Borderlands: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx • Page 3

Hard Knoxx.

Assassins, Devastators, Drifters and the rest of them provide the supporting cast for the most polished story Gearbox has yet pulled together. Picking up after the final credits have rolled means Knoxx is aimed at level 35 players and over, and a lot of the focus of the central narrative as you take on the General seems to lie with providing the kind of pressurised end-game the original release fumbled somewhat.

It's witty, vivid, and, at times, brutally difficult. The whole thing starts fairly slowly, with a couple of cut-and-paste roadblock-clearing objectives, but you're soon jetting off on suicide missions, stamping out the worst excesses of the local wildlife, gadding around in cable cars, and raiding a high security prison by precision boosting your car through a tiny knothole in a cliff face. Everything's soloable, but it's worth having a friend around for the brilliant final battle with Knoxx, as, with a chum beside you, respawning health turrets switch from cheap trick to smart secondary objective.

Once that's done - take your time, and you can get a good weekend out of it - there's some final content available only to players who have hit the new level cap. It's unspeakably challenging, but it rewards you appropriately.

Meanwhile, some truly wonderful artwork manages to gives the game's caving spirals of primeval highway the spooky grandeur of ancient Egypt, especially when it sticks them next to a bluff topped with the bones of a giant reptile. But whenever the game threatens to become beautiful but sombre, a gimmick - a billboard advertising a mad scientist's lab for rent, or a tatty roadside attraction named The World's Largest Bullet - yanks everything back towards tobaccy-chewin' hilarity. Like GTA, this is a game with more than just a sense of humour; it's a game with an incredible eye for the shrill Technicolor of hick culture.

There's a new arena mode to play through, pitching you against wave after wave of the Crimson Lance. It's a cracker.

All of the above is lovely, of course, but what's truly unmissable about Knoxx is that playful sense of evolution. Along with new toys and new objectives, you're buying into the chance to see developers exploring different directions to take their game in, changing its scope and its balance, moving things around to see what happens, and zeroing in on the stuff that looks promising. This is how Turner used to paint (apparently, anyway - I rarely watched), and it worked out pretty well for him.

It's working pretty well for Gearbox, too. Dr Ned and Moxxi's Underdome may have been about busting Borderlands out into strange new splinters, but Knoxx sees the team returning to the core experience and quietly tinkering. There's more polish - NPCs have lip-syncing, cut-scenes are a little more elaborate - but there's also a sense that you're seeing the future of the franchise take shape, and that makes for a dazzling combination.

The truth is, when it comes to DLC, nobody is doing this stuff as well as Gearbox's team at the moment [apart from Capcom, perhaps - Ed.]. And they just keep getting better at it all the time.

9 /10

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About the author

Christian Donlan

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Christian Donlan is a features editor for Eurogamer. He is the author of The Unmapped Mind, published as The Inward Empire in the US.


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