Back in 2009, Gearbox, best known for their work on the PC version of Halo and the Brother’s in Arms series, released a new IP by the name of Borderlands for PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and eventually Macs.
While some critics viewed the title as flawed and repetitive, the game garnered a strong following amongst gamers thanks to its strong cooperative gameplay and fairly large amount of content.
The game spawned four expansion packs and even received a few awards from publications like IGN and Gameinformer.
Now, the much anticipated sequel, the aptly titled Borderlands 2, has hit store shelves. Is it an improvement over its predecessor?
Yes. Oh lawd yes.
Borderlands 2 takes all the characteristics that made the original great and makes those characteristics that much better. Gameplay has been refined, the writing has improved immensely, and the massive amount of replay value has increased exponentially.
At the time of this review, I’ve managed to sink in around 12 hours in the two days the game has been out and I’m having an absolute blast. The fact that I’ve managed to pull myself away from my PS3 long enough to write this review is nothing short of a miracle. Are you still reading this? What are you doing? Go out and buy this game now.
What’s the Story?
The story of Borderlands 2 picks up five years after the events of the last game. After the defeat of the Destroyer, the fall of the Atlas Corporation, and a mostly unsuccessful robot revolution, the planet of Pandora has undergone a few changes.
New and uncharted territories have surfaced and large veins of eridium, a powerful and versatile mineral, have begun to flourish. These new developments catch the attention of Handsome Jack, leader of the Hyperion Corporation, who decides to uses his company’s impressive military might to mine the planet for its resources and impose an iron-fisted, planet-wide dictatorship.
Rumors also begin to spring up that tell of another, much bigger vault somewhere on the planet. This news attracts the attention of a new slew of Vault Hunters, who set out for the wilds of Pandora in search of fame, fortune, and glory.
How’s it Play?
Like the original Borderlands, the sequel lets the player pick from one of four (soon to be five) character classes, each with a unique play-style. Axton, the Soldier class, can deploy a special turret which can be modified to do anything from mowing down large groups of enemies in a storm of bullets, to drawing agro away from the rest of the party. Maya, the Siren, has the ability to suspend and immobilize enemies in midair by using her Phaselock skill and can also unleash a maelstrom of fire, electrical, and corrosive damage to surrounding enemies. Salvador, the Gunzerker, can enter a frenzied state which allows him to dual-wield any two guns simultaneously for massive damage. Zer0, the Assassin, can create mirror images of himself to confuse foes and then proceed to cut them down with a well-timed backstab.
Each class has a series of 3 skill trees that allow for further customization and specialization. The variety of skills in each tree ensures that each character can fulfill a number of different roles and utilize a plethora of different strategies in combat. One of the most well-known aspects of the first game, the near-infinite amount of guns and equipment, has managed to get even bigger and better. Some weapons have even received specific abilities related to the brand that produces them. For example, guns made by Tediore can be hurled at an enemy like a grenade when it runs out of ammo and then reappear in the users hands with a fresh clip. Shields have also received some new features like spikes which will damage foes on contact when they attempt to attack you at melee range.
There’s plenty to explore on the surface of Pandora. While the first game featured mostly desert and cave environments, Borderlands 2 visits frozen wastelands, grassy highlands, and caverns brimming with caustic materials. Each area has its own series of special challenges and hidden secrets for players to uncover and doing so rewards players with points that they can spend on things like increasing their weapon accuracy, health, shield capacity, and a myriad of other benefits. These new areas are also inhabited by plenty of new enemies, each more deadly than the last. While the AI in Borderlands was often criticized for being pretty stupid, that is most definitely not the case in Borderlands 2. Enemies will actively dodge and adjust their attack patterns on the fly in order to kill you in the most efficient way possible. Be prepared for a challenge if you’re making a solo excursion through the game.
Any Other Noteworthy Features?
The writing in Borderlands 2 has improved leaps and bounds over its predecessor. Dark and often bizarre humor permeates the script. Whether it’s listening to Handsome Jack berate you about how he’s so rich that he can buy a diamond studded pony or hearing the citizens of Sanctuary berate fan favorite character Claptrap for his annoyingly perky nature and breakdancing, there’s no short supply of hilarity in Borderlands 2.
Speaking of old favorite characters, all of the cast from the original game, at least those that survived it, return, and much like everything else in this game, are better than ever. You’ll get the chance to interact with the likes of Scooter, the resident grease monkey and car enthusiast, Zed, the unlicensed and possibly insane doctor, Marcus, the jovial but money grubbing weapons supplier, and Moxxi, the twisted and somewhat loose mistress of the Underdome turned bartender. There are also plenty of new faces to the already colorful roster of characters like Sir Hammerlock, the adventurous hunter and Tiny Tina, the insane 13-year-old demolitions expert with a penchant for tea parties.
The game’s soundtrack features a mix of western and beat-heavy techno tunes. The opening sequence features the stellar “Short Change Hero” by The Heavy and serves as a fitting theme for the game. Gearbox has already planned to create additional expansion packs in the months to come to ensure that this already impressively large game will keep players busy for a long time.
- One of the absolute best co-op experiences in any game.
- Incredible and vast amount of gameplay.
- Hilarious yet solid writing and story.
- Varied and enjoyable soundtrack.
- Plenty of replay value.
- Some sidequests feel repetitive.
- Early game can be punishing for solo players.
- Inability to listen to audio-logs a second time.
FINAL VERDICT: A+ (Seriously, buy this game now)