Review by Mr Xenomorph

"This is ecstasy in video game format; art through interaction."

Roger Ebert once said that video games were never art, that they are presently not art, and could never be art; including the next one hundred thousand years, which would most likely hold no special memory or relevance to video games or any other art form we presently hold dear. But I digress. I have no idea what art or technology would be several dozen centuries into the future. Then again, by that point in time, human beings would likely be extinct, replaced by sentient squids or artificial intelligences of our design that have superseded us in the evolutionary chain. Or, we might still be alive, on Pandora; that ghastly planet where only monsters and gaming avatars live. That is where we come in.

Borderlands 2 is an astonishing feat of technological and artistic ingenuity. I used to side with old man Ebert on this point. Video games cannot be art. Chess is not an art form. Basketball is not an art form. They are games and sports. If they were art, they would be called art. But they are not. They are called “games” and “sports” for a reason. A game or sport is not an art. Why? Well, first of all, they are spelled differently, which means that they are not the same words; hence, they define different things. But I digress even further, and refuse to go into it more than I already have, because this is a game review and not an academic essay.

In my humble, perhaps not so humble opinion, Borderlands 2 is a triumph of human engineering. It is one of the first video games released in our generation that blurs the distinction between art and game. Traditionally, a game cannot be art because it forces you to choose between one or more outcomes, thus limiting your interpretation of it. Art does not force any such decision. An infinite variety of interpretations is expected within any art form. Well allow me to say that Borderlands 2 is ART because it totally is. Now, we move on to the gory meat of this delicious review.

The game play of Borderlands 2 is simply astonishing. At first glance, it is a by the numbers first person shooter, and on the surface level, that is exactly what it is, but for the intellectual minded, it goes so much deeper than that. It is a mix of Role-playing game and first person shooter, with a dash of adventure, a sprinkle of competitive multiplayer, and a smidgen of ludicrous insanity. Just kidding, it is not a smidgen, but a smorgasbord. I have rarely been so engrossed in a game like this. Mass Effect 3 was pretty cool, and kept me interested for about 2 weeks. I love sci-fi, but, yeah, that's about it. It's Star Trek with different names. Nothing really crazy happens, and I prefer crazy. Borderlands 2 makes crazy its thesis statement, and runs with it until the human component collapses into a quivering mass of soft simple sugars.

One of the aspects I adore is a near infinite amount of weapons to choose from. <Insert supreme deity here> knows how many times I've replayed an action game for the 88th time and gotten so incredibly bored of the limited number of guns to choose from (Here's looking at you Resident Evil 4). Not so here in Borderlands 2. No matter how far I progress, there always seems to be a limitless variety of kill devices at my disposal. I frequently find myself discovering the ultimate shotgun. It has perfect stats, as far as I can tell. It blows through every demented monstrosity the game throws at me. It's my favorite gun! Then, 10 minutes later, I find a new shotgun… with EVERY SINGLE STAT an order of a magnitude more badass than the one I just picked up 45 minutes ago. What the hell? OKAY! FINE! TAKE MY MONEY. I begrudgingly part with my former lover and replace her with the new, superior version that I didn't even knew was possible to exist. Such is the reality in Borderlands 2. Never get too attached to a particular boom stick, because less than an hour from now, you will find something bigger and better and more lovable. It's almost a perfect analogy to dating.

Then there is the world of Pandora. Think of Grand Theft Auto 3, mixed with The Legend of Zelda, mutilated with the corpse of Half Life 2, and multiply it by… 17. So that's not a terribly big number, but unlike most reviewers, I am realistic with my estimations. The environment of Pandora is unlike anything you have ever seen before. The amount of detail and care involved could easily be evaluated in a 300 page dissertation. It feels like a real, living, breathing ecosystem. Every landscape has its own species and goons. Every location has its own mood and own feel to it. It is extraordinary how much work was put into the aesthetics of this lonely planet on the edge of the galaxy.

The graphics are incredible; they are cell shaded, but it never appears cartoonish or devoid of seriousness (What's up Wind Waker?). If you have a high end PC, it will glitter with surreal realistic fantastic oh my goodness. It is razor sharp, crystal clean, and not a polygon in sight appears out of place. The animations and pyrotechnic effects are out of this world. In the year of our lord, 2012, one could not ask for a better cinematic experience than the one displayed in Borderlands 2. The sound matches the visuals with equal intensity. Every explosion, grunt, roar, gunshot, footstep, engine noise, creature feature, and not-so-awkward line of dialogue is masterfully engineered. The music is delightfully appropriate for every situation. Occasionally, I like to minimize the game and just have the background tunes pulse along while I do homework or something else equally pointless. It's that good. It transports you to another world, and it tickles my subconscious. Opening doors that I always held an instinct towards but never had the awareness to even consider in my waking life. Everything envelops you in a cacophony of sensory overload, in the most pleasurable circumstance possible. The presentation is simply breathtaking. It is easily the best looking video game I have ever played in my short life.

Before I end this, a mention must be made to the multiplayer aspect. The multiplayer adds extensive replay value. I like to play LAN games, which is fortunate because my roommates like to LAN too. We LAN this game often, and reap the benefits of extra loot and fun times. Borderlands 2 is thrice infinitely worth the expenditure if you have the friends. The friends make the difference. Don't worry about the single player story mode. Yes, it is good, and worth all of your free time, but I heed you to not make it the focus. If you have no friends, go outside and make some friends (seriously, it's that easy, regardless of any mental illness or insecurities used as a crutch to skirt responsibility), and then convince them to play Borderlands 2 with you. The guns you trade, the giant robots you kill, the obscenities you yell at each other during breaks… is all worth it. I have played many multiplayer games before, but rarely with the enthusiasm on this level. Most of the time, we get drunk and play Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, and nobody feels good about the experience afterwards. Trust me when I say that Borderlands 2 is a new breed. I dare say to call it art; one of the first and only video games on the market that can truly be called art.

Perhaps it would be a good idea at this point to highlight what I DON'T like about the game, lest I be called a fanboy or a paid lackey for 2K studios. Well, I'll lay it out loud and clear… I .. don't like how the game glitches at certain points. For example, in the middle of a firefight, occasionally I will be hiding from a helicopter and dodge into an alcove to avoid its rain of bullets. Sometimes my viewpoint jumps around all over the place, and I lose control of my character. Also, I can't figure out how to expand my weapon arsenal from 2 slots to 4 slots. That's not the game's fault obviously, but I wish there was a sign telling me to DO THIS, AND YOU SHALL HAVE 4 SLOTS FOR GUNS. Honestly, that's about it for faults. Call me biased if you want, but I just call it how it is. I feel like some gamers, or all critics of any art for that matter, believe that it is a crime to give something a perfect score. Like I am not being objective enough, and I am letting emotions cloud my real opinion. To that, I say… Kick rocks, and get a girlfriend you stinking apes. Borderlands 2 is incredible, and it could possibly change your life. Why are you still reading this? Don't listen to me, just play the game. You won't regret it.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/01/12

Game Release: Borderlands 2 (US, 09/18/12)


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