Borderlands has quickly become one of my favorite games of the current generation. It’s not particularly pretty, clever, or well-written, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feature some of the most engaging gunplay to ever grace a television or computer screen. The enemies, while repetitive, are good mix of long-distance snipers and up-close brawlers with various strengths and weaknesses that force the player to be quick of mind, trigger, and action skill. Each weapon serves a purpose, and variations on damage, clip-size, fire rate, and elemental effects make no two guns of the same class feel exactly alike. If I were to build the perfect shooter, I’d start by stealing as much of Borderlands’s gameplay as possible.
All praise aside, there’s something about Gearbox’s epic that’s never sat right with me. Something that’s stuck in my craw like a piece of rancid skag meat. Something that makes me want to phase walk and never revert to this dimension. Something so vile, so putrid, so fucking annoying that the very sight of it makes me curse under my breath and consider turning the game off.
Borderlands’s mascot is an irritating little twit. His grating voice sets my nerves on edge. He’s an attention whore, calling out to anyone who passes to impart some new stupidity upon unsuspecting travelers. He’s useless; how hard can it be to open a door or a lower a bridge, after all? Every time I came across an injured Claptrap in need of repairs, I seriously considered just leaving the whiny little bastard to his fate. I would have, too, if it hadn’t meant expanding my backpack and acquiring a bit of useful loot. Tricky little asshole.
And when he won character of the year at the 2012 VGAs? God damn it. Unfortunately my protestations demanding a recount have fallen on deaf ears.
If I were in high school with Claptrap, I’d steal his lunch money and lock him in his locker every day. I’d helpfully arrange a prom date for him then steal her during the last dance. I’d cut in front of him in the lunch line. I’d artfully draw certain pieces of the male anatomy on the covers of his text books. I’d tattle every time he’d tried to pass a note or sneak a piece of gum.
I get that Gearbox succeeded in their goal of creating a wholly annoying character. I should be able to appreciate their craft, but I can’t. Claptrap has X-Pac heat with me.
All of which is why, when I acquired the Borderlands DLC the other day, I immediately dove into the Robot Revolution piece. I’ve shot a lot of things while playing Borderlands, but never the thing I wanted to shoot the most. And oh, is it ever glorious! That little jerk doesn’t stand a chance against the roaring of my incendiary submachine gun. His pithy threats and platitudes just make me hit the trigger faster. Sometimes I toss in a grenade or switch to the corrosive shotgun just for fun. That picture at the top of this page? That’s my Siren telling Claptrap to kiss his ass goodbye.
And lo, is it ever fun. I can’t remember a gaming experience more cathartic than blasting the character I’ve come to consider my video game nemesis: a little robot that just wants some attention. Please don’t tell my mother.