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Borderlands 5-Years Later Review

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Graphics:

Possibly the most recognizable aspect of Borderlands is its graphics style. While the models are mostly realistic looking, the textures often have a hand-sketched quality to them, with lines marking shadows instead of, well, actual shading. It does work though and works very well as it gives you exactly all of the visual information and cues you need or want. You can rarely say there is lack of detail in the textures, except when you get very close up and see some stretching. Even then, the styling can actually hide artifacting like that, which helps keep the game looking good today.

As I just mentioned, the models are a bit more realistic than the textures, at least where realism is possible. Nothing ever seems out of place with them, although you may be able to spot some hard edges and vertices. The textures come into play here, helping to soften the edges in two ways. One is that the game never looks all that realistic, so those hard points are never too surprising or off putting. The other is that perfectly round and smooth edges would not really fit that well with the hand-sketch quality of the textures, at least in my opinion.

The shadows of the game are somewhat mixed, but overall not that great. They never do really provide the contrast you would expect of real shadows and, again, keep the world from looking very real. Also their level-of-detail distance is pretty short, so you very often will see shadows going from blocky, stretched pixels, to less-blocky, stretch pixels in the fore to midground. Still, the shadows help the graphics overall, but that is mostly true because the lack of shadows would be somewhat off-putting.

Fluids in the game are also lacking in realism, especially water. Whether you walk or drive through it, water just does not react. You are quite literally walking on water in Borderlands. Fire is better, but is a little complicated to describe. When just burning, the fire can be almost void of depth and look completely like just an animated textures placed in or on an object. However, when you are firing a gun with fire-based damage the fire definitely comes to life. The fiery explosions with each round can engulf your screen and constantly churn with smoke and filaments. There, the fire looks very good and makes firing those weapons all the more enjoyable.

 

The different elemental effects impact more than just what damage an enemy takes, but also how they die. If an enemy dies to fire damage, its model will turn yellow and orange, and burn away in front of you. Acid has a similar effect, but is green. Electricity does not dissolve enemies, but will causes lightning to arc out of them to the ground and potentially burn away their heads, leaving just eyes and skull before they explode. Explosive damage can do what you would expect, and make the bodies disappear in a burst of blood and guts.

Death animations can also be dependent on where the final blow hits. Heads and chests can explode, while limbs can go flying off when they are hit, always with a significant amount of blood flying around as well. All of it though makes the kills responsive and visually rewarding, so you look forward to what that next enemy may do.

That just about covers the general appearance of the game, so here are my computer's specs:

  • Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
  • GPU: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
  • PhysX: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit

With this hardware, Borderlands ran perfectly at near max settings with approximately 60 FPS everywhere. I have to say approximately because at times it was going above sixty and causing some screen tearing. This is because the game does not run with V-sync by default, but it is an option. To enable it you have to go and edit a configuration file. This is easy to do and there are multiple guides online for doing so.

 

 

As per my usual, I did turn off some settings for personal preference, but it is a little more complicated this time than usual. I did disable depth-of-field from the options menu, but I also edited the configuration files more than just enabling V-sync. Another aspect of the styling than just the textures is a black border around objects. When I first played the game years ago, I disabled that because the black never looked good to me. It always seemed to be cutting out the objects, and disabling it made everything look more natural to me. I did in fact have those outlines disabled for this review.

Throughout the game I experienced a couple issues. One is that occasionally audio from people talking to me would cut out. I am not sure what was causing this, but it was always weird and annoying. Even the subtitles would vanish, so I could not read what I could not hear. The other issue is that very often when entering an area, you will see the textures streaming in. The only thing that keeps this issue from being a problem is that once the textures stream in, everything is stable. You do not have to worry about crossing an area and having it happen again, just because you are on the other side.

Altogether, the graphics of Borderlands do look good and stand up very well, even after five years. The styling of the game, of course, helps with that latter point. There are some points that do show the game's age and the limitations that existed when it was developed, but nothing too bad. The performance is also superb throughout with only minor issues, so there is really nothing much to complain about on that front either.




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