I’m feeling a little sad right now as I have had to retire Mordecai the Hunter at level 69 with a bloodwing that has pillaged it’s way through many a loot drop, come face to face with the destroyer, made Moxxi moist by playing her bizarre game of Horde, defeated ninja claptraps and with a little help from my friends, Let Crawmerax know how we get daan.
Yup, my hunter and me have had many stories to tell and each one a memory that will stay with me for a long time. You see, Borderlands was THAT game that captured mine and many others’ imagination and when all was said and done made us come back for more. Borderlands WAS that surprise hit that everybody needed in a stale and stagnant world of rinse and repeat to protect Publishers’ investments during a time of financial difficulty in the world. 2K took a risk on fresh IP and boy, did it pay off. Not in the way that you would expect but in a way that kept feeding the coffers of Gearbox and 2K games even today. The precise measure of their game added to DLC that still ranks today as the best value for money and a nod in the right direction for the fans means that Gearbox really struggled about when to release their follow up, Borderlands 2.
Thankfully, today in America and on Friday in the U.K. fans of the franchise will get a taste of Pandora’s fine ass again and my God, has it delivered. Following on immediately from the original, a man called Handsome Jack has cashed in on the original vault hunters’ notoriety, claimed it was himself, taken over the Hyperion Corporation promising to rid Pandora of all of it’s lawlessness and completely destroy everyone not involved with Hyperion. This sees you, the player, thrown into a world of freedom fighters trying to destroy Jack and everything he stands for. With me so far? Good because although the original had a very woolly storyline and Gearbox Software have made sure that there is a narrative that flows and a story to be told that brings the game together. In fact, Gearbox have listened to the problems that plagued Borderlands (not that they really affected anything) and have either addressed them or enhanced the game further.
The first thing that I would do though is install Borderlands 2 onto your hard drive. I found that the loading times on the disc interfered with the audio/video mix and a quick install solved this problem immediately. From there you are thrown into the world of Pandora with 4 new characters to play with, each sporting their own characteristics but more importantly can now be developed in a lot more ways to now only add to their characteristics but to also cater to the style you play. In fact, the skill tree and accompanying Badass rank that you earn from completing the numerous amounts of challenges brings Borderlands 2 into the RPG shooter that the original was yearning to be and delivers it with finesse. Although the levels are capped at 50 the Badass rank enables you to redeem tokens for various modifiers like gun damage and shield recharging to name a few. Although it looks fixed to one character it does operate to your profile enabling you to transfer it over to any character you want. If this is not your style then you can always switch it off to play Borderlands 2 in a slightly purer form.
Gearbox have also promised that Borderlands 2 would be a huge task to complete and they’re not wrong. The main quest spans an age and the side quests have been exquisitely devised that you always feel the need to peel away and see what needs doing next. Over 60 hours of gameplay away for a run through and even getting to Sanctuary, where the story really begins, took a good 3 hours without deviating too much from the main storyline. In fact, there is so much charm and detail in the characters you meet and the world that they live in there is a genuine want to explore their stories further and just go around and explore or loot. Pandora and it’s inhabitants pull you in like that and just won’t let go.
The heart of the game though still lies in the amount of guns and loot that are out there. There is a real addiction to want to go and loot or farm for weapons risking life and limb to see if you can find that better gun or a better mod and with a gazillion to choose from, Borderlands 2 will pull you in faster than a potential addict sucking on a crack pipe for the first time. The risk, reward mechanism is perfectly represented as you know you shouldn’t stray too early but know that if you do you may, just may find that piece of gold that made the last 2 hours of suffering worth it. That rush when you find a purple or gold item is something that few games can emulate and Borderlands 2 executes it perfectly.
And then there’s the guns, oh the guns, the very foundation that the game was originally built on and now each manufacturer has it’s own characteristics to make them stand out from each other and no doubt cause countless arguments about what manufacturer is the best. Does the military precision and sharp bursts of the Dahl float your boat or do you prefer the wild west style of a Jakobs where you are constantly trying to manage the kick but when they hit, boy do they hit. Even the Bandit weapons may have their place that are pieced together by beer cans and the like and have a more dealer of death look to them than most other weapons’ manufacturers. There is something for all and the fact that you can now compare weapons on the fly via a slick little system that shows the positives and negatives of each stat when you walk over them makes the job of farming or looting that much easier.
Battles and the environments they take place in have also had an overhaul with the AI, although still basic, having their own characteristics and behave a lot different to the original providing some excellent gunplay and crazy battles environments that are now a lot more dynamic and interactive. Barrels of corrosive materials, slag or another such material are littered around areas and a good bullet into one can get the damage rocketing from an enemy. Having the foresight though to know what to stay away from has to also be considered as the same thing can happen to you. Not understanding the environment fully could get you into a whole heap of trouble very quickly and having to start over with the never die, take some cash for regeneration system runs a full speed.
Co-operative play is also a must and Borderlands 2 still plays to the same conventions as the original although playing on the same screen now allows you to have the split screen horizontal or vertical which is a big bonus. The ability to now jump in and out of any one’s game without effecting if you are too far into the story or not really allows players to come together now without having to worry about levels and things too much although Gearbox have missed a trick in the fact that weapons aren’t shared and a greedy person could hoover everything up and leave you with nothing for your effort. Gearbox really should have taken a cue from Diablo III here allowing players to see their own personal loot and no-one else’s.
Graphically, Borderlands 2 is a lot lot richer in colour and environment than it’s original providing a world that is striking at a frame rate that hasn’t dropped in my time on Pandora as well as being faster in drawing textures and the like. There is still problems with pop up on occasion but again one that doesn’t detract from your experience playing the game. Add to that a soundtrack that is thumping and memorable and you have an experience that still rates as being one of the best out there and something that will sit in your mind forever.
Overall, Borderlands 2 is everything you ever wanted in a follow up game. Borderlands 2 engages the fan, keeps the original features in tact that pulled fans in the first time around as well as expanding on and improving other areas without detracting from what made the game great in the first place, something that other studios may want to learn from. Your time in Pandora will again be a memorable one and the crazy ride that it entails as well as the wacky characters, comedic storylines and over the top humour will firmly cement Borderlands 2 as one of the, if not THE Game Of The Year.
I could ramble forever about this game and how great it is but you know what? I really need to get back into Pandora and kicks some midgets ass. You just need to go out and buy it and experience this piece of gold for yourself, or with me!
Borderlands 2 can be pre-ordered from our preferred retail partner www.thatgameshop.com
Brady Games has also released a strategy guide to accompany Borderlands 2 that retails for £19.99 in the U.K. and $34.99 in the U.S for the Limited Edition, which I highly recommend.