Holy hot damn, this game is good! Borderlands 2 is truly a unique gem in the increasingly popular first person RPG genre. The game’s style and feel reminds me of a mix of Trigun, Unreal Tournament, and a little bit of Bioshock and Fallout 3. Also it’s funny as hell. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a game like this that has such personality to go with the overall fun factor of the game play. Now this is unusual for me because I usually don’t really care for these massive, open world, first person RPGs like Skyrim or Fallout 3. That is part of the reason I avoided this game for awhile. It took some convincing to finally get around to playing this game and boy was I wrong. The game play is very addictive, the story is simple but good and well-done, the characters are some of the best video game characters I have seen in years, and it puts lots of new spins on the usual FPS conventions. It’s definitely not the deepest RPG experience out there but it doesn’t need to be. Now I have not played the first game but you don’t really have to play the first to understand this game, though it was made me very interesting in playing the original Borderlands now. Review time, go now!
STORY: Set on the planet Pandora (not the one with the blue cats) which holds legends of all kinds of vaults that hold mythical amounts of treasure. Treasure hunters known as Vault Hunters come from all over the galaxy come to this planet seeking a legendary vault hidden within the planet. The planet is controlled by the Hyperion Organization which is under control of Handsome Jack (isn’t that the best name ever?) who has been luring hunters to the planet to kill them off to keep them from getting to the vault so he can keep it for himself and so the company can freely mine Eridium from the planet. Today, four Vault Hunters, Salvador, Maya, Axton, and Zer0 have made it to the planet and discover Handsome Jack’s trap and end up left for dead near the planet’s pole. Pandora itself is a land of danger filled with arctic glaciers, deserts, wastelands, steep valleys, mountains, and volcanoes. In those lands they are filled with native creatures, bandits, psycho paths, killer freaks, robots, and other horrors you must face, plus Handsome Jack as a deadly plan for those on the planet who are trying to resist him.
You also encounter some strong allies in these borderlands. This game has some of the coolest characters I’ve seen in a video game in awhile. There are characters like Scooter who is your typical redneck mechanic that has some questionable love interests, Dr. Zed your go to person for health with a questionable medical license, Marcus the gun seller who is always trying to make a buck, Miss Moxxi the sexy bar owner, Tiny Tina a mentally unstable 13-year old that is an expert with explosives, and Claptrap. Oh, Claptrap. He’s one of the silliest robots ever in a video game. Handsome Jack makes for one of the best villains I’ve seen in a video game who is just constantly harassing you throughout the game. He’s such a condescending asshole but at the same time he’s hilarious. The cast from the first game also become major characters as the story progresses. I am also happy to see that the characters that you play as are not just silent protagonists like you see in most games like this. While they do not talk directly with NPCs, they do talk and make wise ass remarks during combat. I prefer to have a character with personality than one that just stays silent throughout a game even though they are the hero.
The game’s story length is surprisingly long. It’s taken me about three weeks to complete but I’ve also been working at the side quests which there very many of. While the main missions are generally interesting and keep the story moving along, the side missions are a lot of fun as well. They range from massive treasure hunts, taking on a town filled with bandits, to something as simple as shooting a guy in the face who literally asked for it. While the game is long and has some epic boss fights, including the last boss, it does have a disappointingly short ending like many games these days and kinds sets it up for another game. BUT it’s not like that’s it, there are still plenty of side missions to do and a few open up to you after you complete the main missions so there is plenty to do after the credits roll.
GAMEPLAY: If you like shooting and looting then you will love this game because you’re going to be doing it A LOT. This game has soooo many guns. I really have no idea how many guns are in it because I seem to be always discovering new ones. Not only do you have the usual classes of guns such as assault rifles, pistols, sniper rifles, SMGs, and rocket launchers, you also have elemental based guns. They have one of five elemental effects such as electricity, acid, fire, slag (a chemical that causes enemies to take more damage), and explosive. They also take the usual shooter cliché of red explosive barrels and adds in barrels that hold these elements to use strategically during gun fights. I have no idea how they have barrels of electricity but they are fun to shoot. In addition to your guns and grenades, you also have various shields which take another convention of modern shooters and makes it deeper. You can find, buy, or make better shields throughout the game and they all recharge at certain rates. Your shields recharge but your health does not. You’ll need to find health items for that which I rather like because I’m tired of the easy-peasy take cover and you’ll heal right up health system most games these days use. You will find money, ammo, guns, shields, and other goodies all over the place in this game and you will constantly be looting containers. It becomes very addictive. Also when you find new guns, shields, ect, a screen appears that shows the item’s stats and makes it easy to compare with the items you currently have. You can carry a lot on you but over time you’ll find yourself have to decide on dropping or keeping various items throughout the game.
In addition to all of your weapons, each class has their own individual special ability. There are four classes: Gunzerker who can duel-wield weapons of any find, Siren (which is the character I am using) that has a psylock power that lets her hold enemies in the air with psychokinetic abilities, the commando who can deploy turrets, and the assassin who can make decoys of himself. As you level up you can develop these characters as you want and they have their own unique abilities to gain. In addition to that, there is the Badass ranking system (yes, that’s what it is called). There are hundreds of challenges to complete throughout this game and each time one is completed you get a badass token which you can use to improve various aspects of your character such as improving weapon accuracy or melee damage. This game constantly rewards you for your actions and improvement.
The characters are customizable in appearance but not nearly as deep as some first person RPGs. You do unlock different color skins and hair styles throughout the game but that’s it so if you’re looking to make a character that looks like you, you’re going to be disappointed. However, I really don’t mind much since these characters do actually have personality to them unlike in other similar type RPGs. However, another department that really could have used the customization is the weapons. While there are many, being able to add on optics or other attachments would have been nice. If you want an assault rifle with an optic, you pretty much just have to be lucky and find one. Also there are vehicles in the game, well, two to be exact. More vehicles would have been cool to see. Also, enemies have a flying vehicle but you never get to use one. I find that disappointing especially in one mission were it looks like you finally fly one but end up having to blow it up instead, though it leads to some funny dialogue afterwards. However, the biggest complaint I would have about this game is respawning enemies. After awhile, enemies will return to an area after you kill them. I understand it’s to help gain exp for leveling up BUT why do the bosses come back? Especially, if it’s a boss directly tied in with the main story. You do get the same about exp but I’ve never seen a game bring bosses back like that. It makes you think what was the point of fighting them? Anyway, it’s not game breaking and if you want to relive a boss fight you can easily do so.
The final thing I’d like to point out is that this is NOT an easy game. If you are not experiences with FPS games then you might want to take it slow with this. The guns fights you get in this game very chaotic, fast paced, and intense. I’ve played many FPS games before I still find parts where I die over and over again. You respawn at check points, though it does cost money and you’re treated to a wise ass remark from the automated voice from the respawn machine. This game is completely co-op though so if you’re having too much trouble, grab a friend in person or online and you can play the game together!
GRAPHICS: One of the things that make Borderlands’ style is the cell shaded graphics. Nearly the entire game is cell shaded and gives it this comic book/graphic novel look to it. It’s really cool and colorful despite the arid landscapes of Pandora. However, this does come with a price. There is a lot of texture pop-in. It’s at its worst when loading up a game or loading up a new area and you will be seeing a lot of smaller pop-in throughout the game. I did also notice some frame rate slow down here and there but it was rather rare and not game breaking. I have a feeling this is not as much of an issue on the PC versions of the game. The character models look awesome. Some of the most unique character designs I’ve seen in a game in awhile and excellent personalities to go with them.
SOUND: The sounds of gunfire and explosions will fill your speakers and you play through this game but what really steals the show is the voice acting and dialogue. This is one of those games where you’ll want to go around and talk to everyone just to hear the crazy crap they are going to say. This is bolstered by excellent voice acting which oddly enough has a lot of anime voice actors in it. From the main characters to the crazy psycho babble of the bandits, the voice acting in this game is lots of fun. The music is sadly less memorable. While it is definitely fitting with the sci-fi western setting, it’s just nothing I really care to listen to without the game. It reminds me a lot of the background music for Trigun. Fitting but nothing without its source.
Overall, I recommend Borderlands 2 as one of the must play games of 2012. This game is so much fun and entertaining to play through. Considering that there are four different classes, it adds even more replay value to the game in addition to the already plentiful amount of side missions. There are already plenty of DLC missions for it as well. I know I’m going to get a lot of hate for this but I think this is the way an FPS/RPG should be done and I strongly prefer it over games like Fallout 3. I recommend this game for anyone who loves FPS games but is tired of Call of Duty or Halo. I also recommend it to fans of Fallout and Elder Scrolls games and action junkies. Even if you aren’t crazy about the game play, you should still be able to find some laughs out of this unique and fun game.