Review: Borderlands 2
Title: Borderlands 2
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Tagline: Borderlands but with more, well, everything
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The original Borderlands was one game I shelved very early on, playing with an over enthusiastic, and modding, friend killed the magic for me. Then Borderlands 2 showed up, and you could wield two massive guns, I felt myself being pulled aboard the hype train very fast. Luckily I took a step back before I got caught up by this bullet train of excitement, dusted off the first game and began to see if I could find the enthusiasm I missed, and you better believe I found it. With 26 hours invested in just two weeks, I was hooked on looting and ordered the sequel.
It’s been three years since the original Vault Hunters laid waste to the scum of Pandora and took all their weapons, but only a few days had passed for me, and I found a worry that I was going to get burnt out on all this looting. Luckily the start of Borderlands 2 eases you into this with the first, and so far only, cinematic cutscene depicting the arrival of the four new mercenaries on the search for treasure. This is one of the amazing things about the game, no long drawn out talky talk that you don’t get control of, key characters and bosses are introduced with very brief sequences, but you’ll never relinquish movement when being explained a mission. This makes the experience seem so much more immersive, eaves dropping on characters as they chat away before handing you a mission is a nice little inclusion.
The story also is a lot more focused than before, this is something that I found a bit awkward at first, mainly because I spent so much time with the original. Whereas Borderlands had some quite clear downtime between receiving missions, this isn’t so much in the sequel. You don’t always have to be constantly doing whatever mission you have, but a story mission is always present to push you forward.
One thing that held the first game back were the amount of bland characters that littered each area, granted there were a few notable ones like Dr Zed, but anyone just based in a town were pretty pointless. Borderlands 2 however makes inhabitants interact with one another and actually have some freedom of movement giving much more life to Pandora. Key characters get introduced using small cut scenes, probably the only ones you’ll see in the entire game, which are always enjoyable and add to the humour.
Borderlands 2 will keep you amused throughout, a mix of slightly immature jokes and pop culture references make the game seem very self aware of what it is. It never gets straight out ridiculous, it always maintains a good balance between telling a story and having some fun – I mean the demolitions expert is a 13 year old girl. The story does well in setting a new tone for the game while also following on from the original, the previous Vault Hunters you played as will all make an appearance and explain the direction of the story. It can get a little predictable at points, but some of the bigger action moments are pretty damn impressive, this game certainly has got bigger.
Things certainly feel bigger in scale throughout, while maintaining that sense of familiarity to certain areas of the world. Some little niggles found me getting stuck on certain parts of the environment, but nothing that broke the game or experience. It might be a minor thing too but having a lot more different receptacles for the loot scattered around seems a lot more satisfying than the few repeated ones of the first – after a while you’ll recognise them easily and will always be able to sniff out treasure. Despite there being a bazilliondier more guns this time around they don’t feel as diverse, the designs tend to be very similar but they will obviously do different things. Each type of weapon, manufacturer and configuration will handle slightly differently, you’ll always be able to find a gun that fits your play style.
I’ve played it pretty safe with the classes, opting for the Soldier paired with his Sabre Turret. Mapping out your path in the incredibly detailed skill trees is important, otherwise you might find yourself spending points all over the shop and not getting some of the more devastating upgrades. If this does happen however you can reset everything for a fee, you do this via any of the stations that allow you to customise your character. You’ll get a trio of different skill types, while they try and vary the different enhancements in each, ultimately they’ll focus on your action skill, offence or defence. Bad ass points that you accumulate can also be spent on little tweaks like weapon damage, maximum health, reload speeds and more. These offer little perks for completing the games many challenges, the upgrades will be presented in a random list of five different options, again it is important to focus on a few paths to get the most out of the system.
Borderlands 2 offers a bigger game, and for the most part it succeeds on delivering this promise. The world is a lot more diverse, the guns are piled into every corner of the world and a brilliant sense of humour kept me hooked. A few similar looking guns and technical grievances do not detract from any of this. While the game seems more story focused you can still do all the dungeon crawling and loot collecting until your heart’s content.
Riding the diamond pony
- More loot than you can imagine
- Better interaction with NPCs and varied environments
- Great mix of humour and adventure
Left on the Skag pile
- Gun design doesn’t seem as diverse as first game
- Minor bugs with getting stuck on the environment
- Pacing of the game can feel a bit off compared to the original
Swearing, shooting, violence and buckets of adult humour make up the bulk of this adventure. There’s a reason this game got an M rating from ESRB and comes in at 18+ on the PEGI scale.