Borderlands 2 Review [XBOX 360, PS3, PC]
In 2009, defying initial expectations that it would flop, Borderlands 1 dragged every loot-hungry would-be Vault Hunter kicking and screaming into the crazy world of Pandora. Borderlands fever struck more people than expected, creating a cult following that no amount of DLC could satisfy. So when the DLC for Borderlands 1 dried up, people started politely asking (read: hunger strikes) for a sequel. Last week, the ones who hadn’t starved to death could once more enter the skag-infested planet of Pandora and try against all odds to survive.
For those entering Pandora for the first time, Borderlands is primarily a loot-based FPS game. That is, there’s loot. Piles of it. No, I don’t think you fully understand. Every bit of loot is randomly generated. Ever wanted a grenade that explodes in to 6 grenades then shocks everyone around it and then replenishes some of your health? Or how about a gun that, when reloaded is hurled out in front of you and explodes like a grenade on impact? Good, because they have an entire gun manufacturer dedicated to that last one.
We meet back up with four new Vault Hunters on the alien planet of Pandora, a place filled to the brim with enough bandits, psychos and general crazies that you have to start asking yourself whether there are still enough loonies left in the galaxy to share around. Since the opening of the vault in the first game, Pandora now houses even more of the valuable mineral called Eridium and this has caught the attention of a new evil named Handsome Jack. And he’s one bad mother-trucker.
You see, Handsome Jack is the president of Hyperion, a massive corporation that have a hand in just about anything evil or death-related, and he wants to find the vault for himself and has vowed to murderise anyone that gets in his way. Men, women, children.. anyone. Being the president of an evil corporation has its perks you see, and besides arriving on Pandora and naming himself dictator and all-round nasty piece of work, Handsome Jack has sent his murderous robot army after these new Vault Hunters in hopes of, well.. there’s no finer way of putting this: mounting their lifeless corpses in his trophy room and dancing around them like a mad man.
Borderlands 2 promises more of the same action and glorious gunplay that had gamers hooked on the first game, but on a much grander scale, with all the kinks from the first game ironed out. And boy, do they deliver. More varied environments, even more eccentric characters, bigger guns, and most importantly, a better story, which is something the first game was sorely lacking. Stepping up as lead writer, Anthony Burch (Hey Ash! and Destructoid fame) shows off the writing style he is best known for: bat-crap crazy. Borderlands 2 is one of those games where you can’t imagine a character being crazier than the one you just met. But they always are.
The Vault Hunters I mentioned earlier aren’t the same Vault Hunters that starred in Borderlands 1, although the old favourites are back as all-singing, all-dancing quest NPCs. The new Vault Hunters have a personal grudge against Handsome Jack, what with his attempted murder of all four of them during the opening cutscene.
The same basic classes remain from the first game, but each is a little different from their predecessors. Salvador is a Gunzerker; an angry pint-sized ball of pure rage that can dual wield any two guns in the game. Zer0 is a stealthy assassin who can become invisible; projecting a holograph of himself to keep his enemies occupied while he lines up the perfect shot, or goes behind for the instant kill. Maya is a Siren (hey, we know those) who can phase lock foes in place, all the while doing massive elemental damage to them or healing her team. And finally, Axton is the commando. His special ability, besides man-scaping, is his giant automated turret which seeks out soft fleshy bits and fires upon them. This review does not include the Mechromancer character class, set to be released mid-October and free for those who pre-ordered.
One of Borderlands’ main returning features, besides Clap Trap (he’s a feature, damnit), is the incredibly addictive co-op. Borderlands 2 supports up to four-player co-op, allowing each player to choose the class that suits his or her play-style. Both you and your three friends want to stealth it up with Zer0? Not a problem. Character customisation and the many, many skins will ensure you and your pals look completely different.
The only downside to playing Borderlands 2, besides exchanging a lot of your free time in return for fun, is that the game suffers from some rather consistent texture pop-in across all platforms. It’s noticeable, but overall doesn’t detract from what is a near perfect game. If a fun, engaging FPS game with a vast amount of loot, quests and lovably deranged characters doesn’t make you want to joy-puke your face off, then you’re beyond anyone’s help. And you can enjoy it with three of your best pals!
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