Borderlands 2 Review

  • Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
  • Developer: Gearbox Software
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Release Date: September 18, 2012
  • Price: $59.99
  • Official: Borderlands

“Another addictive trip to Pandora”

It’s surprising that it took so long for a game like Borderlands to come around. Take general first-person shooter mechanics and blend them together with small role playing elements in an open world. The Elder Scrolls series has had a similar gameplay style only leaning more towards hardcore RPG elements rather than gunplay. But it took a small veteran studio like Gearbox to see the true potential in the combination and to make it happen, and to also sell a few million copies in the process. The sequel was inevitable.

Borderlands 2 is set several years after the events of the first game. When you last saw the original cast you had just helped the Vault Hunters open the fabled Vault only to find disappointment and a lame boss battle. After defeating the alien creature that lurked within they each went off into the sunset. Since then the planet of Pandora has been overtaken by a ruthless tyrant named Handsome Jack who runs the gun manufacturer Hyperion Corporation. He looms over the planet in his flying fortress of death and things are looking even bleaker than before for the poor populace on the surface below.

Luckily for them, there are now four new Vault Hunters who are looking to make a name for themselves. This new group is introduced with a rather slick opening sequence that pans from character to character while showing off each of their playstyles and skills; much better than a lame bus ride the first game opened with. In fact the entire opening portion of the game is handled far better than the originals. Gearbox handled the DLC of the original Borderlands very well, but they were also able to find the games tone with it, a balance of twisted humor with genuine surprises. That storytelling style has carried over perfectly into the sequel. It begins similar enough, you meet a quirky robot named Claptrap and are casually introduced to the wild and crazy world of Pandora. But although the story begins in familiar fashion the story is far more involved and interesting than the first games ever was. This time around you will encounter many more unique and slightly disturbed individuals as you go about your business, and they will provide you with more varied and interesting side quests as well. But it’s the main story quest that provides the surprising emotional core that is hidden within Borderlands 2.

Besides the comical and crazy side characters, you’ll find yourself interacting with the original games crew as well. But these aren’t the same bland Vault Hunters as before, this time around they have been infused with legitimate personalities. It is with these characters where the story takes interesting turns. You will learn far more about what makes these people tick than you ever did whilst actually playing as them. The story is far more involved than I had expected and it was a pleasant surprise. Adding a true antagonist everyone can rally against with Handsome Jack was a great move, he is both awesome and a real dick. His motives and chess moves against the heroes are great. I won’t spoil anything but the writers at Gearbox deserve credit for not only including a well written plot, but also for somehow tying it so closely with the events of the first game; which didn’t really have a story at all.

While the team made some real strides in their writing and presentation, gameplay itself has fundamentally stayed the same but with some subtle tweaks. Whether that is good or bad is up to you. Unfortunately its true that for the most part your opinion of Borderlands 2 can come down to whether or not you enjoyed the first title. The shooting is going to feel familiar as are the new characters, although they are visually different they generally fit the molds left behind by the previous crew. You have a Siren but this time she can hold the enemy in place instead of becoming invisible. The Commando who drops a turret, the Gunzerker who dual wields and the Assassin who took the Sirens original ability as he turns himself invisible and deploys a decoy. Each class is unique while also not altering your playstyle too much from the originals.

You will still run to town, pick up objectives from NPC’s with Exclamation Marks above their heads then run out into the world to shoot lots and lots of enemies. Although each class isn’t as separated from the original as I would have liked, they are still fun to play. Each class fills a group nicely and with the three unique skill trees, they can be be tweaked just enough to fit your individual playstyle. Soon enough you will begin to augment your Special Ability to individualize it even further, which will in turn make combat that much more interesting. The amount of depth only grows as you realize a new Badass Rank system has been implemented within the game. As you complete random challenges, such as killing a set number of Bandits or pulling off successful head shots, you will be promoted within that challenge and be provided a boost to your Rank. These Ranks provide you with Tokens you can spend to augment not only your current character, but all other characters you create within the game. These additions, while small, can make a big difference in the end. Want to increase reload speed? Go for it. Want to deal out more elemental damage, Why not? These smaller buffs, in addition to the thousands of guns and other loot you find in the world such as new Skin customization’s  really help make your character your own and add a sense of ownership and accomplishment not found in the previous game.

While the gunplay will feel familiar to any Borderlands veteran, Pandora most certainly will not. The first glimpse of the planet provides you with a scenic outlook of snowy mountains and blinding powder with giant cliffs of ice peppered throughout. As you travel, the landscape will transform into vast green pastures with glistening rivers running down the middle of them, followed by desolate barren deserts with only littered skeletons to break up the view. The first games abysmal diversity has been left in the past as the team really went all out to provide gamers with a much more varied and exciting world. Not only have the landscapes been upped, so too has the local wildlife that inhabit it. Creature variety is much larger this time around with each locale offering up a different slice of Pandoran predators to face off against. You will run into the familiar Skags, but they will be broken up by snow chucking Bullymong and underground diving Thresher. The boring and unoriginal world design has definitely evolved into a much more organic and entertaining vision of Pandora this time around.

The majority of changes for this sequel may appear small on the surface, but they add up to a much more exciting and impressive adventure than the first. The extra customization options for your character, the familiar but exciting gunplay and the impressive new world are all reasons to spend countless hours enjoying Borderlands 2. Grab several friends, and hunt down the 87 Bazillion new guns waiting for you on the surface of Pandora. -Chuck

The Rundown

  • + Great addictive gameplay
  • + Graphics are colorful and unique
  • + One of the best co-op games out there
  • + Handsome Jack
  • –  Perhaps a bit too similar to original
  • –  Vehicle controls are poor mans Halo
  • –  Claptraps annoying Dubstep. You have been warned!

                                                                                                          

Final Score

9.0 / 10

“Incredible”

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