Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: September 18th, 2012
Borderlands combined tried and true FPS mechanics with a crazy alien world and even crazier weapons to become a surprisingly engaging shooter. Now, while some clear flaws continue through the series, Borderlands 2 demonstrates how to make a highly entertaining sequel, improving many of the first game’s aspects, turning it into the best game I’ve played this year.
Once again, you play as one of four characters who are thrown into the ridiculous yet dangerous world of Pandora. Loaded with a myriad of weapons, grenades and shields, you traverse the land and uncover quests, meet strange characters and experiment the best way to kill an insane suicidal midget… Naturally.
Check Out These Guns
Borderlands 2’s combat depends on the player cleverly utilizing their quirky collection of weapons, and even after a rather slow first couple of hours where the selection is quite dull, it doesn’t take long to realize how diverse they eventually become.
Every gun acts in a completely different way
Every gun acts in a completely different way, whether it shoots extremely fast, lights enemies on fire, increases melee damage or is thrown like a grenade and then digitally reappears in your hand…because science. They all fire and reload with positively orgasmic ‘BOOMS!’ and ‘click-clacks’, and it’s a joy to finally have a versatile arsenal of snipers, pistols and shotguns, each weapon dynamically changing combat as much as the weapons differ from one another, which is a lot.
It’s just a shame that the weapons, shields and even ammunition lose a lot of reverence when you just stumble upon them in boxes, garbage bins and toilets. Even when they are guarded by “bosses”, I was able to sprint up, snag them and run away, so weapons and shields feel less like a prestigious reward and more like a random thing you were lucky to find by accident.
game play gets less stale by simply increasing your choice of wacky weapons
But even with boring RPG elements that do useless stuff like increase your fire rate by %4, the game play gets less stale by simply increasing your choice of wacky weapons the further you get in the game. In fact, your memory of how you progress through the story is less about the actual plot and more what kind of weapon really helped you out in a sticky situation, mainly because the only way Borderlands 2 gets challenging is by increasing the amount of enemies and their health. Badass Psychos in particular always forced me to back step to the very start of the level while I fired a shotgun into their unarmoured face and chest without even making them flinch. And Stalkers and Threshers are one of the most annoying things I’ve ever had the displeasure of trying to shoot.
Enemies are, like the first Borderlands, absurdly identical and numerous. In games like Lost Planet and Killzone, where you shoot generic soldiers wearing matching armour, it’s easy to imagine a different person under each outfit. But in Borderlands 2, see one fat guy with a helmet who, if you shoot the helmet off, causes his spinal column to shoot out of his neck with a secondary head…seen ‘em all.
And the ‘Fight For Your Life’ mechanic is one of the worst implemented ideas I’ve ever seen, rewarding ineffective players by allowing them to revive themselves by killing an enemy, and punishing those who were able to kill everything around them just to be sniped or mortared by something completely out of reach, leaving them to pathetically crawl around and wait to die. It’s just depressing, and leaving nearby enemies alive to act as ‘quick revival buttons’ isn’t a very appropriate way of behaving when ‘shooting stuff in delightfully quirky ways’ is what this game attempts, and succeeds, at showing off most.
The Stupid Rules Of A Crazy World
Borderlands 2 acknowledges video game mechanics like dying, fast travelling and mission objectives by crudely slapping futuristic technology onto them without explaining how any of it works or how it affects the culture. And things like robots surviving smashing into the ground like a comet but getting destroyed by a few shotgun blasts is left unexplained and are just plain weird. If I’m a digital copy of myself then how can I have shields AND HEALTH?
The technology of Pandora just seems to exist to “explain” how the world works with some video game laws in place, and enemies respawn in the exact same places in each area, so the world Borderlands 2 creates feels very lazy and mechanical, and it’s very hard to look past the ‘game’ part of the game.
Exactly like its weapons, the areas of Borderlands 2, although truncated since you have to pass through loading screens to get to them, are deceptively diverse, with deserts, cities, grasslands and factories. But the abundance of enemies makes these interesting locations nothing more than arenas, and like the kooky enemies themselves, particular landmarks, like a giant metal fire-breathing dragon fortress, lose almost all their impact since we have virtually no idea what it is or why it’s there. The map is also overly ‘layered’ that it can be very tricky to get to an objective that may be on one of three platforms above or below each other.
side quests are incredibly dynamic, and bring comical yet endearing character to the people and places
Yet a lot of that doesn’t matter since Borderlands 2’s side quests are incredibly dynamic, and bring comical yet endearing character to the people and places. These fascinating missions include finding an apparently cursed weapon, knocking alcohol barrels off a truck, enjoying a party, taking care of a wounded animal, stealing volleyballs and, my personal favourite, fulfilling someone’s desire to get shot in the face. Even though the rewards are almost always an inferior version of a weapon or shield you already have, the missions are so different and quirky that I ended up doing several without even caring what the payout was, which is probably the biggest compliment you can give a game’s side quests.
After spending the first several hours in the snow with dull weapons and missions I was preparing to write Borderlands 2 off as another disappointing sequel. But the more the world of Pandora opened up, the more I reveled in the size and charisma the land and characters had to offer.
I reveled in the size and charisma the land and characters had to offer
Most of my issues come down to the stunted elements of combat and the lazily unexplained rules of the land, yet varied guns help the former slightly, and the latter, as with Dark Souls, makes the world feel slightly more unknown and alien.
The RPG elements, and even leveling up, are so uninteresting that the fact I’ve mentioned them twice now is more attention than they deserve.
Borderlands 2 has an interesting world that I gladly spent hours exploring, and with insanely entertaining characters, creatures, weapons and locations, the world of Pandora is one I will gladly revisit. If you liked the first one, chances are you’ll like this just as much, if not more.
BOG’s Borderlands 2 Score: 8.8
Why so high?:
- Massive and interesting world
- Engaging story that almost feels ‘too good for this’
- Side missions are surprisingly diverse and entertaining
- Interesting weapons that modify combat with each new change
- Voice acting is pretty decent
- Most of the characters are endearing in a bizarre way
- Psycho: “You bring me a bucket and I’ll show you a bucket”. Awesome
Why so low?:
- Doesn’t explain the rules of its universe enough
- Combat can get clustered and tedious
- The map is a bit untidy
- RPG elements are boring and almost useless
- The ‘Fight For Your Life’ mechanic is ‘bulle merde’, if you’ll pardon my French
- Takes a few hours to ‘get going’
- Why would you introduce the four characters then kill ¾ of them off in the same cinematic!?