Can ‘Borderlands 2′ hold its own with CoD and Halo coming up? Read on to find out.
There’s a parade of simultaneous fist bumps from the hardcore gamers of the world when a game like ‘Borderlands 2′ gets released. While the first game was a fantastic tour-de-force of action and humour, at retail it didn’t set the world alight, and as such never reached the ‘AAA’ pedestal of its peers, despite being very popular among gamers. Of course, that’s the one thing about this series: it’s a gamers series. This isn’t a mainstream title, it’s not going to sell millions upon millions of copies like the ‘CoD’s or ‘Halo’s of our world. It’s a hardcore title which will appeal to those gamers who strive to Level Up, to get their XP and its highest possible standing. It’s Gears of War with a sense of humour. And much like that series, it has the gameplay and the visuals to back it up. The original ‘Borderlands’ came out of nowhere and took the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere by surprise, ensuring that everyone out there knows that under the plethora of casual games, blockbuster games with no soul and Kinect bloody Sports, gamers still believed. So when it was announced that a sequel was planned, you could hear them jump out of their seats in excitement. Gamers games like ‘Skyrim’ and ‘Mass Effect 3′ had been completed months ago, it was time to start again. One way ticket to Pandora please, ‘Borderlands 2′ is on!
BORDERLANDS 2 / XBOX 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
Does it live up to its hype? Its build up? Has a sequel to one of the most original and unique games for years been justified? Yes. And no. But mostly no. Read on.
You know you’re in for a great ride the minute the game kicks in. Select ‘New Game’ and you’re in familiar territory. The ‘cel-shaded’ genre seems to now only be reserved for ‘Borderlands’, and it certainly suits the game. The opening cinematic – which 2K promised us is the best opening of any video game ever – is superb fun to watch, very movie-esque in scope, ambition and execution. It helps that The Heavy are soundtracking the sequence, with their now iconic ‘Short Change Hero’, made famous of course by the ‘Batman: Arkham City’ television advertisements. The use of the song works well, contrasting the tone of the video.
I’m feeling generous, here’s the song:
Once the song ends, you’re taken to your character selection screen where you can also customise your character, giving them a bit more of personal edge to your experience of the game. Here is also where you select your class. A selection of four is available from Gunzerker, where you can duel wield, Commando where you carry a turret, Siren returning back from the original and Assassin, where the specialty is in sniping and stealth. If you want you can change the name of your chosen character too, I put mine as Ross. Just because. ‘Borderlands 2′ is more interesting than ‘Second Life’, put it that way.
Once the game begins you’re instantly hit with Pandora – the alien planet used by those big ass corporation to mine its land for resources to profit on – and the excitement builds as you’re back on the planet you left at the end of the original, with a pure heart to do nothing but rip the beating one out of that asshole Handsome Jack. Before that though, you meet up with Claptrap, a little robot who will very kindly take you anywhere you wanna go. One problem, he’s a total prick. While he’s full of humour, he seems to never, ever go away – until later, but still – if you have ever played ‘Zelda’, and you remember Link’s ‘helpers’, specifically Tingle, this is where we are with Claptrap. Only, he’s a robot. Imagine Wall-E if he was a total little shithead. He’ll entertain you, some of his stories are pretty amusing purely on the basis that most of them involve him getting tortured and you kinda wish it would just happen. It almost got to the point I was temped to throw on the subtitles and mute the fucker completely. As a ‘hand-holder’, initially it’s good to have him around. By the time he does piss off you just hope you never have to hear from him again. One part of the initial meeting with Claptrap did make me chuckle. When you’re instructed by Claptrap to go to a locker to pick up your first gun, as you do this pops up on the screen:
’you just moved five feet and opened a locker. Later when you’re killing skyscraper sized monsters with a gun that shoots lightning, you’ll look back on this moment and be like, ‘heh’.
Made me smile, a lovely touch from Gearbox. Luckily the game is littered with humourous little touches like this, but I won’t spoil the all for you now.
It’s here that you’re reminded of the core gameplay of ‘Borderlands’, which is looting. Near enough everything you can see you can open, and there will always be something in each of them you can sell or trade. Or just keep for yourself, of course, though you have a limited amount of supply you can keep this can be upgraded as the game progresses. Guns you find are all broken up into different varieties and include Damage Modifiers such as fire, electricity and many more will give the customisers out there plenty to do when it comes to throwing weapons together. The possibilities really are endless and is a nice addition for those who look for a little more out of their experience. I did notice some accuracy issues though, early on in the game you get blessed with a rather tasty looking shotgun, great up against Marauders and Psychos, but it shoots all over the place and I felt like I had little to no control over it at all. I got rid of it as soon as I could and stuck with my pistols. Not as powerful and they run out of ammo very quickly, but it’s not like you’re short the stuff in this game. If you ever run out of ammo on any gun you’re possessing you’ve really messed up somewhere.
In terms of combat, it’s pretty good. As previously, as you’re attacking an enemy you see their health bar deteriorate until it’s gone for good, very useful as it gives you an indication of how hard you’re gonna need to pummel a dude before he finally bites it. The guns are alot of fun and satisfying to shoot, certainly an important part of the gameplay which they’ve spent plenty of time perfecting. When you’re in the middle of a shoot out there can be an awful lot going on all at once, luckily the framerate keeps up perfectly. May just be me, but whilst I was in the middle of a Bullymong ambush the visuals kept up soundly, with no lag or juddery moments. Good example of a top games engine which is running the game, credit to the developers for ironing out any visual issues. In terms of your own health, you kick off with a certain amount and have to keep finding health injections to keep it up. No automatic regeneration here – not until you get a shield anyway, even then it’s only the shield that reboosts itself’ – Your health does have the audacity to go down sadly rather rapidly, the difficulty level of this game certainly makes itself known rather rapidly. A nice touch though is when you’re on your last bit of health you have to kill something to survive, kinda frustrating as it can run out quickly again and you notice just how slow your reloading is very early on when you’re in this situation, however this certainly does keep you on your toes. Before you know it, your health just disappears, either that or I completely suck. It’s definitely one of the two – probably the latter. Weaponry is scarce in the beginning, save a couple pistol and a shotgun some unnerving accuracy issues.
In terms of the vehicle movement, if you’ve ever played Halo – or indeed, the first ‘Borderlands’ – you’ll feel right at home here. Dual analogue control to accelerate and navigate the vehicles you can create and deploy, they have good control and are packed with weapons that will tear up pretty much anything in its path. There is plenty to enjoy when tearing around Pandora in a car stacked with rockets and machine guns. Definitely a game highlight.
‘Borderlands 2′ is definitely full of interesting characters which make the game far more appealing for newcomers who will feel slightly overwhelmed with everything else going on around them. Once you reach a town called ‘Sanctuary’ you can take it easy a little bit and just chat with local NPC’s who have plenty to say and are full of humour which breaks up the monotony of spending the first couple hours of the game just shooting Bullymongs. When you can just relax and fully taken in your surroundings, there is plenty to see. Sanctuary itself has been designed terrifically well, reminding me somewhat of the artistry of ‘Bioshock’, just with the sun beaming through. I could be the only one, but Sanctuary made me want to play ‘Bioshock Infinite’ more than ever. Still, that’s a long way off.
One of the most important aspects of ‘Borderlands 2′ – the series as a whole really – is the four player online co-op. In a nice touch, the game will get tougher depending on how many people are playing at once, although this is balanced out with more XP, rarer items and more money which can be shared. It’s here that sadly the game suffers some annoying moments which you just can’t seem to avoid. When you die – and you will – you respawn but if you’re nowhere near your teammates it’s a mightly slog across areas to reunite with them. It seems odd that this is even an option in 2012, as it seems a very old school decision. Perhaps that was the point but it’s incredibly frustrating to spend sections of your gaming experience literally just walking to catch up with everyone else. It certainly sucks the fun out of a part of the game which is overall rather fun, just not fun enough when you have no choice but to walk for bloody ages just to get back in the action. Another painfully frustrating aspect is in certainly areas of the game, your XP and loot playing co-op in someone else’s campaign, but it doesn’t cross over into your own. In certain missions, there’s the offer to skip past something you have done yet in others it’s not even there. It goes unexplained why some allow this and some don’t.
Essentially ‘Borderlands 2′ comes down to this. You see, for everything that was fun and exciting about the original, ‘Borderlands 2′ throws up the same. It’s balls to the wall, unadulterated rock’n’roll gaming with little to no equal in its own twisted interpretation of the genre. But so was the first. That’s the thing, as top as it is you don’t feel like you’re playing a game that has progressed an awful lot. Hardcore players may disagree, and I consider myself to be in that category as I thoroughly enjoyed the original but I can’t find anything in this game which gives me that same excitement ‘Borderlands’ did. It’s frustrating because there is plenty to enjoy here, and if you were a fan of the original then by all means jump into your nearest retailer and pick it up immediately, you’ll have a ball. However if you’re on the fence and going by word of mouth, just be prepared. The game is exceedingly huge, and you’ll notice as you go on how unnecessary this is. As you progress you’ll find yourself twiddling your thumbs waiting for something to happen. It doesn’t really seem to progress at a speed which keeps up with the momentum of the game, and at times can bring your attention and buzz about cracking on with the game to a grinding halt. If you’re gonna do everything, and I mean everything – there’s an awful lot to get through. Including some side missions that seem irrelevant to everything, save some which connect rather nearly to the overall arc – you’re looking at around about 50 hours, be warned though a stupidly large chunk of that is just walking from A-B, making the game feel like a real slog.
In a game that has certainly out-done its predecessor in terms of epicness, it just doesn’t have the same heart. This is a title just for the hardcore fans, offering very little to anyone else.