Borderlands 2 Review

Developer(s):

Gearbox Software

Publisher(s):

2K Games

Console(s): 

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Release Dates: 

(NA) September 18th, 2012/ (AU) September 20th, 2012/ (EU) Septemeber 21st, 2012/ (JP) October 25th, 2012

Players:

Singleplayer, 4-player co-op

-Jovan St. Lawrence

Shoot, Loot, Rinse, & Repeat

The critically acclaimed RPG-shooter has returned in great fashion. It’s an understatement that Borderlands 2 was indeed a great test for Gearbox Software. An unexpected hit in 2009, Gearbox took the already impeccable formula that the original Borderlands possessed and capitalized on it for a sequel. As a result, Borderlands 2 has spawned many improvements: the loot, the humor, the exploration, diversity in the open world, and most surprisingly & importantly, the story.

The Loot

It is intoxicating just how much there is to collect in this game. I frequently had to sell and drop equipment to make room for much better equipment throughout the game. As the game progresses, the firefights and the boss battles become more rewarding because of the incredible amounts of loot that is waiting to be grabbed. Just knowing that there is a rare colored item after defeating a boss is incredibly satisfying. From guns to relics to shields to grenade mods to class mods, you are always collecting in what seems to be a never ending cycle. Of course, guns make up the majority of the loot but for me personally, grenade mods make a close second. Although, you are gonna be staring down the sight of a gun most of the time, there are multiple ways to dispose of enemies. With the right grenade mod equipped, you can burn, corrode, electrocute, or slag your enemies to death with great ease in some cases depending on their elemental weakness. Shield collecting is vital as well. Equipping the proper shield is key, especially when fighting a boss at a lower level. Some shields have special properties such as releasing a burning nova wave of fire when depleted and so on. Class mods offer great bonuses to particular classes such as increased ammo, gun accuracy, fire rate, increased shield recharge rate, maximum health and much more. Relics relatively bring the same kinds of bonuses as class mods. The only difference is all classes can use all relics. A pre-order bonus, the Vault Hunter’s Relic, increases the rarity of loot that is dropped after killing enemies when equipped.

The Story

The original Borderlands didn’t have the most compelling or riveting of stories. Borderlands 2 attempts to change that. It has succeeded. Now I have to stress, this isn’t as intricate or appealing as Uncharted or Mass Effect but the writers at Gearbox have put together a well written story with great supporting characters that we’ve not only known for a few years now but new characters that we have come to appreciate. The story starts of with you playing as one of the four new Vault Hunters hunting for (you guessed it) vaults on the planet Pandora. You can now play as Axton the Commando, Maya the Siren, Salvador the Gunzerker, or Zero the Assassin. Sadly, after the opening of the first vault, the Hyperion Corporation has taken over most of Pandora along with its charming leader and main antagonist, Handsome Jack. Jack hates Vault Hunters (I can’t imagine why) and you end up in the middle of all that stands between the last of the Resistance and the Hyperion Corporation with Jack himself at the helm. Early on in the game, you are introduced to the last stronghold of the Resistance, Sanctuary. Sanctuary is a great new hub for players to buy and sell equipment, engage in contact with the various NPC’s for side missions and in some cases, earn more guns just by talking to them in the city. Now I do have to say that Handsome Jack is one of the best new villains I’ve seen in quite some time for a video game. He’s a villain that loves being a villain. He has such pride and passion in being pure evil you just have to love him for that. Along the way you come across interesting new characters such as Ellie, daughter of Moxxi & sister to Scooter, both from the first game & Tiny Tina, a lovely, homicidal, 13 year old loud mouth and the best demolitions expert on Pandora. Another new character, Sir Hammerlock also becomes your new ally. Hammerlock is a resistance member who despises not only Jack but is quite the elegant scholar himself. You also make allies with the original four characters from the first Borderlands: Roland, Lilith, Brick, & Mordecai, are now all fully voiced NPC’s in the game and provide vital roles to the main story. As mentioned before, Moxxi from the Mad Moxxi Underdome DLC in the first Borderlands is back along with “Catch-A-Ride” Scooter as well. Then there’s arguably the best supporting character Borderlands will ever have, Claptrap. Claptrap is back and he’s more annoying (in the best way) and hilarious than ever. There’s a great cast of supporting characters and you will grow to care and love each and every one of them due to the great writing this game has.

The Gameplay 

I don’t think I need to say that the controls for Borderlands 2 are just as responsive as they were in the original so I won’t. However, Borderlands 2 still hasn’t seemed to drastically improve driving and the use of vehicles from its predecessor. Now I’m aware that many people consider id Software’s Rage to be a “toned down Borderlands” in many aspects but the vehicles in Rage were very useful, enjoyable, and easy to control. In Borderlands 2, the vehicle usage is mostly just to get the player from Point A to B when fast travel isn’t an option at that given time. This is a shooter first but it would have been nice to see deeper customization and smarter mission design with vehicles in this game. The play time of Borderlands 2’s main story runs at about 30 hours, with a single character, not including sidequests. That being said, all four classes are incredibly fun to play as and their unique abilities and skill trees offer more satisfying play time even if you’re going through the exact same campaign again. I started as a Commando and now I’m currently leveling simultaneously as both a Siren and the newly released fifth character, Gaige the Mechromancer. There is also Vault Hunter Mode (Borderlands version of New Game+) where you go through the campaign a second time keeping your loot and level. Once you reach the level cap at 50, you can then fight the game’s first four person raid boss. On a side note, I want to add that I personally saw one of my friends take on that raid boss and defeated it by himself so there’s a strong possibility that these future raid bosses can be defeated with a single player. The new user interface helps very much as well with more options on how to sort missions, easy ways to mark your loot, and an always present mini-map, the entire interface is much more user friendly and accessible. I also have to commend the diversity in the world you are exploring now. Pandora does a very good job at telling its story with its environments. Whether you’re in a snowy tundra or a desert or an industrial city, you are invested in the story partly because of your surroundings. With DLC soon to bring about dozens of hours worth of content, I know I will not stop playing Borderlands 2 for a long time.

Borderlands 2 is the complete package. It took the already great formula and aesthetics from the first title and brought about new additions that seamlessly blend in to make an even enriching experience. The easter eggs also bring forth the already established humorous essence of Borderlands. From missions that will remind you of Lord of the Rings and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to secret areas that include mechanics from Minecraft, Borderlands 2 is full of life with its not so subtle references in the game. Unfortunately, I must say that if you weren’t a fan of the original Borderlands, there’s nothing for you here in this sequel. Not much was changed so much so to bring in newcomers either. However, the great narrative, lovable characters, overwhelmingly silly humor, abundance and variety of loot, and lasting appeal make this a true sequel. 

The Pros:

  • Small but effective UI improvements
  • Dedicated hub world in Sanctuary
  • Hilarious writing
  • Tons of easter eggs (some not even found yet according to Gearbox)
  • Incredibly well done mission design
  • Exploration is still satisfying
  • Much more environmental diversity in Pandora from the original
  • Guns, Guns, and more Guns!

The Cons:

  • Frame rate drops occasionally when there is heavy action
  • Checkpoints still need some work
  • All of the loot is shared in co-op

Final Verdict: 9.5/10

At the time of this review Borderlands 2 is $60. Trust me, you are getting your money’s worth with this purchase if you so choose too.

Borderlands 2 Wimoweh Trailer