Preview

Borderlands

Randy Pitchford takes us out West

We've known about Borderlands for some time now, but details on Gearbox's co-op focussed shooter have been scant, despite the obvious promise shown by previous FPS creations from the Texan developer.

Big boss man Randy Pitchford is at E3 in LA to take us around the new game, and what we're presented with a slice of pre-alpha gameplay, Gearbox leading us through the action-packed world of Borderlands; a sci-fi Wild West-styled title, with a few RPG elements thrown in for good measure. Co-op will be a focus of the game, which looks every bit as frenetic as other co-op favourites such as Halo 3.

Further complexity will be added to the experience via the aforementioned RPG elements: character classes, leveling-up, sides quests and more. Going back to Bungie's seminal FPS, the vehicle-based combat is looking like a solid and quite important aspect of the game. One player drives, while the other shoots, players taking on bandits across vast California-eque vistas. You can even switch roles on the fly, mid-combat. Borderlands

As well as the ever-present threat of bandits, all intent on disrupting your mission-progress, a variety of beastly-looking skrags will also be salivating over the prospect of, well, eating you. These monsters offer more aggressive, less intelligent foes, and are just one of a variety of tongue-in-cheek, bloody-action focussed diversions available. Roadkill is also loitering for squashing as you race across the plains, en route to your mission objective.

In a bid to spice up the FPS genre, Gearbox have included a few unique elements with Borderlands. Beyond drop-in, drop-out co-op play, there are also randomly generated weapons, which you'll find littered around the game world. Thousands of combination of components, stylisations and colours means that no two guns will be identical, adding further intrigue.

After showing off the driving element of Borderlands, Randy enters a vast off-world mine, taking in some impressive texture-work, sizable caverns, and a noticeable change in the game's atmosphere. The quarry is over-run with bandits, and to reach a showdown with some local thug we're first going to have to battle past his determined minions.

The Wild West theme becomes more apparent during this underground demonstration, and there's plenty of gore, explosions and more; Gearbox pushing to deliver action focussed on fast-paced fun, rather than gritty or serious realism. Enemy AI is looking pretty fluid, Pitchford is proud to point out, your foes demonstrating solid path-finding despite the complex, multi-layered environments. Borderlands

Missions are based around the collection of artifacts to some extent, and this fits into the wider story-arc, although Gearbox aren't giving too much away on this, or the multiplayer side of things yet.

Call of Duty 4, Borderlands is not, but Gearbox certainly look to be exploiting their potentially unique setting and premise well, while the combat looks to be a highly polished, well-balanced affair, even in this pre-alpha demonstration. With the focus on co-op fun and over the top ultra-violence, the developer might just have stumbled across an action-game favourite.

All should be revealed in time for Christmas on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. Yee-haw.

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