After toppling the pack in Diehard GameFAN’s field of best first-person shooter for 2009, Borderlands has received yet another DLC update to prove there truly is no rest for the wicked. After opening The Vault and foiling Dr. Ned on an island full of zombies, Xbox 360 owners got to close 2009 out with another DLC update that adds yet another memorable character to the mix in Mad Moxxi. As if the game disc itself didn’t have enough Mad Max and Thunderdome references for you, this newest addition could be considered a flat-out parody of that universe as it thrusts players into Mad Moxxi’s Underdome through a new “Riot” game mode for 800 Microsoft Points. While the Underdome isn’t as expansive as The Zombie Island, it certainly does its job in implementing some frantic action into the otherwise wide-open format of Borderlands and it adds enough to make the battles fresh and easily worth the 800 MS Points if you are a fan of the game.
As Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot is an non-standalone expansion of a retail title, I’m going to eschew the traditional review format as having nearly all of the game’s material recycled to the disc makes revisiting items such as graphics, control and the like a bit pointless. If you enjoyed these aspects in Borderlands, they are served up once again in their purest form in this expansion and if you have yet to check out the original title, you can see what A.J. Hess had to say about the Xbox 360 version of the title in Diehard GameFAN’s review of Borderlands. This expansion also headlined our very first Diehard GameFAN Xbox LIVE Wrap-Up column, so there is a little bit of preliminary info on Mad Moxxi there if you want to bring yourself up to speed.
There isn’t much of a story to Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot, other than to introduce the Underdome’s ringmaster, Mad Moxxi herself. The Underdome, much like the obviously referenced Thunderdome, also fits within the conventions of items such as Smash T.V. – “contestants” are placed into a proverbial blood sport where only the strongest survive and fans look on in bloodthirsty fashion. Mad Moxxi fits into the cast of Borderlands characters extremely well and, as expected, her voice acting is top notch. While her one-liners will no doubt become a bit repetitive during gameplay, they also serve in alerting the player to some of the ongoing action and most of the quips will get a few smiles or laughs from players (at least from the first few times they hear them). A few scenes and references in the lobby will shed a little light on Moxxi’s backstory, but what the expansion is really about is in annihilating the competition and scooping up some extra loot.
As I’ve already said, the exploration and questing aspects of Borderlands and its first DLC are pitched to give players a more action-based survival mode. The game handles this in Horde and Firefight fashion (from Gears of War 2 and Halo 3 ODST respectively), placing players into a moderately-sized environment and unloading enemies in waves. As players progress, up to four random modifiers will be mixed in to trouble them with handicaps such as no shields, steadily decreasing health and strengthening enemies or making the combat more interesting by speeding up movement, reducing gravity and making certain weapon types super effective. Each combat round has five waves of varying enemies placed into groups (normal enemies, melee-only enemies, gun-wielding enemies, etc.) with the fifth introducing a boss character from the on-disc quest taking center stage. If players can survive through five waves, they are rewarded with a small loot dump at the stage’s central tower and given a quick breather before the next stage begins. On the other hand, if a player drops dead, they are thrown into a penalty box where they can attempt to shoot at enemies while their teammates try to survive the round to bring everyone back into the game – otherwise, if the entire team falls, all of the players will be unceremoniously booted back to the Underdome lobby.
The premise is simple, perhaps even unoriginal, for sure, but the sheer random nature of the modifiers and the frantic pacing of the mode makes Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot a winner. Not only will players get a survival-based mode that will occupy them for around an hour on just the simplest of environments, but they will also get a much-needed storage bank for items that can be expanded by purchasing SDUs throughout the game. If you’re serious about Borderlands, the storage bank alone might be worth the price of admission, but it’s all about the team-based gameplay and given the odds of survival against the relentless hordes, especially with the later environments throwing a rough 20 rounds (100 waves) each at you, The Underdome provides a great multiplayer mode that is ripe with action. Also, seeing as the enemies adjust to evenly match the host’s current level, players can surely be challenged and with high-end vending machines located in the lobby, this expansion is perfect for players coming in from the end of the Borderlands quest.
Unfortunately, players will see a lot of repetitiveness in the expansion, especially with the few environments being recycled back into the more advanced survival arenas, and the extra achievements aren’t exactly inspiring, but Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot does what it set out to do. The expansion is meant to be a no-frills action experience and on that front, it delivers on all levels. If you enjoyed Borderlands but feel that you didn’t get to pull the trigger as much as you wanted to, this expansion is clearly for you. The only way I could not recommend this expansion to someone is if the idea of spending multiple hours fighting off bandits, psychos and skaggs in an endless onslaught doesn’t sound fun to you, but I would imagine these players would be few and far between if they already own Borderlands. Fans of Horde or Firefight mode will know what they are getting into with this DLC add-on and for $10, players can give this new mode a spin and come away satisfied while taking a break from grinding through the main game.
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