The RPS Verdict: Borderlands

We’ve played Gearbox’s fancy-lookin’ “role-playing shooter”, Borderlands, and we’re ready for a verdict. What will we have to say?

Jim: Who wants to try to define the game in a single sentence then, eh?
Kieron: Hellgate in a desert, but not shit.
Alec: There’s some sort definition involving the words “Diablo” and “guns”, but I can’t work out how to stick them together.

Jim: Diablo with first-person perspectives, with guns, with vehicles. And bloody. And co-opy. Actually I think WoW is a more appropriate point of reference.
Kieron: Why?
Jim: I mean Diablo is the root of the tree, but so much of it feels like the starting areas of an MMO. And it’s 3D, obviously. It’s almost how I’d imagine a MMOFPS actually working, were such things made by men.
Alec: Absolutely. Even down to the starting area being a bit nob.
John: I’d start with Far Cry 2, as it happens.
Jim: John: speak of Far Cry 2.
John: “Imagine if Far Cry 2 were fun.” That would be my pitch.
Jim: Cruel. I liked Far Cry 2. But Borderlands is more fun. A lot more fun.
Alec: Sir, you speak of the impossible
John: It’s a wide open sprawling shooter where you gather many guns and shoot many men, who respawn and the like. Except with an inventory, quest variety, and funny robots.
Jim: An inventory would have made all the difference to Far Cry 2, wouldn’t it?
Kieron: Where it differs from Far Cry is that what drives the game is the character development and the loot collection. That’s a fundamental difference. I’m not even reading the quest logs in Borderlands. (Which is one way it is WoW like.)
Alec: Yeah, it adds purpose, even if it’s the most basic of gaming purpose – MMO-style, as you say.
Jim: Yeah, I’ve had to read logs a bit more in the later game, because it becomes so sprawling.
Kieron: That’s why I say it’s not really like Far Cry at all – the core of the game, why you’re doing it is Hellgate (i.e. Diablo Re-jigged as an FPS).
Jim: Structurally, in terms how how you move around from place to place, it’s rather like Stalker, in that you do a back and forth to hubs from various “dungeon” areas. That said, it’s nothing like Stalker to play, so perhaps I am being irrelevant.

Alec: I’m going to be ever so bold and say it’s more like Diablo than anything else. Even down to how you grind away at things you can’t quite do until you reach their level, then progress, with no real fear of death to prevent you doing so.
Jim: And it’s more fun co-op
Alec: Yes, the co-op/single-player distinction is important. It’s certainly compulsive played solo, but I didn’t catch myself ever thinking “gosh, this is fun” unless in a group.
Jim: I had a few hours where it really made sense solo, but the repetition of the baddies basically ended that.
Kieron: John differs on this, doesn’t he? (I also find it interesting that we’re doing a spectacularly bad job at explaining the game, which is probably to Borderlands’ credit.)
John: Yes, I have the opposite-o-pinion. But this might be because I’m a sociopath.
Alec: I’m looking forward to hearing this…
John: I far prefer soloing, and for all the reasons I’ve always given before. I hate being beholden or dependent upon another player. It ceases to be playing, and starts to be obligations. I thought this game might be different for me, but it is not.
Jim: Kieron, you mentioned that co-op creates an uncomfortable pace too?
Kieron: Yeah. But, like John’s, it’s a standard problem with co-op games rather than a specific one with Borderlands. It’s that if you want to sit and have a think about your build or selling shit, you can’t. You’re slowing the game down for everyone else. I do actually think Borderlands has specific co-op problems worth talking about.
Jim: Yes, it’s an important topic, because this is not co-op like Left 4 Dead, despite the FPS pace through combat. This is much more sprawling, with varied pace and objectives. I mean just contrast the battles inside punk bases to the racing around in vehicles – it’s quite a spectrum of co-op explosioneering.
John: Yeah – I hate that sorting through the 900000 bits of loot I just picked up becomes something I feel guilty about.
Alec: I agree there – perhaps it needs to increase your inventory size during co-op.
Kieron: Yes. At its best, it’s Gauntlet – everyone on the same level-ish… but playing with a bit of a gap, finding an area which is actually okay for the lowest person can be trickier than it should be.
Jim: The lowest person does level fast though.
Kieron: Yeah, totally, but only when you go to an area where it’s vaguely working. At other times, no-one’s killing anything and we’re basically sitting and waiting and trying to work out what we can actually do.
Alec: There is a slight afterthought vibe to the co-op. It’s essentially functional, but even down to things like how quests are shared (i.e. it doesn’t signify if any players have any quests in common, and there’s no way to give any to others apart from the host choosing a specific mission and thus forcing its objectives into the interface of others – who, while they’ll get XP, won’t receive any of the loot rewards once it’s completed) it doesn’t seem like it wants you to play much of the game in that mode.

John: There are walls. Kieron and I were playing, me level 20, him 16, and there was nothing we could do.
Kieron: John – that’s what I mean by “finding an area”. There were places we could go and play… but not there.
John: Well, we could play. But there were no quests available for us.
Kieron: Totally. You have to ignore the quests and go and kill baddies in an appropriate area.
Jim: Yes, it becomes grind that that point just killing dudes to level the lower person. We did that from 1-15 with KG’s Brick. But the level structure is weird anyway: it’s a freakin’ an FPS with levels! That alone is kind of bizarre to me. Usually i hate that approach, but it seems to work almost by force of personality here.
Kieron: Elaborate on that, Jim? I think I agree.
Jim: The force of personality thing: the game feels right as a shooter. The guns are meaty, the explosions boomy and that bads die in a satisfying way.
Kieron: That’s it’s strength.
John: Yes – we’re in danger of sounding negative by complaining about co-op problems before we’ve all said why it’s such a fun game.
Jim: It’s a healthy action game.
Alec: I still find the shooting feels a little light.
Kieron: It feels arcadey more than light to me.
Alec: It’s a spectacular light show, but there’s something very intangible about the enemies – but the sound and fury of it all is rarely less than joyous.
Jim: Really? the enemies seem to get smacked about by the bullets at least. It doesn’t err on “fall over dead”.
Alec: They seem fairly non-reactive until death, and even then you usually don’t see it because a) the screen’s covered in particle effects and b) it’s busy spawning half a dozen guys on top of you so you can’t hang around.
Jim: All the enemies have knock-back routines from the guns, especially the midgets.
John: I only experienced it over-spawning once. Most of the time it managed that well.
Jim: Actually I think there’s a difference between the fundamental characters in how you experience the combat. Mordecai’s sniping regularly gives you incredible BIFF weapons where you can take someone out in a single shot.
Kieron: We really sound like we hate this game considering we all love it.
Alec: I think it’s more a matter of circling, unsure how to define why we like it
Jim: It’s genuinely entertaining, isn’t it?
Alec: Yeah, it makes that MMO/Diablo compulsion absolutely a virtue, in that you’re rewarded with something that has a visible and tactile rather than purely statistical improvement.

Jim: Which is a neat trick in itself, given that we’d all said how we were fed up with that stuff. It’s like the linear shooter – everyone says they’ve had enough, and then you get a Modern Warfare. In this case it’s a good shooter that does something else clever.
John: It’s a good shooter. That’s really significant. Name the last good shooter. It’s utterly beautiful to look at, you get stupidly powerful guns and after a few hours essentially infinite ammo, and you can just have a mad amount of fun running around shooting stuff.
Alec: Doom 2.
Jim: Kieron: Why is it a good shooter? I mean don’t you tire of shooters, traditionally?
Kieron: I do. In this case… well, one reason why it works as a shooter is that Gearbox have shooting experience. It’s why Hellgate failed on a fundamental level – it felt wrong, because when you go first person and/or direct control rather than indirect control, everything changes. Gearbox knew that, and levered all their experience with the genre into making it work. Hell, even look at the vehicles – it wouldn’t surprise me if they were repurposed code which they had lying around from the Halo PC Conversion. This is them putting all that experience they’ve got into a game which is actually still something of a new idea.
Jim: It’s very Halo in it’s combat dynamic – I mean the shield is Halo-like, but it has its own thing going on – it ends up being as important as any of the guns. The shield was something I didn’t expect or even consider really.
Kieron: Yeah, totally.
John: We should each explain our class.
Jim: I’m playing Mordecai, the hunter, and his special power is a falcon-thing, a “bloodwing” that does single hit damage to enemies. He can be specced for that, or for pistols or sniper rifles.
Alec: I’m Lillith, the Siren. I can turn invisible, but that’s more about layering on a bunch of damage over time effects than preserving my own hide. Though I only just found out that apparently I grow wings of flame at certain times. That’s something you don’t realise if you’re playing alone, you need someone to tell you.
John: I’m Roland (which Kieron thinks is the funniest thing ever) the Soldier. He gets a special shield that’s sort of like a buddy in a way. It’s a temporary stationary item that when leveled up can restore health and ammo to all nearby. And oddly he’s the healer class – you can level him so firing bullets at friends will heal them. Which is never better than when firing a rocket launcher at someone to make them better.
Kieron: Me! Brick. Enormous Heavy-esque thug who can be speced for explosive weapons, soaking up damage or just activating his frenzy power at increasing ludicrous frequency. During which, he puts down his weapons, gets out two fists and just starts punching PUNCHING! PUNCHING! while screaming all the while. It is very much my life.
Jim: As a follow-up point, I don’t think the classes are distinct or characterful enough. Brick is the only one I’ve really felt stands out, if just for the screaming.
Kieron: I don’t know about Mordecai, Jim, but I’d say Brick and Lilith have plenty of personality when they level up. Alec and I were just playing now, with level 20 characters, and she’s running around with wings of flame while I’m a masturbatory screaming monkey-beast. I think the missing thing is that we haven’t played 4-player co-op at Level 20+.

Alec: Yeah, it started making a lot more sense there. Punchy and Flamey ride again. Which almost makes me wonder if it’s best played with two rather than four – more direct feedback to each other.
Jim: My problem with Mordecai is the bird often gets stuck, or just doesn’t seem to hit anything.
John: I have preferred playing 2-player over 3 or 4, too.
Alec: There’s less “wait for me, oh god no time to look at my new toys” panic with two, too. There’s just more space to stop and admire how ridiculous/incredible the other player is.
Kieron: Four can be a bit overwhelming, I’ll admit.
John: We should stress that level 20 is only about six or eight hours play, right?
Jim: I think it’s more than that, if you actually logged it. I was trying to record my time, but lost track of it. I think it took close to 30hrs to level 35, with lots of sidequesting. The 100 hours thing quoted by Gearbox seems very optimistic though.
Alec: It depends, hugely. If you’re pretty skilled at FPS, you can stick close to the core quests and hit the big XP to level fast. Or you can amble away at subquests, getting vaster quantities of smaller XP. But it’s hard to do purely the main quests, as you can get spanked pretty quick.
Jim: I really think the game hits its stride from about level 20 onwards. And boss fights: they’re largely poor, aren’t they?
Alec: I wouldn’t call them poor, but they don’t really hit the heights of imagination they require to offset how annoying their mega-attacks and enormo-HP is.
Jim: And sidequests generally? The main quest line doesn’t give out enough XP to keep up with the curve… you pretty much have to do some sidequests every 3-4 levels.
John: I’m too meticulous with games to not play the side quests.
Alec: I did a big stretch where I stuck purely to late-teens core quests. Involved a few more respawns, but you can whittle away at them even whilst a couple of levels below. That said, my magic running away power probably makes Lilith a bit handier in that regard.
Jim: Random: I don’t think you can dismiss quests. I’ve got loads of low-level ones stuck in my list.
Alec: You’re right. There’s also a fairly finite number of quests in each zone, it seems, and they don’t seem to level with you. So you end up with vast areas you’ll never visit again clogging up the quest log.
Kieron: I think this is where Gearbox’s lack of RPG experience shows – just bits of RPG-standards we’d perhaps expect. The canceling quests – the lack of a storage box to keep extra loot, etc. Tiny bits of interface problems.
John: I think the interface problems are much bigger than tiny.
Jim: And none of the quests are very interesting, but the fireworks seem to make up for it. I don’t mind the robbing. I mean, the entire world is broken in that regard – everything is full of money, even the giant bats (which are awesome, incidentally).
Kieron: I do love the giant bats. The first time they swooped in was a heart-in-mouth moment.
Alec: Yeah, the pinata-shower of happy things when you take ’em down
as they fly over is hugely gratifying.

Alec: And, as I’ve bored everyone with whining about, robbing people’s houses in front of them. It’s not so much that I mind as just not understanding why the level designers just didn’t say “hey, let’s not put two boxes of cash in this guy’s front room, as god knows there’s a thousand million other ones in the world.”
Jim: Oddly, in the main shop in Newhaven there’s loads of stuff lying about that non-interactable, like the beardface man is the only person you can’t rob from.
Kieron: The best thing about the cash boxes is that they respawn. So there’s the idea that he’s refilling the boxes with cash every time you walk out the door.
John: “I’m sure they won’t steal from me AGAIN.”
Jim: It’s not realistic in any way.
Kieron: But, really, didn’t bother me at all. It’s Diablo.
Jim: It’s not even aiming for “worldiness” despite being an interesting world.
Alec: Yes, it’s important to state its roleplaying begins and ends at loot and leveling.
Kieron: The NPCs are broadly drawn comedy dark future types. I didn’t take it seriously enough to worry about verisimilitude. Literally and figuratively.
Jim: In this case we can say bollocks to realism, it’s very much a cartoon in its attitude. Speaking of which: any thoughts on the “look”?
John: I adore the look.
Kieron: Fantastic, generally speaking.
Alec: It looks great, for sure. Reminds me most of XIII.
John: Has there ever been a game before when you’ve thought, “Wow, look at that ROCK!”
Jim: Ah yes, XIII – and there are loads of games with good rocks. Terrain is a gaming artform.
John: There’s something more artistic about the rotoscoping in Borderlands.
Alec: Borderlands doesn’t star Adam West, and that’s a shame. I would have to deduct at least 98% from any score for that reason.
John: You know that Gearbox are kicking themselves as they read this. “Dammit, I SAID there was something we were missing. Adam West!”
Jim: But they don’t detract from it being grim – headshots are grisly shit.
John: Exploding someone is awesomely disgusting.

Jim: Actually, there’s a bit later in the game, a sidequest, that is genuinely shocking. I won’t spoiler it, but you’ll know when you get to it.
Kieron: The violence is impressive. It’s actually one of the best violent games in recent times.
Alec: Brick on full face-crushing rampage is quite the thing
Jim: Although the people burning is weird, I like some of the elemental death effects, like the skull of people being electrocuted to death.
Alec: Genuinely psychopathic and graphic.
Kieron: As Alec said, when I punch a dude’s head off it’s a thing of joy, especially when it says CRITICAL! (Like, no shit)
Jim: Yeah, the little chuckle from Mordecai when someone’s head explodes is splendid.
Alec: By about level 20, Lilith is simultaneously setting someone on fire and electrocuting them, so I’ve added in a poison shotgun for good measure. It’s quite the thing, in terms of screaming and satisfying big, colourful numbers floating from mens’ heads.
Kieron: That’s a thing – I like Brick’s talking. I don’t like Roland’s.
John: I could really do without Brick’s laughter. We should mention how bad the voice chat is, and how stupendously stupid it is to have a character who literally SCREAMS for over 30 seconds at a time.
Kieron: Yeah – I suspect the Brick will annoy certain players by his mere existence. By which I mean – it is annoying and happens a lot. But John didn’t like Ode To Joy in Peggle, it’s worth stressing.
John: When it makes communication impossible, I’d say the issue is greater.
Jim: The issue with voice chat is that it doesn’t dip volume when someone is speaking, and there’s no push-to-talk option. That has to be patched, asap. [It can’t currently be turned off in the menu, and we’re chasing Gearbox about that now – RPS.]
Alec: Oh – did you three get a chance to try the arena at a higher level? Because when we tried it around level 10, it was massively imbalanced in favour of the Hunter’s insta-kill Hawk
Kieron: I’m not convinced it can be balanced, the way the builds work. I mean, when I had my frenzy available, I won. When I didn’t, Mordecai won. But I can’t believe it’s the main lure for the game.
Alec: And Lilith couldn’t win, because her magic-o-power only does trickle damage. But it’s possible there are subtler strategies there that we’d have to learn.
Kieron: Yeah. It’s not as if we delved… and why would we? There’s a world of loot out there.
Jim: Yeah, the arena seemed like very much a sideshow, especially cos you can duel in-game at any time. But: loot!
John: My favourite moment playing was when Kieron and I duelled when I was five levels above him. We were both laughing so much at how unfair it was, but it was genuine fun.
Kieron: That was amazing. My desperate punching at your head.
Alec: Most of the loot you won’t use, it’s important to state. You’re not constantly picking up something and doing a little happy dance while eighteen mutant dogs explode into tiny chunks. But every couple of levels you’ll find something that seems EXTREME for a little while.
Jim: I suspect i threw away some good shit by the end – there’s just so much stuff.
Kieron: Which links back to its lack of a box to keep your malarkies.

Jim: And it’s often really good shit. I really like the way weapons work – that the brand name of the weapon roughly corresponds to its stats.
Kieron: There’s some weapons which are so agreeably oddball, but totally useless by the end.
Jim: There’s an odd sadness to parting with a weapon – it was like the incredible giant blue hammer I had in WoW. I kept it long after it was no use.
John: Yeah. “Goodbye old friend. You served me well.”
Alec: I had a low-level revolver which grew bullets.
Jim: Grew bullets? I didn’t even know they did stuff like that. Although the weapon vending machine boasts that weapons can heal you, which I’ve never seen either.
Alec: I also had a shotgun that fired rockets.
Kieron: That – with the leveled weapons – is where the oddness of the level structure throws it. I mean, it’s the classic RPG problem – but seems odder in a game which doesn’t deal with the tropes. I mean, why don’t the high level bandits from this region invade the place where the low level ones live?
Jim: I should mention at some point in this verdict that the ending of the campaign is rubbish. It’s not so much the story – which is just so much fluff – but it’s a bad ending mechanically. Oh and Claptrap’s announcements get more and more insistent as you go along, it gets to be excruciating.
Alec: Does anyone care why we’re doing what we’re doing in this game? I can’t help but think of it purely as a sandbox, despite its sometimes overwrought attempts to really be a story game.
John: Nah, I stopped reading the quest text straight away. I don’t care why it’s happening. I just have fun. Please note: I don’t care about the story, and ignore it.
Kieron: It’s the game’s genius: It gives you a mechanistic excuse to have fun. FPS mechanics and fights are just more interesting – mechanically speaking – than trad MMO ones.
Alec: The story is the story of you and your guns. “Remember that bit when I had a shotgun that fired rockets?”
John: I must have my rant about the interface. For a game that boasts it understands that PC players use the mouse, and that it’s PC first, something went wrong. The game opens with “PRESS ENTER”. Mmm hmm? Then there’s so much that’s insane. You can only invite people with “i”, and you can only get out of the invite screen by pressing “ESC to cancel”. Comparing weapons can be started with the mouse, but only exited with the keyboard. And here 360 control icons appear in the inventory. You can’t click on the keyboard shortcuts to activate them. You cannot scroll through quest text when being given it without using Page Up and Page Down, despite there being a triangle button for the mouse… It’s not good.
Jim: Okay. The interface has botched itself between mouse and keyboard…
John: It’s not pretty. It’s like an all-encompassing tribute to the inability to close the VATS thing in FO3.
Alec: It’s certainly a mess, but I wonder if it’s just general RPG interface inexperience rather than specifically console-port-fail?


Jim: The thumb is aloft.
Kieron: Yeah, up. UP +2 versus scarabs.
Alec: UP! But with a tiny wart on it.
John: Mine’s up, and regenerating your up thumbs.
Jim: OK, close post-ramble. We’ll post about port-forwarding and deleting the uncuttable intro skipscenes at some point too.
John: I’m going to see if my skill for shooting Kieron with a gun to make him better works outside of the game.
Jim: And I am going to throw my bird at some mutants.
Alec: I’m going to see if setting fire to myself makes me better at killing people in the street.
Jim: Heh.
John: Kieron, you should give screaming and punching people a rest.
Kieron: :(


  1. TotalBiscuit says:

    Oh Borderlands, you are so close I can almost taste you.

  2. Michael Leung says:

    Beautiful. It just makes me even happier that I’ve prepurchased it on Steam. Cannot wait.

  3. dog says:

    great write-up… may i just ask if its playable over LAN, or is it online only for co-op ?

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    LAN and internet for co-op.

  5. piratemax says:

    Good read, I hope the controls aren’t much of a trouble on the PC though.

    You guys didn’t discuss much about the vehicles sadly, are they only a small part of the game? For travelling purposes only? I heard there was a racetrack somewhere, but I don’t know if there are any quests related to vehicles.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      It’s not like you can’t reconfigure the controls.

    • piratemax says:

      So I can scroll through quest text with my mouse scroller and open my inventory with i, and close it with i too?

      And hopefully I can open my map with m, since I don’t want to open another window first and then switch to the map tab all the time, after reading a review where they said some areas can be quite confusing.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Considering the game has mod support, I would imagine that anything you can’t reconfigure will soon be modded in.

    • piratemax says:

      As far as I know there is no SDK available yet, at least looking at this interview:
      link to
      If I read it correctly, it states they haven’t started working on it yet, but they might plan to.

      So unless you have a confirmation that there is indeed mod support available, please link me.

    • David says:

      Yea, let’s be ok with developers releasing unpolished games on the PC, because there will always be some modders more dedicated to their product than themselves to pick up the slack?

      Seriously, if Gearbox can’t be assed to fix that themselves then they won’t be getting my money. Will be waiting for a couple of patches to see if they’ll even support the game in other ways than DLC and then check if it’s worth the price of admission.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      The vehicles appear quite a lot. There are vehicle quests and even one vehicle boss. Fast travel takes over eventually, but you can use the vehicles to get about in the later part of the game if you wish.

      They’re a bit odd to drive, being Halo-style and mouse steered, but it works for combat, esp with two people.

    • JuJuCam says:

      If there’s one mod I’d like to see (if it isn’t already included in the game) it’d be the ability to give your favourite guns nicknames. Maybe if they rack up a certain number of kills. I know I’m not the only one who wants a Brick named Jayne that carries Vera :P

    • Dave says:

      You could always use your imagination, and pretend your gun has a nickname. That makes it true.

      Was I the only person who invented plotlines for Atari 2600 games and turned them into RPGs?

  6. MonkeyMonster says:

    A large pile of awesome me thinks – shame I’m away the weekend of the 30th – curse you forward planning! the 4 pack on steam offer is rather nice to the wallet – compared to the euro cost (of the 4some) its something like 43 quid cheaper… Big assed tank for me!

  7. Jacques says:

    Pre-ordered my copy on Steam yesterday, can’t wait for the release. A not shit version of Hellgate? I’ve been waiting a while for that.

  8. Senethro says:

    I guess this is at the top of the buy list ahead of MW2 now.

  9. richmcc says:

    Superb read! Thank the heavens this is good, and that they got the guns right.

    Any chance anyone could advance on how Lilith works in-game? I gravitate towards healer classes, but don’t particularly want to be Johnny Soldier, especially as my co-op buddy has bagsied him. Does she do healing/helping only, or can she hold her own as well?

  10. phil says:

    A character that gets so psychoic that he drops his guns and begins punching gigantic horrible things sounds very Doom – which is tops, as taking down a Cyberlord with only my tiny fists and a nuckle duster (after liberal softening up with rockets) was remains my best memory of the game.

  11. ImperialCreed says:

    Thoroughly relieved to see it’s not rubbish. Have had this pre-ordered on Steam with the four-pack discount since it popped up.

    On the voice chat thing, can that just be turned off altogether? I ask because I (and my mates who I’ll invariably end up playing with) just use Skype to talk in pretty much all our online games. It’s invariably easier.

  12. Scalene says:

    Borderlands looks juicily close to existing.

    *waits, impatiently*

  13. pignoli says:

    Sounds exactly like the kind of shooter I've been craving – good mechanically and pretty mindless fun. Looking forward to getting my co-op on now.

  14. Bhazor says:

    Yay! It’s the incredibly posh burns victim again!

  15. autogunner says:

    sweet, getting the group to preorder it today, thanks RPS hivemind

  16. Vinraith says:

    Well, that was pretty much a giant pile of things I wanted to hear.

  17. Ian says:

    Have had a burst-o-excitement in the last few days and surprised myself by pre-ordering it.

  18. Theo says:

    dont take this the wrong way guys – that was very fun to read. I am slightly grumped out that there arnt anymore details about how “grouping works” IE if you grouped when you join a game with someone.

    or if you can have 2 people in the game world playing seperately and such. more about he nuts and bolts of the game. (DONT MAKE ME GO TO GAMESPORT, PLS!) lol ;)

    nice read guys, i cant wait for this game, really cant.


    • John Walker says:

      I shall de-grump you.

      You can invite up to three other people to join you in your game. They can create a new character (level 1) or bring their current character (at whichever level) into your game, and then you all set about playing that person’s game from whatever point they’re at. The difficulty ramps up appropriately. Technically you could split up and play separately, but you’d likely be outmatched. Any XP or items they gain in that time stays with their character when they go back to their own game, but quests completed and areas unlocked do not.

    • abhishek says:

      Another question John.. Does the game use Games for Windows Live for the matchmaking/co-op part?

    • Markoff Chaney says:

      Negatory good buddy. It uses an offshoot of Gamespy that’s “transparent” after the initial setup.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yep, it needs Gamespy and some port-forwarding, which I’ll probably post about later in the week. Once you’re logged in, however, it’s seamless and game joining is done via public browser and a friends system. (Games can be public or private.)

  19. Spiny says:

    Woo and indeed tang.

    I’ll be shifting my preorder from mw2 to this.

  20. Tei says:

    It sounds good :-)

    The people that make conversions console to PC finnaly has found the ESC key. Now are using it for everything where we normally use something simpler and easier, like clicking outside a dialog, moving, right-click, space… something easily available. You don’t want to press ESC constantly. Maybe to skip a movie or a non-interactive section.

    Pets are hard to do, so I will totally go a sniper/pistol build for Mordecai.

  21. Monchberter says:

    Nice review, but it looks hideous and characterless. And yet another genero-postapocalyptic-em up.

    Fallout 3 satiated me on that front.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Nah man sorry, that’s your lack of taste talking. The game is gorgeous in motion and to claim it has no character is to laughably ridiculous considering how stylised everything is.

    • Monchberter says:

      What brown and grey with black outlines? It’s been done better. Merchants of Brooklyn looked better than this. Jet Set Radio did cel shading better, and as for stylised, Team Fortress 2 still effortlessly rules the roost. From what i’ve seen it just looks as bland as Halo 3.

      Maybe it is just my post apoc fatigue. God knows how i’ll cope when Rage drops!

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “Merchants of Brooklyn looked better than this. ”

      It really didn’t.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      lol merchants of brooklyn, it’s easy for jet set radio to do cell shading better than this is easy considering this isn’t cell shaded, you’d be right saying tf2’s style is tighter, but that’s practically a compliment just by being the only other game in the same league, it’s like saying Rangers are shitter than Celtic, yeah true, but they’re better than every other team in the spl.

    • Monchberter says:

      My befuddled point was that aside from the cel shading, the art design looks shockingly generic. All the old post apocalyptic cliche’s. Same as most games with space marines look like Halo or WH40K or every fantasy game just being Tolkein.

      I’m bored already. Find some original ideas.

  22. Peter says:

    What sort of DRM does this game have? Just Steam? Or is there GFWL/other shit as well?

  23. gulag says:

    Would have liked there to be more story, more roleplay RPG-iness, but it’s still a day one for me.

  24. Craymen Edge says:

    A surprising amount of negatives in a verdict that gives 4 thumbs up. I think I’d personally find a number of them too offputting to fully enjoy the game. Cheers for the insight.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      It’s a bunch of minor niggles that could, potentially, be deal-breakers for a small portion of potential buyers. Obviously RPS was not put off by them. When you think about them in context, they really are very minor gripes. Control issues? Reconfigurable I’d imagine. Waiting around in co-op games to manage inventory and talents a problem? Play with more understanding friends. Voice-chat issues? Use Vent. It’s not enough to dampen the enjoyment. Having played the game, I agree with most of what RPS has said and it doesn’t stop the game from being an absolute riot.

    • Dante says:

      I’m with Biscuit on this, I was basically reading points like ‘unable to dismiss quests’ as being irritating, but not enough to stop me enjoying it, and likely to be patched out in time.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      The only genuine problem, to my mind, is the lack of voice chat options. That *has* to be patched.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      That is in fact something you didn’t mention in it’s entirity. You can’t turn the voice chat option off, at all. That’s a deal-breaker and needs to be patched straight away.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I’m chasing Gearbox/2k on the voice issues at the moment. I’ve added a note to the article about it, too.

  25. Po0py says:

    I think I’ll wait for a couple of patches. It seems like playing with strangers might be awkward and I’m not sure if the single player is good enough to hold me compared to a proper rpg or a proper fps, even. Also, this game has been released at entirely the wrong time. It should have been released a month or two ago when there was nothing around to compete with.

  26. toni says:

    I don’t know. that actually made me cancel my preorder and very cautious.

  27. CMaster says:

    It’s interesting to see that Gearbox are still getting a lot of the same things wrong as they did years ago, back when they made Opposing Force.

    @PoOpy – the gist from what the guys had to say there is that the game is a rubbish RPG (which you could have guessed from the trailers and marketing) but one of the best arcade-FPSes seen in a long while (Alec compares with Doom 2)

    • gulag says:

      Funny I just replayed OpFor a couple of weeks ago, and while I think it has some wonky bits, and a couple of not very interesting boss fights, nothing stood out as very ‘wrong’.

      What specifically would you say are some of Gearbox’s blind spots?

    • CMaster says:

      Principally, I felt that gearbox made a very fun game with OpFor but at the same time, missed what it was that made HL a great game.

      The principle problem they had was something they’ve apparently faile at again in Borderlands – making an even vaguely believable world. Valve made you think that Black Mesa was a real place (if slightly crazy) place, with real (if slightly crazy) people. Gearbox failed at that entirley, making a string of challenges for the player which didn’t make any real sense. At one point, you are going through an area where you have to jump fireballs going backwards and forwards. For no reason. This was made worse by Gearbox’s sheer lack of ideas when compared with Valve, so they just repeated things. Lets go through just those I can remember:
      Remember in HL, having to block off the laser safety shield that formed part of an experiment to cut a hole in the wall? In OpFor, at the end of the stupid fireballs-in-a-basement section, there are some fireballs shooting at a safety shield (in an unused basement) that for some reason you have to block off and blow a hole in the wall.
      Remember in HL, having to sneak around the terrifying tentacles which know where you are by sound and make a constant foreboding sound the whole time, before firing up the test rocket motor? In OpFor you have a static pit worm that shoots at you the whole time and lives in toxic sludge, yet is somehow killed by pouring more sludge over it.
      Remember in HL, breaking into the explosive and fuel storage yard and discovering it had been rigged to blow, so having to carefully negotiate the trip mines or blow the entire place up, after a chain reaction of trip mines? In OpFor, you have what looks like a military guard post with some trip mines on it. Inexplicably, if you set off any of these trip mines, despite the lack of a chain reaction and the fact that most of them are mounted on solid concrete walls, the screen soon fades to white and you have to reload, even if you are well outside the building by the time you do so.
      Also, I realise that some human enemies were needed, but the enemy Black Ops (and friendly security guards) were just a bit silly.

    • gulag says:

      Thanks for replying. Now that you mention it, yes that stuff was daft.

      If I had a gripe about OpFor it would be that the alien weapons were very unsatisfying. They mostly came across as half-formed ideas, or missed opportunites. There is so much more they could have done with the grappling barnacle gun, even back in then.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      i’d say you were right but in this instance they’ve turned that weakness into a strength.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Believable world? Come on… it has guns that shoot shurikens and lightning. Realism is not on the cards here, in any respect and indeed detracts from the bombastic feel.

  28. Theo says:

    i consider myself de grumped ;)
    thanks John – i really really really cant wait for this game. part of me liked hellgate, untill i had seen “that street” and “that tunnel” for the 80th time.


  29. Tzarkahn says:

    Does this mean that if we were intending to play as a 4 from the start the host would have to be the hostee all the time, if you are the only person who has the unlocked world available?

    • Tzarkahn says:

      Just to clarify nothing would stop me from getting this game, just curious.

      Oh look at me replying to my own post.

    • Markoff Chaney says:

      Quests done in Co-OP will count as being done on the character you play them on, not just the hoster. So, if 4 fresh people start a fresh game and all leave at the same time, they all stop at the same place. If person C leaves 1 hour early, it would be best to have them start the game next time around so that everyone can do their quests. Once C caught up to where A B and D were, then they would all continue together and get credit for the quests together.

  30. MinisterofDOOM says:

    God, I love you guys. I can’t express the comfort gained in the knowledge that there are members of the gaming media with actual brains and functioning senses of humor.

    I’m reading this at work, and have successfully annoyed at least half the office by bursting out laughing at
    “John: …But this might be because I’m a sociopath.
    Alec: I’m looking forward to hearing this…”

  31. Super Bladesman says:

    I’ve pre-ordered this, and eagerly looking forward to it. I’m thinking my wife will like this too, so may be some LAN action too – I guess I will also need to buy her a copy? :(

  32. Markoff Chaney says:

    Fantastic! 6 more days until I hit the new wastelands. Hopefully my wife will join me…

    The game apparently uses some street date verifying Securom with unlimited activations that will be disabled in future pressings of the disc. Does require a disc in the tray to play. Steam is Steam, so none of that, apparently.

    link to

  33. Rinox says:

    Sounds like a pre-order to me…

  34. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Well this Verdict seems to have cemented my eventual purchase of the game, although unfortunately for Gearbox probably not until next Summer. Between awesome game Brütal Legend, Dragon Age and Modern Warfare 2 I think I’m pretty much covered for the holiday season.

    Grew bullets? I didn’t even know they did stuff like that. Although the weapon vending machine boasts that weapons can heal you, which I’ve never seen either.

    I watched the GiantBomb ‘Quick look’ for Borderlands the other day and one of the chaps had found a high-level pistol with infinite ammo which didn’t need to reload, charmingly labelled ‘sometimes I forget to reload’.

  35. JuJuCam says:

    Pre-ordered on Steam, mouth almost literally frothing with anticipation. I like the thought about the story being more about the guns. Quests are just pipework to get you from point A to point B where the path encompasses large volumes of angry things that die in spectacular ways. To me that just screams crazy fun no matter what happens. All I’m really looking for is a swarm of enemies to cut swathes through a la Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers.

  36. Catastrophe says:

    I’m torn between Mordecai and Lillith, ermmmmm.

  37. teo says:

    Woop ! =)
    Loved reading this

  38. Spacewalk says:

    I like a good scream and watching things get set on fire. I will be buying this.

  39. Andy says:

    Any word on split screen? I’m sure they said it would have it…

  40. XM says:

    Thanks for the review I will be a fool not to get it. This is just what we need for the long dark nights ahead.

  41. Jim Rossignol says:

    360 has split-screen, no sign of it on PC.

    • Andy says:

      :( Why do they hate split screen on PC? I cant remember anyone doing it since Serious Sam. This makes me a sad panda.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      i knew this was the case already, but it doesn’t stop me asking WHY!?, from a development point of view it’s easier in a lot of ways to do split screen co-op on the PC.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I’ve always had problems dealing with the lack of hardware support for two independent keyboards and two mice, not to mention desk space.

      And if you say Xbox controller I will smite you.

  42. Super Bladesman says:

    In Markoff Chaney’s link there, it suggests that it may be sufficient to have only one copy for LAN play, which would be good news. My wife likes a Die Hard style mindless shooter, and while this doesn’t look that mindless it certainly looks up her street.

  43. Anthony says:

    As both me and my friend interested in this are without decent gaming rigs, we’ll be walking the dark path of playing co-op on our 360’s via Live.

    To appease the PC gaming gods, I did at least get Machinarium the other day. I hope that suffices :(

  44. Miles of the Machination says:

    I’m still tentative about buying this, I mean, I’m sure it will be plenty of fun, but I don’t really like the idea of almost manditory grinding in order to be physically able to progress, coming from the Stalker habits where I’m more used to exploring in order to find new trade-ables and weapons rather than having to rely on numbers to dictate my skill. Also, I have reservations about the story, but I suppose this is beside the point because you can kill someone three different ways at once and heal people with rockets.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      To be fair, it isn’t a lot different to Stalker’s requisite for artifacts/stalker suits to progress.

    • Shalrath says:

      What armour/artefact prereqs are those? I was awful at finding good artefacts, and I used Ghosts suit forever…

    • JuJuCam says:

      If you consider the shootydeath a grind then you’re playing it for the wrong reasons. For all intents and purposes, shooting things to death is the name of the game. Story content is pretty thin on the ground here, and if you’re playing to “complete” the game and find out what happens to various parties I think you’ll find it mildly disappointing.

  45. The Hammer says:

    Great review. A couple of disappointments within (I don’t know why, but I was kinda looking forward to seeing how they told the story…), but I don’t really think my enthusiasm for this beast has dulled.

    What ARE the specs, by the way?

  46. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I’ll probably get a copy of this mad game, some day. ’till then, there’s enough on my plate as it is.

  47. merc says:

    I likes the sound of a fun shooty rampage with ridiculous guns, I don’t think we get enough of that style of FPS (last one I can think of was Painkiller!).

  48. Fraser says:

    Four blind men describe an elephant:

    Kieron: it’s Hellgate
    Alec: it’s Diablo!
    Jim: it’s Wow!
    John: it’s Far Cry 2!
    Jim: now it’s Stalker.

  49. Jim Rossignol says:

    It is Hellgate.

  50. Frosty says:

    Congratulations RPS! You’ve taken a game I didn’t give a monkeys about, which to me looked like Diablo (which I rather hated), and just turned it into a marvellous proposition.

    You sneaky writers. This is why I love you.