Borderlands 2 review
Generally speaking the rule of thumb that applies to sequels is that everything must be bigger, better and even more badass than the first, and thankfully the good folk at Gearbox have applied this and then some in Borderlands 2. Sequel to the 2009 surprise smash, this is a second instalment that will not disappoint and raises the bar for others to follow.
Borderlands 2 picks up a few years after the first and now Pandora (the psycho filled planet where this adventure takes place) is under the control of the deliciously evil Handsome Jack. You play as one of four Vault hunters searching for the fabled Vault, and on arriving will receive a ‘warm’ welcome from Handsome Jack. Now I do not want to ruin the story, but needless to say I found the campaign mode in Borderlands 2 a lot more engaging than the first.
This is a largely due to the writing. The story is an improvement over the first for a start, but the banter from the NPC’s is the real winner here, it manages to stay tongue in cheek without coming across as cheesy or just plain ridiculous. Coupled with the array of characters you will meet along the way, and you have yourself a pretty concrete foundation for a brilliant campaign. If you played the first you will recognise some of the characters, but the new additions really make Pandora come alive. Special mention to Handsome Jack, he is one of the most entertaining villains you will come up against in a game.
Know your role
The gameplay is still a blend of first-person shooter and RPG elements. Dubbed a “Role Play Shooter” by Gearbox, it has come on leaps and bounds from the first. With each shot you land on an enemy you will see a burst of crimson and more importantly a number which equates to the amount of XP you are earning. The levelling up system here is a lot smoother than its predecessor and more addictive. As the game progresses with tougher enemies and better weapons in your arsenal, you are going to get more XP showered across your screen in fights, and the thrill of getting that final shot in to make it to the next level never fades. Expect yourself to be making many a power fist…
This blend of RPG and Shooter will appeal to the most dedicated of each genre and might convert those who are not well versed in them. The RPG element is spot on and has a glut of options to allow each player to customise to their own needs. With each level increase you can spend a skill point on improving attributes such as health, accuracy and damage to name but three. The only criticism here is that while you can change your characters look, it really only goes as far as a new colour scheme, it would have been great to outfit your vault hunter with loads of crazy Pandora accessories.
Guns, guns and more guns
What really makes Borderlands 2 tick however is the shooter mechanics it possesses. To put it simply, it’s easily one of the most solid and incredibly satisfying shooters I have played and it really is the games stand out element. Borderlands 2 is all about guns, ranging from modest pistols to explosive rifles and you really are spoiled for choice. Gearbox themselves have said that the game features ‘bazillions’ of weapon options and you can certainly believe that. You will come across weapons that spew flaming balls or ones that fire meaty shotgun blasts across a distance, either way there really is a weapon in here that will make you feel mighty. This isn’t even including the grenade options, which again are varied and brilliant but none beats the combination of both with guns that are tossed at reload time as a grenade. Yes you did read that correctly, grenade guns!
Whatever gun you choose to possess in Borderlands they will have one thing in common which is how it fires. Gearbox’s mad collection of guns all function with a great meatiness, nothing feels flimsy at all. It’s an achievement in itself that each weapon feels different and a testimony to the developer for not letting the variety get lost.
Keep your friends close…
As with any shooter you are only going to have fun if your enemies are good and Borderlands 2 features some of the maddest you will encounter. The range of enemies here is great, from the thick skinned Goliath’s to the straight up Kamikaze tactics of the Psycho’s, the enemy AI will keep you on your toes throughout the game. No camping and picking off here, these are full throttled battles that are fun and fast paced. When you are equipped with some of the games more impressive weaponry the action is simply breathtaking. What’s most impressive is that with so many enemy variants you will be coaxed into changing weapons regularly which keeps the action fresh and exciting throughout.
Aside from the main story in the games campaign mode you will also have loads of side quests to complete. There is well over 30 hours of content here and with the choice of four classes it is worth playing through again to enjoy each perk. The game will stay fresh and exciting thanks to the pretty brilliant gameplay. While the game doesn’t feature any competitive multiplayer modes, it does boast a very good co-op mode. Similar to the first game this is really where the action in your adventures on Pandora gets turned to the max and is one of the best co-op titles you will play this year, if not all year.
Borderlands 2 is a testimony to that age old concept of making a sequel better than the original in every way. It is a marked improvement from the first and is no doubt one of the best titles of 2012. This is a game that begs to be played by simply embracing it and enjoying it for what it is – one of the craziest and most fun games you will play. It’s simply a blast.