Borderlands Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot Preview: Eyond Underdome

Join me as I strap on my weapons and take a trip deep into Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, the second dose of downloadable content for Gearbox Software's Borderlands.

The second installment of Borderlands DLC ditches the exploration found in The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned in favor of strengthening the ties between the game and the Mad Max series of post-apocalyptic action movies. Stealing a premise from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot sees players fighting for fame and fortune in a series of new Riot Mode arenas, facing wave after wave of enemies in either single player or co-op battles.

It sounds intriguing, but it's got to be more than three new arenas to warrant a $9.99 price tag, right? Read on.

What Is It?
Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot is the second set of downloadable content for Borderlands. Rather than a new area to play in, which we got in the first downloadable content, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, Mad Moxxi delivers a new gameplay mode, Riot, which is almost like a game show version of Gears of War's Horde Mode. The titular Mad Moxxi, a widow several times over seeking to relieve her boredom with carnage, entertains a cheering crowd as you and your teams take on five different waves of enemies in three new arenas - Hell-burbia, the Angelic Ruins, and The Gully. These aren't simply pits that fill with enemies - they are relatively sprawling yet contained battlegrounds, ready to be soaked with the vital fluids of your prey.

What We Saw
I played through each of the three new arenas multiple times, using a pre-made level 30 soldier graciously supplied by the folks at Gearbox. Okay, I attempted to play through all three arenas several different times, dying frequently. I unfortunately only got to play single player, but it's easy to imagine having a blast with a couple of close total strangers on Xbox Live.

How Far Along Is It?
The new DLC releases next week on the Xbox 360, so the build I was playing is damn near close to the finished product.

What Needs Improvement?

No Experience Necessary: You don't gain experience while battling through wave after wave of enemies in the Underdome, which quite frankly feels odd. I understand the draw here is new weapons and the glory of triumphing over seemingly impossible odds, but when I spend an entire game on a steady climb towards max level, spending several hours tooling around a plateau just feels like a slight waste of time.

What Should Stay The Same?

Riding The Waves: The enemies in Mad Moxxi's Underdome come at you in different waves, each consisting of different types of enemies. One visit to an arena might start you off with an Easy Wave, with powered-down enemies that are easier to dispatch, before moving on to a Gun Wave, in which all enemies have guns (duh), or a Horde Wave, where swarms of melee enemies come at you mindlessly. There's a variety, but it's not so much that you can't anticipate what's coming next after you're done scrambling for the health and ammo Moxxi tosses into the stadium between rounds.

Moxxi's Got Talent: Black widow Mad Moxxi is a constant presence in the DLC, shouting out taunts to you as you struggle to survive, egging on the crowd, and just basically being the consummate showman, adding to the feeling that you are a contestant in some sort of twisted game show birthed in the mind of a violent husband-killer. Good times.

The Penalty Box: If you die during a wave, you're warped into the penalty box, an area overlooking the arena where you can shoot from, but cannot leave. Once again, I only played single player, where its mission failed if you wind up in the box, but I can easily imagine the fun that will come of having 2-3 other players in the box, urging the survivors on while desperately searching for targets to take out long range.

Final Thoughts
Gearbox's Randy Pitchford has said that Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot is "like Smash TV in coop FPS, but in the Borderlands." I'd have to say he hit the nail on the head. There might not be piles of cash spawning at the end of every round, and the enemies aren't quite as numerous, but once you step into the Underdome you're the star of a game show where your life is on the line. I'd like to think that if the world had body replicating technology, this is the sort of thing we'd find on every street corner.

And if they can take the "Th" out of Thunderdome, I can take the "B" out of Beyond.