Review: Borderlands 2
- — 29 September, 2012 22:00
|Name||First-person shooter: Borderlands 2|
|Summary:||The borderlands ain't no place for a hero. Good thing your character barely qualifies.|
|Games Info:||Developer: Gearbox Software; Publisher: 2K Games|
|Platform:||PC, Xbox 360, PS3|
|Test Platform:||Xbox 360|
The word has multiple meanings, and it's the one that sums up Borderlands 2 the best. Wicked, because it's just wicked awesome, or wickedly delightful. And wicked, because you play somebody who's not really the good guy - he (or she) is just better than the bad guy and therefore the hero of the story by default.
Borderlands 2 has improved on the original game in every possible way. A better story? Check. More well fleshed-out characters? Check. Funnier? Check. More variation in the environments? Check. Approximately a bazillion awesome guns? Check, check, and check.
Borderlands 2 is a space-western first-person shooter, set on the planet of Pandora, but it's not your typical FPS - it has as much, if not more, in common with Diablo than Halo. You play as one of four Vault Hunters - literally people who hunt for treasure vaults - each of which has their own unique ability. I played through as Maya, a Siren who can thrust enemies into the air and trap them, allowing you - and your teammates - to shoot them down.
The usefulness of this power - called 'phaselock' - cannot be overstated, especially since it can later be used to heal, and instantly revive allies. In fact, all of the powers are pretty cool - as Zer0, the Assassin, you go into stealth mode and create a decoy. Salvador, the Gunzerker, can dual-wield any two guns in the game, rocket launchers included, and Axton, the Commando, can throw down turrets for support.
It's five years since the end of the original Borderlands, and things haven't gone so well in Pandora. A particularly nasty dictator by the name of Handsome Jack has taken over the planet, and is trying to find and open a vault that's rumoured to be on the planet. The problem? He opens the vault, he becomes even more frighteningly powerful than he already is.
Handsome Jack is a fantastic character - I hated him, and I loved him. His dry sarcasm was hilarious, but the things he did to people were terrifying. And although he's probably the most well-developed character in the game, he really demonstrates how much work Gearbox has put into making multi-faceted characters this time around. I learned far more about the characters from the original game in Borderlands 2 than I did in Borderlands. And because I cared about them, there were some truly awesome moments - watching old, beloved characters hulk out is always fun - and some surprisingly heartfelt ones. Of course, any heartfelt moments were quickly followed up with someone using the word 'bonerfart', or something, so whatever I was feeling, it didn't last.
As you go through the game, you'll encounter many characters who will encourage you to do both good and fairly reprehensible things. But even the bad stuff you do is sprinkled with a sugarcoating of good humour, so even when you're murdering a guy in cold blood for talking badly about you, you don't really feel guilty about it. The first game was funny, but the second is funnier. And fiction is seperated from reality enough that it didn't even occur to me that I was doing a bad thing until after the deed was done.
The humour even extends into the gunplay. Some of the guns you obtain will make fun of you as you use them ("If you were a better shot you wouldn't need to reload!"), or, in the case of one particularly annoying but powerful gun, just unleash a high-pitched squeal upon your eardrums.
The guns you get - regardless of whether they talk or not - are straight-up awesome, and there are too many to count. You can buy them and trade them, but also loot them off of enemies like you could in the first game - the tougher the enemy, the better the loot. The mechanics also seem to feel better and more streamlined this time around.
The loot is the reason Borderlands gets compared to Diablo. In the sequel there's a metric crap-tonne of it that you get from kills, or from looting chests and piles of bones on the ground. There's also an RPG-like system for gaining new skills, in that when you level up, you get a skill point that you can spend on things like making your phaselock last longer, or getting quick health regeneration while gunzerking. Both the loot and levelling systems are carried over from the first game, so many of you reading this review will already be familiar with those mechanics.
It's clear that the developer has paid extra attention to the environments this time around - when the original game came out, one of the major criticisms was the fact that every area essentially looks the same. It was all one big, dusty desert. This time you'll scale giant towers, walk through icy mountains, and explore dripping caves.
You can play the game co-op the whole way through, if you want, and in the 360 and PS3 versions you have the choice of splitscreen as well as online (or both). Playing multiplayer makes the game really come alive, although it's still definitely worth playing single-player. But splitscreen multiplayer creates some issues, at least in the Xbox version of the game (I bought an Xbox copy so I had enough buddies to play four-player co-op with, as it's an integral part of the game). When you're playing splitscreen and one player opens the menu, the other player starts to lag pretty badly. That's a problem if that player is in the middle of a fight. One player opening the menu also messes with the sound - it gets quieter when a menu is open, which isn't ideal for the other player.
I have a couple of other nitpicks with Borderlands 2. Some of the enemies just aren't fun to fight, especially when you've fought ones that are just like them about a hundred times already. The giant insect varkids, for example, are never a real threat - if you're even semi-competent they won't kill you - but they just keep coming, and coming, and coming, and it gets highly annoying. That said, there was a really annoying enemy in the original game that wasn't present this time around, so I can't complain too much.
The biggest of the game's problems, though, is the one I can say the least about. There is a massive, massive plot hole. There's no way to elaborate without spoiling a major plot point, but at the end of the game I had a big question mark hanging over my head.
If you enjoyed the first Borderlands, you're probably going to love Borderlands 2. Gearbox have taken all of the best parts of the original game and improved upon them, and worked really hard on the parts of the game that were lacking.
What's more? Even more Borderlands is on its way: Gearbox's lead writer has already confirmed a third game in the series. Guess there really ain't no rest for the wicked.