Borderlands 2 Review – Second Time’s The Charm

By: Michael Dao

To be honest, I never finished the original Borderlands. It had a lot going for it. It was described to me as a sort of a Diablo-slash-World-Of-Warcraft type game, only a first person shooter, albeit one that had a four person cooperative campaign. It was the game where Tim Lanning and I became friends. Or perhaps adversaries, history will decide that one. However, the fact remains that I never finished the game, nor the plethora of DLC that came out for it after it’s release. I feel a little guilty about that. Not as much as I should, but a bit. But there were a lot of good reasons why I didn’t finish the game, and believe me, I really wanted to. The writing was funny, the cel shaded graphics were different enough to provide a really unique visual style, and the game played well. The only problem was that the game was not very friendly to the single player. This may be more of a testament to my lack of skill at video games, but the dungeons in the first Borderlands were incredibly tough – and a person really needed one of two things to clear them successfully, friends or to grind out levels so that your character was high enough of a level to clear the instance on their own.

It was with this hesitation that I went into Borderlands 2. Having seen previews of it previously, I had a pretty good idea to expect. The developers seemed to take the good features of the game, and expounded on them. The original title had a lot of different guns, and there are even more in the sequel. And the gun types are amazing as well. There is one weapon manufacturer that makes disposable guns, when the gun you are using is out of ammo, your character doesn’t reload it, they simply throws the gun at a target like a grenade, and it explodes – amazing!

Someone new to the franchise does not need to have played the first game, as most of the salient plot points are gone over. What happens in the second game is fairly far removed from the first title, so much that the four playable characters in Borderlands 1 appear in Borderlands 2 as NPCs. But to be honest, it really doesn’t matter. Somewhere in the game, there is a storyline. There are a lot of quests to do, and there are a lot of guns, and armor and rewards available. There’s also a villain involved, and to be fair this villain is pretty interesting and funny, but all of these things are ancillary to what the game is about. The game isn’t about thwarting this villain and saving the world from this oppressive power hungry corporation. This game is a scenario generator – it generates scenarios where you and up to three of your friends can shoot all sorts of interesting guns and fight interesting baddies.

From a single player standpoint, the game is competent, but can get a little bit repetitive. There are only a finite number of quests a person can do in an FPS before things kind of just blend into an unending cycle of going to locations and killing things. The fact that the game has both excellent writing and voice acting only delays the inevitable feeling of repetition. It also doesn’t hurt that the game looks incredible. PC is clearly the platform of choice, and even on a moderately equipped PC, with an Nvidia graphics card and PhysX, it is possible to play with the majority of effects turned on and get a good frame rate. The world of Pandora looks gorgeous, and incredibly immersive – it has certainly been a long time since I have played a game where even small details were so compelling.

The game does improve on the original in that it is indeed possible to complete the game alone in a reasonable manner without exploring the multiplayer options, but it is in the multiplayer that the game truly shines. My personal favorite feature is the near seamless drop in and out multiplayer that it offers. The simplicity in which it operates is great. Upon starting the game, the player can see at the title screen which of his or her friends are currently playing, and what the level of their character is. Joining their game in progress is as simple as clicking on their name and choosing the character with which you would like to play.

From a single player perspective, the game is decent. It has great writing, interesting enemies, guns that are a ton of fun, and always something to do. However, it is from a multiplayer perspective that this game truly shines. There are few games that contain this much fun for you and three of your friends – especially if each friend plays a different class. Yes, there are a few sticking points, such as how the game seems like one continual search for ammunition at times, and difficulty can be sometimes achieved by the scarcity of said ammunition. Even though that is occasionally true, the game will have everyone laughing heartily, and that is something that is a bit too rare in video games, let alone multiplayer games.

Four Stars

This review is based on a retail copy of the PC version Borderlands 2 provided by Nvidia. It is also available for X360 and PS3.

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