: First-Person Shooter Players
: 1-2 Co-Op (Local, Online), 2-4 Co-Op (Online)
Borderlands and its sequels are First-Person Shooters that are well-known for having popularized the term “looter shooter”, as these games took that First-Person gameplay and added an open map (not quite
open-world, but close), and a structure and gameplay loop closer to the likes of Diablo, where enemies drop all manner of various guns, each with its own unique combination of modifications and stats, resulting in literally millions
of different weapons for players to discover and outfit themselves with. This combined with a comic book-esque cel shaded art style and a story and tone that combined a dark and gritty post-apocalyptic off-world dystopia with a tongue-in-cheek irreverent sense of humor to create an experience that was extremely unique and surprisingly compelling.
The first game in this series was originally released in 2009 on multiple platforms, with a remastered version of the game seeing release in 2019. However, 2020 is the first time the series has come to a Nintendo platform in the form of its port to the Nintendo Switch, with this release including all of the game's DLC content.
However, this move has come with a few caveats. The Nintendo Switch version of the game drops the framerate drops down to 30FPS from those versions' 60FPS, and while those versions had 4-player split-screen co-op, the Nintendo Switch version gets dropped down to only 2 players on split-screen (though up to four total can join in online). However, on the bright side of things, the Nintendo Switch version of the game does include all of the DLC released for the game, and unlike the Nintendo Switch releases of the Bioshock series, Borderlands adds in gyroscopic motion control. However, even with these measured cuts to the game, its overall high quality still shines through.
The Nintendo Switch version of the game has a fixed 1080p resolution in docked mode (720p in portable mode) with that solid 30FPS framerate (thanks to Digital Foundry
for the numbers). I did notice a bit of texture pop-in when first entering an area, as well as some extremely noticeable aliasing and somewhat lower-quality textures overall, with less detail in the environments in things like foliage. However, all of these sacrifices feel relatively minimal, as the game still runs smoothly, even in two-player splitscreen, and the minimal drop in the amount of detail in the environments doesn't do too much to detract from this game's somewhat cartoony art style. In short, this is a game that takes a modest hit on a technical level in its transition to the Switch, but it weathers that very well thanks to its superb art style and focus on gameplay.
Before moving on to that gameplay, I do want to take a moment to highlight this game's sound, which is, as ever, fantastic. Borderlands has always had some truly wonderful voice acting that contributes to its lighthearted tone (everything from Marcus's cynical capitalist outlook backed by his thick Eastern European accent to the zillions of “Psycho” enemies you encounter rambling on about things like “meat puppets”), with the expansions in particular being truly excellent, with the extremely tongue-in-cheek requisite Zombie Episode, as well as the face-off against a General Knox whose fairly amiable personality joins an attitude that seems to come from him having some notion that he's really just the designated villain for this episode more than anything.
However, while the voice acting is generally tongue-in-cheek, the soundtrack is at turns epic and pensive, with some notes of melancholy. Despite the futuristic setting and often absurd nature of the game's characters, the look and feel of the game comes across as something of a Western, which is further aided by the presence of a lot of Western tropes, such as quiet outposts, dustbowl homestead farms, deserted ghost towns, and bandit hideouts cobbled together from scraps of re-purposed structures. For all its absurd tone, Borderlands does an absolutely superb job with world-building and illustrating that the backdrop of all of this silliness is a world of tragedy.
Ah, but I've gone on for a while before getting to what this game's story is all about. In short, the game takes place in a future when humanity has extended its reach to the stars and colonized alien planets, though the initial optimism fueling this expansion has long since given way to the harsh reality of the unforgiving nature of these worlds, as well as the sociopathic greed of the corporations that seem to be the last vestige of civilization in this place. On one such world, Pandora, rumors have arisen of a mythical vault said to house untold treasures that have attracted all manner of unsavory types hoping to uncover the secret of this treasure. Players take the role of a newcomer to this planet, a “Vault Hunter”, who finds themselves approached by an “angel” who claims she can guide them to this vault, although doing so will require involving yourself with the struggles of the people of Pandora.
In terms of gameplay, Borderlands (as with its sequels) is simply one of the greatest co-op games of all-time. Players have a huge world to explore filled with a seemingly limitless amount of loot to sort through, While it takes a little time to get going, once players begin to start collecting guns and upgrading their characters, every time an enemy drops a rare item there's a palpable excitement over what new goodies players will be in for. “Oh, this sniper rifle has much better stats than the one I'm using”, “Oh, these grenades aren't as powerful as the ones I'm using, but they steal life instead of exploding... hmmm...”, “Wait, this launcher fires three rockets at the same time?” and other such discoveries are some real highlights here, although even in-between such amazing finds, players will still frequently find themselves weighing the pros and cons of weapons with varying stats in multiple categories, and the game does a good job letting players see these pros and cons.
If the gameplay here has a weakness, it's in a lack of variety of enemy types, and some AI that's not especially bright. Enemies usually either rush you, or jump in and out from cover as they fire at you from afar, and while it's still fun to take out these hordes of enemies, the actual gunplay of this game isn't quite as nuanced as what you'd find in other First-Person Shooters.
However, as I stated before, the real value here is co-op play, and even with this game's split-screen dropped down to two players, it's still immensely fun to work together both in-person and online to take on this game's sizable campaign. While I will note that I had a bit of an issue getting the game to connect at first, after some fiddling I was able to play online just fine, and at that point I didn't experience any issues with the connection.
In the end, the first game in the Borderlands series makes a mostly
smooth transition to the Nintendo Switch with most of its best qualities intact. While it does take a small hit in its graphics department and drops split-screen support down from four players to two, the Nintendo Switch version still looks great, sounds great, plays great, and is one of the best co-op experiences you'll ever play, both locally and online. If you're a fan of First-Person Shooters or looking for a great co-op campaign to play with a friend, this game should be high on your list of must-haves. tl;dr – Borderlands is a First-Person Shooter that combines the genre with gameplay progression comparable to something like Diablo, and the result is one of the best co-op experiences you will ever find, both locally and online. While the Nintendo Switch version has some compromises made to its visuals and its split-screen co-op drops down from 4 players to 2, this game still plays great, and it's an absolute must-have for fans of First-Person Shooters and especially for fans of co-op.