Brief history, from Walt Disney to the tentacles in Makai Tenshi Jibril
I imagine that the little kids gathering in their living rooms every Sunday morning to watch Belle, Ariel or Aurora didn’t suspect what their beloved animation would be used for a few decades later.
It was hard to foresee that such an innocent and childish matter would be later used to freak out spectators with horror cartoons, spilling blood on celluloid or stir the whirling pools of hentai everywhere. But what really is of interest to us is the tendency – quite frequent lately – to use cartoon graphics to decorate video games. And people who have played XIII, the last Prince of Persia, Okami, Killer 7 or Afro Samurai have already seen this firecracker in action. What I wonder, however, is just how much does the game value stands to benefit from the thick inking and bright colours?
For people who appreciate it, the effect itself is spectacular – I, for instance, was searching the floor for my jawbone after seeing XIII for the first time. I couldn’t believe that a comic I’d held in my hands, that I’d gone over page after page, rooting for the protagonist during every tight spot, would come alive in 3D right before my eyes.
Mad Mel: Beyond Thunderfallout
After literally getting off the bus in the first level, it won’t take long for you to figure out where exactly Borderlands gets its inspiration from. It just so happens that a bunch of dudes (like the prospectors in North America) landed on Pandora, a planet that was said to contain intimidating quantities of valuable minerals. Oh well – tough luck – because all the poor bastards found were ruins and sand. More sand than ruins, but you get the point. What I didn’t understand from this premise was how it was possible that in a future (or an alternate universe) in which interplanetary travel is possible, a planet’s geological structure can’t be analyzed from a distance, just so people won’t bother to buy one-way tickets to get stuck in a place where a bush is but a distant dream.
Obviously, because there’s no real government or authority, anarchy broke loose and anyone not owning a firearm had to dig, as Clint Eastwood would say. The only hope the „castaways” had was a local myth according to which there’s a hidden bunker somewhere, filled with artifacts and alien technology of infinite value.
This is where you come in, first by choosing one of four character classes – Berserker, Hunter, Soldier or Siren. The more traditional roles are the tank, sniper, support gunner and rogue, respectively, but the specializations split them into more separate threads. Thus, every character has a special ability that he gets after hitting the level 10 barrier, ability which will further be improved by the Skillpoints you invest in any of the three branches each character has.
The soldier, for instance, can place a turret at his feet. Depending on which abilities you’ve chosen, it can heal nearby party members and/or replenish their ammo stock. Additionally, the Medic spec allows shooting your mates with… health. You wouldn’t believe how many times a couple of well-aimed shells can save a brother’s life. Neither would I. The Hunter on the other hand summons an absolutely devastating bird, while the Siren has access to a kind of Stealth called Phase Walk.
The Berserker is perhaps the funniest of the lot, because his special ability is a practical form of uber rage, through which he becomes an unstoppable punching post office for a brief period. What’s actually funny in this whole affair is that the Berserker actually roars like a football fan on steroids while maiming any and all raiders unlucky enough to get in the way of the behemoth’s fists. Which, I assure you, will drive your mates to desperation after some 3-4 hours of beastly screams.
Now that we’re over our heroes, what about the mobs? Like any other hack’n’slash or FPS RPG, hordes after hordes of generic adversaries will only fit in a few categories. Believe me that after a few hours I got tired of fighting off the same raiders, bugs, birds and subterranean worms. I think the only moments I actually shrugged off in this regard were certain bossfights; from giant beasts to buggies in an improvised arena made of tables and junk, the bosses are each a special experience in itself.
This only applies to the presentation, however, because sadly all the fights have the same solution – you shoot until you run out of bullets or your target is dead. Which from a certain point onward becomes extremely monotonous and I hoped in vain to see a puzzle or a minimal brain challenge along the way.
I think it’s worth stating right now that I can’t see any reasons for you to play Borderlands in single-player – aside from character synergy, I can honestly say that the main argument for which I finished the game was the fun offered by three more angry kids with whom I destroyed, acre after acre, every single god forsaken raider base in the desert. Actually, if we strip the game of its co-op spect, we discover a pretty shallow story, a background design that changes too little to impress and a gameplay that loses its spark when you bitterly realise you’re repeating the same algorythm for tens of minutes at a time, your only motivation being loot.
A subtle, but very nice addition that will probably attract a certain type of gamers is the presence of platforming sequences: in order to get to chests and hidden rewards, or to solve some obscure objective, you’ll have to climb shacks, barrels or other such elements to get to otherwise inaccessible ledges. The „competitions” born between party members every now and then, as greedy as a bunch of pirahnas during dry season, generated arguments and cheers in the game’s voicechat once one of us finally found the reward on top of some creaky shack.
Another element – nothing new, but fun all the same – is the presence of vehicles. While a character drives, a second one can control the rocket launcher or machinegun the buggy is geared with. The good part is that we have quests and bosses you can fight while in your car and thus change the record from loot-hunting per pedes to loot-hunting behind the wheel. But don’t kid yourself, the difference is not all that huge.