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Borderlands: Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot
Score: 75%
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: First Person Shooter/RPG/Online

Give Them Back Their Heroes:

This is neither a dead link nor a joke. Gearbox really did release two chunks of DLC in just over a month. Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot has arrived hot on the heels of The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. This new downloadable content aims to give you yet another reason to stay on the old ball of garbage.

I'm going to begin this review with a warning: if you love Borderlands because of the sense of progression achieved through completing quests, Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot is not for you. If you really like the intense and frantic shooter action, this expansion has it in spades. I consider Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot to be a misstep. The gameplay wears out its welcome too soon and the added content feels somewhat minimal. However, it's got just enough personality to make it worthy of the Borderlands brand.

That Skag and His Floozie, They're Gonna Die:

Anyone who's seen a Mad Max movie can't look at Borderlands without drawing comparisons. If you played the original release at least a quarter of the way through, you offed Mad Mel in the Dahl Headland. However, Gearbox obviously isn't ready to cease paying homage to the cult classic. Meet Moxxi, a woman who rivals even Patricia Tannis in terms of insanity. She's an enterprising (and let's face it, stacked) young woman who introduces herself by divulging the circumstances surrounding the deaths of two of her three known husbands (hint: she murdered them). What about the third husband? "It's civil," Moxxi admits.

So what is Moxxi's job? Well, she runs the Underdome, which, as you've probably guessed by now, hosts contests that can only be described as Pandoran gladiatorial combat. You enter one of three arenas and fend off wave after wave of skags, psychos, Crimson Lance soldiers, Eridian Guardians, and bosses you encountered as part of the main storyline. The arenas are interesting enough, but I was expecting more from an expansion about arena combat. In particular, I was hoping for booby-trapped environments similar to those in Shadow of Rome. Now that I think about it, much of what makes Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot a bit of a letdown has more to do with what could have been, rather than what is specifically done wrong.

Each arena challenge is structured identically. Your job is to fight through a number of rounds. Each round consists of five waves. The Starter Wave is exactly what it sounds like. The Gun Wave is also self-explanatory; enemies with guns appear to take you down. The Horde Wave pits you against enemies without guns... but the catch is that there are a whole lot more of them. The Badass Wave throws the worst of the worst at you, and is perhaps the most difficult of the waves. The Boss Wave, well, you get the picture. If this sounds tedious and boring to you, consider the red flag raised. However, you should know that there's a catch, or rather, a few catches.

Beyond Underdome:

Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot adds a few notable mechanics that help the new experience get to its feet. After all, this expansion would have failed miserably if all it consisted of was straight vanilla arena combat.

Fans have been clamoring for some kind of storage system; it's often tough to make a choice between two really awesome guns. Well, once you're finished listening to Moxxi talk about her morbidly humorous love life, you're left staring straight at the bank, which is manned by a Claptrap, complete with top hat and monocle. You can store a good number of weapons and items, just in case you stumble upon some quality gear in battle. It's a good addition, but one bank on Pandora isn't really enough. If Gearbox ever graces us with Borderlands 2, I hope the banks are as common as the vending machines.

Provided you're not playing alone, death means even less in the Underdome than it does in the wastelands. If you fall and bleed out before you get a second wind, you will respawn in the Penalty Box. This tiny cage offers a great vantage point that allows eliminated characters to contribute to the battle. You have to be really skilled to make a difference in the Penalty Box, but it offers a much more interesting setup than the finality of Spectator Mode.

100% SNAFU:

I took my Level 50 Berserker to the Underdome and was destroyed before I reached my fifth round in Hell-Burbia. Bear in mind, I made several sound decisions regarding my character's skill tree and I'm reasonably good at the game. Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot is HARD. Whether it's the Ring o' Death or the stat bonuses enemies constantly receive, Moxxi has several tricks up her sleeve. Most of these tricks don't exactly benefit you, either. There is one definite loophole: if your host plays as a lower-level character, the strength of your enemies will scale only to the host. Regardless of how you choose to play, I have one more word of advice: if you're going to tackle the longer tournaments, make damn sure you've got a diverse arsenal at the ready.

The Ring o' Death is similar to the Skull system from Halo 3: ODST's Firefight mode, but it's implemented so cleverly that it gives this game the edge. The Ring o' Death allows Moxxi to arbitrarily bypass several laws of nature. Some of these are believable; when Naked is turned on, your shields are removed from the equation. Others are simply insane; Body Shot nerfs headshots to the point where they do almost no damage at all. Every now and then, Moxxi will issue a gun challenge, which all but forces you to use a single gun type. If you're caught with an SMG during a Sniper Rifle Challenge, you're pretty much screwed (unless you're insanely good).

Borderlands may be the gift that keeps on giving, but as Claptrap once told Steve the psycho, "It can't all be hookers and sunshine!" I didn't enjoy Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot nearly as much as I enjoyed The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, but it's got two things going for it. One: like its predecessor, it's just $10. Two: the action and the humor of Borderlands is very much intact. 2010 seems destined to go down as one of the greatest years in gaming history, and I'm not advising you to put down your copy of Bayonetta or Darksiders yet. When you are ready to return to Pandora, know that Moxxi's got the red carpet out for you. Temper your expectations and try not to stain your shoes on all the blood and guts.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:

Microsoft Xbox 360 The Beatles Rock Band: Rubber Soul Sony PlayStation 3 Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot

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