Borderlands Updated Hands-On - High-Level Gameplay

We get our hands on some of the later stages of Borderlands, including deserted towns, alien invasions, and...snowstorms?

Borderlands is the upcoming first-person shooter/role-playing hybrid game from Texas-based studio Gearbox. It puts you in the role of a freelance bounty hunter in search of the treasure hidden in an ancient vault on a mostly deserted mining planet. But as you make your way through the world of Pandora, recovering more-powerful weapons and gaining experience levels by fighting off scavengers and the local wildlife, you come to understand that the job you're on isn't going to be as simple as waltzing right into the vault and walking off with the goods--and that you're not just up against a few crazy bandits, either. We had a chance to hunker down with some of the later parts of the game and have much to report, but please be advised that this story may contain minor spoilers.

Your character does, in fact, start out on a simple treasure hunt but quickly learns that nabbing the goods won't be easy. That's because the location of the vault is secret, it's guarded by dangerous enemies, and also…you're not the only one after it. We stepped into the shoes of a high-powered siren, one of the game's four playable professions, which focuses on stealth and "elemental" damage bonuses added to her various weapons. As we mentioned in our previous coverage, the siren has an inherent "phasewalk" ability that lets her become invisible for a limited amount of time, becoming completely undetectable to her enemies. At higher levels, this ability can become significantly more powerful, since it can let her effectively sneak around oblivious enemies in the middle of battle, and it can be upgraded so that when she leaves her phasewalk state and returns to "normal," she deals an explosive burst of damage to her nearby targets, not unlike the backstab attack that thief and assassin characters often use in traditional role-playing games.

In addition, at the higher levels, the siren's elemental abilities make her weapons deadly. To clarify, Borderlands has an unusual random loot system that will let you find different weapons as loot (or for purchase from one of the game's many weapon vending machines) that may have totally random properties, such as faster firing rates, better accuracy, and, most importantly, a chance to deal bonus damage, such as additional fire, electricity, or poison-based wounds on a successful hit. The siren character's various specializations increase the likelihood that her weapons will deal this bonus damage and increase the actual bonus damage levels.

Although the siren is presented as a challenging character to play (because she has less health and fewer weapon specializations than other classes), the enhanced damage of her elemental bonuses actually seem to help compensate for poor aim, since even a few lucky hits may trigger bonus elemental damage that continues to eat away at your enemies, and since a few of the siren's abilities deal damage to enemies in an area, so your firing doesn't always have to be precise. Of course, since Borderlands has a critical hit system that awards well-placed shots with bonus damage, being precise does help.

There will be plenty of chances for you to blast your enemies to bits. Did we mention this game was rated M for mature content?

In our time in the advanced areas of the game, we visited a few different areas with a character that was ridiculously powerful--several levels ahead of each area and armed to the teeth with a high-powered sniper rifle, an incendiary submachine gun, and a flat-out ludicrous rocket launcher that just happened to have the ability to fire rockets that split into multiple shots with every pull of the trigger to deliver absurd amounts of damage in a single area. Because we were packing this much heat, we decided to try out our new toys first in Old Haven, a bombed-out town that has been taken over by a mysterious faction of disturbingly organized mercenaries known as the Crimson Lance.

These mercs are apparently after the vault, just like you, and they'll attack you on sight with their own high-powered sidearms and from turret emplacements. They also carry generators that erect translucent red shield barriers, which they can set up in front of themselves to create their own cover. Unless you have a powerful sniper rifle that can zoom in on the tiny body parts they leave exposed, or some very good grenades, like incendiary Bouncing Betties that split off into multiple explosive bits, you'll have to fire on these barriers continuously to wear them down and get at the enemies behind them. Fortunately, we came equipped with both. Still, we found ourselves alternating between sighting far-off enemies to pluck them off with sniper headshots, and scrambling for cover after turning a corner to find a handful of mercs dug in at different locations (on different floors of buildings, behind on-the-ground cover, or manning high-up turrets). In fact, we found ourselves reaching for health packs and occasionally ducking behind cover to recharge our chewed-up personal shields (which work just like those in the Halo series by losing power when you take damage but regenerating if you can get to cover). However, we eventually managed to pick off all our foes--not an easy task even with a fully-loaded character. Then again, for those looking for a real challenge, Borderlands will also offer an enhanced "elite" mode the second time you play through it--the lowly enemies you faced your first time around will start around level 30 or so.

We then skipped ahead to a different area much further in the game, closer to the alien vault. As it turns out, although Borderlands' early areas take place in dusty deserts, there are also more-advanced areas that take place on snowy mountaintops, where the mysterious alien creatures known as the Eridians guard their vault. The Eridians seem like a race of insect-men--several of the lower-level ones walk upright on two legs but have wings and can either take huge flying leaps or simply take to the air and fly. They carry their own ranged weapons but don't seem to hesitate at the opportunity to leap in your face and claw at it. In addition, since they're aliens with totally different bodies than humans, they're effectively immune to headshots, though if you're persistent enough, you can find their weak spots to score critical hits (or you can continue reading this sentence, since they seem most vulnerable in their hindquarters, just below their abdomens).

Fortunately, these beastly aliens aren't immune to rockets, and they're less immune to rocket launchers that fire multiple explosive rounds, and the smaller ones blow up pretty good. However, there are multiple varieties of these aliens, including giant-sized ones, and they don't just walk or fly around on their own power--they also cruise the skies in gigantic alien craft that carry multiple troops. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can open fire on these alien vessels, but doing so can earn you a lot of attention from some very angry aliens.

Not all of Borderlands' enemies are amateurs. You'll encounter a company of experienced mercenaries that don't like you, as well as hostile aliens.

What we've seen of Borderlands suggests that it will offer all the action of a conventional shooter (different weapon classes, headshots, weapon melee, and significant cover that must be used in the heat of battle to duck out of the way and recharge spent energy shields or reload your clip), along with the unendingly random loot of an addictive RPG. The game is scheduled to ship later this month.

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188 comments
brandan1515
brandan1515

YOU NERD!!!!! just because a game website dosnt like a game dosnt mean you dont get it and seriously who plays xbox after 30 yrs

kaz035
kaz035

I picked this up on steam the day it came out. I only played it a couple hrs so far but i can already tell its going to be awesome ! I set all graphics on max and the art work looks great, very detailed ! It reminds me of Team Fortress 2 meets Cell damage and Fallout 3. Ive heard single player has a minimum of 20 hrs gameplay but if you do all side quests and explore outside of main quests there are several dozen hrs of single player game play. I wont play a game that doesnt get a rating of at least 9/10. I been gaming for 30 yrs dont need any lame BS games with no depth. With quite a few single player hrs and i can only imagine multi player being great as well. I say this is a must buy, an RPG shooter with some new ideas that makes it one of the best games out right now !

Taimanin
Taimanin

Ok, another sci-fi online shooter...... .-.

bumdude
bumdude

came out for console earlier than pc?!?! of course that always happens. for PC dudes like us, no matter the preload on steam its the 26th

boozereli
boozereli

how in the fuk do u have this game already?

Fayt1986
Fayt1986

this game rules ive had it a couple hours now and im level 10 playing as mordekai the long range master with a sweet sniper rifle. best bit so far was getting a awesome head shot and my charictor going "hahaha boom".

skitchrick
skitchrick

Thanks Sprunk_G! 2K Games owes you a commission check, 'cause I'm buying this mofo!

turok0
turok0

Borderlands = game of the decade

amill68
amill68

actually, the personal shield can regerate your health. these shields have upgrades just like the guns, though not as numerous. go to giantbomb.com for a long gameplay video. this is nto to say that you wont have to load up on healing stuff. it looks like, in tha tlater levels atleast, there will be a bunch of legit enemies, and you'll have to be on top of your game to defeat them

hobobobo00
hobobobo00

this game is genius and it looks amazing. the only thing thats really bothering me is the health system which doesnt regenerate and i always find annoying in games to stock up on healing stuff

bigdawg8670
bigdawg8670

wow my b day is next week and its gunna be good gettin this and uncharted 2

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

Wow, I'll be set with games for like 8 months.. lol L4D2, Borderlands, MW2, AC2, Red Dead Redemption(eventually), and the ones I'm sure I'm forgetting...

Justinisrad
Justinisrad

Sounds like a cool concept. Hopefully they don't screw it up and make it terrible.

djpetitte
djpetitte

I'm buying this before l4d2.

skitchrick
skitchrick

Just one question : does anyone know if it's linear or open? That will make or break the game for me.... but damn it looks good!

mbrown726
mbrown726

After this long boring summer of playing games that really aren't worth playing for hours & hours, I look forward to Borderlands, Dragon Age, COD:MW2 & Left 4 Dead 2. I hope all these titles will keep my wallet frozen this winter until I thaw out more money in the spring.

daslothking
daslothking

From what I can tell, I reckon Borderlands is to Fallout 3, as Diablo II is to Morrowind/Oblivion.

omrihq
omrihq

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Wilbo26
Wilbo26

Who cares about the graphics? Looks like a fast paced FPS with RPG elements, not exactly what I'd call Fallout 3. Its either going to be amazing or horribly disappointing.

red1isdabest
red1isdabest

Ithink this game looks great, i especially love the gun design from the computer(very genius)... i don think it will be like fallout that much... and the cartoon graphics give it the spicy hint of gearbox!

ChadSped
ChadSped

I played fallout 3 and it was a good game but the graphics were pretty bland...i got tired of them sooo quick.....the graphics in this game look really good.....real excited for it to come out!!!

torrone
torrone

From what I've seen of the movies here, the graphics don't seem as good as Fallout 3.

Dualmask
Dualmask

I would have loved it if this game had the option of third person like Oblivion and Fallout, with better animation. I can tolerate FPS, but I greatly prefer TPS. That said, the game sounds pretty good and looks interesting.

gamescottsman
gamescottsman

Okay, this game is looking cooler and cooler as it draws near, finger crossed folks! :)

lozvil
lozvil

Fallout 3 clone, I think... we'll see...

Lithos_
Lithos_

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

theslimdavylp
theslimdavylp

@Lithos_ - I get that error sometimes... refresh the page and it should work

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

I don't like cell shade too much, but this game looks cool

Lithos_
Lithos_

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Bludbathurikane
Bludbathurikane

I have very high hopes for this one!!! Dunno how I'll live the next 2 weeks....

_Sharpshooter_
_Sharpshooter_

This game is gonna be one of the best games of 2009

Anabub
Anabub

I really hope they pull this off! It has the making to be a great game ....lets have a review soon please :)

AxCUNNINGxSTUNT
AxCUNNINGxSTUNT

Its nice that a different type of FPS is being released. I like what I've seen thus far and this seems like a must own, for me at least.

rveegee
rveegee

This game's got so much going FOR it...something different yet familiar...moments of deja vu are immediately broken down to be replaced my innovation.

THE-ZOZ
THE-ZOZ

will it be a demo for the game soon !?

PenthiusX
PenthiusX

From what i could make out ..the game will be a must buy . Though i hate to compare but it look a little like a fusion between Fallout3 and Hellgate with a little toonish rendering Like Street fighter 4 . I hope this turns out to be something totally unique , then the game would be more badass than it already is ...

XRockStarDaveX
XRockStarDaveX

Anything Randy Pitchford works on is worth getting.

TheShindig
TheShindig

I hope there will be high level areas on a harder difficulty that cannot be soloed. It is cool to have a few areas where you really need to use teamwork.

turok0
turok0

This game is gonna be a major letdown. Looks like a mere mediocre Hellgate London clone. And toned down for consoles.

fraarr
fraarr

I definitely expect this game to be GOTD material, perhaps even GOTC. Too early to say it can be GOTM, though.

iisl33t
iisl33t

I like how the music matched the gameplay at the end, but personally I like my games without music, with just the natural sounds - usually. It definitely seemed that the music helped pick up the mood in this video, however. Also, I'm glad Borderlands' world of Pandora isn't all desert-land as I expected. Can't wait to see the snowy moutains and rugged urban towns! It'll be sweet for sure. This game is gonna be badass, hands-down, cards played; multiplayer or single-player; caffeine or decaf. I don't care which. Either way, it's gonna put the awe in awesome. The Chuck in Chuck Norris. The... you get the point. The next week or two is gonna seem like forever.

TheDirtyMoose
TheDirtyMoose

I gotta say out of all the games coming out this year I'd have to say that I'm looking forward to Borderlands the most. Thank god it comes out next week I've been waiting so long for it lol.

troydtroy
troydtroy

The music at the end went perfectly for what was going on.

McGregor
McGregor

this is one of the few games that has me really excited this year!

bassplayer275
bassplayer275

Wow. Sounds like it'll definitely be worth picking up. I'm getting pretty excited about this game.