Borderlands 2 Review (xbox360)
Borderlands 2 is a more colourful, exciting, approachable and funny improvement over the 2009 hit, I like it, a lot.
Surely nobody will have escaped the hype surrounding this much anticipated sequel release, Borderlands 2 the inevitable follow up to the 2009 hit has finally landed on Pandora. Chaos and mayhem will resume as the world is thrown into loot hunting, laughs and some fancy RPG skill trees courtesy of Gearbox Software.
Dropping into familiar territory with that signature cel-shaded style Borderlands 2 is like slipping into your favourite armchair, but just when you start to get comfortable it opens up and shows you something new.
I liked Borderlands, but I didn’t love Borderlands. It is a game I recently went back to in preparation for the sequel and even now I know friends that still regularly take it for a spin, whether they are still seeking out new and exciting weapons or just having fun. At the time I first played it, I enjoyed it. The campaign while feeling a little disjointed carried you forward, the pace was quite pedestrian, the co-op play added much needed dimensions and the loot was extensive. However, courtesy of an xbox meltdown and a delay to get back to it I struggled to rediscover my Borderlands mojo.
Fast forward to the future, it’s 2012 and the world has changed. Borderlands 2 has had to deliver to satisfy the fanbase and it has in spades, the environment looks great, it is certainly more colourful leaving behind the 2009 browns and feels bigger in a wide open way. There are also some subtle touches that occasionally make me stop and take stock, the glossy effect that shines from an iced up river or the snowflakes that settle on your view are a couple from the early stages that stick with me. They add to the atmosphere and standout against the cel-shaded background without seeming out of place.
The story starts fairly slowly, but once through the obligatory learning stages it soon pulls you along. The narrative sets you up as one of four new Vault Hunters, with a downloadable fifth to follow soon, all being harangued by maniacal antagonist Handsome Jack. The campaign feels well put together for single player and helps in my opinion to keep the game going better than Borderlands did, it can however descend into chaos and lack of direction when co-op partners lose the plot. The character options are well balanced, the heavy or tank, the siren with cool powers, the assassin that can mix it up at mid or close quarters and the commando as an all round soldier with a handy bacon saving turret. There is some level of customisation as you progress allowing skins to be changed along with heads, while not offering a deep range of options it does allow some variety, especially useful for a squad made up of the same character.
Combat wise the game feels great, although movement still retains that slight pedestrian feeling where sprinting never feels much above a Halo stroll, of course vehicles help with that and once they are available they soon become handy in terms of speed, protection and death dealing.
There are missions aplenty and with re-spawning areas there is no end of enemies to ventilate, of course battle leads to death and death leads to loot. Any Borderlands would be nothing without the carrot of loot, hours can be lost searching every box, bin, washing machine and chest for a newer shinier gun. There always appears to be something new and once you start to feel the love for your latest incendiary sniper rifle along comes another tempting you with its bigger stats, which is also a recipe for another long night.
Borderlands never takes itself too seriously, Gearbox have ramped up the fun and even in the early stages there are genuine laugh out loud moments, it is a game that has had much love lavished on it during development and it is apparent in the playing. Dedicated gamers will find easter eggs and in-jokes along the way, the unfamiliar few will probably get a good few laughs from the dialogue at least as the indomitable robot Claptrap drivels on.
The game never strays far from its RPG genre as the kills rack up, so does your experience and a quick tap of the back button will pop up a much improved inventory system and user interface. Hovering in pseudo 3d the inventory, skill tree, map and mission log are all well realised. As somebody that has recently navigated the Borderlands menu system I personally feel it is a marked improvement.
Even only a week in, I know this time around my adventures on Pandora will last longer, the loot will be better and the guns will just keep on coming. Love might be too strong a word, but my relationship with Borderlands has certainly taken a step forward, we’ve exchanged Golden Keys at least.