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Borderlands switches visual direction; embraces cel-shading – updated!

Submitted by on Thursday, 9 April 20095 Comments

BorderlandsRemember Borderlands?

Probably not, considering it sent itself on self-imposed exile and vanished into the wilderness some time ago.

The reasoning behind this move is now apparent however, with information appearing over at Borderlands Guide that the gritty FPS has metamorphosed from its original, and some would say “tried and trusted to the point of boredom”, realistic aesthetic to a new cel-shaded and comic-book style.

We’re stoked to see Gearbox Software, creators of such great actioners as the Brotherhood in Arms series, go down this less travelled and audacious path. And if the accompanying image is not enough, we also have some video footage of the game.

Given, the trailer is more an introductory glimpse at the world of Borderlands rather than what we all really want to see – game-play. That said, it’s worth a watch if anything to witness some of the worst voice acting we’ve come across since the 90s (pick a game from the era, any game – it’s a safe bet that the acting was horrendous).

While we consider the new Prince of Persia-esque visual direction as a positive around these parts, others are not so complimentary towards the graphical sea change. Posting over at the Gearbox forums, one commentator mentions that Gearbox have just lost, not one, but two sales because of the switch. We’re not sure, maybe s/he were going to buy one for their Mom.

Ennui, a Gearbox moderator, has retorted to the complaint by assuring that the company does care about its fans and that the artistic change “was assuredly not one taken or made lightly”. Ennui goes on to state:

Though there’s always the chance some people could be turned off by the style, it was decided that, overall, it fits the game and creates a more visually interesting experience. Our concept art had this incredible, distinctive style and feel that fit so perfectly – the game has not become less detailed or washed out at all. Rather, it retains the detail and style that’s often lost when we move from concept art to 3D. It stands out, and makes the gray-and-brown bleak landscapes, while still bleak and inhospitable, memorable and recognizable. The entire world has life to it, from the creatures to the very rocks and dirty walls. The game world is no less gritty, dirty, or harsh – all of the detail is there, and the environments have even more atmosphere.

It’s still too early to tell is Ennui is right on the money but, with new content promised soon, Borderlands has just jumped up a few positions on our Interest Radarâ„¢.

Updated: No sooner had we published this story that the guys over at Destructoid ran the following quote from a nameless Gearbox “spokesperson”:

“”Heh! No, Borderlands is not cel-shaded — it’s a gritty and serious world after all. But since the game was first unveiled we have made big advancements with the art direction and the technology to support the art and have produced some pretty impressive, even shocking results.”

What this most likely means is that, though the art direction has taken a serious swing away from the traditional safe ground of “realism” in FPSs, at this moment in time, the term “cel shaded” is probably the best way to describe how the game now appears. Whether or not the actual graphical technique deployed in the game classifies as “cel-shaded” remains unanswered however with the likelihood that the term fits the bill, but is likely being misused. Watch this space – we have a feeling this story has legs.

Video source