Good news minions, if you enjoyed Borderlands then you will absolutely love Borderlands 2. The sequel to the surprise (to me) hit doesn’t change with the formula that made the first so successful. It’s more of the same, and that’s not bad thing as Borderlands 2 is bigger and better than the original. It’s everything you’d hope a sequel to be. There is a ton to do in Borderlands 2; the main story is lengthy and it is supplemented by a lot of side quests that will keep you busy for some time.
Yes, Borderlands 2 is so fantastic that it deserves two reviews. You may have recently read Eric’s review of the PC version of Borderlands 2, and if you haven’t then do so as he did a great job. This review though is for the majority of us who aren’t PC gamers, but are instead console gamers. This review covers both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 versions of the game, based on many hours of playing the PS3 version. No, the game isn’t going to look as good on the consoles as it does on the PC with all of its graphical options, but Borderlands 2 still looks absolutely amazing on our six year old consoles.
In my playthrough (and I haven’t beat the main mission yet, though I’m well over half way there) I’ve been playing as Zero, the Assassin character. He’s a good a character and his ability, Deception, allows him to go invisible for a few seconds while a Zero decoy distracts enemies. This is an extremely useful ability that has saved my behind a lot. You can use it to sneak up behind an enemy and deal massive damage, escape an area, or just aid in getting to a good spot undetected. I do plan on experiencing the game using all classes, but for my initial playthrough I’ve been very pleased with Zero.
It’s true, Borderlands 2 is the “Diablo of First Person Shooters,” but past that it is unique to everything else on the market. Where most FPS games are dull browns and greys, Borderlands 2 offers up some great locations beaming with vibrant colors. The colors, combined with the cel-shaded art style, help create a gorgeous world that you’ll enjoy spending countless hours exploring and shooting your way through. Add in great gunplay, some of the funniest characters ever in a video game, RPG elements, and tons and tons of loot, and you have yourself a surefire contender for “Game of the Year.”
I don’t throw around that phrase often or lightly either; Borderlands 2 is currently high on my list for potential Game of the Year. It is an all-around superb title that can be enjoyed alone or in co-op with up to three other people. The story is a sort scifi-Western, but it’s loaded with humor and will have you laughing out loud occasionally. It’s a fun-filled romp through a world that you will want to see more of and will want to help save from the most likeably evil villain since GLaDOS. I don’t say that lightly either; Borderlands 2 ranks right up there with Portal 2 as the funniest video game ever made. It starts literally right from the beginning with the loveable Claptrap (“your ability to walk small distances without dying will be Handsome Jack’s downfall.”) and it just doesn’t let up.
You can be running around just shooting enemies trying to level grind, and boom, Handsome Jack pops up with an audio message, usually about killing you, that is hilarious. Practically every character you meet is going to say something funny. Anthony Burch’s writing is top-notch, and possibly the finest comical writing ever seen in a video game. Speaking of Burch, his sister Ashley (Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?) does an amazing job providing the voice for “the world’s deadliest 13-year-old” Tiny Tina. All of the voice work done in this game is great, but for me Tiny Tina is the best NPC character in the game, followed closely by Dameon Clarke’s Handsome Jack and David Eddings’ Claptrap.
The humor, to me, really is the endearing quality of Borderlands 2 that truly makes it stand-out. It doesn’t take itself seriously and it doesn’t expect you to, so just kick back, relax, laugh, and shoot some crazy creatures and pyscho midgets. That’s the real charm of the game. And the humor isn’t just limited to voiced lines, even some of the missions and challenges are funny and filled with pop culture references. One of my favorite side quests so far has been delivering a pizza to the “Splinter Group.” Now I didn’t think anything of it when I first got the mission, but after going down the sewers to deliver the pizza, it dawned on me “oh snap, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle reference.” Sure enough, I deliver the pizza and then fight some turtle wannabes named Ralph, Dan, Mick, and Leo in the sewers. It ended with a surprise battle, after solving a puzzle, with Flinter. Amazing.
Of course it helps that the game features wonderful controls and fluid combat. The shooting feels great, and things are really well balanced for the most part. Occasionally, you may stumble into an area that has creatures of a higher level than you (a few levels higher and they’ll have a skull beside their name) that you’ll probably want to run away from. Die enough times and you’ll learn your limits as to when you can attack a higher level creature and what the best strategy for doing so is, and you’ll also learn that sometimes a creature has your number and that there’s no shame in running away to live to shoot it another day when you’re a higher level. Of course if things get too bad, you can always open your game up to allow online random’s come in and help you or invite some friends, although the more players in a game the harder the enemies get (which of course means faster leveling and better loot).
Speaking of loot, Borderlands 2 is absolutely packed with loot. Everywhere you go, you’re going to see boxes and chests, toilets and mailboxes, just waiting to be opened to give you things. Ammo, money, shields, health, skins, and of course guns. Lots and lots of guns. That’s one of the key selling points; “a bazillion weapons just got bazilliondier.” They aren’t lying; there are tons and tons and more tons of guns in this game. And since you can only carry so much, you’ll be selling weapons constantly so that you can have more money to purchase ammo and better weapons and gear. The in-game economy here is great. You’re constantly being reward for everything with XP and loot.
The world of Pandora is huge and fully explorable, although some places are inaccessible until certain stages of the game or certain missions. Luckily, once you discover an area you’ll be able to fast travel to it, which really comes in handy when you have a ton of side missions and need to get to an area quick. The world is big, but it’s not open like a Skyrim or whatever. It’s not seamless, you’ll have to load different areas each time you visit it, and those load times aren’t bad but they can seem a tad long on occasion. Still though, that’s the trade off to such a packed and varied game, and it’s not at all an issue.
There is however one issue that detracts from the game, and that’s texture pop-in. When you first load into an area, it’s bad. Textures can take upwards of five seconds or more to properly load, leaving a blurry and ugly mess while you wait. That’s a known issue with the Unreal engine; show me a game running on that engine that doesn’t suffer from bad texture pop-in. It is what it is, and it’s to be expected from a game utilizing that engine, but it is one the main flaws that I can find with the otherwise exceptional title. That and I have encountered numerous enemies stationary floating high above the ground. That’s not really a problematic bug, as it’s prevented those enemies from attacking me and thus been easy kills, plus I’ve enjoyed watching some rather large dead enemies fall a long ways back down.
If those are the only faults that I can find with the game then it’s in great shape. The texture pop-in isn’t something that you’re going to concern yourself with as it’ll go away after a few seconds (although I’m sure it’ll be torture for those whose primary concerns are graphics) and doesn’t hinder the gameplay at all.
I’m really not in the habit of referring to other reviews in my review, but in this instance I kinda can’t help myself. I read a “review” from mainstream media source cough Wall Street Journal cough that talked about how Borderlands 2 wasn’t as good of a shooter as Call of Duty or Halo and that it shouldn’t cost $60. It’d be better as a budget title at $30. Nonsense. For $60, the industry standard, Borderlands 2 packs a ton of value. The main campaign is quite lengthy at anywhere from 20 to 30 hours, plus there’s another 20 or 30 in doing side missions and generally exploring and grinding. Factor in playing the campaign and the side missions with up to three buddies, and replaying the game with each of the four (soon to be five) class characters, and you have a game that you’ll easily be able to sink hundreds of hours into and never get bored. Seeking out loot and trying to find a better, or simply rarer, weapon is really quite addictive.
There are some big games coming out this Fall (and a new console!), and even though Borderlands 2 got a slight jump on the rest of the titles coming out in the next two months, this is a high quality title that could have released smack dab in the middle of the maddening holiday season and still been the game to pick up over most others. Borderlands 2 is a breath of fresh air for the First Person Shooter genre, which is overran with overly serious modern war titles trying to present a realistic and gritty horrors of war story. Kick back, relax, and shoot some bullymongs, and remember that’s okay to laugh (not that you’ll be able to help yourself anyway). Borderlands 2 is bigger and better in every way, as such it truly is a superb title.
* A copy of this game was provided for review.