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Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot
Score: 82%
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: First Person Shooter/RPG

Expanding Pandora:
In October 2009, Gearbox Software surprised many gamers with the highly addictive, FPS/RPG Borderlands. Combining frantic action with creative graphics and an item system that dynamically mixed features on dropped loot, providing a staggering number of possible gun and item combinations, there was something to please fans across many genres. The world of Pandora, where the game is set, is very alien, yet somehow post-apocalyptic. The mechanics, setting and gameplay had many gamers drawing comparisons to such iconic game series as Fallout and Diablo; good company to share, no doubt. The final piece of this complex and wonderful puzzle is the dark and wry sense of humor with which the story is told. All said, Borderlands was about as close to perfect as a game spanning multiple genres and targeting multiple audiences can get.

Less than two months after the initial release, the first DLC became available. The aptly named Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned extended the gameplay of the original game and added that all-important element, the flavor of the month if you will, that was missing... Zombies! The success of the first DLC left many fans of the game eagerly awaiting the next installment, and they did not have to wait long. Enter Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot.


Welcome to Bartertown, Mr. Raggedy Man:
Part of the appeal of Borderlands is the steady injection of humor and outside references. One very obvious and oft repeated reference is to the Mad Max movie trilogy. Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot appears to be an unashamed tribute to the third installment of the series, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. In the movie, Max (Mel Gibson) wanders into a ramshackle town run by a crazed woman known as Aunty (Tina Turner). In Bartertown, disputes are settled in Thunderdome, an arena where "two men enter, one man leaves." In direct correlation to this, players who purchase Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot will be able to fast-travel to Underdome, where an eccentric and undoubtedly insane woman hosts a series of arena-based combat contests where players will have to face wave upon wave of baddies. The level of the creatures in the arena is scaled to that of the player, so going early or late really makes no difference.

Sure, more combat is great, but the real draw of Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot is not the most advertised feature. As anyone who plays a game where collecting weapons and gear is important, a very important aspect of the gameplay is the amount of items that can be carried. Once the backpack if full, hard choices sometimes have to be made. While the original game affords players the opportunity to expand their backpack capacity via quests and purchasing upgrades, this DLC goes a step further. When players first enter Underdome, they will immediately come face-to-face with a caged claptrap that acts as a banker. Each player receives a bank vault, which can be used to store a good number of items. Like the backpack, the number of available storage spaces in the bank can also be increased via purchasing upgrades. Beyond anything else, this feature alone probably makes the DLC worth the $10 price tag for most players, especially if more expansions are forthcoming.


With a Little Help From My Friends:
One thing to note about Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot is that it is hard. With enemy levels scaling to that of the player, there are no "easy" targets. The first quest received upon arriving in Underdome is to best each of the three arenas in a five round tournament. Each round consists of five waves. Each wave gets more difficult, both with regards to the caliber of the opponents being faced and, more importantly, with the rule changes. Apparently Moxxi has some limited control of reality within the confines of her arenas. She uses these powers to cause particular gun types to do more damage, specified shots (body or head) to either do more or minimal damage, enemy types to gain increased armor or health or any of a myriad of other handicaps for the player. Contestants will need to be well equipped when entering the arenas, not only with their primary four weapons, but also with good weapons of all types in preparation for whatever twists Moxxi throws out. Once the match starts, players must beat the entire tournament, all 25 waves, before they can check it off as completed. Dying means starting over; round 1, wave 1. Just to add a little salt to this wound, no experience is awarded for kills in the arena, so players cannot use this expansion to steadily level up characters. There are ammo and health boosts dropped between each wave, but enemies do not drop any loot at all.

As a well-equipped 40th level hunter, I could not make it past the third round in any of the three arenas by myself. Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot seems to be heavily geared towards cooperative and online play. Multiple players can enter the arena at the same time. Something to keep in mind here is that the enemies spawned will be scaled to the level of the hosting player. Players who die during these cooperative matches will respawn at the top of the center tower in each arena. From there, the player can continue to contribute to the combat below by shooting, but movement and view is restricted to a small space, so the amount of help that can be provided by these players is limited. As far as I can tell, bringing some friends along to play is the only realistic way to best any of the tournaments.


Beyond Underdome:
With two expansion in less than two months, Gearbox Software is showing a great deal of support for Borderlands. Where The Island of Dr. Ned did a great job of extending the story and feelings of the single-player experience, Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot is heavily focused on multiplayer. This may turn off some players, as many people did not venture into the multiplayer aspect of Borderlands, myself being one of them. After many hours of playing, I cannot even tell you with any amount of certainty the full extent of this expansion, as I was never able to get past the first round of tournaments. There may be more Pandora goodness awaiting me beyond Moxxi's little playhouses, and I will endeavor to find out if this is the case, if just to satisfy my curiosity. However, as mentioned before, because of the banking service provided, this DLC has a great value even to the single-player only gamers. What lies beyond Underdome remains to be seen, but I will eagerly await the next area to explore, and, while I do hope Gearbox Software returns to the story-driven, single-player focus of the original game and first DLC, as long as the content and humor continue to be a strong point, I'll continue to be an loyal Pandoran citizen.

-The Mung Bard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Buddy Ethridge

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