Feb 8, 2013

Borderlands 2 Review

Borderlands 2: Back to the Grind

 Borderlands is a franchise that has the biggest following you could still call "cult." At its core, it's a mindless shoot-n-loot game, and it has more in common with games like Diablo than it does to big-hitters like Call of Duty or Halo. Back in 2009, Borderlands managed to keep an audience's attention for three years, which is saying something for a co-op game on consoles. In September, Gearbox released the much-awaited sequel, Borderlands 2, and it has the same charm as the original.

The graphics are the same style, just tweaked and improved. The textures on scenery are of a higher quality, but I have noticed some "loading." Meaning, the textures will sometimes not load completely, and you have to stare at the multicolored blob that was your weapon for a second. This can kill immersion if you want that, but it's not a huge problem. The warp screen when you die or fast-travel looks better as well, and the cutscenes look fantastic, with the textures pre-rendered to cut down on the texture loading, though it still occurs occasionally.

Borderlands has never had a great story, but I'm surprised here, because the story is actually decent. The characters are even more memorable; the characters that were in the original are the same as they were, and the antagonist is fun to hate. You play as the spiritual successors of the original four Vault Hunters, trying to find a new Vault, to the dismay of Handsome Jack, who wants to open the Vault and use whatever is inside to take over the world with his company, Hyperion. It is a very "Chosen One" type of story, but those work in games. This definitely makes the single-player more fun to play.

Humor is subjective, so you may find this game funny, and it may not, but some of the boss names are designed to make you laugh. When I first heard a cannibal say he smells delicious after being lit on fire,  I laughed, I admit it. This game is chock-full of memes from a year ago or longer, though, so stay away if you don't care for them. Overall, the humor is very hit-or-miss.

Gameplay-wise, Borderlands 2 can only be described as more of the same, but if you're itching for more Borderlands action, that should not disappoint. The plus side is, almost every aspect of the original game has been tweaked and improved on. The co-op is vastly improved; you can add players to your party from any screen in the game, including the menu, as well as set your privacy in-game. The new trading mechanic makes figuring out exactly what loot you're fighting over as well, and you can even settle loot through a duel if you just can't agree, which is made easier because the control system is improved as well. Jumping, shooting, and even reviving teammates is smoother and tighter overall, and you will probably not want to play the original game after playing BL2 for long.

The original game had "skill trees," which were linked to your character's level, and you could add a skill point every time you level up. Borderlands 2 has this as well, but like the rest of the game, it's more refined in an attempt to make every playstyle imaginable through the skill trees. Using the four characters (Axton the Commando, Maya the Siren, Salvador the Gunzerker, and Zer0 the Number) you can craft a build that suits your style perfectly, based around that character's unique Skill. For example, Axton can throw a turret on the ground to shoot enemies, but you can upgrade it to have laser sights, stick to walls, shoot rockets, or be able to throw two at a time for double the firepower.

Borderlands has built its name on how many weapons it has, using a random number generator so very few weapons are alike. Borderlands 2 does not skimp on this either, bringing the possible combinations into the billions. With weapons that shoot grenades, fire, lightning, acid, and the new "Slag," you will probably find at least one weapon that suits your style. Possibly the only downside is the new rarity system for weapons.

In Borderlands 1, there was a color-based rarity system, where white and green are easy to find, and purple, orange, and "pearlescent" are almost impossible. This made fighting through regular enemies fun, because any weapon could drop from any enemy in the game, and there was no sense in not shooting them. In 2, however, the pearlescent rarity is nonexistent, and the "Legendary" orange weapons can be found on any enemy, but it makes more sense just to farm the respective bosses. This makes every area a rush to the boss rooms in the late game, because you know there is no sense in fighting the mooks.

Overall, Borderlands 2 is still the same Borderlands experience. If you're into the looting gameplay, then definitely pick this up, especially if you have friends. It is best played in co-op with three buddies, after all. The enemies scale with the number of people in a game, as well as the experience and the loot, just like in the first game.

I give Borderlands 2 7.5 screaming midgets out of 10.

This review was written using the Xbox 360 version of the game.


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