Borderlands 2 Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – 2K Games – Developer – Gearbox – Genre – FPS/RPG – Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
Borderlands’ shooting and looting elements in combination with a distinctive and lovely art direction and oddball sense of humour were a breath of fresh air in the FPS and RPG space, and since developer Gearbox seems to have a good understanding of the appeal of both genres, it all resulted in an enticing brew that was unlike anything else.
Borderlands 2 has a more substantial story than the original game, and, while it’s an improvement, it’s far from remarkable and once again feels merely like a way of trying to bring context to all the havoc. Again, the likable and well written sense of humour where it really shines in regards to narrative.
Many of the memorable characters featured in the first game pop up in this sequel, whilst there’s also some fresh and very odd characters introduced, all of which have excellent voice acting. The sarcastic Handsome Jack is a memorable primary baddie, who is psychotic in an amusingly OTT cartoon fashion, and all of this makes for a game that certainly isn’t short on character.
The action continues to be a beautiful thing, particularly when you’re playing with three other people, which promises all sorts of wonderful and outlandish chaos on the battlefield. Just as should be the case with any truly great FPS, the guns feel great to use and there is some unconventional weaponry on offer, such as grenades that home in on your opponents, machine guns that can set your enemies on fire and pistols that behave like grenades upon reloading. There are numerous combinations on offer, so you’re never quite sure what sort of weird and wonderful weapon you’re going to discover next, either left behind by an expired enemy, encased in a treasure chest or, slightly more boringly, purchased.
The planet of Pandora offers a pleasing amount of variety with ice, lava, dusty desert regions and such. There’s still an abundance of side quests that are worthwhile for the rewards and amusing dialogue that come with them, even though there’s no getting away from the fact that being focused on fetch and kill quests, they’re somewhat lazy in their design. They’re not all like this, but, nevertheless, a broader design would have been appreciated, though the issue is somewhat offset by the incessant lure of loot and the lovely XP boost that very much defines the Borderlands magic.
The character classes, whilst having new names, are largely redesigned versions of the four featured in the first game. Salvador is a Gunzerker who has an ability that allows you to temporarily brandish two guns at once, with any destructive combination possible such as a rocket launcher and a sniper rifle for instance. Axton is a commando that is able to deploy turrets around the battlefield, Zer0 is an assassin that can stealthily sneak up on enemies and he can also excel at taking out enemies from afar, and, finally, Maya is a Siren, who is able to suspend enemies in the air, leaving them vulnerable to a hail of bullets.
Much like its predecessor, as a single player game Borderlands 2 is lacking and somewhat soulless. It can feel overwhelming alone, with game design that is clearly still built around co-op play, most notably in the boss encounters. So needless to say, it’s once again not a game to play if you have no intention of sharing the world with others.
The co-op element is much the same as it was first time around and it’s here where the game truly comes to life. There’s support online for four players, whilst two player split screen play is also included. Enemy strength is determined by the amount of players, whilst all four character classes complement one another well with their abilities. Fresh to the game is a trading feature, of which allows players to trade weapons and items with each other. One niggle of the co-op is that not all players need to be present to travel to new locations, which can be frustrating when you’re obsessively combing the area for loot and are suddenly thrust into a new area.
Another slight disappointment is that the game is slender in its cosmetic character creation options, so there’s scant opportunity for you to assemble a character that feels like it’s truly your own on an aesthetic level. It’s all the more disappointing when you consider how much the game embraces the western variety of the RPG genre in other areas.
In typical and compulsive RPG like fashion, weapons have stats such as strength, fire rate or blast radius that you must take into consideration before choosing what set of weapons to equip. Weapons can also be upgraded with Eridium on the black market, so that you’re able to carry more ammo around with you.
XP is rewarded by killing enemies and completing quests and every level up earns you a skill point, which you’re able to spend within one of three skill trees, granting you plenty of flexibility in the direction that your character grows. True to the game’s nature, there are some outlandish skills on offer such as the commando’s ability to place turrets on any surface, be it on a wall, a roof or such.
This time around there’s a Badass rank, which is tied to all of your characters and encourages you to play the game in various ways. Through the completion of numerous challenges such as killing a certain amount of a particular enemy, or firing so many rounds from a gun, you’re rewarded with tokens, of which you can further enhance your skillset with, as well as unlocking customization options, allowing you to change the aesthetics of your character.
Though it hasn’t changed enough to convince those that didn’t get on well with it first time around, by refining and improving most of the weaker components, with Borderlands 2 Gearbox has assembled a game that is without question a better game than its predecessor, taking the delightful combination introduced in the original title to heights lofty enough for it to be one of the finest, most amusing and downright enjoyable games of 2012.