Giant Bomb Review

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Borderlands Review

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  • X360

The Underdome's disappointing challenges steer clear of everything that made Borderlands fun in the first place.


The rules are simple: kill or be killed. 
Mad Moxxi could be a great character, but the Borderlands expansion bearing her name--Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot--is a real dud. Taking the combat of Gearbox's first-person action-RPG and cramming it into a wave-based arena format that draws comparisons to Halo 3: ODST's Firefight mode isn't an awful idea. But by stripping away all of the character progression and loot-scavenging that gives the whole game its hook, you're left with combat for combat's sake, which makes for an extremely repetitive and empty experience. 

The best thing about the entire add-on is the intro. Much like the Zombie Island expansion before it, Mad Moxxi opens with a brief, stylized sequence that introduces you to the sultry-voiced Moxxi and sets up her fetishistic desire to watch combatants in the arena. But she mostly manifests as the announcer, chiming in while you fight to let you know that a player has gone down or that another is doing well. She also makes a few movie references, which at this point is standard for Borderlands. The only real issue is that there's not enough dialogue from her, leading to a lot of repetition.

The action takes place in three different arenas, each of which look and feel like medium-sized deathmatch arenas built with assets found in other parts of the game. You and up to three other players enter the arena to take on waves of enemies, like skags, bandits, members of the Crimson Lance, guardians, and the like. Every fifth wave is a boss wave, and a curtain is literally pulled back to reveal one of the main game's named minibosses, like Nine-Toes, One-Eyed Jack, or Master McCloud. The bosses are randomized, so you never know who you'll get until they're announced. 
 
So the game progresses from wave to wave, pausing for a bit between waves to shower you with ammo and health items, and pausing for a while longer between each round (five waves) to let you collect a few weapons. The weapons appear to be randomly generated, though in all my time in the Underdome, using characters of different levels, I never once found a gun worth using. Considering the length of time you'll spend clearing these arenas, the lack of loot is an extreme disappointment. Enemies don't drop anything at all when they die, so the guns that pop out after a boss round are all you'll get.

Your first time in each arena will be a five-round battle. This is a decent length, but by the end of these "short" tournaments, you'll probably feel like you're finished with each of the new areas. So it doesn't help much that completing this first task qualifies you for longer, 20-round tournaments. Yes, that's 100 waves of repetitive battle per location, with the difficulty slowly ratcheting up as you move from one round to the next. The content--really, just the three arenas themselves and whatever dialogue you get out of Moxxi--is stretched way too thin here.

Moxxi! 
The game attempts to throw in some variety as you proceed by adding up to four different modifiers, one of which changes after every wave. The modifiers are implemented similarly to the skulls in ODST's Firefight mode, and they make basic alterations to the action, like lower gravity, bonus damage for specific weapon types (at the expense of a damage penalty on the other weapons), headshot bonuses, no shields, or vampire, which causes your health to slowly drain when you aren't killing. Vampire, incidentally, is the subject of most of my wrath, as it happened to be active during a wave that glitched out and wouldn't end, despite all of the enemies being killed. I was left to slowly watch as everyone's health meters emptied out, killing off the entire team.

Completing Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot will get you two additional skill points, and there's also an item bank, which lets you store any of the weird weapons you've found, but don't want to actively use. These are nice benefits, especially for players who have hit the level cap and are looking for something--anything--that will let them advance. But everything in the Underdome is a total hassle, and that gets old fast. That you don't gain any experience points or build up more weapon proficiency while in the arenas only makes a bad situation worse, and it makes the entire experience feel pretty pointless. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
53 Comments
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Posted by Jacob816

Damn, I still might buy this though to maintain my S-Rank :(

Posted by kagekage

Hmm this was pretty much my opinion from watching the QL on this. 
NIce review as always Jeff.

Posted by Scheds

That really sucks. Oh well. Back to Zombie Island!

Posted by Godlovesugly

At least Moxxi has a good pair on her.

Posted by THE_END

Wow........looks like I'm sticking with Zombie Island since this dlc is crap.  Oh well.

Posted by Addfwyn

That's unfortunate, it looked like it had some promise from the QL, but if jeff who loves this game MUCH more than me doesn't like it, I probably won't dig it either.

Posted by nick69

From that quick look I knew that this dlc was going to be bad.

Posted by JDevL

I think the mode itself does get old and a bit tedious, but overall I think the pack increases the variety of gameplay in Borderlands which is a good thing, especially if you have a core group of friends to play with. Don't even attempt this pack as a single player, entirely too frustrating with my level 50 soldier, but I appreciate the upgrade in challenge. 

Posted by C0V3RT

Had potential but failed.  Spot on, Jeff.

Posted by Jeffsekai

idk if you can get a group its really fun but it is crazy hard. Oh well Borderlands needed a challenge

Posted by Darkstar614

Man I was looking forward to this too. Here's hoping they just patch it down the road and let you get Weapon Proficiency and EXP while in there. It wouldn't really break anything...

Posted by TheIneffableBob

The Borderlands DLC is stupid.

Edited by Shuborno

I love Borderlands, but the difficulty is a little low.
 
Mad Moxxi can get tough, and is always hectic, which makes the moment-to-moment gameplay more fun than much of the main game.  That makes this DLC worth it for me, even if I'll only play the small challenges to completion.  "Combat for combat's sake" seems like a strange criticism of a shooter.
 
The lack of reward for the challenge and glaring technical omissions is downright insulting though.  I can deal with no experience, but no weapon proficiency increases?  Awful loot?  No saving mid-challenge?  C'mon Gearbox.

Posted by Pkshields

Disappointed

Edited by bluemantra

This is a huge bummer, I was really looking forward to picking this up tomorrow on the PSN. I'm gonna need something better from gearbox to justify another DLC purchase. This just isn't one of 'em........Nice review Jeff...

Posted by TheHT

honest reviews ftw! just looking at the quick look, the idea of a themed arena style pack seemed nice, havine to do it that many times was a task that seems more like a grind that what borderlanders may be used to.

Posted by OneKillWonder_

While I think Jeff makes several fair points in the review, I can't say I agree overall. I've had a lot more fun with this than he seems to have had, though to be fair, I haven't even managed to get to the larger challenges yet. It provides a good challenge in comparison to the main game and can be a real blast with friends.
 
 I do agree that the re-use of the 3 arenas gets dull after awhile, but I think the different rule variations, which there are a lot of, and variety of waves is enough to keep thing interesting. I also think what loot you get is simply luck of the draw. I've gotten several guns that completely replaced other ones for my level 50 soldier. Also, not gaining experience from this DLC was a smart decision by Gearbox. I wouldn't mind for my level 50, since I simply like that your experience keeps going up after you've hit the cap. However, going in with any other character and then coming back the main game, you would be horrendously over-leveled and it would completely unbalance everything if you're actually trying to play through the game. At least it makes getting a lot of the more time-consuming killing challenges easier to get.

Posted by Gearhead
@Jacob816 said:
" Damn, I still might buy this though to maintain my S-Rank :( "
Good luck dude. Those achievements will take you forever. 
And because of the shoddiness of this DLC in particular, I'm waiting for the reviews until I pick this up. Unless Gearbox knew it was shit in the first place and put it out over the break when reviewers weren't able to review it, making people like me buy it with no expectations...Or maybe I'm just being dumb. 
Posted by Chuggsy

I've had a lot of fun so far in this DLC. It's repetitive, sure, but with the right people it's alot of dumb fun. Stayed up from 1am to 6am playing it the first night, and we still have alot to go. 
 
I understand the points on the review though, just a different experience I guess.

Posted by Vorbis

Jeff mentioned in the bombcast that he was a level 50 in a level 25's game, this really doesn't suprise me that he didn't have any fun with it. This type of mode is old and it's always been fun due to the challenge of it, but if he's just one shotting everything for 100 waves then no wonder there was no fun.
 
But it might also be boring with 4 level 50's, guess I'll find out tomorrow when it's finally released on PSN.

Posted by StingingVelvet

This is what I would have thought it deserved after the quick look.  I was worried your love of Borderlands would have made you bump it up, glad to see that is not the case. 
 
Good job as always GB.
Posted by mracoon

Totally agree. I bought it because the QL made it look quite fun and I wanted the extra skill points. I didn't know it would end up so tedious and repetitive.

Moderator
Posted by RVonE
@Vorbis said:
"Jeff mentioned in the bombcast that he was a level 50 in a level 25's game, this really doesn't suprise me that he didn't have any fun with it. This type of mode is old and it's always been fun due to the challenge of it, but if he's just one shotting everything for 100 waves then no wonder there was no fun.  But it might also be boring with 4 level 50's, guess I'll find out tomorrow when it's finally released on PSN. "

Jeff also explained on the same bombcast why he feels it is no fun (ie. no character progression, it revolves around the combat and the combat in and of itself isn't up to snuff to pull this type of arena stuff off). Also, this DLC comes out a long time after Borderlands' initial release; you'd think the developers would make sure the DLC was a lot of fun for high level characters.
Posted by bybeach

I think Jeff nails this well, by my own experience. Strange that Ii want to keep playing it, but the utter grind is starting to make me feel silly, in some profound way only a hater of video games  would wish to be true. i`m utterly wasting my time. The waves of baddies are endless and once you learn about the in- game moves and the AI, all becomes pretty predictable, though not entirely. I have improved my skills and such by trial, and thats alright. But wheres the pay-off? This after-all is just not a shooter, not suppossed to be either. Thats what made Borderlands different and fun for me, but now it`s just grind. 
 
Moxxi`s hot, but she`s not for real. Them boobs are virtual only, and her attitude would scare me anyways. I think she regards men only as objects of entertaimnment...heh wierd attitude. But it`s not enough to carry the game,regardless. 
 
Now if I can only put the controller down.....
Posted by Luke

100% agree with this review... I absolutely hated this DLC. 
 
It could have been a tad better if at least they let you save every 5 Rounds or something, to come back to later.  Going all 20 in 1 sitting is redunkulous. 
 
 I just wonder when Gearbox is going to refund everyone's money? :p 

Posted by S0ndor

So they took this RPG-lite and stripped it of its already few RPG elements. Fighting endless waves without getting any useful loot or xp seems quite pointless.
 
The shooter mechanics of this game are not good enough to carry it without the looting/RPG stuff.

Posted by TekZero

I had 800 points to spend and I couldn't decide between this and Zombie island.  Looks like I made the wrong choice.  I didn't know that you don't even get experience during the arenas.  That's BS.

Posted by jeebert


I bought this on day 1 because I love Borderlands and I wanted to support Gearbox.  Borderlands is my game of the year, but this dlc is my poop of the year.    
Posted by Milkman

Well, that's a shame.

Posted by Yummylee

Sucha shame, looked to be really fun and expansive in the quick look =/
Posted by Metroid545

lol I bought this dlc then i noticed the review...oh well 2 skill points and the S rank are good enough I guess

Posted by Korosuzo

As others have said the earlier quick look hinted at a review like this imo.  I was hoping stuff would be fleshed out and have greater equipment rewards at the end of the waves but it's a shame that isn't the case.  Good review Jeff it seems to be something I'll hold off on until it goes to 400 points as a DLC deal of the week or perhaps won't partake in at all.

Edited by onimonkii

my issue with this review is i've had these problems with borderlands since halfway through the 2nd playthrough. it seems more of an indication that borderlands is finally starting to wear thin on jeff, not so much the quality of the dlc. the things he's talked about it needing on the podcast, are things my friends and i have been throwing around ideas about since we first finished playthrough 1, like "oh man i wish there was a better armor system with like set bonuses, and you could craft your own guns from common parts you get from taking apart dropped guns". and the issues with waves not ending in arenas or quests being bugged, are constant and random in the base game.
 
as a level 50 siren, i no longer gain xp, my artifacts are maxed out, i've got ~2400 shields, an awesome class mod, and guns that are powerful and do exactly what i want them to. basically from old haven on however this has been the case, all the way through zombie island as well, making the game to me feel as jeff describes it, as combat for the sake of combat, and strangely i still find that fun.
 
have i found new guns/mods/shields since then? absolutely. have any of them been worth a shit? not really no. while not gaining weapon proficiency is kind of a bummer, i like the arena combat enough that when this comes out on pc, i'm still going to check it out. i almost feel obligated to, as pc is obviously not the lead platform, and if i want more dlc going forward, i kinda have to buy this.

Posted by Shaunage

Sounds like Jeff liked it a little bit more than I did.

Posted by Hiraga

Bah, I was hoping this would be at least be as good as Zombie Island (which wasn't great but felt like Borderlands). Guess I'll just keep collecting brains. :)

Posted by GunnBjorn

Although the review is totally just, i still enjoyed the hell out of it. 
Mad Moxxi is such hottie, i'd love to be her fourth love interest... 
She'd be the Queen of the Underdome and i'd be more than happy to be her Prince-Consort. 
We'd reign supreme!
Edited by MJames70

Got to say I agree with Jeff on this one. And it hurts too, because the concept and Moxxi  were solid ideas. But the execution of thiose ideas was lackluster. Almost 0 loot, no experience, and  only 2 measly skill points for a horrific grind? A big letdown compared to Zombie Island, and the first serious mis-step made by Gearbox with an IP with a lot of potential....
Posted by Zohar

Content stretched way too thin?  Sounds like Borderlands to me!

Posted by Keeng
@Zohar said:
" Content stretched way too thin?  Sounds like Borderlands to me! "
AGREED
Posted by brooksee

Man, that's too bad. I'll still probably end up purchasing it for the skill points/bank, but it sounds like that's the only thing good that'll come from it.

Posted by Egge
Posted by Mezmero

Well I only wish this review had come out before I bought it.  Oh well, good on ya for the article.  Keep em coming for dumbasses like myself.
Posted by Mantel

Looks like it's out on PC now, well steam.

Posted by dbz1995

I actually thought a more positive review from the Quick Look. I still want that bank, though.

Posted by Erdie

Oh man, we were already getting bored by round 3 of the starter tournaments!  The real ones are 20?  I'll never get any of my friends to do that.   Well, now I know to read reviews here first.  I could have bought 5 sacks of potatoes instead and gotten much more value for my money.  At least potatoes are delicious.

Posted by Lydian_Sel

I never liked the sound of the Underdome & everything I've heard about it has reassured me that the decision not to purchase this upgrade was a good one.

Posted by 911forpeace

Don't care. I would have paid $30 for the bank. Well worth it. The banker Claptrap, I would've paid another $30 for it alone.

Posted by darianw

I've had a blast playing Borderlands solo up until this DLC. It's painfully repetitive and extremely unforgiving, and basically zero fun if you play solo. Die once, you start over from scratch, to restart your 25 missions in a row. 1 star at best. I wish MS offered refunds for DLC. ;)

Posted by shakra

I should have listened to you. This DLC is just horrid and the vampire mode glitched on us on wave 85 of 100 killing us. No way will I touch this again, moving on to the General.

Edited by Godlyawesomeguy

It is some decent fun with a few friends. I'm still glad I caught this for only 5$ though.

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