Borderlands 2 Review
In this current generation, now more than ever, sequels mean everything. The second game in particular is where developers have to nail it, expanding upon positives of the original, while ensuring the game holds onto its identity is what makes or breaks a franchise.
Borderlands was 2009’s quintessential sleeper hit, along with surprise titles such as Batman: Arkham Asylum and Demon’s Souls, both of which received incredible sequels a couple of years later. Not only does Borderlands 2 follow this trend of how to create a great sequel to an already great game, it just might nab the top spot on Game of the Year lists the world over. Yes, it really is that good.
Improvements are apparent straight away with one of the best stories ever to grace a first-person shooter. Penned by Anthony Burch of “Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?” fame, the story of Borderlands 2 puts you in the shoes of one of four (soon to be five) vault hunters, tasked with freeing Pandora from the tyranny of Handsome Jack, president of the Hyperion arms corporation and someone you will absolutely love to hate.
As the plot unfolds you’ll come across nostalgic throwbacks to the original game, as well as several unexpected twists and surprises. This truly is a story where you want to keep playing to see what happens next, what characters show up and even what they say. This is some of the most entertaining and downright hilarious dialogue ever to feature in a game.
Land Of Laughs
Speaking of characters, all your old favourites return from the first game to support you on your quest to stop Handsome Jack. From Scooter to Moxxi, Marcus, Dr. Zed and even Crazy Earl have more dialogue than ever before, including backstory and much finer details into their character traits. All of them are likeable in their own way and you may even find yourself visiting them just to see if they have something to say.
On the flipside of course, there’s Jack himself, one of the cruelest, most evil villains ever created. Jack is merciless and power-hungry and will stop at absolutely nothing to get what he wants: your death. He’s mean, but at the same time has a lot of great dialogue of his own; he’ll make you laugh just as often as he’ll make you want to kill him.
Gameplay has also seen numerous improvements. The original Borderlands prized itself on having more guns than any other game before it. This was true to some extent, though most guns were clones of each other, just with different stats and colour schemes. This system is somewhat less of a gimmick and more of a reality in Borderlands 2. There are tons of different gun designs and many have unique characteristics. For instance, Jakobs manufactured weapons fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, and (a personal favourite) Tediore guns are thrown when reloaded, exploding on impact. It all adds to the thrill of the great loot hunt, and it’s grander than ever here.
Shields, grenades, class mods and artifacts are also much more varied than before. For instance, grenades are now incredibly complex; the feeling of sheer pleasure as you kill five bandits with a corrosive grenade that splits into more grenades when it explodes, and steals health from your enemies really is something else.
Class mods and artifacts also go further to allow you to tailor your character to whatever kind of build you want. Some mods are weapon-specific, like granting added shotgun damage, while others are more universal, giving bonuses to health or reload speeds for example.
Class of 2012
A big part of what made Borderlands so great was its class system. This trend continues in the sequel with four incredibly unique characters to choose from. Axton, the commando, can deploy a turret that seeks out enemies and provides support if, say, your shields are down or you’re simply being overwhelmed. Zer0, the assassin, can deploy a decoy to distract enemies while you move in for the kill with a brutal melee attack or to gain a bit of breathing space. Maya the Siren acts differently to what Lilith did in the first game – instead of Phasewalking, Maya employs a Phaselock that suspends an enemy from the battlefield for a few seconds. Using this, you can focus fire on the suspended target, or work on lesser enemies so you have more room when fighting a potential Badass enemy. Finally we have Salvador, the gunzerker. This guy is insane, his skill allows him to wield two guns at once according to your currently equipped load out.
All of them are incredibly fun to play and have wildly diverse skill trees allowing you to build your character to your liking more specifically than ever. For example, the Siren’s skill tree allows you to lean towards healing support, or all-out destruction with her elemental skills. Similarly, Zer0 can focus on sniping skills, or get up close and personal with his melee skill tree. There are tons of options and it’s safe to say very few characters will be made the same.
There’s very little that Borderlands 2 does wrong. But, there are some annoyances, however. At times, gameplay can become way too hectic to handle, or even enjoy. The game will often put you into situations where you’ll have to deal with more than one type of enemy at a time, which is great, but when you’re having to deal with bandits while wormhole threshers suck you into their attack range while bombers and rakks attack you from the sky, you’ll be praying you have just enough time to earn your second wind if you go down.
Expanding upon the comic book style that made the first game so iconic, Gearbox have used the style to their advantage this time with dozens of unique areas.
Checkpoints and fast travel stations can also be few and far between, making travel to a particular quest point quite the pain when you can’t drive there. Fortunately, though, when you face such crazy odds and it all comes together, taking them down is immensely satisfying, especially when there’s loot to be had on the other end.
Borderlands 2 is a long, challenging game to go alone. That’s where online co-op comes into play, and it’s better than ever. Finishing a quest online with other players means you won’t have to repeat it during solo play, so it seems logical to hop online for some help as opposed to treating it like a separate campaign. From my own experience it’s best played with friends as you’ll need solid communication and a good deal of common sense to survive the game’s tougher sections. You can still share and duel for loot as well which rounds out the co-op experience. All in all, it’s a blast, but it neither outclasses nor glorifies the solo experience. Co-op or no, the game is just as enjoyable no matter how you play it.
Borderlands 2 looks stunning. Expanding upon the comic book style that made the first game so iconic, Gearbox have used the style to their advantage this time with dozens of unique areas. Along with the traditional wastelands you’ll visit sprawling green highlands, a snowy tundra, a utopian cityscape, a wild-west style town, and a wildlife preserve just to name a few. The variety on show here is captivating, and having so many different looking areas make the world of Pandora a joy to explore. The horrendous texture loading of the first game is still here, but it’s nowhere near as bad or sometimes even noticeable.
To put it simply, Borderlands 2 is fantastic, it’s everything a sequel should be. It’s bigger, better, and a whole lot more badass than the original. But it’s more than that, it’s a game with soul, and that’s a rare thing in the triple-A gaming crowd. If you haven’t already, don’t even consider it. Just get this game. You won’t regret it!
Borderlands 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 3.
Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked
Borderlands 2 expands upon the original game in every way. Fine-tuned gameplay, improvements to graphics and presentation, topped off with a fantastic story and memorable characters and you have yourself a winner. Borderlands 2 is a definite contender for Game of the Year.