Borderlands: Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot Review (Xbox 360)

Posted by Jim Cook, Jan 04, 2010 20:22

It’s good to see that the Borderlands DLC packs aren’t immediately falling into the trap of being more of the same, as Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot is a very different experience from Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. This time around your $10 buys you access to an equipment bank, and more importantly three very detailed arenas to fight waves of enemies in. It’s a simple idea, but one that is very well done.

Accessing the DLC is easy: Once you download it, go to any Fast Travel terminal and pick the Underdome, where you’ll wind up in a lobby with the usual essentials; one each of a health, ammo, and weapons vendor. A small room off to the side holds a bank where you can store items you like but don’t immediately need on you, and this is a pretty helpful feature. The bank has a limit on how much it can hold however, so you’ll have to buy upgrades to add more space. This works fine, and my only complaint is it’s included in paid DLC; why not just give us something this obvious as a free patch?

But that’s ultimately a minor gripe because the real attraction is the arena fights. The Underdome has three different arenas, though they all share some things in common: You’re placed against waves of enemies, with only a few seconds to reload and heal between them. After a few waves, you fight a boss wave; defeat that and the center of the arena will drop several guns for you to loot. It definitely is a simple idea, but it works because so much attention has been paid to the detail of each arena. While they are enclosed environments, they’re pretty big for having a gun fight in and they offer a lot of different terrain, keeping things interesting.

Each of the three arenas has a different theme, so playing in any one of them is a distinct experience from the others. Hell-burbia is a rectangular urban area with lots of cover and plenty of moderately high rooftops to snipe from, while the Angelic Ruins resemble the end-game area of the main story, and feature a lot of open space that is sometimes populated by nimble, sword-wielding guardians. The Gully on the other hand is a throwback to Fyrestone and other early parts of the game, with lots of rocky terrain, sudden elevation changes, and exploding barrels... plus a pair of unusual teleporters to quickly move you between the high and low parts of the map. Just be careful, since the enemies know how to use them too!

While each arena is different, some things stay the same between them. Random changes to the ’rules’ occur quite often, so one wave may have you fighting in an area where gravity has decreased while your enemies reload faster. Or perhaps you’ll have no shields and be constantly losing health but can regain it by killing enemies. Other rule changes are easier to come to terms with, like ones where a certain weapon type does more damage or head-shots don’t result in their normal critical hit. It seems to be random every time, so you can end up with a mix of very frustrating conditions one round, then have some very exciting ones the next. Combined with the enemies scaling with your character level very well, and you have a set of arena fights that should excite any player.

The only real problem these fights have is also its greatest strength; they’re hard. The first few fights aren’t a problem, but toward the end it’s very likely you’ll be facing a boss wave while under nothing but detrimental effects. Each fight is also very long, and going through even the beginner’s tournament can take a few hours; the advanced fights can keep you busy for hours on end. Attempting to conquer these arenas alone is very hard, since if you die just once... it’s over, you have to re-start the whole thing. Co-op play is much more acceptable, since defeated players are placed in a penalty box in the air; they can’t leave, but they can provide fire support if they have any sufficiently long-ranged weapons. Plus the fights get even more hectic with other players in on the act, making them very interesting indeed.

Unlike the previous DLC pack, this one scales with the player very well. My first run through the beginner’s tournament was with a level 28 character backed by a level 44 one, and we still found it to be pretty challenging even though the enemies were scaled for a level 28 encounter. This made co-op a blast, and the rewards were worth it; lots of good gun drops (and some not-so-good ones, but with a vendor close by it’s easy to sell them), plus even clearing the beginner’s tournament gives you an extra skill point that certain character builds will definitely benefit from.

With these factors in mind, I feel that Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot is an excellent addition to Borderlands. $10 is a fair price to pay for three very detailed co-op arenas and plenty of incentive to fight in them, and just about everyone should find something they like about this. Really, my strongest complaint about this DLC pack is a philosophical one where I feel the item bank should have been given to us in a free patch... and if that’s the worst criticism I can level at an 800 Point/$10 expansion to a good game, then it’s doing pretty well for itself. If you still enjoy gun battles on Pandora, then this is definitely worth picking up!

For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Borderlands: Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot Review (Xbox 360)
8.5 Replay
The enemies scale very well with the player, so repeat visits are a great idea.
8.0 Graphics
All three arenas (and the lobby) are very well done, though most of it covers themes you have seen before.
8.0 Sound
The music alternates between being annoying and repetitive, or being very exciting and mood-setting. Mad Moxxi also provides great color commentary as you fight, even if it does eventually get a little old.
8.5 Gameplay
Each arena is different and leads to interesting fights, and the only real issue is they’re slightly too long and rather difficult, especially if you’re trying to take them on alone.
9.5 Multiplayer/Online Content
Featuring very little of the travel down-time that can happen during normal Borderlands co-op play, these arenas keep the action coming!
8.5 Overall
A fantastic addition to Borderlands, it delivers lots of fast-paced action at a fair price.

Rating: 5.0, votes: 2

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