E3 2008 is underway, and GameSpot is on hand, covering such games as Borderlands, the upcoming co-op shooter from Gearbox Software. The game will offer cooperative online play for up to four players, and will feature role-playing game-like character advancement as you progress through the campaign. We watched a demonstration of a two-man cooperative run on a mission to retrieve some alien technology from the clutches of a tribe of bandits who were hiding out inside a mine.
The two characters in the run were a soldier character and a scout character, though each seemed to be able to use a great variety of guns, and each had no problem driving a vehicle. At the start of our run-through, the two players hopped into a four-wheeled jeep-like vehicle with a mounted gun and immediately began sparring with a bandit vehicle, which they eventually dispatched in a spectacular, fiery blaze. They then floored it on the way to the mine, leaving behind a bit of roadkill by squashing a skag, the aggressive, doglike aliens that inhabit Borderlands' planet of Pandora. Skags are apparently afraid of vehicles but won't hesitate to attack lone players on foot.
We arrived at the mine to find it guarded by a handful of skags, which had a tendency to make flying lunges at nearby targets. After dispatching the aliens, the duo advanced on the mine, which, as it turned out, was also guarded by an unusually large alpha-male skag, a creature that was much tougher than the normal aliens and much more aggressive. After finally disposing of all these foes, the duo entered the mines and began to encounter bandit gunmen...and that's when the guns started to drop.
Borderlands uses a procedural process to generate its various guns in certain classes (handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and so on), but with many variations of firing speed, reload speed, and ammo properties (incendiary, acid-based, and so on). As soon as we started taking on the enemy bandits who came charging out of the mines with guns, we started coming across guns, guns, and more guns--either dropped by fallen foes, hidden in piles of bones left by predatory skags, or locked away in treasure chests. According to Gearbox, the game currently features more than 600,000 different types of guns and will likely have more by the time the game ships. So, throughout the course of the game, you'll constantly be improving your character's effectiveness in battle, either by picking up new guns (which can be stored in what seems like unlimited storage space) or by gaining experience levels and additional proficiency with whichever weapon you're currently wielding at the time that you gain a level (which is currently indicated onscreen by a set of glowing white rings that surround your character).
We watched as the team of soldiers battled their way through the cavernous bandit lair, taking down increasingly tough enemies equipped with force shields that were able to protect them somewhat from our gunfire. The demonstration ended just as the team tracked down the alien artifact, only to be ambushed by the bandit leader.
Borderlands seems as if it has plenty of unusual things to offer: cooperative play, drivable vehicles that work best with more than one person onboard, a role-playing-like system of character advancement, and a seemingly limitless variety of shiny new guns to pick up. The game is scheduled for release later this year.