The Five: Borderlands
The skinny: Gearbox Software's pseudo-futuristic cooperative romp blends an action-RPG with the first-person shooter with some surprising results.
1. The easiest way to describe Borderlands is it's a role-playing shooter. As you blast away enemies, you'll level-up your character and skill sets to allow for improved weapon proficiencies. Much like World of Warcraft, for example, you'll progress down skill trees and define how you want to play through the game.
2. While it may be fun to play solo, Borderlands begs you to play through the game in four-player co-op: Take different paths through a level; flank enemies that are pinning some of your teammates down. Take your level-12 character to help out your newbie buddies. Could this be something like Diablo with guns? Perhaps?
3. One of the things that keeps WoW players coming back is loot, and Borderlands boasts over 650,000 different types of weapons that are procedurally created as you play through the game. You might get a pistol-gripped shotgun or find a rifle with a night-vision scope that has incendiary bullets. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
4. Gearbox knows shooters, and by the looks of it, it loves gibs -- it seems they're quite fascinated with tearing enemies apart. In the driven demo, we witnessed chunks and limbs getting blasted off baddies. Fine, we may be a bit immature, but it made us chuckle a little bit.
5. It's Gearbox. Their pedigree with the famed Brothers in Arms series tells us we should keep a keen eye on Borderlands. However, this also makes us a bit nervous, considering it takes them quite a while to actually release a game. Don't expect to see Borderlands any time in 2008.
Satisfy your gun fetish: Sure, there are a few two- to four-player shooters out there, but by melding RPG elements into the mix we can't help but think that Borderlands could be a highly addictive experience. While we've only had a taste of what lower-level characters will experience, we're hoping for high-level instances, epic loots and a truly fleshed-out endgame.
This preview is based on a publisher-driven demo at E3.