If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I never really understood why the very first Borderlands was so popular. Borderlands, in my opinion, was rigged with too many flaws that made for a generic experience rather then something fresh and unique. For a game with such a slant on an RPG styled progression and leveling system, it lacked in the story department and character development. The shooting and combat, especially against other human AI characters, left a lot to be desired as they would just stand there in one spot until you gunned them down. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the game needed more time to be polished. But with all those flaws plaguing the game, I was actually surprised by the amount of hype surrounding the second installment in the series; so naturally I had to check it out and see if it was all warranted.
I finally received my copy of Borderlands 2 in the mail, and I actually didn’t get to start the game until some 2 days later. It was around 1 in the morning and I didn’t want to go to bed yet even though I knew I should, so I reluctantly got myself up from my couch to put the game in my PS3, then I hooked up my Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D viewer and started the game.
Right away you notice that the atmosphere in Borderlands 2 is a lot more appealing than in the first one. The way the world is constructed gives the feeling that everything is juxtaposed with a lot more forethought, and that helps to significantly draw you into the world of Borderlands 2 as it manages to give off a slight feeling of familiarity towards a place you’ve never been to, and that’s key to newcomers. Gearbox added a mini map which makes it a whole lot easier to move from one place to the next without having to constantly interrupt the game to check out the map in the options screen. The cel-shaded theme along with the art style makes the world very pleasing to the eyes and makes it unique in that department as a lot of other games take a much different approach, slanting more towards realism.
From firing my first few rounds I found that the shooting mechanism in the game has undergone some changes as well, and it’s all for the better. In the first Borderlands you shoot with R2, but for this one, it has been mapped onto the R1 button giving it a less awkward feel. It also feels much more satisfying somehow to kill whatever that’s in front of you as the controls overall feel smoother and inspire confidence that helps you be a little more badass in combat. You don’t feel like you want to run away with your tail between your legs as you face off against some huge monsters and bad asses; but inevitably, you’ll end up hanging on for dear life as there are some crazy suicidal maniacs that would just love to make a necklace out of your mutilated body parts! Speaking of combat, Gearbox has managed to breath life into that as well; the AI is a lot better than in Borderlands where they simply stood there. In Borderlands 2, each encounter feels fresh as the AI can move around and flank you, rush you, and in my case, kill you repeatedly if you’re not up to par. The amount of guns in this game is simply “insane”; it seems as though Gearbox consulted with Xzibit on this one because I’m pretty sure that there were guns with other mini guns inside them, allowing you to shoot… while shooting?!
Borderlands 2 also lets you swap between missions on the fly by simply activating the new objective from your ECHO device. You also have BadAss Rank which lets you level up certain aspects of your characters in addition to the general leveling system. The amount of customization in the game is almost dizzying, especially if you’re a newcomer to the series. One of the coolest things about the Borderlands series is the multiplayer co-op mode, where you and up to 3 other friends can join in and go through the entire game together. I think it’s one of the best ways to play the game; the AI strength is proportional to the amount of players playing as well, so it’s not as if it becomes super easy or anything like that.
This is one of the few games this gen that I feel I could go on and on about. It features a lot of improvements from its previous iteration but stayed true to its roots by keeping most of what the hardcore fans have liked about the series in the first place. As a mostly single player type of guy, I find that the story is adequate and the banter coming from your antagonist Handsome Jack and your sidekick Claptrap, who thinks of you as his minion, is golden. Claptrap describes how tight he and your character is by saying that: “he and I are really tight, like 2 bolts in sack”.
The game does a lot of things pretty well but there’s always room for improvements. You’ll find texture pop-ins quite often, and a few glitches here and there, though for such an open game no one should really be surprised. The overall experience is a good one and if you’re a fan of looting and shooters with a little more depth than the norm, then this game is for you. And if you’re a newcomer to the genre, it might be slightly dizzying at first because of all the different customization options available for both weapons and characters, but you certainly don’t require a really deep understanding of this system to enjoy the game, and the seamless co-op integration makes this game very easy to play with friends or other people online.