Software developers Gearbox have brought Borderlands back to consoles and PC’s in a rage of gunfire, explosions and… erm…cocky one liners…YES the eagerly awaited Borderlands 2 is finally here with more co-op action than you would see if you typed a couple of naughty words into your Google search box, but has the wait been worth it?
I have to be completely honest – I was never a real fan of the original Borderlands game. I loved the cell shaded graphics, the vast landscapes, the let’s get a bigger and bigger gun ideology but the title never really pushed my buttons. I don’t know whether that was due to the bad timing in terms of the release of the game (at that time we were living in a market saturated with FPS – that’s First Person Shooters to anyone who hasn’t got their geek diploma) or whether that was down to so many other games delivering more in terms of playability, explosions and remarkable set pieces (Call of Duty, Battlefield – yes Im talking about you).
Borderlands 2 delivers on all these levels and brings more to the table. But, and it’s a big BUT is up against the same competition as last time. Granted they pushed for a slightly earlier release this time round BUT Dishonoured, Medal of Honour and Black Ops 2 are just around the corner, and these are highly established titles – they had better bring the noise.
First of all for those new to the game it is only prudent to explain what Borderlands 2 actually is; it’s an open world shooter. Think of your role as a space-cowboy / mercenary – You are a good guy / girl but you use bad methods – well, erm…any method to get the job done. Like the first game it’s a FPS and the action is still set on the planet Pandora, however this time there is a much more serious over-arching plot. Pandora you see is in the grip of some kind of war between a dark business entity known at the Hyperion Corporation and a rag-tag band of freedom fighters. Hyperion’s leading bad guy is a character called Handsome Jack, who has taken it upon himself to cleanse the planet of any non-Hyperion beings – pretty radical eh? Once you choose your character you join up with the rebel movement – led by the four characters from the original game. Jack intends on unleashing some sort of WMD upon the planet and it is down to you and your rag-tag team to bring some kind of order to the chaos.
Like the first Borderlands, players have a choice of four character classes to pick from. There’s Salvador, the Gunzerker, a raging slab of muscle and testosterone whose special powers is dual-wielding weapons. There’s Maya, the Siren, who is able to project a forcefield around enemies and drag them out of cover. There’s Axton, the Commando, who can deploy a machine-gun turret and finally, there’s Zero, the assassin, whose powers involve turning invisible in order to slide up close to enemies and then dismembering them with a katana.
Your main base of operations is in a hub town called Sanctuary. Like most open world games you have the main mission and then side quests which operate to give you more experience or open up greater weapons and advanced options. When you are not tackling side quests or the main missions you are free to explore Pandora, a planet vast and varied enough to clock up bountiful gaming hours. There is just enough distinctly themed caves, regions and cities each with their own atmosphere and day-to-night cycle to keep the gaming fresh and un-repetitive. I found this iteration of Pandora to be much more eye catching than its predecessor and owing to the various bonuses I found It’s immediately much more rewarding to explore in every sense. In no time at all the hours can rack up and they believe me they do.
Combat hasn’t changed one bit since its predecessor; ‘hey, see that big monster type thing? Avoid its attacks – right now…Good, very good…o.k rain down attacks on the beast until it explodes and pick up all the rewards – now use the rewards to upgrade…upgrading means a bigger gun stupid…now go find some more monster things!’. Get the picture? Borderlands 2 is a shooter pure and simple. It is no different to any other shooter except that it has cell shaded graphics and the characters dont give a damn.
However that is not to say that this is a bad game, indeed its quite the opposite, Borderlands 2 is definitely an improvement on its predecessor. The characters seem more three dimensional this time round and you can talk to nearly most of the characters in the game and the voice acting is spot on. Gearbox went out of their way to ensure the game can be as non-linear as possible should you choose to play it that way. True, there are the usual fetch quests, repair quests, and chasing down bandit caravans for scrap metal, but in the midst of the basic staple diet there are also some niceties such a pizza delivery mission involving some sewer-dwelling ninjas or a quest to help Moxxi get even with an ex-boyfriend. I think its scenes like these that say it all about Borderlands 2. It is full of memorable moments and characters and not to mention dry crass jokes that came across like a mix of lollypop chainsaw and south park.
The real fun though happens when you team up with your friends online. Do that and Borderlands 2 becomes far more of an interesting and fun game. What was once an irritating journey from A to B becomes a kill them all road trip with your pals, getting into a four seater buggy and going out with the intention of getting into as many scrapes and distractions as possible. A 20-minute romp for Billy ‘no mates’ is quickly transformed into an hour-long epic after a night at the pub full of the sorts of stories you just won’t stop talking about.
O.k so onto the verdict –
I do think Borderlands 2 is a great game but not an ‘all out fantastic must buy’; the reason? Well, it’s not something that you won’t have or will play anywhere else – unless you are scratching your neck for your next fix of Modern Warfare or Battlefield, genuinely have too much time on your hands or really have a spare £40 burning a hole in your pocket I would say hold out just a little bit longer as some real gems are just over the horizon and when they come out the price of this will drop like a stone.
Having said that though this game is definitely fun and by no means a crap game – just a bit more of an acquired taste. If you are a fan of the original game, you should rejoice, this game brings more of what you enjoyed in the first game and can be a real treat.
8.5 / 10