Borderlands finds right mix of roleplay elements

Gearbox’s new release of the game for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows has proven to be a great in the shooter genre.

In order for a first-person shooter to convince players to keep coming back, there needs to be some element in which the game excels and sets itself apart.

and the series have involving stories, great character design and engrossing environments.

The series triumphs in gameplay mechanics, team-oriented missions and sheer intensity. So what does excel in to ensure it doesn’t get lost in the videogame crowd? Looting.

There is nothing that Borderlands encourages the player to do more than explore the expansive badlands and find awesome stuff. Sure, there are plenty of other things about that make it a good title, but a lot of the enjoyment comes from going through and finding rare items and weapons.

But first we need to know why we are looting and whose stuff we are taking. Playing as one of the four possible character types, you have just landed on the planet called Pandora and are in search of something mysterious known as The Vault. Legend has it that whoever finds The Vault will be rewarded with great riches and power.

Upon your arrival on Pandora, you will meet many people who have favors to ask of you, from finding missing pieces of a weapon to taking care of some of their dirty work. In return, they will provide you with money, weapons, items and more information that will eventually lead you closer to The Vault.

While on these quests, you’ll run into both creatures and raiders who are looking to stop you, and it is from these creatures, raiders and the environment itself you will find all of the aforementioned fun stuff. So even though there ends up being some basic overarching Vault storyline, most of your gaming time will be spent on quests to receive more money, more experience and more items.

In terms of gameplay, prides itself on being a shooter with certain role-playing elements. First and foremost, it is a shooter, and it makes sure that you as the player get plenty of action time.

On top of that, there are many aspects of role-playing games that have been added, but these are all simplistic; the more quests you complete and the more battles that you win, the more experience you get. The more experience you get, the better your character becomes.

If you use certain types of weapons more than others, you will be more proficient with these weapons. It’s pretty basic stuff, and it works extremely well. Adding some complex system on top of a shooter could have bogged down the game, but here it has been kept simple enough to keep the focus on the action and the collecting.

The reason I’m putting so much emphasis on the looting/collecting aspect is because Gearbox has developed an artificial intelligence that randomly creates millions of different guns for the game. Though sometimes there are only slight variations between each one, it is still extremely impressive at how different most of the weapons look and play.

As the player, you’ll get a feel for which weapon styles you like the most and end up selling the ones you don’t want or the ones that are very rare and worth a lot of money.

The visual style of the game is great, taking what is expected from today’s graphical standards and infusing it with hand-drawn elements to give the game a comic book look. The result is somewhat cartoonish, but in a way that emphasizes the fun.

The music is appropriate depending on the situation. During the more intense action sequences, the music is loud and driving, while during the more low-key exploration bits, the music takes a backseat and becomes more atmospheric.

For those familiar with shooters, the controls will be very intuitive. Using almost the exact same button configuration as the series, it should not take long to have a good grasp on the controls.

There are only a couple of minor issues with . Though still an absolute blast playing it solo, the quests can feel repetitive at times and would benefit from playing it cooperatively with friends.

Fortunately, there is an option to do just that. Whether it is over the internet or side-by-side playing it split screen, Borderlands is a game that is very enjoyable with company.

However, the vertical split screen takes a bit of getting used to when trying to navigate menus, as the menus themselves are bigger than the screens, requiring a little extra scrolling work to see what you are looking at.

Finally (and this is minor), the style of the main menu seems a little off the mark.

For a game that is completely steeped in action and style, the use of such a low-key and generic menu is a little disappointing. Fortunately, this doesn’t matter at all once the game gets going, but it’s just not the homerun of an opening gamers probably want.

For all of the treasure hunters out there, is a great bet. Make sure to call up some friends to find a few close gaming buddies to play and loot with and it’s a no-brainer.