Entertainment Featured FEATURED STORIES Video Games

Borderlands 2 Review

(The Verge) – Do you like guns? Do you like shooting guns? Do you like shooting A LOT of guns?
If you answered yes to any of these questions (in the context of a video game, mind you), then Borderlands 2 is probably the game for you.
Just like the original Borderlands, the sequel combines all of the great things about loot driven RPG’s like Diablo with the conventions of a modern first-person shooter, all wrapped around a cartoony, cell-shaded coating. These elements work together seamlessly, making for an overall engaging experience whether you are playing solo or with up to 3 friends. That, along with an improved menu system and story make Borderlands 2 a worthy, if not slightly familiar, follow up.
After a humorous and stylized intro cutscene, you are forced to choose from one of four classes, each with their own unique set of perks and abilities. The Commando can deploy a turret which can be upgraded by leveling, while the Siren can utilize “phase” abilities such as freezing an enemy in its tracks. In addition, the Gunzerker can duel wield weapons once the skill meter is full, allowing the player to use different combinations of weapons including a sniper rifle in one hand and a rocket launcher in another. Finally, the Assassin can deploy a holographic decoy while entering a stealth mode. Each class has their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, so it makes sense to have a diverse team if you decide to play cooperatively. I decided to go with the Commando, since I was used to the Soldier class from the first game.
In terms of story, your character is hunting down the evil leader of the Hyperion Corporation, Handsome Jack, and trying to stop him from taking over Pandora. Jack will frequently taunt you as you progress, which can get a bit grating at times. Thankfully, once you begin to discover some of his backstory, he becomes a more interesting villain. You’ll also encounter new characters such as Sir Hammerlock and Ellie, as well as some familiar faces including Marcus, Madd Moxxi, and the playable characters from the first game. Oh, and Claptrap is in it too. The story is serviceable, which is much more that can be said about the original, since it practically had no story. There is enough motivation to stay at least mildly interested in what is going on during the story missions, and there are enough audio logs scattered throughout Pandora to help flesh out the world.

The improved menus let you compare weapons more easily. (Image captured by Matt Leslie)

Still, this is a game that isn’t overly concerned about telling a compelling narrative. As I mentioned at the top, Borderlands 2 is all about guns. Every weapon you find contains a unique set of attributes, whether it is a higher fire rate, larger magazine size, or elemental effects such as corrosive and shock damage. Each combat scenario allows you to utilize whichever type of weapon you want in an effective way, either sniping from at a distance or fighting up close and personal with a shotgun or sub-machine gun. The shooting in the game is enhanced by the leveling system as well as the upgrades you give your character, making for a rich experience. A new system added to the game is a series of challenges that contribute to your “Badass Rank”, allowing you to upgrade your current character which can carry over to additional characters. The rewarding progression system keeps Borderlands 2 from becoming stale, which is a good thing    considering the amount of things to do in the game.
Meet Sir Hammerlock. He was probably never knighted. (Image captured by Matt Leslie)

Despite being deep and rewarding, fans of the first game might feel as if they have done all of this before. The developer, Gearbox, decided to play it safe here rather than fully expand on the formula from the original Borderlands. While keeping an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach may sound fine on paper, it results in Borderlands 2  not feeling as fresh or original as its predecessor. The early parts of the game can feel a bit dull for veterans of the first games, resulting in an underwhelming first impression. That being said, most players will probably find that the game truly get its hooks in them when they reach level 20 or so.
Even though the core gameplay has stayed relatively the same, several small changes were made to the surrounding elements, with some working better than others. The menus have been improved, allowing you to compare weapons and equipment more easily. You also pick up money and ammo dropped from enemies automatically, rather than having to manually hovering over everything. Gone are the health packs from the first game, in favor for more frequent health drops. Although it is nice to not have to constantly pause the game to use a health pack from your inventory, it results in the player going down more frequently. This is even more apparent when you realize that the game is more difficult than the first game, especially early on. The enemies are much smarter this time and will no longer charge right at, instead rolling in and out of cover at times. The game also suffers from a fair amount of texture pop-in (probably as a result of running on Unreal Engine 3), particularly on the 360 version. This ends up being distracting to an otherwise crisp looking game.
Get used to doing this. A lot. (Image captured by Matt Leslie)

Whether you were a fan of the first game or are jumping in for the first time, Borderlands 2 has a whole lot to offer. The rewarding progression  system on top of the engaging gameplay and interesting world makes this an enjoyable experience that is sure to eat up countless hours of your time. Stylized visuals and a good sense of humor also help the game stand out from the crowd. It may be more of the same, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.