Borderlands Eyes-On: Co-Op Fallout In Reverse

You're in the wasteland, taking on quests, picking up look, and wandering around for miles, only this time you're trying to get into the Vault.

I had a chance to check out a demonstration of Gearbox Software's cosmetically mercurial Borderlands today, and it felt rather familiar. Take the wasteland environment, role-playing, and first-person shooter elements of Fallout 3, add in a little bit of Diablo-esque looting and weapon generation, and then give the whole thing a strong focus on co-operative multiplayer and there you have Borderlands...and that's not a bad recipe whatsoever.

Gearbox President Randy Pitchford himself guided us through the demo, which started with two players working their way through a co-operative kill x number of y type mission. This is the first time we've seen the new graphics in motion, and screenshots really don't do the game justice...which I suppose is a problem with any cel-shaded title. While the areas are bleak and expansive, they are also full of life and character...which I suppose is a plus with any cel-shaded title. The game definitely looks sweet in motion.

Gameplay is a mix of standard shooting with spe3cial skills gained through a roleplaying game type experience system, complete with a skill tree that allows players to customize their character to fit their play style as they advance. Characters are persistent, so you maintain your levels, equipment, and experience in every online or offline game you play.

Like I said, a bit like Diablo, as is the random creature generation. As in Blizzard's game, you'll sometimes find hordes of monsters congregating around a larger, boss monster of the same type. These monsters are labeled "Badass" versions of their species, much tougher to kill but chock full of loot. Randomly generated loot too, as Gearbox has programs that randomly generate weapons, adding together shapes, attributes, and elements to create everything from lightning grenades to shotguns that catch your opponents on fire. Once again, another parallel with Diablo.

Pulling up the menu, another similarity to Fallout becomes apparent. A happy little robot caricature waves to us from underneath an "advertisement" for something called The Vault. This one isn't an underground town that people locked themselves in to survive nuclear holocaust, but a legendary vault filled with treasure which the player is questing for. It's just a bit too close.

The team grabs another mission, heading there in a dune buggy looking vehicle procured at a vehicle spawn point. On the way to their objective they stop to explore, only to be attacked by armored ants, incredibly difficult to harm unless you aim for their abdomens. As Pitchford put it, you have to "blow their asses out." Indeed.

Rather than continue on with current quest, they joined two more players who had progressed further in the same mission line. Four players is the max for co-op, with the enemies scaling in difficulty and reward with each new player. Again, standard shooter game play, only with a couple more players in the mix. After an extended firefight they manage to activate explosives planted about a fuel depot, retreat to a safe distance, and watch the rather impressive destruction caused by the resulting explosion. Thus ended our demo.

During the brief Q&A session afterwards, I questions Randy about the Fallout 3 similarities. "The difference here is that Fallout is a roleplaying game with first-person shooter elements. We started as a first-person shooter and then added roleplaying elements to it."

"On top of that, I loved (Fallout) and I was having a great time, but there was also something missing - I couldn't play with my friends - I could never have anyone join in with me. We're actually the first game that's delivered these genres ever that's offering that feature (on consoles)."

I suppose that's true. There's been drop-in co-op shooters and drop-in co-op action RPGs, but this is something relatively new.