Looks like it works to me!
What Borderlands 2 Got Right
- + Intense Combat
- + Humorous Dialogue
- + Memorable Story
- + Great audio and visual presentation
What Borderlands 2 Got Wrong
At first glance, Borderlands 2 is just another shooting game with a new art style. Fans of the original title, however, will know the experience is much deeper than that, and those newbies to the series who are willing to take the plunge will be pleasantly surprised by what this humorous FPSRPG has to offer.
A little on the story to begin: players awake after surviving an encounter with Handsome Jack, evil leader of Hyperion, a company whose main goals are monopolising the weaponry industry and dictating all that occurs on the planet of Pandora. Players slowly learn that he is trying to get his hands on the contents of an elusive alien Vault, and will throw everything in your direction in order to stop you from interfering with his plans.
Littered throughout the story are many flashbacks to the original title -- a certain crowd-pleaser for fans of the original. For example, each of the playable characters from Borderlands makes a return as an NPC, each with considerable roles in proceedings. Additionally, ECHO recordings found all over Pandora refer to events from the original title. These add a real sense of nostalgia to those who played the original, and historical exploration for those who missed out.
These characters, along with almost every other NPC in the game, are capable of being very humorous at times, often barraging players with subtle references to pop culture. Just off the top of my head, there's references to TMNT, CSI: Miami, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Top Gun, Snow White, Batman and much much more. These references add a real spice to proceedings, and when at the heart of a side quest, make things incredibly enjoyable, rather than feeling like a boring grind-fest.
Speaking of grinding, I feel it has been incorporated into the game on an incredibly appropriate level, and rarely if ever does it feel like the main in the show that is Borderlands 2. Players barely have to grind for experience / levels, and even if they find themselves completing side quests they wouldn't normally do, they are rewarded with new weapons and equipment which are almost necessary in order to play the game at a consistent and appropriate difficulty.
Depending on which of four characters (or five in the recently-released DLC) players selected at the beginning of their game, they will have access to a number of skills and bonuses which make each character special and unique. For example, the Siren class can freeze enemies mid-air and heal teammates whereas Mechromancers will be able to summon combat-obsessed robots capable of clawing at enemies and shooting them with eyeball-lasers. As per the original title, a number of perks can be purchased with upgrade points which change the way a character functions and upgrades their stats. The result: a diverse selection of characters each capable of fulfilling many roles within a squad.
Another element in Borderlands 2 which contributes to character development and the building of stats is Badass Rankings, an addition to the series. Every time a player completes a challenge, they will increase their Badass Rank. Every few ranks will result in Badass Points, which can be directly spent on upgrading certain statistics, such as Gun Damage, Elemental Damage, Accuracy and Shield Recharge Rate (to name but a few!). This new system adds an interesting array of challenges, which range from killing a thousand enemies to finding hidden signs in each map to walking a tightrope over a freezing river. On the whole, it's an effective system allowing players to work towards goals concurrently as they proceed through the twist-and-turn storyline.
A final word on the story: players who were turned off by the plot's ending in the original should not worry too much about a recurrence of the same mistake -- the ending is convincing and intense this time around, and has set the foundations beautifully for a season's worth of DLC, or possibly even a sequel.
As enjoyable as this title is, however, it is not without its faults. In particular, a handful of bugs stop this game from being perfect. Specific to the PC platform, are a number of UI and mouse-usage issues which make inventory management tedious. Universally, some issues with the aforementioned Badass Rankings can result game-breaking amounts of bonus points, and others issues have the potential to cripple and corrupt a save file entirely.
Should these issues be patched in the short term as a host of DLC is released into the world of Pandora, then I will have no issue labelling Borderlands 2 as a perfect game, and one of the most refined experiences of the year.
The Final Verdict
Borderlands 2 is one of few gaming sequels in recent times to live up to and exceed the precedent set by its predecessor, and is my game of the year, regardless of what happens in 2012's remaining months. It was purposefully designed for fans of the original title, and this shines through in all aspects of play. Perhaps this, more than any other element mentioned in this review, is what makes Gearbox's grind-and-find sequel so pleasing to gamers, and contributes to a near-perfect experience.
By Harry Hughes