Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action Role Playing
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Studios
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Borderlands 2 is the sequel to the incredibly popular Borderlands, a game that follows Vault hunters on an epic quest to discover a mysterious alien vault on the planet Pandora before Commandant Steele, the Crimson Lance, and the Atlas Corporation can acquire it for themselves. It turns out that the Vault is actually a prison for a creature called the Destroyer, which does exactly that to the bad guys above before being defeated by the Vault hunters. The second installment, Borderlands 2, begins 5 years later: the Hyperion Corporation is now in charge, and its leader, Handsome Jack, has sent Vault hunters into hiding and claimed victory over the Destroyer for himself.
The game begins with four new Vault Hunters to choose from, each with their own special ability: the duel-wielding Salvador, a commando named Axton with a defensive turret, a Siren named Miya that has Phaselock powers which freeze enemies in mid-air, and the super stealthy wicked assassin named Zer0. Each has three specialization skill trees to choose from to customize your attack strengths and bonuses. They have arrived on Pandora for two reasons: to defeat the control of the Hyperion corporation and claim riches and fame for themselves.
Right off the bat the amount of customization available is astounding, and it only increases as you play. The number of different weapons, outfits, faces, vehicle skins, skill trees, and badass rank bonuses is endless. The longer you play, the more you will unlock, and for those of us out there who enjoy collecting them all – this will be an awesome time waster in the future. Pay attention to the special abilities of different weapons – Tediore weapons, for example, explode on reload, and Maliwan weapons come loaded with elemental damage. Choosing which style and make of weapon works best for you can be tedious (you do have a bazillion to choose from, after all!) so try them out and see what suits you best, and then tailor your looting to that.
The mission functionality really works well in allowing the player to tailor their gameplay. Missions are marked as “story” or “optional” in the menu screen, and also show you the difficulty level, making it easy to decide whether you are ready for the challenge or need to level up before you tackle a certain path. Having such variability in the missions is great, as you can decide how you approach them, and in what order. You are in control of the direction you take. Will you speed through the storyline as fast as you can or complete all the missions as they appear? The choice is yours! While there are a few repetitive fetch quests (kill 10 whatever, collect 7 these things), most have an interesting twist on them that make them a little more bearable, and pretty hilarious. If you really despise these types of quests, skip them. Most have no effect on storyline missions.
The co-op capabilities of Borderlands 2 are not only finely tuned, but also enhance your experience as a whole. The ability to jump into a friends game easily and pick up where they are is smooth, and the menu showing not only who’s playing but what mission they’re on and how optimal a match you would be is clear and easy to use. The experience is enhanced tenfold when playing online with others – the baddies are tougher, the loot is better, and the celebrations on defeating a particularly tricky section are bigger.
The graphic novel vibe to the art style lends itself to the over abundance of violence and dark humor, and is a refreshing change from the slew of games that strive to look “too” real and lack an edge that Borderlands has in leaps and bounds. Coupled with this is one of the better soundtracks I’ve heard from a game. It’s memorable, and triggers memories of moments throughout the gameplay similar to tunes from Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy. A shining example is “Short Change Hero” by The Heavy, the introductory scene music that sends shivers down my spine and makes me want to fire the game up.
There are no shortages of easter eggs, jokes, snarky remarks, and pop culture references in Borderlands 2 – almost too many to count! I of course won’t spoil anything, but look out for hat tips to TMNT, Doctor Who, Minecraft, Double Rainbow, Breaking Bad, Top Gun, DK … it goes on forever, and definitely makes you laugh when you spot them. One particularly touching easter egg is attached to the trophy “A Tribute To A Vault Hunter”, which you achieve by getting help from a fellow Vault hunter named Michael Mamaril in Sanctuary: Mamaril was a dedicated fan who passed away to cancer before the game was released.
I did come across a few hiccups in the game; I found a items hovering in the air, a couple instances where I was glitched backwards while moving, and one friend I played with saw strange blue geometric shapes that moved in a couple of areas. Things like this are to be expected in an open world game like this, and none of these factors are deal breakers in the slightest.
Overall, Borderlands 2 is a slam dunk hit. It’s fun, gritty, violent, in your face, intense, hilarious, and insane. The storyline is superb, the side missions aren’t too repetitive, and you’ll never get bored with the weapons you come across. You really meet characters, not just NPCs; love him or hate him, Claptrap leaves a real impression on you, and listening in on the conversations people are having can sometimes make your jaw drop. You can tailor your experience exactly in the way you want to, and have open ended opportunities to go in any direction you want. This game has the potential to last a long time and be replayed. Play it with friends or minions, and you won’t be sorry.