Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot
For: Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC
From: Gearbox Software/2K Games
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and gore,
intense violence, mature humor,
By Billy O'Keefe
Though entirely enjoyable as a solo first-person shooter experience, "Borderlands" relies on a story, quest and inventory structure that's best enjoyed with teammates (four players online, two locally) via cooperative play. Happily, players who want it both ways have the flexibility to play parts of the game alone and bring in friends on the fly without starting over as a new character.
Good thing, too, because whether you have played "Borderlands" alone, with friends or both up to this point, there's pretty much no point in playing the "Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot" downloadable expansion without help.
As its name somewhat implies, "Riot" ditches the typical exploratory nature of "Borderlands'" quests in favor of post-apocalyptic arena combat: Moxxi is the host, and her "sport" consists of a survivor or four shooting their way out of a labyrinth that's parts shanty town, stadium and game show studio. Moxxi emcees the action, and between her amusing taunts and the general gaudy design of the three arenas, "Riot" is a fantastic demonstration of the audiovisual spectacle that makes "Borderlands" so unique in spite of its bleak setting and genre.
Just don't bask in the spectacle alone unless you really enjoy punishment.
"Riot" divides each match into five rounds, and those rounds split into five themed waves. Completing each wave consists of mowing down every enemy in the arena, and the reward for doing so is a brief supply drop of ammo and health. When all five waves of a round are wiped out, Moxxi drops a few items of actual value beneath the stage. Complete all 25 waves, and the match ends. Easy, right?
Not so much — and definitely not if you're playing alone. Players who succumb to the enemy can continue to assist in the fight, but are confined to a penalty box until the next wave. If all players get sent to the box, gameplay halts and the round starts over from the first wave.
The task of conquering the harder waves and rounds is daunting enough, particularly when Moxxi alters the rules to remove gravity, nullify certain weapons useless or even strip away players' shields. The challenge amplifies when fighting alone, and it's made arguably unfair by the fact that if you get banished to the penalty box, the round automatically starts over by virtue of your having no teammates on the ground. Because "Riot" puzzlingly awards no experience points for killing enemies in the arena, it amounts to a lot of effort for no reward.
Though the continued emphasis on teamwork in "Borderlands" is admirable, it would've been nice, just this one time and only because the pool of "Borderlands" players has understandably shrunk since October, if Gearbox backed down a little and allowed solo players to enlist an A.I.-controlled teammate or two. "Riot" offers players a mountain of content and perhaps the stiffest challenge so far, but unless you make a pact with friends to take it on together, proceed with caution.
(c) 2010, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.