The Secret Armory of General Knoxx has finally hit consoles and PCs this week, and it brings with it a raised level cap and a whole slew of other goodies. If you’ve been waiting for some kind of bundle deal on all of the DLC to date, you may want to reconsider holding off on picking this one up.
When I was playing The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, I kept trying to think of a suitable subtitle to its name that would fit with the overall feeling of this expansion: Terror at 3 and a Half Feet; These Guys Really Love Mad Max; Bring a Loot Mule; Joe Don Baker IS Mittens. Pick whichever you like as any of them work and are all fairly accurate descriptors (well, maybe not the last one) of what you can expect with Knoxx.
Starting off with difficulty of the new expansion, the enemies are perfectly geared towards players who have either just completed their first or second playthrough. My level 44 Hunter easily outstripped all of the enemies by at least five levels on playthrough one, but trying it on playthrough two saw me getting destroyed right away by level 51 foes. Speaking of enemies, while many of the foes you face in Knoxx are slightly tweaked versions of older enemies, or the same enemies with new skins/names, there are a few notable exceptions and new additions. First amongst these are the female ninjas that we’ve all seen in numerous screenshots. Zipping about at seemingly super-sonic speeds and slicing you up with their laser katanas faster than you can say, “excuse me, which way to the ‘secret’ armory,” these melee-happy speed freaks made me glad the Hunter has a Bloodwing pet.
The other standout additions to the Crimson Lance army (mostly due to their size) are the troopers strapped into giant mechs. Both of these enemy-types are under-utilized in comparison to the many varieties of Crimson Lance troopers, but that almost makes the times they do show up that much more exciting. The last notable enemy is one that’s not new, but rather has seen a recent boom in their population. The pint-sized psycho midgets that were so amusing before are almost terrifying now due to their numbers. Seriously, outside of clearly marked Crimson Lance/Bandit zones, these guys are seemingly everywhere; and when a dozen shrill-voiced, knee-high, bloodthirsty loonies that want nothing more than to hack you into pieces surround you, you can’t help but feel a little anxious.
Enemies aren't the only new addendum that you get with Knoxx, though; you also get to ride around in three new vehicles: the Monster, the Racer, and the Crimson Lance APC, dubbed "The Lancer". The Monster (seen below) looks like a combination of a Jeep and a fuel truck that fires homing missles as its main gun, and the Racer is a faster version of the Rocket Launcher Outrunners. The Lancer is pretty much a mobile tank, that comes (finally) with room for four players. While one player drives and another takes up the main gun, the third players can scatter mines around the area and the fourth player can maintain the APC’s “personal bubble” by using the blast action, which sends out a wave of energy around the APC that damages any nearby enemies. Sadly, these vehicles are only present in the Knoxx section of the game, so you still can't run about greater Pandora in a vehicle built for four. However, you’ll still get to have plenty of time with each of the new vehicles, as they are your main (and fastest) means of conveyance around the new areas.
Which leads to my only real complaint with the DLC: the lack of Fast Travel stations. The missions are doled out in such a fashion that some times you’ll turn in one, get another mission that’s in the same location, and halfway there be told there is a new mission available to you at the bounty board. It can be rather frustrating and makes it so that the fastest way to get back to the main hub is to exit the game and hop right back in, something that's not too co-op friendly when you've got a game going with a group of friends. What's more, all that back-and-forth travel unnecessarily extends the length of this DLC, and makes many of the new enemies (be they genuinely new or tweaked) become pretty dull and tiresome rather quickly.
Finally, no discussion of Borderlands would be complete without some mention of the loot. While I encountered only a handful of new guns in my playthrough of the DLC, there were certainly more loot chests provided per square mile of game for me to go rifling through. Best of all, after completing the DLC, there’s a repeatable quest that allows you a three-minute looting spree of a certain armory with tons of loot chests (tip: more players not only equal better loot, but also more loot gathered). The best loot in the game, though, can only be attained through the death of the hardest boss in the game, who is always level 64 and requires at least a three-person (though four would make it slightly easier) team of level 61s to beat.
All in all, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx is another solid piece of DLC for Borderlands. What’s more, it’s the first piece of DLC for the game that, in my opinion, feels like a full expansion. The new enemies, new vehicles, new areas, and even the story all create the feeling that this is a whole new chapter to the game, rather than an entertaining (though admittedly still good) addition. The most important new element it brings, however, is the one particular game element that has always seemed to be missing: never-ending loot runs with friends.
Contest time: If you are interested in winning an Xbox 360 code for The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, simply leave a comment below. We'll draw a winner on Tuesday, March 2nd 2010 at 9AM EST.