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SummaryA fun and intense sci-fi FPS/RPG hybrid
The GoodThe cel-shaded comics like art style, the intense action, the gun diversity and the voice-acting all mix up to one whacky experience.
The BadThe texture popping, the confusing navigational system, the lack of real character and vehicular appearance customization, the re-spawn of enemies can be repetitive. Some dialogue is not funny but downright disturbing. Vehicles don't stand to their real potential.
The Bottom LineBorderlands 2 is a sc-fi FPS with RPG elements, and the sequel to the critically acclaimed and financial successful title from 2009. Like its predecessor, Borderlands 2 takes place in the planet of Pandora, a dangerous place filled with aggressive animals, ferocious monsters and crazy people who seem to have nothing better to do then walk around armed to their teeth and shoot each other. The player assumes the position of a Vault Hunter who just arrived to the planet, and joins the fight against Handsome Jack - the game's villain - who wants to destroy the entire planet and its inhabitants. Before starting the game, the player can choose a character class out of four classes available: Siren, Commando, Gunzerker and Assassin. Each class has its own skills and special abilities, so having a 4 player’s party in co-op multiplayer mode consisting of all classes is more than recommended in order to successfully play and fully enjoy the game. Gameplay in Borderlands 2 is non-linear in the sense that there are many story missions and side-quests which can be performed at any time. The game world is pretty big, but calling it a "world" would be a bit of exaggeration, as the different areas seems to be more like giant rooms connected between each other with doors. It is certainly not Skyrim, but the ability to traverse between areas and choose what to do and when to do it makes the game feel more open.
The action sequences in Borderlands 2 are intense and exciting. Pandora is one of the most unfriendly places you’ll ever visit in a video game, with dangers coming in from the air, ground, and even from under the surface.
There's much diversity in the enemy types: from small deadly dogs and midget holding shotguns to giants holding bazookas and monsters in the size of a small skyscraper. The AI of the enemies is also pretty good, and some encounters will require more than just hitting the fire key at the enemy and waiting for him to die.
To counter the hordes of enemies in the game, an enormous arsenal of weapons is available for the player to choose from. There are 6 gun families in Borderlands 2 - pistols, SMG, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and missile launchers - and on top of that there are elemental weapons, which their efficiency depends on the enemy type. For example, a fire pistol can be absolutely deadly when used against a living creature, but when used against a robot can cause little damage. Different weapons also sport different specification such as magazine size and reload speed, so the most powerful weapon in your backpack is not necessarily the best weapon to choose from in any given fight.
Action doesn't come in Borderalnds 2 in foot only, but also in vehicles. Throughout the game world the player can spawn vehicles and drive them in 3rd-person mode or assume the position of a gunner, making them ideal for co-op games with other players. But, while driving and fighting with these vehicles is fun, it's hard to shake the feeling that something is missing there.
Most missions don't require the use of vehicles, and many locations have a blockade in their entrance which blocks the vehicles, forcing the player to go on foot. Hopefully, in Borderlands 3 the developers will make these a more integral part of the game.
Developing the player's character can be done in two ways. The first is by accumulating XP points by killing enemies and finishing quests, and the second is by completing the in-game challenges, like killing a number of enemies from the same type or shooting a number of bullets from a specific gun family. Like most modern RPGs, the number of XP points given for killing a certain enemy depends on the player's level as well as on the enemy's level, which is displayed when moving the crosshairs on it.
Since Borderlands 2 is an open world game, some quests require the player to go back to previously visited locations. Because enemies re-spawn in Borderlands 2, all of the monsters which were previously killed will come back to life and in levels far lower than the player’s, meaning that killing those will reward the player with an insignificant number of XP points.
Due to the fact that the bullet wasted on these low level enemies is worth more than the reward in killing them, most players will decide to run past these monsters, getting hit in the process, rather than waste their ammo and time in a boring, repetitive battle with them.
To help navigate in the game world, a map is available for the player when pausing the game, and a fixed mini-map is displayed at all time in the game UI. Mission waypoints are indicated in both maps; however, it is quite hard to understand how to reach the mission locations from the mini-map, as this map just marks the waypoint relative to the player and not the way to reach it.
This means that navigating somewhere usually require pausing the game, looking in the full map, and even plotting short routes on the way using a customized waypoint in order not to get lost.
In addition, going to a certain area where the next mission waypoint is can be done by either walking to it through all areas on the way, or by fast traveling using a travel terminal. Why the map and mini-map don't point to the nearest terminal in the current area, but instead to the next interconnecting area, is behind my understanding.
The graphics in Borderlands 2 is very good. The whole game art-style is based on cel-shading, giving the game a surrealistic, comic book look and feel. The scenarios are well designed and look great, as well as the game characters, making the whole game not only look amazing, but also feel like a real art piece. There are some graphical glitches though, such as texture popping and scenarios appearing all of a sudden when getting closer.
The guns in the game look excellent. They diverse in look and style and almost no two guns look like. Too bad the same cannot be said on the external appearance of the player's character.
The player can customize the appearance of his or hers character, but this is all very limited. There's no way to actually choose a unique look for the character, like in the Elder Scrolls Series, for instance. Customization starts and ends in choosing a head from a bunch of pre-given ones, and choosing a color to a default outfit. Some quests reward you with new "appearances"; however, do you actually see yourself caring for a new mix of colors for your character?
Humor is a key factor in Borderlands 2. There are many funny moments and quirky characters to meet, with some of the characters from the previous game making an appearance here as well.
All NPCs now actually talk when approached. Mission briefings are also completely voiced, and don't consist of only text like in the previous game. The voice acting is very good, making some of the characters truly memorable. Don't expect any deep conversations though, as most characters will spout nothing more than a couple of one-liners when clicked on.
The Borderlands series never took itself seriously and Borderlands 2 is no difference. The game is very violent, and boasts in its depicture of death and mayhem. Modern RPGs such as Deus Ex: HR and Skyrim bring the player together with serious moral choices, allowing him to choose how to react to the situation. In Borderlands 2, everything is about killing. Even the NPCs, when approached for a mission, usually say something like: "I have nothing for you to kill right now" when they're out of missions to give.
It’s not always clear why that NPC wants you killing something, anyway. This approach can sometime be funny, but other times feel disturbing. At one point in the game, you are requested to go down to the sewers and kill a group of pizza loving, mutant ninjas.
Putting aside the copyright infringement, why would anyone want to kill a loveable childhood hero? Your employers seem to be no better than the enemies they want you to kill, and it’s too bad you can't choose to kill them instead.
Borderlands 2 is a fun ride. It's fun to play alone, or with friends in co-op mode, and the four character classes available to choose from add diversity to the gameplay. Players who played the previous installment will feel right at home, as nothing major was changed at the series core, and new comers who like intense action which require some thought will most likely enjoy Borderlands 2 as well, even with its shortcomings.