In Which I Become a Game Slut, and Then Borderlands Makes an Honest Man of Me

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I’ve been a flighty gamer this fall. Like a wee little faun hopping from glen to glen. After my passionate — and I’m talkin’ Twilight passionate — obsession with Halo: ODST, I briefly, sluttily hooked up with a whole series of games. Like:

A creepy dude from Borderlands

A creepy dude from Borderlands

Dragon Age: Origins. I shouldn’t pretend anymore that I have the level of emotional commitment necessary to play RPG’s. I just don’t. I mean, awesome cut scenes and everything, and the character generation is great, but once you’re in-engine? It takes some stones to commit to 20+ hours of chunky graphics and turn-based combat and dialogue trees and having to remember things for more than 5 minutes. I do not have those stones. First time somebody asks me to harvest a herb, man, seriously, I am gone. Gone where you ask? To …

Batman: Arkham Asylum. The Joker takes over the asylum, and Batman is stuck inside. A nice combat system — handing out man-beatings to the criminally insane is fun and satisfying — but it was too on-rails for me. Open-world gaming has spoiled me. I can’t have a game telling me what girder I have to jump on. I need more space. I need to choose my own girder. We broke up. I moved on.

Uncharted 2. OK, I just said I needed more space. But see, when Uncharted 2 told me what girder to jump on, I liked it. You’re a wry, manly artifact-hunter, and you hunt the heck out of some artifacts in jungle ruins and other exotic locations. There’s a lot of jumping and hiding and offing people in both lethal and non-lethal fashions. Really inventive level design. I could have danced all night. But I didn’t. I had to review …

DJ Hero. Or I didn’t really, but I felt like I should. And it turned out to be fantastic. At first you feel like an idiot, hunched over this plastic turntable with the three buttons on it. You’re listening to a mashup of “Another One Bites the Dust” and some Daft Punk song, and you see the little scratch symbol coming toward you, and your courage fails you. You’re like, no way am I doing this, no way am I going to scratch the nonexistent record on this fake-ass peripheral. It’s too stupid. And then it’s on you, and you’re scratching, and just like that it’s 1983 and you’re rocking a block party in Queens. The transformation is instant and total.

Finally I fired up Borderlands, a game I knew absolutely nothing about. I was ready for a noble but ultimately quixotic attempt to gin up some original IP. How wrong I was. For starters, if you can stomach Jet Set Radio-style cel-shaded graphics, and I can, then this is the best-looking game of the year. It’s a post-apocalyptic Western, basically, beautifully drawn and rather nicely scripted too, with a delirious variety of weapons. It’s like Fallout 3 without all that twiddly role-playing: just rawboned, mutated, Hobbesian wasteland stuff. I’m gonna play this thing into the lifeless, irradiated ground.

Until Modern Warfare 2 comes out that is.

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