Kotaku AU Games Of 2009: #10

Kotaku AU Games Of 2009: #10

The countdown of my personal picks for the best games of 2009 kicks off today. For the next two weeks I’ll be running down my top ten. At #10 we travel to the other world of Pandora…

10. Borderlands (360, PS3, PC)

Randy Pitchford has a big mouth. He’s not afraid to tell people his opinion on a whole range of topics. Sometimes it rubs other people the wrong way, even when he’s right. And he was right about Borderlands.

What I liked about Borderlands is how Randy chose just the right RPG ingredients to add to an already solid shooter base. They didn’t over egg the story, opting to offer a streamlined quest interface that told you where to go and provided just enough context about why you needed to go there. Instead, the focus remained squarely trained on the RPG systems of skill development and inventory management. This worked to the benefit of maintaining a shooter style pace to the action while still allowing you to make interesting choices over your character’s progression in those brief down-times between quests.

Borderlands was at its very best when played co-operatively. It followed the Left 4 Dead model where co-op becomes a shared experience in contrast to the overt contrivances of, say, Resident Evil 5 or Gears of War. Sure, you’ll help out your team by reviving fallen friends or selecting skills that offer a team-wide bonus, but ultimately it’s more about the camaraderie gained from surviving together in the same world.

Kotaku AU’s Games of 2009 are my personal picks for the best games of the year. I make no claim to have played everything released this year, nor do I pretend to be any way objective in my rankings. I look forward to debating my choices with you in the comments.


  • Borderlands is a lot closer to number 1 for me, FPS mechanics as polished, more challenging and original (so sick of army men) than CoD, with online diablo like gameplay, I couldn’t ask for much more in a game.

    It saddens me that you give this number 10, that means your actually going to give MW2 something better, when it really, does not deserve it.

  • I’d rank Borderlands as around #8 for me. It was an awesome premise and setting, but the loot system that was so hyped was a letdown for me. Sure, you could find named and unique weapons, but I found these to be far and few between. Most weapons were just cookie-cutter guns with a few stats tacked on to them. Unlike some others I didn’t mind the paper-thin plot too much, as the gameplay and questing was a distraction from it. om it, though I’m not sure that’s exactly a good thing as I would have liked a better set-out and less confusing plot. I’m being overly harsh, probably, but even with these shortcomings Borderlands still turned out to be a solid effort from Gearbox.

    What did you think of the looting system David?

    • The loot system was rather a let down from the perspective that the loot from most of the “boss” fights including the finale was typically ordinary (and I’m being kind). Was I alone in expecting that there’d be a higher chance of awesome loot dropping from boss fights.

      We did however discover one unexpected positive of sledge’s shotgun within the DLC, especially when using it on the bigger guys. “The bigger they are, the further they fly”.

      • Yeah, and the AI was a letdown for me. The first time I just faced the Vault Boss it just stood there while me and my mate unloaded ammunition into it. I could even walk up to some enemies and just stand there and they didn’t attack me. It really felt like a letdown, even though I was essentially getting free loot. I wish Gearbox’d release a patch for the AI and some other niggling issues, and I’d definitely go back and finish my second playthrough in a heartbeat. I just don’t feel the motivation right now.

  • Mr Spoon received Borderlands for Christmas, and thinks it is a very good game, but a few things short of a classic. Mr Spoon applauds the world design of Pandora, but feels the lack of NPC characters to populate the planet leads to a certain sterility in the environment. Mr Spoon offers the example of the gladiator type missions you received, and how the actual bleachers, which are supposed to be full of paying customers, are deserted. Mr Spoon admits he only has minor quibbles however, and believes Borderlands 2 could be a stone-cold Game of the Year contender.

  • Borderlands is my No.1 choice for the year. Just cant stop playing it. Havnt had this much co-op fun online since Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast.

  • This is actually one of the games I missed out on this year, can’t say I really know much about it either. I do like the whole RPG/Shooter aspect.

  • “Kotaku AU’s Games of 2009 are my personal picks for the best games of the year. I make no claim to have played everything released this year, nor do I pretend to be any way objective in my rankings. I look forward to debating my choices with you in the comments.”

    Interesting little disclaimer there David. I doubt anyone could make the claim that they have played every game released this year and games are fairly hard to be objective about. ‘Fun’ factor is a very subjective element. I look forward to seeing the rest of your choices for Kotaku AU’s Games of 2009.

  • I found borderlands got repetitive way too soon. I barely played it online though – and I think that was my problem.

    I think I just play RPG games for the story most of the time, and not for the xp grinding – rarely does a game have a nice balance of the two. ( Bring back Quest for Glory I say! )

    • I think that was the same thing that turned me off of Borderlands. I only played it offline for the first 25 levels, and I was disappointed with the lack of fun to be had in single-player. It’s a lot more fun in multiplayer, so it give a longer shot.

  • Borderlands is alright single player but the multiplayer and co op on my pc doesnt work so it is getting really bad marks in my book as its what i bought it for. 6/10.

  • Agree with Riavan about MW2 but i still did like MW2 besides its Michael Bay touches. I like it for its online rather than single player.

    Anyway – Borderlands would be Top 5 for me. It would probably be #2 if it didn’t fail in some of the things promised. Nothing near as bad as Fable (which i still love also) but the engine wasn’t as “powerful” as it seemed it would be.

    Randomization worked well with guns just not everything else. And even sometimes the guns would only change in colour, but still the game is EXTREMELY enjoyable and fun. Just avoid getting wrapped up in the storyline cause you will be left disappointed at the end.

    AC2 for #1 with Uncharted 2, ODST (Fireight) are the rest and i’m undecided on the 5th.

  • ” opting to offer a streamlined quest interface that told you where to go and provided just enough context about why you needed to go there.”

    My one major gripe with this game was the HORRID quest interface. You could only track ONE quest at a time, and only the games host could select which quest to track. Couple that together with the archaic, clunky menus and trying to progress through the game becomes a chore

    • The context of my quote you’ve highlighted there is in relation to the game’s lack of story. NPCs are quest interfaces, nothing more.

      Regarding the design of the menus and HUD, I guess there could have been different coloured compass pointers for multiple quests markers to be displayed at once. That may have been even more confusing though. I found it quite painless to open up my quest log and check the location of all the quests in the current area.

      The other point you make is more of an issue, I agree. We always got the lowest level player to host so that they weren’t ineligible for all the quests, even if it meant the rest of us repeating a few we’d already done. I do think this aspect needs some attention, but it’s hard to see how else Gearbox could have handled it. I can’t imagine how it could possibly work – especially as a co-op game – if every player was tracking their own quests.

      • The issue probably stems from all the time i spend with other RPG’s, where quest tracking is a non-issue, for most other people it probably wont bother them so much.

        I didn’t mind the fact that you could only follow the game host’s quests, just that only HE could choose which ones to track. If you had a lazy leader, he wouldn’t bother to check where all the side quests were. Plus it would have been cool if say, two people could go off and do one side quest while the other two do another, and then meet up for the main storyline quests, especially in the large, open rust commons zones

  • I haven’t played Borderlands myself, so I cannot give my opinion without probably short-changing myself on something I really don’t know about.

  • I wonder if people will get annoyed when we get to Uncharted 2…IF we get to Uncharted 2. Right Mr. Wildgoose? ;D

    Borderlands was FPS of the year for me, but I haven’t played any other FPS this year so that’s a given. But even in terms of the game in general it’s one of the most enjoyable ones I’ve played this year, had a lot of fun with it. My only regret is that I have no option to play the game in co-op, which frankly sucks when I see how much fun other people have playing the game with mates.

      • Considering this is a PERSONAL Best Games of 2009 list, it would be okay if David excluded Uncharted 2.

        But i highly doubt he will exclude it. I do re-call a few posts that went a tad far in excitement for the game and i believe David was guilty of one of them. After playing the game though i understood why.

        But for a critic to ignore Uncharted 2 (whether they enjoyed it or not) would be a bit unprofessional. Don’t take that a threat of some sort David. But like a lot of people don’t like Halo – you can’t deny the beauty of it for its genre. Uncharted blends platform, adventure and puzzles within a beautiful environment and dazzling graphics. Whether the story & controls won you over ifs a different question.

        I can safely say, Uncharted with make this list.

        • That’s not really fair, Jay. Just because a game is good does not mean that you HAVE to like it.

          For instance, I’ve been told time and time again that various final fantasy games are spectacular. I’ve been presented BULLETED LISTS on EXACTLY WHY they are so good. The thing is, i’m sure that they are right. Ten million FF fanboys can’t be wrong.

          However, I HATE final fantasy games. I find them boring, repetitive and trite.

          So I would be perfectly fine if David didn’t have Uncharted 2 on his list, just because a game is good does not mean everyone will love it

          • Yeah true, i worded my comment in the wrong light.
            I’m not saying everyone MUST love Uncharted 2 and for a critic not too makes them unprofessional. I was wrong to say that.

            But, not meaning including them on Game of the Year lists, for a critic to damn right criticize Uncharted 2 for example giving it 2/10 is just ridiculous. I guess my comment doesn’t necessarily suit this article considering its about GOTY and not a review.

            I guess i loved Uncharted 2 that much, that i believe, for anyone to criticize in the tone of it being a really crap game is just stupid. Fair enough don’t like it or not enjoy it – but it really is a game that is unique and spectacular. I feel the same for New Super Mario Bros. Wii and i don’t like that game TBH – mind you if i spent some solid time i would grow to.

            I’m with you on Final Fantasy in that i don’t really like the games but i’ll probably give the new one a go – but i can see WHY they are regarded as a critically acclaimed franchise and why some are classified as some of the greatest games ever. But i’m still not a fan – i guess thats what i’m referring to for Uncharted 2.

  • I quite enjoyed Borderlands, my only real gripe was the offline multiplayer. with some friends we were trying to organize a LAN with 2 Ps3’s and 2 Tvs. figuring we could split screen and Lan at the same time, like you know halo has been doing for years, No dice.

  • I got this for PC and it initially made me rage because of all the console quirks like non-numeric mouse sensitivity, auto-aim, atrocious FoV that actually gave me headaches and mouse acceleration which is not really a console thing but a why are people STILL putting this as a default, and non changeable option?

    But after delving into the configs and butchering it all up into something pretty, I started having fun playing with my mates. Fun is perhaps not the right word, I am “entertained”. At no point have I thought wow this is really fun! But hell, being entertained for long periods of time with mates? Good enough.

    • You forgot to mention that it used the horrid GameSpy system, and doesnt allow you to change your ingame name so it is forever stuck as your GameSpy account name (which i prolly made like 5+ years ago)

      • Oh you also reminded me I forgot to mention the damned Port Forwarding fiasco, some, like me can’t seem to get the damned thing working freeing up the ports and have to resort to DMZ. Noooot cool!

  • I picked this up in a sale not long ago, but I still haven’t given it a go yet. Interesting to see what you’ve written there David, and great to see that it’s made it into the top 10.
    Importantly, it’s good to see an original IP that’s actually done well – not too many of them lately.

    Great to see that co-op is such a big part of the game too. I find my gaming time is more and more limited these days, and being able to play through with a friend is great
    I might have to give Valkyria Chronicles a rest and fire this up!

    Definitely interested to see what else you’ve got in the top 10 David – I’d be guessing Uncharted 2 will be somewhere closer to the top (deservedly so, in my opinion), along with maybe Demons Souls, Assassin’s Creed 2, Batman: AA?

  • Really? Didn’t deserve a place for my money.

    Sparse, lacking personality and a point of difference from it’s wasteland RPS competitor (Fallout 3).

    Fallout 3 does much more than Borderlands in terms of narrative, pacing, combat and presentation. Plus it came out a year ago.

    Borderlands was over-praised and under criticised. A sandbox game with a distinct lack of freedom.

    • I wouldn’t go that far and say that, while Borderlands certainly had its flaws, there were pretty good moments in it for me. (a highlight being the vechicle combat against the vehicle boss’s who’s name escapes me) As for the comparison to Fallout, Fallout was bland at times as well. I found that mostly in the Vaults and various Raider enclaves. Also, why would you say that Borderlands had a lack of freedom? Sure I felt little motivation to return to the areas I’d completed all the quests in, but it certainly didn’t stop me from that, and still spawned enemies accordingly.

  • I love playing this game. I have played through it on PC, mainly co-op, and have just finished my first play through on Xbox 360 co-op with my old man.

    A bit disappointed that you haven’t mentioned the distinctly unPC (politically correct) sense of humour in the game. There are many pop culture references in the game as well which geeks love. This is one of the things that definitely differentiates the game from other games that have been released in the last 12 months.

    I don’t have a favourite format for the game either. I think it plays just as well on Xbox 360 as it does on PC.

  • With all the news Kotaku has released for Borderlands, I was willing to pick it up, I still haven’t.

    Yet I do still want to play it with friends. Which I guess where the fun factor lies.

  • For me, this was a fantastic first try – a brand new IP that really delivered on its points of difference. As has been said, the singleplayer was kinda hollow, but the game came alive with mates in the room (as long as you all have headsets – this game is harder to love without a bit of squad banter!).

    I liken it to my enjoyment of Assasin’s Creed 1 – there were things that bugged me, and it got tediously repetitive at times, but there were enough glimpses of awesomeness that I’ll be hanging out for a more polished sequel.

  • can’t believe borderlands is #10
    i don’t care about the downfalls of this game but the amount of enjoyment and the amount of time i still spending on this game speaks for itself. seriously it’s a work of art and i think it’s the beginning of a new genre of games.

  • I’ve been playing a fair bit of borderlands the last few days (just recently bought it), but I’d say anything above 8 in my top 10 list of games for the year would be very very generous (it would be very lucky to break 10). Top 20 definately, but there are too many niggling problems for me to completely embrace it (I have problems with the large number of linear environments, for example). Also, the driving is aweful.

    For people saying it should be higher, you should really be waiting for what gets placed above it before breaking into mass qq.

  • This was the most disappointing game of the year for me. I ended up playing for 45 minutes then returned it.

    I hate it for the same reason I hate Far Cry 2 – endlessly respawing identical enemies in the exact same place.

  • I loved borderlands. I played throught until level 50 and finished the sotryline. Then, even with all the BS of having to log onto gamespy, you can create a level 50 character in about 5 minutes. Because it doesn’t save your profile online. the rest of the game is solid, but earning a character seems kinda pointless if u can just create a savegame with relative ease.

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