Review: Borderlands 2 (PS3)

borderlands-2-review-banner-gma-2012

Title: Borderlands 2
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (5.8 GB)
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Borderlands 2 is also available on Xbox 360 and PC.
The PlayStation 3 version was used for this review.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 286 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
At this point you’ve probably heard everything there is to hear about Borderlands 2. It’s easily been the biggest game launch in the past few months. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Borderlands 2 picks up a few years after the first game. and no, you don’t have to have played Borderlands to enjoy or understand Borderlands 2. You’re given a quick overview of what happened and how it brought the Hyperion Corporation, led by the charismatic Handsome Jack, to Pandora to acquire the rare and valuable Eridium appearing all over the planet since the discovery of the Vault at the end of the first game. Rumors of an even larger Vault bring a whole new group of Vault Hunters and that’s where you come in.

You’ll play as one of four new Vault Hunters, each with their own unique skills and abilities. A step up from the first game, the skill trees of the four are much more diverse and offer that little bit of extra tweaking to fit your own unique play style. You have a choice of the Gunzerker, the Assassin, the Siren and the Commando. It’s nice to have a balance of characters when playing in a group but certainly not necessary. I used the Siren and the three others in my party were Commandos. Walking into an area and watching all three of them lay down auto turrets to decimate the nearby enemies was always good fun. You’ll need to work together a bit more at times though as the enemy AI has been ramped up a bit so they’ll take cover more often, heal each other and even pursue you to a certain degree.

As first person action shooter with RPG elements, Borderlands 2 is all about the loot. You’ll spend the majority of your time opening every chest, locker, trash can and box looking for the next great gun. It becomes an obsession because you know that a fantastic gun could be in that next chest. As an all out loot grab, Borderlands 2 excels but to stop there would be to short change the game. The action is tight and it plays well as a first person shooter.

The quirky humor of the first game has been ramped up big time in this new installment leading to my first real dilemma in the game. The dialogue is genuinely laugh out loud funny and I have a hard time deciding to join a group of players or continuing on my on. It’s certainly more fun playing in a group, but with everyone talking, you miss out on some hilarious dialogue from the characters that inhabit the world of Pandora.

The vehicle controls have been tightened up a bit as well making driving much less of a chore than the original Borderlands. Another nice addition is the inclusion of a new “Badass Ranking System” where everything you do in the game is tracked. Every kill you make, dealing elemental damage, kills using a vehicle, opening chests, collecting money, everything. As you reach certain numbers of each challenge, you’ll get tokens to spend on rewards. The rewards will increase weapon damage, shield recharge rate, critical hit damage and more. They give you these boosts in very small increments encouraging you to play more, kill more, loot more and just overall do more in the game. It’s a fantastic addition and these rewards are shard over every character you create giving you an immediate leg up for all the work you did when creating a new character.

Visuals:
Continuing in the cel-shaded tradition of the original, Borderlands 2 takes you to more diverse environments in a world that feels more alive than the first game. The characters and settings look fantastic and really make the world what it is. You’ll still see the occasional glitch with characters stuck in midair or flat looking textures but they’re really few and far between and it’s never enough to take you out of the fun.

It’s funny to think back to the original reveal for Borderlands and the realistic style that was shown in early concept art. People howled when the style changed but I can’t imagine this game any other way. If it looked more realistic the humor and overall fun of the game just wouldn’t work as well. Gearbox definitely made the right choice here.

Audio:
Easily one of the strongest parts of the game, the dialogue is absolutely outstanding. I always hold Portal 2 up as one of the funniest games I’ve ever played and Borderlands 2 definitely gives it a run for its money. Handsome Jack is the new Cave Johnson and I couldn’t wait to hear what he’d say next.

The voice acting is perfect as far as I’m concerned and it helps that the writing is stellar. When you’ve got an enemy charging you screaming “Pluto is not a planet!” you know you’ve crossed into something special.

The sound effects and music are also really great, helping to set the mood throughout the game. The soundtrack is memorable and quite enjoyable throughout the entire campaign.

Online/Multiplayer:
Another huge part of the Borderlands experience is the co-op aspect of the game. You can play two player local split-screen or join a party of up to four Vault Hunters online. It’s all very simple to drop in and drop out, invite friends or even block everyone if you want to just play on your own.

When you do join other players, the loot increases, the enemies get tougher and the experience is just that much more fun. Voice chat works great and all of the games I’ve played so far have gone off without a hitch.

The only downsides of the co-op are that the guns your party finds are singular so you’ll want to be sure you play with people you can trust. It’s no fun having someone run ahead opening everything and taking all the good loot for themselves before anyone else has a chance to see it. The other problem I encountered is missing out on the fantastic dialogue that moves the story along as we all talked and joked as this was happening.

It’s worth playing the game with others, it was really designed for it. It’s just best to get a group you can trust and work with rather than a group of strangers.

Conclusion:
Sporting a much better, funnier and more cohesive story, Borderlands 2 improves on the first game in every way a sequel should. It’s funnier, more engaging and when I’m not playing, I want to get back to it as soon as possible, it’s just that good. With the promise of continued support through DLC packs, I can’t recommend this game enough.

Score:
9.5

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Buy this game from Amazon.com:


Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg
Buy this game from Amazon.co.uk:
Flag_of_Canada.svg
Buy this game from Amazon.ca:

 

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 18 consoles and 4 handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

m4s0n501
Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook