Published on October 8th, 2012 | by Nathan Thomson5
Borderlands 2 Review
Summary: Good cast, interesting story, solid visuals and engaging gameplay; put bluntly, there is something for everyone in this game and the sooner it’s in your PC / console, the happier you’ll be.
The recently released Borderlands 2 is the imaginatively titled follow-up to the highly entertaining and acclaimed 2009 shooter from 2K Games. The Hyperion Corporation, under the leadership of Handsome Jack, has discovered evidence of an even bigger vault than the one featured in the first game. Through no vault of their own (see what I did there?) four new hunters are brought to Pandora to help Jack find this treasure trove. After some unfortunate business with an assassination attempt from the Handsome one himself, these four badass users of public transport are tasked with stopping Jack from opening the vault and gaining even more power.
The characters in the game are a fairly standard mix – Axton the commando, Zer0 the assassin, Salvador the gunzerker (that’s got to look good on a CV) and Maya the siren. As is the way of things with multiplayer shooters each character has their own set of abilities that players will need to experiment with in order to find the best fit their playing style. Zer0, for example, works best at long range while Salvador is more of your “run-and-gun” type. Character customisation is included, but it’s a fairly minor addition; you can change the colour and change the head but that’s about it. If you’re used to playing big, immersive RPGs with a lot of customisation options players might find this a bit limited, but it is a great improvement over the first game.
The other playable characters are familiar faces from the first game that returning players will recognise: Scooter, Tannis, Roland and (of course) Claptrap all pop up alongside some new faces like Ellie and the lovable Tiny Tina. Handsome Jack’s character is a pleasant mix of noble goals (creating a new and peaceful Pandora) and villainous methods that walk the right line between keeping the player invested in the story and keeping his essential nastiness front and centre. Jack also is a master when it comes to sarcastic one-liners and childish insults – think Magneto in first year of high school and you’re pretty much in the right territory – giving the game a welcome dash of humour.
So a good cast and an interesting story – but how does it all look? The answer is, pretty good. The scenery in Borderlands 2 has changed from the fairly drab desert scenery of the first game to a bright and vibrant setting. Pandora is explored from snowy tundra to grassy highlands and comes off looking pretty damn good. All new creatures help to get across the sense of how diverse Pandora is.
The graphics of Borderlands 2 retain the distinctive stylized cell-shaded design that made users fall in love with the first game. There are some elements that lack detail on the Xbox 360 when compared to the PC version – rubble exploding off walls and blood puddles spilling around targets are on the PC version but missing from the console. That said, this isn’t a new thing and is to be expected. When put against the massively expanded world, much better scenery and generally far more epic scale to the whole thing, it pretty quickly becomes a minor grumble.
So, good cast, interesting story and much improved visuals. That is all good, but what about the most important element of all – the gameplay? In this, Borderlands 2 excels. The game is a highly playable and fluid shooter/RPG with more guns than the next three games on your shelf added together and a lot of enemies to test them out on. Originally players were meant to be able to use Eridium as an in-game currency to customise guns (if you’ve played Fall of Cybertron and collected Energon chips, you’ll be familiar with this mechanic) but this was cut from the final product. This does mean that you end up stacking up a load of Eridium as the only thing to buy with it is ammo upgrades (and fighting a boss that requires you to pay in) but that said, we’re all being told to save more money these days so perhaps Borderlands 2 is just being socially responsible in getting this lesson across.
Wide arrays of quests are offered, using different characters from throughout the game. One personal favourite is the quest with Face McShooty (just hearing the name still makes me chuckle). The main quests are challenging and give players a lot of options when they are looking for something to do: from killing bandits to searching for ways to stop Handsome Jack, players aren’t going to have the time to get bored. This gives the game massive replay value as the amount of quests lets players clock up hours of game time without even noticing (as of writing this review, I am up to about 4 days of game time with my commando). The upcoming Mechromancer DLC to be released on October 16 will further enhance this playability and will see many people (yours truly included) dive back into the world of Pandora with a new vault hunter.
No glitches noticed so far but as with all games nowadays a healthy dose of YMMV is to be recommended as different players in different situations will encounter different issues. All in all though, the game is quite stable.
So that’s good cast, interesting story, solid visuals and engaging gameplay. Not much more to be said, really. A gripping soundtrack helps keep you absorbed in the story and the wider world of Pandora. The quests allow for any gamer – whether a serious RPG player or someone looking for some bazillion-guns-and-extreme-prejudice fun – to enjoy themselves. Put bluntly, there is something for everyone in this game and the sooner it’s in your PC / console, the happier you’ll be.