Gearbox readies two new games: 'Borderlands' and 'Aliens'

Victor Godinez
The Dallas Morning News (MCT)

I got to visit Gearbox Softwarelast week, and the game developer clearly has some cool stuff up its sleeve. (I use that term deliberately: Gearbox president Randy Pitchford was once a professional magician.)

"Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway" is the company's current big project, and that game ships Sept. 23. But the 200-person company (huge, for an independent game developer) also has several other projects it will be pulling out of its hat soon. There's the music-and-dancing Wii game "Samba de Amigo," as well as shooters "Borderlands" and "Aliens."

"Borderlands" looks as if it could fulfill a lot of the promise of "Too Human." If that sounds like a bit of a stretch, just stay with me for a minute. Like "Too Human," "Borderlands" is kind of an action/role-playing game. While the gameplay in "Borderlands" is very much that of a first-person shooter, you also have to acquire new gear and upgrade your skills to advance.

"Too Human" tried a similar fusion (albeit with a third-person view) and felt incomplete, overwhelming players with a huge collection of armor and weapons and puzzling them with an incomprehensible plot. "Borderlands" seems like an upgrade on both counts.

While the weapon collection is, if anything, even more gigantic (Gearbox boasts the game will feature as many as 1 million different weapon combos in the final version), there's a fairly easy way to tell whether the weapons you find are upgrades over your current gear. Basically, if the weapon is highlighted in green, it's fairly powerful, while yellow outlines signify a weaker gun. You can see the distinction as soon as the weapon falls on the ground, so you don't have to open a separate inventory screen to scroll through your collection and examine statistics, like some kind of actuarial commando.

Plus, "Borderlands" seems to have a much more straightforward plot: It's a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and you have to kill all the bad guys/mutants. No bizarre cybernetic Viking gods or virtual reality landscapes populated by Shakespearean witches.

And, "Borderlands" looks amazing.

Further down the road, though, it's the title I'm really pumped about: "Aliens: Colonial Marines." This is the game based on the sci-fi movie that almost every first-person shooter has stolen from in one form or another.

"We've been stealing from that game since our careers started," Pitchford says. "The head crabs in Half-Life and the drop ships in Halo and even in Call of Duty, the soldiers are lifting lines straight out of the movie: 'I like to keep this for close encounters,' and he pulls out a shotgun.

"We've all been stealing from it. To finally get the actual brand and be able to live in the canon rather than rob it and apply it in different ways is really an honor and kind of a dream come true."

If that wasn't enough to convince you these guys love that franchise, they also got Syd Mead, the artist who dreamed up much of the look of the Aliens movie, to come in and help sketch out some art for the game.

I got to see some of his art at Gearbox, and I've got to admit, I've never been so emotional over a picture of a giant spaceship.

Oh, yeah, and there's that big secret game that the company has talked about. I'm afraid you'll have to wait a bit longer to hear about that one, but stay tuned.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.