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Borderlands: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx
Score: 96%
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: First Person Shooter/RPG

Re-opening Pandora's Box:
Borderlands, released by Gearbox Software in October 2009, received critical acclaim for its cross-genre gameplay, impressive graphics and addictive loot paradigm. With engaging FPS combat, intriguing RPG elements and balanced co-op play for up to four players, split-screen or online, Borderlands offered adventurers to the planet of Pandora a lot of gaming gusto in one tidy package. Gearbox Software promised continued support of the platform that would come as various downloadable content (DLC) options. While DLC is expected on many titles in today's market, the speed in which Pandora increased in size far exceeded any expectations. Shortly after the initial release, the first DLC, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, was made available. A fairly standard DLC package, it offered new areas to explore, new weapon-types to collect and that all-important piece that every FPS needs now, ZOMBIES! A few short months later, the second DLC package was released. Entitled Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, this package focused almost entirely on multiplayer arena combat. Though it did not receive near the open-armed reception of its predecessor, the addition of an item storage area almost ensured that all hardcore adventures would end up purchasing the DLC, if for no other purpose than a place to horde away those rare, but sometimes not so useful guns. Now, again just a couple of months after Moxxi's little party, players are invited back to Pandora yet again, this time taking a trip to T-Bone Junction in the latest DLC, Borderlands: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx.

What's in a Name?:
Thus far, each DLC has focused on a particular facet of the Borderlands experience. Dr. Ned's island was swarming with zombies and the focus was clearly on the single player (or co-op) FPS experience. Moxxi's little playhouse, on the other hand, was solely dedicated to arena mayhem and, to be honest, left most solo players in a lurch due to the difficulty of the matches. So, if The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned had zombies and Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, an unabashed tribute to the third installment of the Mad Max trilogy, included arena combat, what, pray-tell, do we imagine will be the focus of Borderlands: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx? If you guessed a raid on a giant armory stuffed full of shiny new toys (also known as GUNS) for the intrepid adventurer to pilfer, you would be correct. The setting of the latest DLC returns to the barren landscapes that were the norm in the original game, albeit in a new region of Pandora. When players arrive in T-Bone Junction, they are contacted by a strange woman who wants to partner up to bring down the Atlas Corporation. Atlas, for those gamers that finished the original storyline, is the company that has vowed to take over Pandora. Oh, and Atlas has also posted a substantial bounty on the player-character. So, in a classic "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" gambit, players will be given a mission to make contact with this new mystery benefactor. Thus begin the adventures in and around T-Bone Junction.

Far Beyond Underdome:
Unlike either of the previous expansions, Borderlands: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx is heavily focused on vehicular combat. One of the first NPCs that the player will have to contact is our old friend Scooter. Scooter will give a mission to collect some parts for a new vehicle type. Once these three parts have been collected, the vehicle will be assembled and scanned into Scooter's database. After this is done, the new ride, called "The Monster," will be available for players to use. Over the course of the adventure, three vehicle types will become accessible, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. For those co-op players out there, take note, the final vehicle (the Lancer) has four seats, each with a different function, allowing for each player to have a role during combat. The various missions will have players exploring half a dozen new regions and facing several new monster-types. Scooter is not the only old friend that players will run into around T-Bone Junction. Marcus is around to hand out a few collection missions and Moxxi will also be asking for your assistance with a few tasks. Along with the main story missions and side missions, some of which only become available after finishing the primary storyline, there is also a new PvE arena like the ones found in the original game, where players will face consecutively harder waves of enemies, each wave offering a reward in experience and items.

Cornucopia of Goodness:
There is no question that Borderlands is one of the surprise gems of the 2009 gaming year. The first DLC did not miss a step and expanded an already stellar game. The second expansion stumbled a bit, especially for the single-player focused gamer. Borderlands: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx returns the game to its perch high atop the gaming world. The dark humor that so thoroughly infused the original game is once again present, perhaps pushing the boundaries of good taste even a step further than before. One of the highlights of this DLC is the increase in the level cap to 61. I begin play as a level 41 hunter (first playthrough) and finished the expansion at level 44. I only ran into the occasional difficulty at this level, most encounters being with creatures in the 35-38 level range. If you are planning on visiting T-Bone Junction in the second playthrough, allow me to recommend you either be nearing 61 or you bring a bunch of friends, preferably both. In addition to the level increase, a new, ultra-rare weapon type is also introduced. In my ten or so hours playing, I did not see any "pearlescent" drops, so the ultra-rare moniker appears to be a good description. Finally, once you have exhausted all quest options and explored to your heart's content, there is one final stop to make, the Crawmax's lair. This secret final boss, pointed out by a sign that reads "Secret Final Boss this way," is a behemoth that will test even the most well-equipped high level players. While I'm sure he drops some fantastic weapons, I'll have to take it on faith, as he devoured me in a single hit.

As a fan of the Borderlands franchise, the continued high-quality DLC offerings excites me as to the future possibilities for Pandora. The dedication that Gearbox Software is showing to this IP is impressive. Some gamers will surely complain that they are releasing all of this DLC too quickly in an attempt to milk extra money from the loyal gamers. While it is true that the releases follow each other at a very rapid pace, the quality gameplay and story behind these DLCs is evident and clearly worth the investment of a few dollars more for the extra hours of gaming and entertainment. I say to Gearbox, keep them coming. I need more guns...

-The Mung Bard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Buddy Ethridge

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