Last year a stylish little shooter arrived in stores with little fanfare and few expectations. Set in a futuristic wasteland full of murderers, monsters and strangely cheerful NPCs, Borderlands was surprisingly fun. It not only managed to overcome a premise that sounded tired and formulaic, but despite a few long treks across some rather empty environments and vehicles that were a bit too tricky to get the hang of, it managed to make it onto plenty of top 10 lists for 2009.
Everything in the game had a little twist that seemed to lift the experience above that of a generic first person shooter, making it a fresh and cool gaming experience. The desolate wastelands, bandit hoards and slathering monsters were cartoonish, bright and clean. The combat controls were simple, making playing effortless. Everything had a sense of momentum - fighting, missions, reloading, collecting, upgrading - it all felt like you were charging through the game at a hundred miles an hour. You felt unstoppable, powerful, and in control. All great fun.
The guns were fun as well; basically the same as all other games. There were handguns, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, grenades, etc etc. But Borderlands had a twist. The random gun generator meant that there were hundreds of guns, all with different stats and attributes. The stats and attributes also gave the standard shooter a bit of an RPG flavour. There was some grinding, if you wanted to get to level 50. There was also online co-op, split screen multiplayer and the chance to replay with different characters, all with different abilities.
Now if you missed out the first time, it’s all back. With the release of Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition you get to enjoy all of the originally released full on fun as well as all four add-on packs. However, if you didn’t download the add-ons originally because your broadband cap couldn’t take it, then Borderlands: GOTY won’t help you out. Included in the pack, where you think might be a disc containing the DLC, is instead a one use redeem code, a note that you’ll need a connection to the PlayStation Network and a warning that you’ll also need four and a half gigs of drive space.
Of the four add-ons the two oldest are The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned and Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot. While Mad Moxxi is a rather lite multiplayer arena that left most customers a bit disappointed, Dr. Ned is packed full of... ok, zombies. At around four hours, playing through the story of Dr. Ned will fill up a Sunday afternoon. There is not much better than clearing out the undead infested swamps of Jakob’s Cove, blowing up giant Tankensteins, dodging projectile vomit and a final long drop down to an underground showdown.
Not long after Ned and Moxxi came the best, and toughest, DLC. The Secret Army of General Knoxx, accessed from T-Bone Junction, is a tough game packed with new areas, new enemies and a story that adds nicely to the original game. The community of T-Bone Junction is a close-knit bump in the freeway, located high above the Pandoran wasteland and is populated by plenty of familiar faces from the original game. Your first mission is to help Scooter build a supercharged, nitros injected Monster. And you’ll need it because there is a lot of driving to do. Once you’ve got your new ride it’s onto the road to battle against Atlas Corporation and their new band of ninja-like Lance Assassins.
The opening with Scooter is a great introduction to the add-on because, not only does it highlight the driving part of the game, it gives you a taste of the difficulty level. With the first missions starting at level 35, T-Bone Junction is not an area to head to if you haven’t completed the original story. The Assassins, Rocketeers, Devastators (straight out of RoboCop) and awesome giant spider-like Drifters make getting to the new level cap of 61 a very good idea.
The Freeway sections of the game are pretty long and not being able to quick travel around areas, apart from quitting out of the game and restarting from T-Bone Junction, is really the game’s only fault. On the road you have to fight, or outrun, Crimson Lancer patrols and Shock Troops before reaching the new areas like Lockdown Palace, a prison now run by bandits and of course Knoxx’s Armoury. With over forty new missions, General Knoxx is about as good as any download gets.
The final add-on included is Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution. Suffering in comparison to general Knoxx, Claptrap is a friendly romp more along the lines of Dr. Ned. As you can imagine, there is a lot of bot bashing to be done as the little drones, and a small army of their ‘trapped’ recruits, wage a war of freedom against the oppressive Hyperion Corporation. Hyperion Corporation, putting all the Vault and General Knoxx messiness behind, are more than happy to hire a former enemy mercenary to battle the army of revolting robots. But at less than half the length of General Knoxx, and with a friendly scaling system that makes it pretty easy going for everyone from level six to sixty, Claptrap, while still enjoyable, is a bit of a letdown.
As with most GOTY editions if you love the game, you’ve already got it – or at least all the bits of it that you want. While Borderlands: GOYT is a bit of a mixed bag, ranging from the great to the rather forgettable, everything is done with style and an enormous sense of fun. So, if you haven’t been to Pandora yet there is a lot of worse things you can do than give the bandit infested wasteland a visit.