Review by Goukakyuu91

"Borderlands 2 - Bordering on What?"

The first Borderlands game was quite enjoyable, as well as unique. It featured about a bazillion guns, as Gearbox likes to keep reiterating, even now, with the release of the sequel. The question is: aside from the guns, does Borderlands 2 live up to the expectations? Borderline terrible, borderline good or great?

STORY (7.5/10)

The plot is very straightforward, which I'm thankful for. You, the new Vault Hunter(s) search for fame and fortune on Pandora, an alien planet that looks suspiciously like Earth at times, not to mention the fact that it has the same climates as Earth, but I digress. As it turns out, Handsome Jack, the man in charge of the company Hyperion, has used the events of the previous game for his own benefit. He now owns a Vault key that he's planning to use in a while to open the second Vault and unleash its terrible secret.

The plot is introduced by the intro of the game, and it's done very stylishly. Throughout the game, the protagonists as well as all major antagonists are introduced in the style you'd expect from Borderlands; with an introductory display of their skills (or a humorous remark), followed by a colorful freeze frame or slow motion shot.

Borderlands 2 has it all, in moderation. It's got humor and it's even got drama. I did find Handsome Jack to be an incoherent character, as there was a moment near the end of the game when he seemingly had an emotional breakdown, only to make an appearance later in which he appeared to have reverted back to his old self. I realize he's insane, but this came across as an oversight on Gearbox's part.

I found the inclusion of some of the original Borderlands characters unnecessary. Claptrap, the small robot intended for comic relief, isn't really that funny this time around. Even characters like Mordecai fill an irrelevant role, and often tell a personal story that diverts your attention from the main characters (Maya the Siren, Axton the Commando etc.). That leaves the backgrounds and personalities of the main characters virtually untold – leaving aside the three or four ‘echo recordings' you can find of each main character, which tell a short background story.

Overall, I think the story could've been deeper and more involving, especially with regard to the protagonists, but I'll rate it a 7.5 out of 10.

GAMEPLAY (8.8/10)

Weapons and Game Mechanics

I'll say it right away; the gameplay is excellent. The most important feature of this game is the guns, obviously, and there are bazillions of them. All the weapons, from pistols to rocket launchers, seem to be created randomly, and therefore, you may end up with guns that your friends have never seen before. There are multiple brands of weapons, and each brand has different statistics and effects. Some weapons are thrown and explode like a grenade when reloaded, others simply do a lot of damage without any beneficial effects. Not only that, but each brand has a different appearance. Jakobs weapons look like western weapons made of wood and chrome, and Maliwan weapons are futuristic and nice to look at. I did find the names of weapons to become annoying after a while, as nearly each one is humorous. At some point, you'd like to know where the fun stops and those badass names start.

The menu works pretty well, but it can be a pain to compare weapons, as they often have a needlessly detailed description. If you have a corrosive weapon, the description will say ‘highly effective vs armor'. Since there's a tutorial in the game that explains what elemental effect does what, why include that line in the description? Why do descriptions sometimes say ‘plus 50% weapon damage'? Why not simply add that amount to the damage number? Another strange choice Gearbox has made is to color code the weapons you use in battle according to rarity. This raises the question: ‘Why would I need to know that in battle?' I'd rather see immediately whether the weapon does burn or corrosive damage and so on.

Characters, Customizability and Quests

Each main character has his or her own active skill, or ‘action skill'. The Commando can deploy a sabre turret, the Siren can phaselock enemies, putting them in a stasis bubble, the Gunzerker can dual-wield guns, and the Assassin can become invisible for a few moments. Sadly, the other skills are passive, and only improve melee attacks, ranged attacks and your action skill. Nonetheless, they build on your play style; if you want your stasis bubble to pull enemies toward it, you can choose the corresponding skill. If you want it to heal a team member, there's a skill that allows it. Besides, Borderlands 2 is meant to be played cooperatively, with the second player's skills complementing the first's. It's really as deep as skill improvement and tweaking can get.

I had expected character customization to be quite enjoyable and elaborate, but it turned out to be rather shallow, focusing on a palette change for your character and a change of hairstyle. That doesn't exactly look flattering if you chose the Commando, as he'll often get blue hair and green clothing, or something similarly outlandish. It's really made for the Siren, I've noticed so far. Departing from appearance though, you'll find that you can earn Badass Ranks for every achievement you complete, and there are tons of them in the game. Those Badass Ranks allow you to choose status upgrades such as ‘gun damage plus 0.5 percent' or ‘shield recharge rate plus 0.5 percent', which allows you to build on your strengths or weaknesses even more. It's a very fine addition. Finally, you've got class mods. These are equipable modifications of your class that usually raise one or two of your skills without the need for investing in them.

Eridium is a new addition to Borderlands, and it's a form of currency that's used for increasing magazine size and inventory space - yet another reason to loot every item container. While we're on the subject of loot, I'd like to say that it would be best if every player had their own loot pile, as I found myself getting robbed by – and robbing – my coop partner. The loot is better than in the first Borderlands, as you can find many more rare weapons this time around.

The quests in Borderlands are very straightforward; most consist of retrieving something, destroying something or some other small errands. While you're doing that, you often get attacked by enemies or need to defeat them. There are also matters like finding out who killed somebody, to subsequently kill that person. To be honest, it should've been a bit more engaging and RPG-like; it should've given you choices, but it isn't bad.

GRAPHICS (8.5/10)

The (cel-shaded) graphics are quite good, though nothing special for a game from 2012. If I were to judge the graphics, which I am, then I would say they're as appreciable as Borderlands' were at the time. Play it on the PC, though, and you'll no doubt see a fair difference, with added DirectX effects, better textures thanks to a decent video card and whatnot.

The game looks very good; water actually looks like water and burnt flesh looks like burnt flesh. You get the idea. I was impressed by the detail of the world; even rocks and dirt look meticulously designed. I suppose there's not much else to say about it. On the Xbox 360, things can get a bit chaotic at times due to jagged edges and the fact that there's so much to see, but that's probably because of my TV.

The lighting is fairly decent. However, some things are just wrong, like light bulbs that don't cast light on nearby surfaces. I also get the sense that the game could use some more contrast. That said, the game isn't overly bright or dark, as is the problem with some games.

Environments are varied, and nothing looks miscolored. By that I mean that snow looks like snow, not like blue slush. Too much blue or green happens all too often in most games.

One thing I found absolutely odious was the image of a young woman who guides you to your next objective, wearing a lot of mascara and eye shadow and seemingly standing in front of a ventilator. While she was also in the first Borderlands, I can't help but wonder why this time she had to look so… prostitute-y. The biggest problem I have with it, though, is that she's realistic. The entire game is cartoony, yet she looks realistic! It's annoying to the point that you'll wish you could turn her off.

SOUNDTRACK (8.3/10)

The soundtrack is very nice, and varied. It gives off that occasional spaghetti western vibe, as well as a more futuristic yet primal type of sound. Sometimes it's bombastic, and sometimes it's so quiet that it fits a desert landscape. However, Gearbox would've done well to make certain pieces slightly more melodic; after a while, all that drumming and twanging gets old, I guarantee it. I recommend searching for the songs on a video sharing site, as I couldn't remember some of them – most likely because the sound effects often drown out the music.

Aside from that, the sound effects are excellent; very clear and fairly powerful. Amazingly, no (digital) guns sound as good as the ones in Borderlands. Of course, as with all shooters, the gun sounds could use a bit more bass. The acting is of a high standard, but frequent mispronunciations of purportedly hilarious lines left me vexed.

The choice of bands for this game is yet again phenomenal. The Heavy is a band that truly suits the game, and I just wish either more of their songs were used, or similar ones.

CONCLUSION

Though Borderlands 2 is a very successful shooter, it is not the most successful RPG. We'll have to wait and see whether or not Gearbox is willing to expand upon Borderlands' RPG qualities. In the end, Borderlands 2 is one of the best games of this day and age. It's truly unique, as it combines shooter and RPG elements and a cartoony look to form something that should be alluring to most gamers. Aside from that, Borderlands is as intricate as a shooter can get, and it's filled to the brim with comedy, action and even drama. The characters could use some work in terms of background story and personality, but that's only a minor issue.

If you liked the first Borderlands or like to have a laugh while shooting everybody to bits the way you want to, Borderlands 2 is the game for you.

Final grade: 8.4/10, rounded down for this website to an 8/10.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/25/12

Game Release: Borderlands 2 (EU, 09/21/12)


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