Borderlands: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx Review (Xbox 360)
Posted by Jim Cook, Mar 04, 2010 05:16
Expansion packs for a popular game can quickly fall into a trap of offering more of the same, in the same size ’dose’, at the same price. Apparently the folks working on Borderlands’ expansions realized this, and while The Secret Armory of General Knoxx falls into the same category of being primarily a series of new quests to plow through they did an excellent job of making this one far more ambitious than Zombie Island of Dr. Ned.
Billed as the largest expansion to the game so far, Secret Armory still only costs 800 Points/$10, yet offers much more content than the previous two expansions. Upon starting this pack, players are taken to T-Bone Junction and put up against a variety of foes; several new varieties of Crimson Lance troops are the most obvious, but other enemies appear throughout the quests as well. Without giving too much away, your primary goals are to acquire the specifications for some new vehicles and infiltrate the titular armory. The quests start around level 35 on a first play-through (notably higher if you’re going through a second run) and you should travel light; the enemies here drop a lot of valuable weapons, and your reward for completing the DLC pack is sweet indeed, so bring lots of room to load up!
Much of the focus in these quests is on the new vehicles, and you get three to choose from as you acquire their specs. The Racer is essentially a light-armor version of the normal Runner, but it’s the fastest vehicle in the game. The Monster is a step up from these, featuring thicker armor and homing rockets in return for being slower. Finally, the Lancer is a four person vehicle; one drives, one mans the Eridian-tech style gun turret, another deploys mines, and another still can fire a shockwave around the vehicle to protect it from close-up enemies. Sadly none of these vehicles can be used outside of the DLC’s area, but you will be getting a lot of use out of them anyway; the areas you’ll be driving through are huge, and you’ll be making lots of trips back and forth. This is in fact one of my only two serious complaints with Secret Armory; there is far too much backtracking and only the main hub room at the Junction counts as a normal saving point. This means you could be burning as much as an hour or more in unnecessary travel time between sessions.
The overall theme seems to be ’more.’ More quests, more loot, more vehicles, more of what made Borderlands successful to begin with; they even raised the level cap to 61. It’s done on such a large scale that you’ll easily get your $10 worth, and the content doesn’t end when the Secret Armory quest line does. There is also a hidden boss (not secret, merely hidden; in-game billboards let you know it exists) that is very powerful but drops some of the best loot in the game, and a fairly well laid out urban/military-themed arena to visit. The sheer scope of this DLC pack deals with any problems of diminishing returns on the product, and it’s good to see the developers aren’t getting lazy on this front.
Unfortunately, my other complaint in addition to the travel times and lack of save points is that it’s obvious some of the new additions weren’t fully tested. Most things work just fine and I never encountered any show-stopping bugs, but some problems did arise with the new content. Specifically, I found it very easy to wedge some of the new vehicles into terrain they probably weren’t supposed to; embedding the new Monster truck/jeep tires-first into a wall at a ninety degree angle is a clear bug, and doing it twice is a little surprising. Worse, some of the new enemies have terrible AI; one of the ’mini-boss’ enemies is three times your size, but I have no idea what weapons it uses; even up close I couldn’t get it to attack me so long as I used even basic dodging/back-walking techniques. Thus what was supposed to be a dramatic fight ended in me just casually destroying the foe and looting it with no effort involved. Thankfully these sort of incidents were the exception rather than the rule, but they did come up a little more often than I would have liked.
Secret Armory deserves credit for being funny; when it isn’t being very serious, it’s being hilarious instead. Parodies of modern advertising abound, and some enemies of corporate origins will even spout legal disclaimers while trying to kill you. This makes it somewhat jumbled as a matter of serious storytelling, since Secret Armory will set up a dramatic moment and then sweve into something ridiculous, but that’s been true for most of the main game too and the humor works out very well.
Overall we’re left with a reasonably priced expansion that should last you for several hours, and is a clear improvement on the previous DLC packs. The problems cited above don’t ruin the product, they merely prevent it from being perfect. But paying 800 Points/$10 for a ’merely’ very good product is more than fair, and Borderlands fans would do well to pick up Secret Armory. It won’t change your mind if you’re already tired of the game, but for everyone else there certainly is a lot of content to justify your purchase!
Rating: 4.5, votes: 4