In 2009, Gearbox Software released their newest game, Borderlands, to the U.S. Borderlands is a hybrid of a First-Person Shooter and an RPG, obviously spawned by someone who didn’t want to choose between one or the other. Already it has won the Xbox’s Game of the Year award and was the runner-up to 2009’s overall Game of the Year. Reception for this game has been crazy, and you can hardly find anybody on Xbox Live who hasn’t played this game already. So, what makes it such a popular game? Lets find out.

The game opens up with man talking about the dangerous wasteland planet that is Pandora (not to be confused with the tropics of the Pandora in Avatar) where the mysterious Vault is hidden, a vault that promises knowledge, wealth, and power. However, many people believe it is just a myth. Despite this, you are a treasure hunter, aiming to find the Vault and see what is inside. From here, you get to pick from four characters.

Mordecai, the Hunter: Mordecai specializes in blades and sniper rifles. His special ability allows him to summon a bird to help him in battle for a short amount of time.

Roland, the Soldier: Roland specializes in shotguns and rifles. His special ability allows him to bring out a turret which will shoot nearby enemies.

Lilith, the Siren: Lilith specializes in the elements and SMGs. Her special ability, the Phasewalk, allows her to become invisible and run incredibly fast for a short period of time, and ends in a Phase Blast, hurting nearby enemies.

Brick, the Berserker: Brick specializes in explosives and his fists. As the name implies, Brick’s special abilities allows him to go berserk, which makes him resistant to all damage as he pulls out his fists and beats on enemies.

As expected from an RPG, the characters are allowed to level up based on experience they receive from defeating enemies and completing missions. After level 5, they receive a stat point each time they gain a level, which allows them to dedicate that stat to a specific ability of their choice. Characters can also become more proficient in different weapons depending on how much they use a certain kind of weapon. The level system is very important in this game; if you try to take on an enemy two levels ahead of you, don’t expect to get out of that fight without getting hurt badly. However, if you go for an enemy that is a lower level than you, it’s likely that it may only take one hit.

As expected from a First-Person Shooter, the action is fast-paced, first-person, and with guns. You can choose to charge an enemy with a shotgun, or stealthily take out an enemy with a sniper rifle. Either way, it’s all instantaneous, and requires only the pull of the trigger.

The weakest part of the game is probably the story. Basically what you do is go from place to place doing a bunch of missions people pay you to do in order to advance further and reach the Vault. There’s not much dialogue, and there is absolutely no character development; it’s just a bunch of badasses doing badass things. It’s not a bad thing, but for those looking for a story, you’re flat out of luck.

The hardest part to describe is probably the scenery within the game. A lot of it is a barren wasteland full of post-apocalyptic punk bandits ready to have your skull, and almost endless amount of territory to cover. There’s trash dumps; there’s caves full of alien bugs; there’s settlements built out of scraps of metal. No where is safe on Pandora, so you’d better make sure you have ammo. I’m not going to say there’s a huge variety of enemies, but there’s definitely enough to choose from. You’ve got your wild alien dogs, bandits, giant birds, huge crabs, giant bugs, all the fun stuff. There’s also a variety of colorful characters such as Zed, TK Baha, the friendly ClapTrap robots to help you out and hold you back on your journey. This game also makes a lot of references to classic movies that I was able to catch, such as to Mad Max and Army of Darkness, which I thought was awesome.

The graphics can only be described as something out of a horrific comic-book. All the scenery and characters look almost hand-drawn and cartoonish, yet at the same time real, rough, and deadly. For the type of theme the game was trying to go with the graphics, they definitely hit the mark and pulled it off perfectly.

Overall, this is just a great game, and surely a testament to all First-Person Shooter and RPG hybrids. Borderlands continues to promise exciting new environments with the new expansions now available which also raise the level cap seen in the basic game. As far as games goes, this game deserves a solid 8/10 for game play, excitement, and certainly the replay value; the only thing really lacking is the story, which is no big deal for this type of game. Borderlands is highly recommended to both those who love Shooters, and those who love RPGs, and you certainly don’t have to be a fan of either to enjoy this game, which is both fun offline and on Xbox Live. Borderlands is a must have, so buy it now; you won’t regret it.