What is Borderlands all about? Something to do with a Vault and bi-century openings and keys and Skags. Yes, lots of Skags.
Look, Borderlands is a co-operative "RPS" (that's Role Playing Shooter if you've been following trends), in which you control one of four character types in a heavily stylised world. Choosing between the sexy Siren Lillith (who can Phaswalk, y'know?) and a host of other brutal character types (take Brick, he can punch things) you embark on a quest to open the vault thingy-ma-jig mentioned above.
Plot-wise, Borderlands is as thin as Kate Moss on a detox diet; but honestly, it matters not one bit, because Borderlands' core is about engaging in the world around you, enjoying the drop-in/drop-out online co-op and shooting stuff.
Borderlands' main campaign will take you approximately 30 hours to see through, with dozens of side-quests, and future DLC planned to stretch the experience like, well, elastic.
It's not an entirely relevent comparison, but hush your mouth, we're trying to make a point here: coming back to Fallout 3 after playing Borderlands is like drinking Jack Daniels and Coke; gross. While both games are substantially dissimilar, they both share a first-person-shooting-role-playing-game style that's inherent to their gameplay; which is something Borderlands does exceptionally well. Ok, so the RPG elements stretch as thin as - "yo, you just got XP," and "hey, you've levelled up," but they're prominent enough to create an attachment to your character. The thing is, strip away all that RPG stuff and you have a competent FPS, with shooting that actually feels right. Unlike Fallout 3.
"This Level 48 Jacob's Fire-elemental SMG has a 58.6 fire-rate and an 8.7x optical zoom with an 8% chance of explosion damage," are things you may well say to your buddies over the PSN while playing Borderlands. Because Borderlands is all about loot. And most importantly, fire-power loot. Despite being broken down into strict classes (SMGs, Combat Rifles, Rocket Launchers, yadda yadda), Borderlands' key hook is in its "gajillion-zillion" [actual number - Ed] weapons. Essentially, the randomly generated weapons come down to what elemental damage, or fire-rate weapons have - but it's still uber satisfying when you find a gun that kicks serious butt and suits your playing style. Like that triple firing, shock exploding sniper rifle thing we found. Shame its reload rate is cack.
Borderlands is a bit like an episode of Columbo. No sooner than you complete one quest, do you have Peter Falk (not literally) nibbling at your ankles requesting you do another. It never lets up, and before you know it you've sunk more than 30 hours into the game. And at that point, when it's finally all over, and you think you can rest, Borderlands says, "hey do you want to do that all over again, only harder?" and of course you do because you have to. Because Borderlands is a bit like crack. Peter Falk on crack.
It's well documented that Borderlands nearly didn't end up looking like Borderlands. But, boy, is it awesome that it did. Not quite cel-shading, Borderlands almost looks like a pop-up book to us. Rich, shaded, colourful character models take up the foreground, with subdued, simplistic textures layering the back. It looks great. And it's Unreal Engine too. Proof that Unreal Engine games don't have to all look the same, right here!
Drop-in/out co-op is a blast in Borderlands. There are some minor lag issues (aswell as quitting hosts leading to lost progress) but all-in-all the ends justify the means. I.e. shooting skags, earning XP and playing through the entire campaign of Borderlands with your friends is pretty darn fun. You can even play the game locally!
Whether it's limitations of the co-operative scope of Borderlands, or merely the lack of emphasis on story-telling, Borderlands doesn't have a very good plot. It starts wonkily, and ends abruptly with little much else in between. If you're coming into this expecting filler ahead of Heavy Rain - you're probably in the wrong place. Shoot - Skags.
So the enemy AI in Borderlands is borderline broken [cwhutwedidtharr? - Ed]. To emphasise, we'll explain our experience with the big final boss battle from DLC pack The House Of Dr. Ned (although, traits of this run throughout the main campaign). You just stand far enough away from him and let rip. He doesn't know you're there. So he just dies. And you win. And take all his loot. Sure, you're cheating yourself playing the game that way but, more interesting attack patterns, smarter enemy types, and generally more variation would be nice in the inevitable sequel Gearbox.
Despite there being 20-or so different places to loot in Borderlands, they're all based upon a very common visual theme, so it's: deserts, metropolis, or scrapyard. They make fine avenues for exploration but do become a little tedious.
Borderlands is by no means perfect - there are some glaring flaws in its AI and narrative - but, in all honesty, it matters not one iota when you're blistering through the Arid Badlands with three buddies, shooting Skags in the mouth and completing a seemingly never-ending list of quests. When Borderlands gets you, it gets you good and never lets go.