Review: Borderlands 2

Growing up, my parents always advised me to be content with what I had. Thank God I didn’t listen to them, or I really wouldn’t be able to enjoy Borderlands 2, a game that thrives on human greed, tapping deeply into our “I want it all” desire. Borderlands 2 is a loot-driven, first-person shooter that plays a lot like its predecessor, improving upon and tweaking certain gameplay aspects in the process. It does have a few pacing issues thanks to backtracking and repetitive quest design, but provides players with an action packed, solid co-operative experience that’s an utter blast with friends.

Borderlands 2 takes place nearly five years after the events of the first game. The four vault hunters are all scattered over Pandora doing their thing, so you naturally step into the boots of one of four newcomers, each armed with certain abilities. If running and gunning at the frontlines is your thing, you can go ahead with the Commando class, while if you’re more of the tactical kind who prefers picking targets from a distance, the Assassin will complement your play style perfectly. Disciples of the elemental arts can chose to play as the Siren, while the Gunzerker class is tailor-made for those with an itchy trigger finger.

As you can see, the diverse classes themselves make the game highly replayable. And of course, there’s the loot. Now, to be honest, the game’s bazillion weapons gimmick isn’t as glorious as you’d imagine it to be. Yes, the game does offer players a ridiculous amount of weapons, but a lot of them are just variants of each other, so you’ll have one pistol that can deal fire damage, one dealing corrosive damage, while another just fires plain old bullets. Apply this ideology to the rest of your arsenal comprising of shotguns, rocket launchers, assault rifles and snipers and you’ll begin to understand how Gearbox managed to shove so many weapons into the game.

Besides weapons, you can also pick up different pieces of loot, like grenades, relics and class-specific mods. Each mod will enhance the ability of the class it’s meant for so the Commando can bump up his explosive skill ability, while the Assassin could hone his sniping skills. I, for one, would have also preferred some customisation tools because so far, I’ve only been able to change the color of the character’s clothes.

Borderlands 2 is a first-person shooter at heart and it does the shooting part rather well. Gunplay does seem a bit lose and janky at first, but you can tweak the way guns handle by reducing recoil or improving accuracy with the help of earned Badass Tokens. In Borderlands 2, you now gain Badass points for doing just about anything, be it opening boxes, killing an X amount of enemies with certain weapons, reviving your co-op partner(s), and so on. Accumulating these Badass points gradually increases your Badass rank, which then rewards players with Badass Tokens that can be used to enhance the capabilities if your character. And yes, your Badass rank can be carried forward across multiple characters.

Borderlands 2 is meant to be played co-operatively and it’s great fun when played with friends. However, I strongly suggest you play with people you know, especially those who have mics as it’s “first come first grab” when it comes to loot. With friends, it’s easier to trade weapons or tell them to keep a certain weapon aside for you, but with strangers, it can get a bit tricky. When played co-operatively, Borderlands 2 also becomes a tougher game naturally so as to offer multiple players a significant challenge. Drop out of a co-operative session and the game scales back its difficulty significantly. At this point, you’re probably thinking you’ll never play Borderlands 2 solo, but surprisingly the game’s quite fun when played alone, unlike Borderlands, which was just painful.

Exploring Pandora is fun alone because you can go search every miniscule area of the map for loot, strategise every enemy encounter, pay attention to the plot, and play the game at your own pace. The fact that Gearbox has added in a significant amount of environmental diversity helps greatly. Borderlands was just one giant desert, but with Borderlands 2, you’ll move from snow-laden areas to lush forests to underground caverns, and more.  There’s also a lot more life and humour injected into the world of Pandora thanks to writer Anthony Burch. While you may not roll over on the floor clutching your sides, Borderlands 2 humorously pays homage to pop culture all the way from the eighties till present day. Even some of the characters like Claptrap and Tiny Tina that come across as a bit in-your-face initially, grow on you with their banter as you progress through the game.

While Borderlands 2 handles its shooting rather well, it falters a bit on the role-playing side. Certain quests go on for far too long and since there are no mid-mission checkpoints, you’re forced to play through them all over again if you – let’s say – quit halfway through the quest. While some side-quests are entertaining and diverse, most of them are just blatant rehashes of story-based quests, and worst of all, they force you to traverse the same area over and over again. Since this is a loot-driven game, enemies constantly respawn so as to offer players an incentive to revisit older areas, but the world doesn’t level up with you, so if you’re a Level 16 character forced to head back to a Level 8 area, you’ll receive paltry XP for killing these low-level creeps. And the low-level loot isn’t even worth picking up to sell because, like most open-world games today, money becomes redundant after a few hours.

Also for a loot-driven game, this game sure has a limited amount of inventory space, forcing players to constantly manage their inventory after nearly every quest. You can buy more inventory space from the black market, but even then, you’ll have to keep micro-managing your inventory ever so often. This definitely becomes annoying a few hours in.

A while back, Gearbox had made claims that the PC version of Borderlands 2 would be the definitive version, and they weren’t lying. The game offers players a host of visual options, like the ability to tweak FOV (field of view), FXAA (anti-aliasing), AF (anisotropic filtering), texture quality, and so on. Rest assured, if you have a powerful PC, Borderlands 2 really stands out visually, especially with its cel-shaded art style. Nvidia users are in for a real treat as this is one of the few (or rather only) games on the block that has utilised the PhysX technology in a satisfying way. But as pretty as gravel and sparks flying all over the place during a firefight look, it is a system heavy resource and can take a toll on your framerates during the more intense battles.

Conclusion

To be blunt, if you didn’t enjoy Borderlands, Borderlands 2 will not change your mind. It is essentially the same game, albeit prettier, more diverse and significantly bigger in scope. It is frequently plagued by repetition and back tracking, some of which is toned down when played with friends. Even if you have no one to play the game with but can look past the its few flaws, the trip to Pandora is definitely worth taking.

Test Rig

  • Motherboard: Intel DP67BG Extreme Desktop series
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 – 2600K @3.40 GHZ
  • Graphic Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590
  • Ram: Corsair Vengeance 4GB DDR3 @ 1600 MHZ X2
  • Power Supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1200W
  • Solid gunplay
  • Gorgeous looking game complemented by unique art style
  • An utter blast when played co-operatively
  • Offers hours of content
  • Quests can get repetitive
  • Frequent backtracking
  • The loot isn't as impressive as you'd think
8

Borderlands 2 does have a few pacing issues, but it provides players with an solid, action-packed experience that’s an utter blast with friends.

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Game Info

Available On
PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Reviewed On
PC
Developer
Gearbox Software
Genre
First Person Shooter
Age Rating
18+
Release Date
September 21, 2012