Once in a while a game comes along that shakes up the genre in such a unique way that you can't help but give it more attention or show it more interest. Borderlands is one of these games. Whether it's from the unique take on adding role playing elements to a first person shooter, the open world nature of it's objective-based gameplay or the crisp cartoony "comic book panel" look of the art style or just the fact that, finally, someone understands that co-op in a PC game doesn't have to be an exercise in pain, Borderlands is going to be a game to not only watch for this quarter, but one that you'll likely find yourself dumping loads of time into.

The first thing to get out of the way is just the basics of the game. Most people probably don't know anything about it, or are just highly confused by what the game is. I've tried explaining it numerous times and failed at doing so, but Borderlands can be summed up with a simple statement. Borderlands is an FPS and an RPG that successfully bucks the trends those genres have drawn for themselves.

I'm not going to delve too deeply into comparisons to other games, but I will mention Bioshock here for just a moment. Borderlands is probably what we could call Bioshock's counter-point, in that it is as much RPG as Bioshock is FPS, and as much FPS as Bioshock is RPG. Another game that is, at least, worth mentioning in this regard is Diablo, since the story progression and stat system are fairly similar. Like in Diablo, you get your "missions" from characters in the game world, but these missions are used more to drive you towards specific areas of the world and kill things than to force you into one path through the game. You can easily tread off the beaten path when you are either given multiple missions from characters or take a mercenary mission from a board outside one of the buildings in the main area. There are plenty of other games we could draw comparisons to as well, but Borderlands will surely become a resounding success all on its own without any help.

The world in Borderlands is believable. You play in a colorful, interesting wasteland with a variety of creatures and bandits. During the game, you help out various people in the world, fighting off bandits and accomplishing various tasks like killing certain bandit leaders. Along the way to accomplishing these tasks, you'll run into all kinds of random drops with weapons of varying strengths and abilities. You can pick up these weapons to sell them, to give to teammates or to use. During the course of my limited play time with the game, I probably ran into 100 different varieties of guns. While the guns belong to the same few classes of weapons (and ammo), they all do various amounts of damage and often have special abilities. For example, some of them have incendiary abilities, shock abilities, poison abilities... still others have attached blades. There are so many combinations and abilities that I simply can't mention them all here, but they are numerous and they combine randomly on drop (based on your level).

Probably my favorite feature of Borderlands is that it is designed, ground up, for 4-player co-op. Players can take on the persona of one of the four available characters in the game; Roland, Lilith, Mordecai or Brick. In addition, when looting, every player shares ammo and money pickups (meaning if someone found 50 ammo, you get 50 ammo, too) but you don't share out of each others piles, so some loser can't grief you by wasting all your ammo on a wall for 20 minutes or spending all of their money at every vending machine along the way (vending machines are basically stores in Borderlands). Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses and each one has a specific special ability, for example, Roland can throw stationary turrets on the ground, Lilith can turn invisible, Mordecai can throw a deadly bird and Brick can go into Berserk mode and punch the lights out of everything around. These, along with a few other abilities can be upgraded as you score experience and level up in the game world.

Speaking of leveling, it works much like in any other role playing game. You get kills, you get experience. Increasing your level makes you stronger, gives you more health and shield and also earns you skill points that you can use to apply to various skills specific to each of the classes in the game. Roland, for example, can add a healing aura to his turrets. Then anyone who stands within a certain range of the turret gets healed. Mordecai finds a bird that he can throw at his enemies to rip them to shreds.

The gameplay in the game is a very refreshing change from the "classic" gameplay in traditional FPSes. While competition is not heavy for ammo and money, Gearbox has shifted that to finding cool new weapons to use. Want the weapon a boss is using? Kill him and get to it first. Every weapon that an enemy is using will get dropped, and these can be anything from bog standard pistols to "badass" variants that are way more rare. Alright, I'll just say it. This game is FUN. I ran around for a good portion of the beginning of the game punching everything despite the fact that I was Roland and the PR rep kept commenting "You were born to play this game!" Haha! The variety you can choose for yourself in the gameplay is just amazing. Comical moments happened constantly in our play through just from random things happening.

Ultimately, if you're into more progression-based games like Diablo and don't mind the litany of "Go to X, bring X back to this spot. Go to Y, kill him, go back to this spot." style mission objectives, you will find that you not only enjoy Borderlands as a single player experience, but you keep coming back to it again and again for more in the designed-in co-op. For my part, I'll be ready and waiting the instant the game releases. The feature set, the variety and the pure entertainment value sold me on Borderlands from the first moment in the game.