Borderlands starts off exactly like a video from Gorillaz and it gets better from there. Like most gamers, I was surprised at the novelty of this little unknown FPS looter game, and now I'm many hours deep into it.
Borderlands is a pretty straightforward adventure. You're a mercenary on a strange planet looking for alien technology and clues to a great treasure. All sorts of baddies inhabit the joint and all sorts of missions bring you closer to the goal, which is The Vault. You power up by experience points, competencies, dollars and increasingly powerful weapons all of which spurt out of the dying bodies of your foes, be they man or beast. You pick them up, buy and sell and try to stay alive. The entire shebang takes place on planet Pandora which is, like everything else in the game, a cel-shaded menagerie of desolation - kind of like the wild west desert from Warner Brother's Road Runner cartoon mixed in with a Robocop / Heavy Metal / Mad Max aesthetic. Actually, I'd say it borrows most from Mad Max - there's even a character called Mad Mel. So you're out there with your BDU of weapons, revolvers, repeaters, SMGs, rifles, saws, snipers, grenades and shotties leveling up through the wastes.
What makes this super cool is the elemental mods. There are several 'elementals' that make your weapons more powerful. They are fire, acid, electric shock, and explosion. As you might imagine, when you're shooting the bad guys, it's much more fun when your bullets can make a splashy 1pH shower that melts them into a green pool of goo. Did I mention that the death animations are awesome? The electric shock kills fry the skin off their bones.
Also, rabid fun are the grenade mods. You got your basic grenades and then you can make them sticky or bouncy or MIRVy or health stealing in addition to the elemental mods. Coolest. Grenades. Ever. Except they're generally not as deadly as grenades in any other game. They've been detuned. Considering what they do, it would make the whole game a no-brainer if they were as destructive as they should be.
The baddies themselves and just about everything else but the music are very imaginatively rendered. There's a great twisted sense of black humor underlying the entire game (if you haven't already surmised). And the best exemplars of that are the flaming badass psycho. Yes that's what they call them. Imagine a lunatic skinhead whose body is on fire running at you with a hatchet screaming at the top of his lungs like 'I'm taking my pound of flesh'. Hilariously creepy - more hilarious if you have an acid shotgun or an exploding sniper. Oh and don't forget the midgets with their shotguns. They have the helium voices and the recoil knocks them on their butts, then they get up and come at you again. 44 magnum to the head works every time.
There are so many missions, but the skill levels are tight. So if you find yourself outranked (you can see the rank level of your enemies) in a battle by more than one or two levels, you can pretty much forget it. Even though you can stop the action to do a bit of turn based fighting, switching weapons to find the weaknesses of your foes, they will outnumber and overwhelm you. Best to do some side missions and level up so that you're two or three levels up. Then the game is a lot more fun.
Yes there are boss battles, no they're not that much fun, yes they will have you respawning like a newb, yes they are worth it. Yes there are interesting surprises and the joint is massive, if disjointed. I mean the place is very large and you need fast travel and vehicles (which it has) to get around.
You get to develop all sorts of skills. There are four characters from which to choose your avatar. I took the hunter, who specialized in sniping. My special power is a raptor familiar called 'Bloodwing' I send to take out an enemy at long distance. It can be armed with an elemental too, and for each level point my skills combined with those of my special power can be enhanced. Accuracy, loading times, loot rate of return - that kind of stuff. I haven't checked out the multiplayer and I think a MP coop would be very cool, but I'm late to the party getting this.
There is no detail overlooked in Borderlands. It looks way simpler than it is and it plays very simply too, but they've engineered the hell out of it to deliver consistent fun and challenge. Not too dramatic, not too cliche and always something new to see. I think the cel shaded environments are brilliant and just the right mix of devastation and rube goldberg tech. This is a first rate game. Yeah. I love it.
Is it awesome? No. The story is not the point and so there's no emotional support for the mission. You just loot and shoot - cockeyed mercenary stuff but not as fun as Mercenaries Two. Still, I'd give it five stars.