Borderlands 2 Review
In one hand you have a triple-barreled shotgun firing corrosive rounds that do 1000+ points of damage when you score a solid hit. In the other hand you have a minigun assault rifle peppering enemies at an incredible rate and coating them in ‘slag’, causing them to take more damage when hit with other projectiles.
Your friends are stood around you, throwing down turrets to bolster attack, healing you, sending decoys to confuse the enemy and wielding weaponry just as insane as the ones you are currently pointing in the direction of the bad bastards.
But you’re still getting overwhelmed.
Because this is Borderlands 2 and, just like its forebear, this is a game that demands you play with three other people and – when you do – throws a metric effton of creatures, psychos, marauders, threshers, robots and bloody irritating rakk at you. It’s something we didn’t even realise we missed until we got back into the world of Pandora and picked off our first dozen-or-so bullymongs (yes, that is what they’re called).
Ostensibly a first-person shooter, Borderlands 2 brings back the underlying RPG roots of the original. What this means is levelling up your character, picking up bigger, better, stronger guns (or weaker, faster-firing ones. Or ones where the elemental effect offsets any negatives concerning its ammo capacity. Or… you get the picture) and generally dealing with a hell of a lot of numbers. Most of which literally fly about the screen as hell is unleashed on the denizens of this alien planet.
But it’s not a complex game and, in fact, goes to some pains to make it easier on players who might not want to spend half their time comparing numbers (we do, for the record). Quick references pop up on screen when looking at new items to show you at a glance if you’re looking at a better or worse deal, and it generally makes things work that bit faster than they did in the first game.
And that’s essentially the general feel of Borderlands 2: things work a bit faster. A bit better. Ideas are more refined and thought through than before, from simple touches such as being able to converse with NPCs that bit more, to things like adding more variation to mission types (timed, failable, runs for example), and the addition of vehicles that can seat all four players in co-op.
Co-operative is the main meat here, never forget. Borderlands 2 is a far more interesting and fun game than the first one was when played on your own, of that there can be no doubt. But you will become acutely aware of issues, of the trudge, of the fetch-quests and the bullet-sponge boss battles when pootling about with nary another ear to natter at.
Throw in three other players – or two, or just one – and you have a captivating, fantastically moreish experience. What was once an irritating journey from A to B and back to A again becomes a comical road trip with chums, getting into scrapes and distractions that turn a 20-minute enjoyable romp on your lonesome into an hour-long epic full of the sorts of stories you just won’t stop telling other friends.
A battle against one of the aforementioned bullet sponges becomes a carefully orchestrated maelstrom of tactical thinking and renegade action (“Why are you… DON’T GUNZERKER YET IT’S A WASTE oh god he’s Gunzerking…”). In short: co-operative play takes a good experience, though one sure to prove divisive when played alone, and turns it into a stupendously fun experience that will utterly murder your free time with the power of at least four hundred bazillion guns.
Does that mean Borderlands 2 isn’t worth getting if you don’t have an internet connection or friends? Not really, no. It’s a big part of the reason the score isn’t quite as high as it might have been – you cannot discount the fact a lot of people will play the game alone, and a lot of people may well get bored of what they’re doing as a result. Equally, a lot won’t – a lot will love it. But it’s still worth a go if you’re a classic Billy No-Mates.
But if you’re a normal person, with internet and friends, Borderlands 2 is essential stuff. Even if you tired of the first game, the sequel offers more visual variety, interesting missions, likeable characters, puerile humour and weapon-based tactics (guns exploding like grenades on reload: a Very Good Thing) to drag you in all over again.
Where Borderlands was ‘sent out to die’, Borderlands 2 has been sent out to kill. And it does just that. It will easily be one of the best games released all year and the more we dream of that delicious four-player co-op, the more we think it’s one of the top games this generation.
It turns out that a studio doing exactly what we expected it to do – make more, better, bigger, faster and better-looking stuff – can be a good thing. Borderlands 2 is an excellent lesson in sequel-making and is easily one of 2012’s best games.