When Borderlands appeared on our consoles in 2009 (Ed: Really? Was it that long ago? Wow. Feels like last year), its popularity was a surprise. New IP has a hard time making a big splash in the world of console video games. Borderlands, with its co-op multiplayer gameplay proved a huge hit, and Gearbox Software, the chaps behind the game, decided that it was popular enough to deserve its own sequel, titled Borderlands 2. I definitely wasn’t expecting the “2”, so I took a trip around the planet of Pandora to see what the hullabatwo was about.
Borderlands 2 takes place four years after the original game, and rumours of a new Vault have spread across the galaxy. The fabled Vault is filled with so much treasure that it’s enough for anyone to buy their own personal galaxy, and still have change for a cola. Ok, so I made that last part up, but the Vault exists. You take the part of one of a party of four new Vault Hunters, all more-or-less based on characters similar to those in the first game. The opening video introduces all the characters, and also introduces you to your arch-enemy, a lovely man by the name of Handsome Jack. After that, you’re left in the *cough* capable *cough* hands of Claptrap the annoying robot. We’re talking Navi from Legend of Zelda levels of annoying here. At the very least, Claptrap is funnier than Navi, but nobody would blame you for lobbing a grenade or two his way.
I never got around to playing the first Borderlands game, so this was my introduction to the world of Pandora. The best way to describe Borderlands 2, for those of you who have no idea yet, is a co-op multiplayer first-person shooter role playing video game, or COMFPSRPG. You can shorten it to comfy-sperg if it makes you happier. Yes, the whole lot is a mouthful and a bit to chew over, I know. The big attraction to Borderlands is the sheer amount of loot you’re going to be lugging around. Borderlands 2 is ALL about the lucre. The filthy, shining, gleaming, lucrative lucre. Lucre filled with money. Lucre filled with upgrades. Lucre filled with ammo. Oh, and there’s the co-op, too, but that’s optional. Like many online multiplayer games, you can let random players into your game world, or lock it down to friends only. Or take it offline and play local. There are pros and cons to each method, so your best bet is try them all and see what works for you. It’s not a problem if you go it alone, of course, but the fun lies in the fact that the game scales its challenges when you in a party of players, and the challenges are loot are far bigger and filthier and lucrative.
Gameplay is fairly standard as far as FPS games go, even FPS games that have RPG elements. You have guns, you point the ouchy end at your foes and pull the other end to kill them. Each of the four characters you can play have their own skills and perks available to them, meaning that if you decide to try another character, you’ll need to adjust your gameplay to suit the character. For example, the gunzerker is pretty much balls to the walls guns blazing, while the assassin is all about hiding and stealthing and killing when no one is watching. If you were a total cad, I suppose you could also use the invisible time to loot the field while others are getting killed, but who would be such a misanthrope? As you make kills and just do stuff throughout the game, you’ll earn the normal skill points that you can use to upgrade your character, but you also earn Badass tokens that add small bonuses to the character. You know, stuff like 0.7% increase to accuracy, or 1.5% decrease to recoil. Yes, the Badass tokens don’t do much by themselves, but the numbers eventually start adding up. And I’m not kidding about the “doing stuff” thing. You can earn Badass tokens for just opening lots and lots of chests. It’s that simple.
One massive annoyance I ran into was the driving. I hated the driving sections of the game, because the control scheme for it is wonkier than a giraffe on stilts. It’s fine if you’re the gunner, but lord help you if you’re the driver. I played the Xbox 360 version, and you use the left stick to accelerate and decelerate and the right stick to steer. Steering with the right stick also turns the car’s gun turret, and the first time I hit the car, I found it such a counter-intuitive method of control that I lost a few cars off cliffs, up icebergs, and upside-down against pillars before my idiot fingers finally figured it out. In fact, prepare to spend a lot of time leaving unmovable wreckages with wheels spinning uselessly in the air, and legging it around the planet to the nearest car depot. On the other hand, you can earn Badass ranks for running enemies over in your car. And then backing up over them. And then going forward again. Repeat until chosen enemy is a dead smear on the ground. It’s bizarrely satisfying too. (Ed: There’s something wrong with you.)
Those of you who have read my past reviews will know that I’m not the world’s greatest FPS fan. Gearbox Software has taken into account the fact that people might enjoy playing different characters at different times, so many of the character perks you can unlock with Badass tokens are available across characters and playthroughs.
Borderlands 2 is certainly an incredibly pretty game. The cel-shaded graphics are delightfully colourful, and I found myself enjoying it more than I thought I would. I understand that Pandora is far more populated and full of interesting NPCs that weren’t as evident in the first game. What’s nice is that the game tracks your progress across multiple sidequests, even tracking ones you aren’t actively doing. You’ll often find yourself picking things up or doing things that affect a quest you’re yet to find out about.
My personal feeling is that Borderlands 2 is well worth a playthrough or two, especially if you have friends playing it at the same time. It’s a mediocre solo experience, in my opinion, so if you can find people who play at a similar pace and style as you, you’re going to have one hell of a blast. It’s also a fairly long game, and you can easily clock in over 80 hours for a single playthrough on your own with a single character if you’re aiming for every side quest and the requisite amount of grinding to kill the last few bosses without a huge struggle. It’s well worth the lucre. That filthy, gleaming lucre. Oh, and the guns, too.
Final Score: 8 filthy, lucrative prawns out of 10
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
Age Rating: 18