurpleBubble

Heh. Lookin' better and better with every preview. Fast action, a few RPG mechanics mixed in, AND horribly demented, twisted humor? I'm in.

UncannyChuckles
UncannyChuckles

I can always instantly tell when a video was recorded from a console version. The aiming/looking around is so unnatural and stiff looking, and they player can't hit anything. FPS on consoles are so lame.

tevic
tevic

Looks definitely interesting. Great potential.

Shootman
Shootman

I got to play the demo of this game at PAX. It really does feel like taking the Diablo II game structure and slamming it into a Call of Duty/Halo play style. It's fast-paced, familiar, (and rewarding) shoot-everything-that-moves action with a whole bunch of extra reward systems. Great. As for RPG elements, there's enough in there for the Blizzard-style RPG fan with leveling, skill trees, and oh-so-wonderful loots. If you're looking for a Bioware-style RPG, Bethesda-style RPG, or a Squeenix-style RPG, then Borderlands isn't those, but it doesn't seem to try to be. The demo didn't have much in the way of story, but even if Borderlands' story isn't that great, I don't think it really hurts it. Did Diablo have much of a story? No. "Go kill Diablo". That's Pulitzer material right there. So this one's "Go find the Vault". Okay, sure. As long as I get to kill a lot of things on the way there.

H0RSE
H0RSE

This is a loot based games. It is action oriented. Look at Diablo 2 (one of its inspirations) There isn't going to be an engaging, in depth story, it is an FPS at its core with RPG elements on top. People don't play Diablo 2 for robust story, they play it to kill badguys, and gets lots of loot. So save the "I want an engaging story" routine. If you want that, go play a traditional RPG. Borderlands is about action and fun. And enough with the Fallout 3 comparisons...If you actually had knowledge about the 2 games, you would see that they really don't have that much in common. And as for you saying this Mr. CrappyPants "the main plot line with "the so called story" is that your characters been abandoned on a mining world of Pandora to track down a mysterious "vault" that's said to house a powerful and valuable alien technology. Couldn't they have come up with something better?? You have to get to a f**king "Vault". It isnt very hard to come up with something else?" You aren't abandoned. You are a vault hunter, it's what you do. You are searching for the vault at your own will, not because someone left you there, and you figured, "ah, got nothing betterto do..."

Triangly
Triangly

It's not going to be great.

RedBlade965
RedBlade965

I am really exited for this game i hope it lives up to all the hype

Mr_CrazyPants
Mr_CrazyPants

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Dazza102
Dazza102

Guys just so you know there's some interesting words out of the CEO of GearBox, he's confirmed that Borderlands is NOT an RPG- its a pure shooter with RPG stats, it has no NPC to Player Dialogue system like that of Fallout 3, Mass Effect and Deus Ex. It's purely an action orientated game because the designers felt the RPG elements were "too slow" pfft yeah right.. Clearly he's never played Diablo :P which to its credit is an RPG- with action elements. The game Borderlands is incredibly shallow- but to its credit so was Fallout 3.. The CEO was quoted as saying "if you loved Fallout 3, you're going to love Borderlands". But he also stated that there is nothing here for RPG gamers. If you're a fan of RPGs I'd recommend you look else where, DragonAge is looking more like your kind of thing IMO.

Jikawa
Jikawa

Splitscreen is optional, there is more emphasis on the online multiplayer.

ozzief
ozzief

Looking forward to this! Is it online co-op online? Or can you do local split-screen?

Mr_CrazyPants
Mr_CrazyPants

True, I probably would fit in there but I don't play call of duty. Anyway moving on... @H0RSE "I want an in gauging / intriguing story line if this isn't going to be an online game!" It is an online game....4 player co-op Yea I do actually. I do want an in gauging / intriguing story line. Something on par with KOTOR or MASS EFFECT or even soon to be released Dragon Age Origins and from what i've seen borderlands doesn't have that. And when I said online I meant an MMO. Hellgate London had the co op system and all the elements borderlands has. Lots and lots of random loot, guns, monsters yada yada. It also had a lot of pointless fetch n kill quests as well as other mediocre quests and I don't think people are going to that find very interesting with four player co op. It's going to lose its appeal very fast. MMO status wouldn't though because the game would be updated regularly and all the items would actually be unique from one another. It would most probably be more of a solid title in general.

Mr_CrazyPants
Mr_CrazyPants

To The Story Now Problem is gearbox hasn't even bothered explaining how its npc conversations, dialogue and its story even plays out through out the game. Do we even have any real choices? If Gearbox are bragging over how many guns they have in this game over the actual point of even playing the damn thing then somethings f**ken wrong. Seriously, how much of difference could there be if there where over a thousand guns anyway using a random in game gun generator. Think about it. One little knob added on the top of your weapon with a slightly different colour and an inch difference in size diameter. add 2+ to damage and a slightly different barrel firing effect. Its just plan stupid. If gearbox are using this weapons items ploy and that stupid f**king robot as a way for telling all of us that this game is truly something special then that's plan stupid lol.. "why the f**k didn't they make this online as well for the PC?" It is 4 player co-op on PC as well.... Yea true.. i f**ked that one up horse. You got me lol. Didnt realise its actually being released for the PC.

Mr_CrazyPants
Mr_CrazyPants

"Plus there isn't any Post Apocalyptic MMO's on the market whatsoever so it would have been a one up over bethesda." Borderlands isn't "post apocalyptic." It doesn't take place on Earth, it takes place on Pandora. There was no apocalypse...this is just how the planet is. What I meant to say was that there isn't any successful MMO's in this genre type on the market today. Well besides Fallen earth which is in beta right now and earthrise.. Anyway here's a question for you horse. Don't you think it's strangely convenient how gearbox would come out with this game shortly after the major success of fallout3? Borderlands nearly resembles fallout in every way. And furthermore, the main plot line with "the so called story" is that your characters been abandoned on a mining world of Pandora to track down a mysterious "vault" that's said to house a powerful and valuable alien technology. Couldn't they have come up with something better?? You have to get to a f**king "Vault". It isnt very hard to come up with something else? And the same goes for ID and Rage which is in production at the moment. Then again ID's sold out to ZeniMax Media which is a parent company to Bethesda so it's understandable. They own the rights to the fallout franchise and they've f**ked that up anyhow . DLC content became ridiculous and aliens weren't ever meant to be in fallout anyway so I forgive borderlands. Except to also see aliens lol. Anyway f**kit Long live the classics fallout 1 and 2 ;)

Mr_CrazyPants
Mr_CrazyPants

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Mr_CrazyPants
Mr_CrazyPants

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

H0RSE
H0RSE

@ Mr_CrappyPants "I want an in gauging / intriguing story line if this isn't going to be an online game!" It is an online game....4 player co-op. "why the f**k didn't they make this online as well for the PC?" It is 4 player co-op on PC as well.... "Plus there isn't any Post Apocalyptic MMO's on the market whatsoever so it would have been a one up over bethesda." Borderlands isn't "post apocalyptic." It doesn't take place on Earth, it takes place on Pandora. There was no apocalypse...this is just how the planet is. It's obvious you overdosed on your Tuffguy pills again, so why don't you take all that extra testosterone you got brewing up, and go to the CoD forums....you would fit in nicely there.

Mr_CrazyPants
Mr_CrazyPants

Also, to all the fanboys out there that think I'm ripping into this game way too much before it's initial release date.. F**k yeah i am .. It's because this games been so f**king over hyped as a Triple A title when it clearly doesn't offer anything new . It's ridiculous .

Mr_CrazyPants
Mr_CrazyPants

From what I see ... Gearbox really seem to be trying to leech off the success with Fallout , Diablo and World of Warcraft .. It reminds me of HellGate London. Borderlands tries to do that same thing in terms of game play by creating grinding elements that increase the longitivity of the game and make it more addictive. For all those people that don't no Hellgate London it was a hybrid sci-fi rpg/shooter that was overhyped just like this game is and it failed miserably after its initial release. All Borderlands seems to be about is mediocre questing, lots and lots of useless weaponry, random loot and enemies, fights and dungeons . This is what most of our current generation of online gaming is all about today. It's an addictive marketing ploy over the game play and entertainment. Borderlands also has random gens roaming around map but they simply switch names around. (Wow Elites, Borderlands bad-asses) For f**k sake gearbox I'm not amused by any of this... No real plotline either. Just 30 different primary quests (and 140 side quests). F**k the quests . I want an in gauging / intriguing story line if this isn't going to be an online game! It's just plain stupid and it shows gearbox's lack in creatively. With all the grinding and achievements you'd think gearbox would of made this an MMO . If they really wanted to leech off fallout 3's success why the f**k didn't they make this online as well for the PC? Plus there isn't any Post Apocalyptic MMO's on the market whatsoever so it would have been a one up over bethesda. And a cashcow . Everybody wants fallout online and don't lie to yourself and say you don't lol. Wastelands anyone?? Also, from what I've seen in game and read about, the shooting doesn't handle the same way a raw shooter would and the rpg system is half ass and it's clearly missing a lot of key elements that make up a great rpg in the first place. It's just mediocre and as it stands I predict an 8.0 or lower once this steaming pile of dog sh*t is released. For lack of innervations / unoriginality and pointless grinding. Put it this way , Borderlands isn't going to leave that warm fuzzy feeling in your heart for years to come like other great games have done in the past. I can tell you that now lol ;)

Pelm
Pelm

this looks and sounds very intriguing, and yes I agree with you fullextent. Gearbox better be able to balance both fps and rpg elements together or otherwise if they can't do that this will surely flop. That is the most important key ingredient in this game and gearbox have to make that work they just have to.

fullxtent
fullxtent

even though it is similar to fallout 3(great game by the way) i think this game is looking pretty good. i just hope they nail all the elements of both the FPS and RPG aspects of the game.

yodathewise
yodathewise

''A shooter with a serious theme, made in a cartoon style isn't my style. Guess I'm going to pass on this game.'' Ha, a serious theme? This is a game with enemies called 'badasses' we're talking about here! Looks (sounds) awesome anyways, can't wait.

Hobbitslayer18
Hobbitslayer18

A shooter with a serious theme, made in a cartoon style isn't my style. Guess I'm going to pass on this game.