Maya, the Siren, is given Tannis’ face, the crazy scientist from the first game. Zer0, the Assassin, is given a Spiderant King head. Salvador (Dali), the Gunzerker(could you imagine?) has Sledge’s mask, a villain from the first game. But Axton, the Commando gets the very best one. If you ever wanted your character to resemble a Gelgoog, one of Gundam’s ugliest mobile suits, well here’s your fucking chance. Many fans say this is just another way of Gearbox showing how much they appreciate them. The incentive alone feels half-assed, not to mention the announcement was released just weeks before the game’s debut. I mean, it’s something, but it’s nothing that compliments the “thank you” when you grinded excessive amounts of time into their first game. I would have hoped for something like a starter kit waiting for you at Claptrap’s place, instead of the useless pistol he gives you, or even a couple of free ammo/backpack upgrades. As mild as this gripe is, it only cements the fact that there is no real incentive to having played the first game. This goes for the story as well, since any important info from the first game gets explained quite nicely throughout the entirety of the second, leaving you free from doing any “homework.”
Story – 7/10
If you’re familiar with the first installment, the game begins very much the same, with the cool song and fun intro that you never want to skip, only this time you’re on the brink of death after nearly getting blown to bits by Handsome Jack, the game’s antagonist and leader of the Hyperion organization. Luckily, you get saved by a lovable Claptrap, the only claptrap now known in existence, who hands you your first mission to save him, and yourself, from the desolate cold of Windshear Waste. You eventually fight your way through four-armed gorilla snow monsters to save a cyborg Englishman who hires you for a couple odd jobs. Even before the main story comes into play, you’re already afforded a handful of side missions to keep the story from feeling mandatory, and to keep your mind off all the crazy I just explained.
Though eventually, you help Claptrap get his boat back from a local bandit leader named Captain Flynt; a play on words as he tries to burn you alive. You’ll find a lot of names like that, especially for weapons. You’re then directed, by the mysterious “Angel,” to help Claptrap locate Sanctuary where you meet up with Roland, the Soldier class from the previous game. He’s now the leader of the Crimson Raiders and he hires You to help him take Handsome Jack down. As the game progresses, the story gets more and more heated, as you encounter new and old acquaintances to aide in your fight against Handsome Jack. I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum, but Roland is kidnapped before you get a chance to meet him. Before the revolution can begin, you have to save him from a group of bandits who are trying to sell him to Hyperion. This is by far one of the best instances in the game, as you encounter, arguably, the toughest enemies since the game began. You get your first taste of all-out chaos! Handsome Jack decides he doesn’t want to pay the bandits any bounty for Roland, so he does what any unreasonable psycho-maniac with more money than he knows what to do with does; he sends wave after wave of robots to kill you and all the bandits. Even on normal difficulty, I struggled with keeping a steady supply of ammo, and once I reached the climax of the battle, I damn near ran out at every crucial moment. But that’s what makes this fight so exhilarating. You prevail by the skin of your teeth, and if you break Roland out of his preventive bubble-prison, he throws down his turret and joins you in some robot killing mayhem. It is quite a sight to behold, and it’s at this point you finally feel like you’re a part of the main cast. The game is full of these intense moments, and although the dialog itself is something short of enjoyable, like all great action films, you don’t play it for the story.
Gameplay – 9/10
I can tell you two things. If you liked Borderlands you’ll love Borderlands 2. If you didn’t enjoy Borderlands, you’ll still love Borderlands 2! My lovable brother from another mother, Prometheus, didn’t care much for the first installment. He didn’t care too much for the gun generator and the fact that most guns he found were useless and that finding really nice weapons was akin to finding a needle in a haystack. I let him have two hours with my copy, and although it wasn’t enough to compel him to buy his own, he was swayed enough to make an attempt to rent the game. You may not know us well enough, but I can tell you, that speaks volumes.
Luckily, each class respectively lets you choose between three specially tailored skill trees. For instance the Commando class has Guerrilla(for short range, high damage CQB), Gunpowder(tactical-based skills focusing on medium range assaults), and Survival(long-range defensive stance focusing on keeping you away from battle while bulking health and shield capacity). I chose Guerrilla since I enjoy terrorizing the battlefield, and it has sweet abilities like Scorched Earth(adds rockets to your turret) and Double Up(adding an extra gun to turret). Basically with the way Guerrilla allows me to enhance my turret, I’m free to destroy my enemies without having to watch my back. Or with Survival, I can juggernaut my way through everyone without having to double back and wait for my shield to recharge.
I always felt the respawn sequence was pretty clever, but one would think that if Hyperion supplies the respawn points, that there would be two fail safe’s. One being that Hyperion could just discontinue the protagonist’s respawn ability and Handsome Jack can go about his business. The second option is assuming that Hyperion has the protagonists DNA available and could just make an army of drone Commando’s, Gunzerkers and so forth. Just a small oversight, I suppose. Also, does respawning have to cost so damn much?! I get it, though. The folks at Gearbox wanted to make killing as easy as dying. Eventually, the money well runs dry and I’d hate to find out what’s in store for me if that happens. Besides, playing smart is more fun and less frustrating. The hardest part about dying, is trying to land your Second Wind, a tactic where once killed, you then go to a downed state, crawling on the ground but still able to use your weapons. If you can kill another enemy before the death meter runs out, you’re back in the game. Easier said than done. It gets real annoying at times, like being on the brink of death, then unloading your whole mag on a psycho just to run out of ammo, and time, just as he was about to die, then having to pay 4,000 bones. Make no mistake, this game can cause some button breaking moments. But the good outweighs the bad by a wide margin, so for this alone, the game is worth Redboxing, in case you’re still on the fence.
Graphics, Visuals & Sound – 7/10
There isn’t much of a difference in graphics. Everything looks a bit cleaner, more polished and the graphics rendering doesn’t take as long to buffer as it did in the last game. Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be a more abundant supply of enemies on-screen, and a lot tougher than I remember. I don’t know if it’s the way I play or if it’s a blatant engine design, but I seemed to get flanked or pinned down more times than not, and I die more than I care to admit. Borderlands 2 still utilizes the Unreal 3 engine, albeit a more modified version. Gun detail looks more crafted, too. As outrageous as they already looked, everything from sights, to barrels to the fine grooves on the pistol grip are in vivid detail. Every gun has different reload animations, recoil, perk damage…basically many things you don’t notice when your in the heat of battle, and it’s all done in fine detail, all the way to your Nova burst when your shield capacity is compromised. It’s all so… overwhelming.
I can’t really give an objective review on sound aspects. I play late in the evening, so I tend to play with the volume low and subtitles enabled. But from what I was able to comprehend, much of the voice acting feels very amateur. For instance, Lilith’s take on sarcasm is very forced, and she, by proxy of the writers, has no sarcastic timing. When done right, sarcasm at it’s core is comedic, and Lilith’s sarcastic interactions fall flat nearly every time. Her sarcasm borderlines deadpan humor, which I love, but it has to feel natural and on the actors part, delivery means everything, especially if the writing is bad. Lilith comes off more as a slacking teenager that loves a good, stinging joke, but doesn’t have the proper wit to pull it off and tries anyway. The only thing missing is a well-placed, “what-everrrr…” and even then she’d probably miss her mark. It makes for bland situations you wish you could just mash X to fast forward through. Sadly though…you can’t. Even still, she’s not as bad as Mordecai, who lacks personality altogether. If Mordecai was a siren with the ability to use a Singularity sphere, it would do nothing but suck all personality from the room. He feels like a Josie Wales wannabe, but with no charisma behind those bullets.
However, quirky characters like Tiny Tina, are very fun to interact with and I wish she offered more side missions just to have an excuse to talk with her. But I’ll always have a soft spot for crazy ladies. And Tiny Tina is batshit crazy. All I’m saying is, if Tina was my daughter, I would gladly rope up some weirdo for her twisted tea parties and watch her electrocute them until they smelled like freshly, sizzled bacon. Roland is also a saving grace, as he comes off more as a Jett Black character-type, if you’re familiar with Cowboy Bebop. You would think, with all the gripes I got with the voice-overs, that I would have rated this a 6. And I would have had there not been so many cocky one-liners. Playing as Commando, one of my favorite lines is, “Say hello to my girlfriend,” as you toss your turret on the floor. At times, I wonder if I’m playing Borderlands 2 or if Marvel secretly added Deadpool to this game. If there were any more cockiness, I would have been sure it was the latter.
Every game I’ve played on my PS3 up to this point, has required me to load some data onto my hard drive to reduce loading times when playing the game. Borderlands 2 started right up. No hard drive space necessary. That was a load off my mind and ps3, and oddly enough, load times aren’t particularly long to begin with. With the lack of any visible change in graphics, you can tell a lot of love was put into giving the player a deeper experience, adding fun dialog and making the guns look good, which makes the player feel like a badass, while he/she’s doing badass challenges.
Replay Value – 8/10
DLC couldn’t bring me back to the world of Borderlands 1. In other words, it had no replay value whatsoever. Maybe I’m being a bit too biased, but after having played Borderlands 2, there’s honestly no reason at all to re-experience Borderlands. Anything I might have missed, is explained well-enough in Borderlands 2. It takes an already solid story for me to purchase story-driven DLC, and the only game to compel me to do that was the Mass Effect series. I’m sure there’s plenty more content in store for Borderlands 2 and this time I’ll keep my mind, and eyes, open to the option.
But the game still has the sands of time to weather through before I can make a lasting judgement. For the time being, I’d say it’s a pretty fair guess that I’d be making a few more round trips across the barren expanses of Pandora. The game has a good amount of customization options for your avatar, which was non-existent in the first game. The only character I cared about in the last game was Brick the Berserker. This time around, I wanted to main Axton, Zer0 and Maya before finally settling with Axton. Now with the Mechromancer DLC out a week early(thanks Gearbox!), there’s just one more character for me to discover. With the amount of side missions, and the sheer amount of weapons to find, I’m sure an eventual speed run will ensue. And there’s something inherently fulfilling about opening so many damn treasure chests. I think Legend of Zelda can learn a few things from Borderlands when it comes to finding treasure. Leave no pile of doo doo unturned!
Overall – 7.75/10
A bit of a harsh grade, but I stand by it. Even with all the tweaks being made, they were mostly cosmetic. Gearbox only seemed interested in making the player feel more immersed in the character they chose than the actual world they were playing in. Greater waves of enemies are thrown at you from all directions to feed your urge to be as awesome as John Matrix. Guns and shields are treated less like weapons and more like purse accessories, purse accessories for handsome gentlemen. That’s a good thing.
Think of Expendables as Borderlands and Expendables 2 like Borderlands 2. Both sequels are better than the first, but they’re really just expanded versions. Much like, say, your favorite Arnie movie, there is no awesome storyline, which is pretty much all Arnie movies. We got cool one-liners, although not as memorable as, “Let off some steam, Bennett,” and crazy action with an insane option of guns at your disposal with an endless supply of enemies to test them on. But storylines are important for me to enjoy a game, not just action, play values and pretty graphics. What really does Borderlands 2 in for me is my fear that it ends up with the same issues of it’s predecessor. At face value, Borderlands 2 is a superior version of Borderlands, but in it’s core, it’s really just more of the same. Albeit, so much more, of the same. My biggest fear is when the action stops becoming incredible and begins to feel routine.
– The ‘Booty like POW’ Agamemnon