Borderlands 2 review
Smash and grab
Loot and shoot, shoot and loot: Borderlands 2 in a proverbial nutshell. Thank goodness then that it’s looting and shooting of the highest order, as another intrepid gang of vault hunters get tooled up and head into the wastelands, with the lure of untold wealth at the forefront of their minds.
Crash and carry
Like its predecessor, Borderlands 2 is a cel-shaded co-operative FPS with heavy leanings towards the RPG genre; the players’ chosen vault hunters earning experience as they go which can then unlock a series of upgrades. Once again there’s a choice of four character classes to choose from – ‘gunzerker’, siren, commando and assassin – each of which largely mimics similar classes from the original, albeit with minor changes.
The gunzerker (latterly known as the berserker) is a tank-like bullet sponge and damage dealer, whose special is the ability to dual-wield any combination of weapons and regenerate health and ammo. The siren’s special is telekinesis, or ‘Phaselock’ and suspending enemies in the air is her game. The commando has the expertise to deploy turrets, which not only shoot but draw the attention of hostiles. While the assassin class – formally known as hunter class – can cloak himself before creating a virtual decoy, so allowing him to flank the enemy and stab them in the back.
Cleverly, each class has an upgrade tree which can result is very different specialisations; so it might be that your assassin is perfectly attuned to keeping away from the frontline and picking up kills through the scope of a sniper rifle, while a friend’s assassin might deal out death up close and personal through stealth, diversion and the sharp end of a blade.
Then there are the guns. There are enough here to make even The Matrix’s Neo feel spoilt for choice, as every conceivable firearm – from pistol through to machinegun – is available in a myriad number of forms. And that’s before you get to grips with any number of weird and wonderful bespoke weapons with which to disintegrate or otherwise maim your foes.
As with your character, each weapon comes with its own set of stats, with rarer guns often having additional elemental effects like shock damage, fire damage and so forth. Stronger weapons might also require you to have attained a higher level than you currently hold in order to wield them. This avoida potential unbalancing from veterans gifting newbies advanced weaponry.
All fired up
You’ll also find such high-level weaponry in the huge number of treasure chests scattered throughout the game’s huge environments (alongside cash, health and ammo), leaving you to decide whether to carry it about in one of your limited weapon slots or leave it and hope you’ll come across it later when it’s of use to you.
In fact, with such an arsenal of guns available – and believe me, you could play through the entire game and barely see the exact same one twice – it can be somewhat perplexing to work out what’s your best option.
Compare and contrast
A handy on-screen weapon comparison at least compares a freshly discovered gun to the one in your hand. It also reveals the new gun's relative rarity, but then what of the other weapons in your inventory? Cue another clunky inspection of the guns currently about your person, as you weigh up the pros and cons. It's fun for those who enjoy the thrill of looting perhaps, but not particularly exciting for the rest of us.
Dam and blast
Once you’ve agonised over your character class, skill choices and weapons, however, you’re left to enjoy the game and its narrative. Indeed, this is where the frantic gunplay and potential for truly immersive co-op really comes into its own. Again the storyline – which takes place across a broad assortment of locales and finds time to include cameos from characters of the original game – plays second fiddle to the action. Though it is worth pointing out that unlike its predecessor the plot is well developed and as logical as a game of its ilk might hope to be. It’s even humorous assuming that Bottom is your idea of funny – and why wouldn’t it be?
Chill out zone
That said the game's setup does have its faults. You will, for example, find yourself revisiting the same areas you've already blasted through. This in itself an odd design choice, given the amount of the borderlands you'll barely touch. Indeed, thiss a criticism that can be levelled at Borderlands 2 from start to finish.
Mission objectives will also regularly require you to cover a huge amount of land. Although fast travel points help, you'll inevitably have to turn to the game’s vehicles. A fun diversion you might think, but negotiating the ramshackle roads can be overly problematic, resulting in my Mad Max-style car getting terminally stuck mid-way through a long journey on more than one occasion.
"Is this a dagger I see before me?"
Luckily, the game comes into its own upon discovering your objective and – as gigantic monstrosities lumber towards you and psychotic troopers try to beat you into submission – you'll be reminded exactly why you made the investment. It's a feeling only magnified when you're joined by colleagues whose presence is something of a necessity if you're to get the most out of the game; not least because the difficulty shifts up a notch depending on how many comrades you gather (up to a maximum of four) alongside your sense of achievement.
Witnessing Borderlands 2 at full throttle is a sight to behold and you can't help but build a kinship with your fellow players – even if an irksome loot system means they can grab your would-be rewards should they be so minded. It's at such blockbusting times that you forget about clunky weapons juggling and slightly sluggish aiming, as the whole package moves from merely good to great. ®
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