Borderlands: Now ace

3 Mar

So I might have been mistaken about how much fun Borderlands can be. Thankfully I’m not so incompetent as to mistake my own opinion – my about-turn in favour of the game is all down to its third piece of downloadable content, The Secret Armoury of General Knoxx.

Not unlike Fallout 3’s Broken Steel add-on, Knoxx (I’m referring to the DLC when I say this, not the General himself) extends and thickens up the wafer-thin plot of the original game. After discovering (and subsequently shooting) the contents of the Vault, the weapons conglomerate that was racing you to the treasure sends the rest of its handy private military company to blow you up and nick all the alien technology on the planet.

In vanilla Borderlands all this story would be simply a weak motivation for you to go to point A, grab a thing and report back to a pin board for some cash. In Knoxx’s case, however, t’s like they compiled a list of things that sucked about the game and made them suck less. Considerably less.

The game’s opening cinematic, for example, was slick and characterful. Almost the entire game that followed wasn’t. In Knoxx, that charm makes a welcome return – more voice acting and cutscenes, better characters (including the General himself, whose wasted talent and sighing deadpan delivery makes him a funny and sympathetic chap) and the odd propaganda broadcast give the Parched Fathoms (a series of highways built over a huge lake, which subsequently evaporated) a crucial bit more personality than the main game’s dull wasteland.

What else? The number of vehicles is increased by 300%, the rewards are juicier, and the locales are more interesting. Along my travels I encountered old tourist attractions overrun by bandits, a settlement built under the main road inhabited entirelyby angry midgets, and the most horrible nightclub in the Universe. The music’s alright but it’s filled with corpses.

To incentivise you to sample the ridiculous amount of new missions, the level cap’s even been raised from 50 to 61. Whilst this is a great addition, it still feels like it could have been higher – in a party of three, all of us had reached the new cap long before our quest logs were empty.

It’s hard as well. Hard, like beating off a cave of jetpack-equipped laser bears with a water pistol-hard. The better gear you can find at higher levels helps, but the sheer density of armoured bastards that the later challenges throw at you often feels a greater force than your own capacity to fight back. Playing with friends helps, as they can revive you when you’ve repeatedly had your knees shot out, but going solo makes some missions nigh-on impossible.

That said, for my money Knoxx is the most alluring attempt to bribe me back into Borderlands yet. And as for the difficulty – most enemies you fight have similar shields, superior health, comparable weapons and are either the same level or higher. There’s usually a bunch of them standing between you and a great reward for vanquishing them. This DLC is asking me to completely rock.

And I appreciate that.


One Response to “Borderlands: Now ace”

  1. Halo Reach March 3, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    I don’t know what it is, I just can’t get into this game. I have a blast playing with 3 of my buddies so we thought this game would be right up our ally, but it just puts us to sleep. Like, literally, I play this game when I can’t sleep and I’m usually out cold within 20 minutes.

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