Review - Borderlands 2
Some games exist to prove others wrong. Case and point, the first Borderlands proved that a cross-FPS/RPG loot-fest hybrid can work, and more importantly, be successful and not "sent out to die". With such a massively popular first game, Gearbox Entertainment took notes of all the criticisms and presents to us Borderlands 2.
For the unaware, Borderlands 2 is a first-person shooter with RPG elements. This includes an open world, questing, and leveling up. Leveling up gets you new skills to improve various attributes (such as increased gun damage, faster reloading, better zooming, etc.) on four (and eventually five) different characters. Every gun has stats to it, letting you know its damage rating, reload speed, clip size, and any extra attributes (like electric or acidic shots). You'll run through the world of Pandora shooting up critters and people alike, nailing "critical hits" with headshots and looting containers everywhere to find the best gun.
The gameplay is rooted more heavily in the shooter genre than RPG. It's still run-and-gun action, just with health bars and numbers representing damage popping up with every bullet fired. The different character classes add variety through styles, allowing you to play how you want. For example, Zer0 can be a deadly sniper or silent melee assassin. Any class can use any gun, giving you a full field of options regardless of who you are playing as.
And in this regards, Borderlands 2 is just as good as the original. Every bullet shot has real impact, and the damage number gives you an idea of how effective you are. It also helps you pinpoint weak spots on enemies which isn't always the head. Upgrading your weaponry has a real, noticeable impact, and even passive items such as shields or skill-boosting class mods finely tweaks exactly how you want to play. The questing system gives you direction and purpose, with plenty of sidequests to get you extra money, experience, and loot right alongside the main story.
In fact, perhaps what may be the biggest fault Borderlands 2, is that there may be too much loot. Gameplay comes to a halt every few minutes as you meticulously compare a single gun drop to everything else you're carrying, and this includes every shield, mod and extra item pick up too. Everywhere you go is filled to the brim with different containers to open, holding money, ammo or a new weapon. It happens very frequently, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. An one hand, you get the excitement of always finding something new and can easily upgrade yourself with any type of gun you find. But it happens so often that it practically slows everything down. This is especially true when playing with friends.
Returning from the first is the wonderful four player cooperative mode throughout the entirety of the game. This feature alone makes Borderlands 2 a fantastic purchase. While nothing in the game changes specifically to accommodate additional players, such as challenges or areas that can only be completed with help, it still adds in layers of fun as you work together to shoot down hordes of baddies. Fixating skill points to compliment each other brings in some much-needed strategy.
Everything Borderlands 2 does, though, is nothing drastically better than the first. There are a lot of tweaks that reflect some excellent refinement. The HUD is much more pleasant to look at, and the included minimap was easily the most requested feature. Enemies react from being shot so that they don't feel like bullet-soaking dolls, and will actively find cover, dodge, and coordinate with nearby enemies. A new vehicle seats four people so everyone can travel together this time. A heavier emphasis is put on weapon types, making it worthwhile to carry around an acid gun, an electric one, a flaming one, etc. Quest-givers will say the objective so that people who hate reading won't have to worry about it.
This all blanketed by a feeling of familiarity. It all feels a bit too similar to the original. Everything new and improved in Borderlands 2 feels like a natural progression rather than new features or fresh gameplay. This isn't an awful thing, as it's always been an enjoyable game to play. It's never boring to quest through Pandora, popping off the head of psychotic suicide bombers and destructive robots. The only thing that isn't familiar is the all-new story go alongside the sound of dropped bullet casings.
The writing of Borderlands 2 is easily the biggest improvement. The humor is done very well, with every character feeling distinct. Watching the main heroes interact with each other is a joy to behold, and there's a bit of humor for everyone in here, ranging from silly names, fart jokes, references, and clever wit. Most importantly, it gives you a reason to shoot your gun. The introduction of primary antagonist Handsome Jack keeps you pushing forward. His attitude and insults is the perfect catalyst for wielding bazillions of guns. Not only is it an engaging, entertaining story, it also makes the first game look better by clarifying motivations and the lackluster ending that people complained about.
Thankfully, the excellent voice acting makes every line of dialogue and every joke hit its mark. There is far more dialogue in here than before, and each character is distinct and recognizable. Handsome Jack alone makes you want to hate him, and it's the delivery that really sells it, along with the writing. The cel-shaded visual style also returns to ample effect, with greater variety in the terrains and locales.
Borderlands 2 takes everything that was right about the first game and makes it slightly better. The feel of combat is virtually the same, the loot fest can turn anyone into a gun-junkie, and the multiplayer co-op is great. Everything is a marginal improvement, so there isn't any high-adrenaline moments that makes the gameplay truly stand out. Still, it's an engaging experience. You keep on playing because of the desire to defeat the villain, playing with friends, and finding the next great gun. Anyone looking for a new kind of shooter, or fans returning from the original, will be pleased.
(8s are great games that have something holding it back from excellence, or some features aren't as polished. The game is still extremely worthy of playing, but it may not be the most impressive.)
|Jared Knabenbauer is the ScrewAttack.com Reviews Editor, Hard News host, and a host of the weekly video podcast, "SideScrollers". He has also produced several notable ScrewAttack shows, including Newsroom, Nametags and Control Issues. He specializes in RPGs, and has a great fondness for Dungeons & Dragons. A comedian at heart, he is one serious gamer.|
This game is a trainwreck. It relies on looting to be interesting, and looting is rooted more in the psychology of addiction than it is quality gameplay. The world is designed to look a certain way, rather than function with the primary mechanic (shooting), and the only functional difference between weapons are the numbers that pop up over an enemies head. Enemies don't even react to being shot, so without the numbers you have no way of knowing how powerful your weapons are. That's atrociously bad design.
Probably will pick this up for my gaming laptop when I get it after I graduate (Projected timeline for this: 2014).
Will be too busy playing the first one to bother. :)
little improvements make a big difference. id love to have the time to look over other reviews written on this site that praise "marginal improvement".
DONE! I'll be looking for you!
Nice review. I really enjoyed(is still enjoying) Borderlands 2. Too bad it wasn't a video review though, it has more impact when you can hear the tone of voice while you review it.
... I know a person who can rat on sidescrollers with a better argument. You can buy hard copies for the game at stores, and know the person/people who made the design realized he/she (idk) had only some space what to work with since the game was going to be massive, and making it look like mass effect or something would just get in the way because of all the data it would take up. That, AND there are WAY too many first person shooters that don't use a concept design, but just made to be realistic, and I hate how they don't put thought into how to make it look special in any way. Not to pick on these series, but this falls HEAVILY on CoD and Battlefield. I understand why you wouldn't download it, and that does suck, but at least appreciate what a guy does with what he's got to work with for a game that's really good. If you want my opinion, which you probably don't, I really don't care what a game looks like, but I love it when games try to stray from the norm of looking "basic." When someone puts effort into making something in that game look just unexpectingly different it makes me happy that the guys who made a game want us to enjoy a game they want to be different from others in multiple aspects. What you're doing, not buying a game for it's art, is spitting on designers who try to make a game feel special.
Ugh...I know it may be a good game and all to people whom played it...but that art style. It is like me being half done a drawing on my tablet. It really turns me off. I'm not picking this on up. Not just because of the art but...because I don't have a PS3 nor and Xbox 360 or Xbox and I really hate downloading games. In Canada we have a 'download cap' before have to pay for more GBs of download and getting games it just a freaking pain... Ugh...That art...
That's a nice set of options. I suppose I'll put it on the wishlist for now.
Very well written Jared. I love how they improved it bvut kept it akin to the fun from the first Borderlands. Whilst the first one got rather repetitive and boring after some time with hardly any story, this one is much more engaging and even references the first game fully...and jokingly at times.
Yes. The PC version has a lot more to offer when it comes to playing how you want to play the game. Lots of options for fine tuning. I don't know how StPatrick has trouble with framerate..I run it on a single 550ti with everything max and I don't have any real trouble(except for one area, which could take down any PC if phsyx are enabled)
I thought the writing alone was good enough to warrant a trip through Pandora. But the game is extremely fun as well. There are no real down spots(like in the first) where things start to feel a little stale. I play the game single-player. I have never played co-op and I still love it. If I had friends who played video games I'm sure I'd love it even more though.
Play it with friends. The game will become, like, 100 times better.
I would, was it not for the time-zone difference.
It's not well optimized for SLI. I'm running the game on an SSD, 2x670's SLI with everything set to max, and the framerate can sometimes go down to 25 FPS, which is terrible. I've heard the game actually runs better on AMD cards, which is ironic since it's sponsored by Nvidia. Still, the game has a lot of tweaking options, including advanced PhysX, 16xAnisotropic filtering, and FOV going all the way up to 110, which is impressive. And PC is really the platform to be playing that game IMO.
The humour is MUCH better. If you thought the first was funny, you'll laugh your ass off.
I'd personally say it's much better. I had the same problem with the first one but I've put several hours in this on and haven't wanted to put it down.
Hmmmm. I have some randoms on PSN, and some "real" friends on Steam. But I always prefer shooters on the PC as long as the game isn't a broken port missing various features and content. I wish there was a demo or something.
If you can have a system that can run it yes it is, it is a well done port.
"Borderlands 2 takes everything that was right about the first game and makes it slightly better."
Dammit, guess I'll be skipping this one. The first one got boring before the halfway point for me. I really wanted to love it, but I couldn't.