— 10:15 AM on November 2, 2009

I finished Borderlands over the weekend, and it was one of my favorite PC games in years.  As I mentioned during my raves about the game on our most recent podcast, I had an advance press copy of the game and was knee-deep into it before anyone else.  Now that it's out, several of my friends have reported playing 'til 3AM, losing track of time, and leveling up an egregious amount in a single evening.  Gratifying to see it's having the same effect on them.  This one seized me like nothing in ages, and it was incredibly satisfying to play, too.  Time well spent!

After the credits rolled, I took my level 36 hunter back into the earlier maps in the game to finish up the quests I'd left hanging.  My first stop was way back in the Arid Badlands, the first area of the game, only this time, I was packing a cannon of a sniper rifle ('tis an orange-colored weapon) that can deal 382 damage in a single shot, along with sweet personal bonuses for sniper rifle damage and accuracy.  So yeah, it will literally saw a standard bandit thug in half with one pull of the trigger; the gibs sometimes shoot 400 feet into the sky.  Aiming for the headshot is an optional extravagance, not always as satisfying as separating two halves at the waist.

Next up: co-op play, once my friends have leveled up to the point where they're not afraid to be on the same mission with me.  I have only three orange weapons and require more.

Oh, as for performance... I was hoping to do some formal testing with the latest video cards, but as I mentioned in the podcast, the game's intended benchmarking feature is broken.  I tried doing some testing with FRAPS and, well, this is not a hard game to run well, even though it looks amazing on a fast system.  Some hints as to why: Unreal engine technology, no anti-aliasing (even via the driver control panels at this point), and cross-development with the consoles.

Of course, a Radeon HD 5870 runs the game smoothly at 2560x1600 with all of the eye candy set to max.  So will two GeForce GTX 285 cards, which may be even smoother.  Frame rates dipped into the mid-40s in the most difficult areas of the game on these configs, but they were often locked at 62 FPS.  I found a Radeon HD 5770 to be playable at that resolution, too, although sluggish at times.  You'd want to dial back a few effects, like depth of field, to make it smooth as glass, or just drop to 1920x1200, where you're golden.  In fact, I popped in a Radeon HD 3850 just for kicks, and it didn't totally embarrass itself at 1920x1200.  Again, though, turning off a few effects may be in order.

The bottom line is that for most gamer's PCs of recent vintage, Borderlands should be pretty easy to run, especially if your video card and monitor have marched through time and the various price tiers roughly together.  A GeForce 8800 GT would deliver a no-question good experience at 1680x1050, for instance, and a Radeon HD 4870 should handle 1920x1200 well enough if you're careful about settings.  Combining a four-megapixel display with a GeForce 7800 would be a poor choice.

If you think your PC can swing it, though, pull up your Steam client and grab this game.  If not, well, it's worth upgrading for this one.

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