Gearbox Software and 2K Games have teamed up once again to create a new gaming classic in Borderlands 2. The game is the rare sequel that actually improves upon the original in almost every way. For those who are not familiar with the game, it is set on the world of Pandora I don’t like James Cameron’s “Avatar”, this Pandora is a savage frontier planet with hostile bandits comprising the largest percentage of the population.
An opening narration updates players on what is happened in the land since the conclusion of the previous game. The aftermath of the opening of the Vault, has caused a rare and valuable element to spread across the planet. This is attracted the Hyperion Corporation to Pandora with the stated intent of cleaning up the lawless land as well as making quite a profit for themselves from the harvesting of this valuable material.
Mixing elements of a team-based first-person shooter as well as a role-playing game, players get to select one of four characters to face the numerous dangers that lay ahead. There is the Gunzerker named Salvador, a massive figure who wields all manner of weaponry but deadly skill and includes dual wield abilities.
There is also a Siren named Maya who has several psychic abilities at her disposal as well as being quite good with weaponry. The remaining two characters are a commando named Axton and an assassin named Zer0 was quite deadly with various sniper and pistol weapons.
The opening cinematic sets the stage as the team is taking on a hover train runs afoul of the villain Handsome Jack.
Playing solo to start as Salvador, I found myself in frozen tundra with only a robotic Claptrap to keep me company. My robotic sidekick divided a running narrative as well as some comic relief to the action and also worked well as a guide during my initial missions. From hunting dangerous wildlife to taking on dance of marauders I was instantly captivated by the immersive theme that blended elements of Mad Max with the science-fiction Western theme. The extremely impressive soundtrack even included the twangy Western themed music that made me feel like a gun toting cowboy when taken on the enemies the game through at me.
As the game unfolds the RPG elements of trading, crafting, then in some cases bartering comes in to play. The original game had over 10 million different weapon combinations and we were told prior to release of the game that over 17 1/2 million different combinations are possible in Borderlands 2.
One of the real choice but challenges the game is selecting the weaponry that works best for you and your style of play. Do you want rapid-fire weaponry that does not do as much damage at first but has a high rate of fire, or do you want something with a slower rate of fire and frequent reloads that has incredible stopping power? You can also be very creative and unleash incendiary weaponry on your opponents or use things such as destructive barrels and grenades. The great thing is that you will have no shortage of options at any time. In fact the only shortage I ran into was ammunition but thankfully you’re able to purchase or salvage ammunition throughout the game.
One of my biggest frustrations with the original game was that I found it very hard to get myself immersed in the story. The game offers a great co-op ability Reagan have friends or other people from online joining the adventures with you. That being said I found myself replaying the same levels over and over, or having to join up with players who were much further along in the story which made it difficult for me to get any continuity.
This time out, players have the options to skip over to their groups point in the story and then return to their previous place, jump over it entirely, or choose to remain at their current story level and wait until others join them in their current place.
At first I found it a little tricky finding someone to join in my online experience and this led to my only real frustration with the game as I found that I’d lost progress in my gameplay. I’d encountered the boss that was a particular challenge and I found myself outgun for the task at hand. I attempted to locate some assistance and dispatching him and when I was unable to do so I found myself at a point in the story roughly 30 min. before where I originally was. The game uses a checkpoint save system in the form of a resurrection where when death is encountered, you’ll respond that the nearest check station that you had automatically been registered at. While I would prefer to be able to save my game at any point, this is at least an acceptable way to keep you fairly close to where you were at the time of death. The developers also give players a chance to fight for their life by dispatching an enemy while they’re dying in order to gain a second wind and continue the fight.
With a mix of body armor and personal shielding, as well as my impressive array of weaponry I was able to put up quite a fight but I would strongly suggest that players take advantage of the company of other players is going Lone Wolf definitely is a challenge.
Graphically the game shines as it uses the same cell style animation that gave the first game such unique and distinctive visual style. What really impressed me was the extremely smooth gameplay and frantic mix of action and humor which drew me in and never let me go. I’m not one for micromanagement so the notion of having to deal with side question inventory management isn’t always a top priority for me. In Borderlands 2, I was able to find my comfort level as I took additional quest when I needed funds, and I was able to trade up or drop items from inventory that were not of use to me. Oftentimes I would acquire a large weapon and finding combat that it did not meet my style of play. Being able to sell the weapon or drop it when I came upon a new one allowed me maximum flexibility as well as the joy of discovering the pros and cons of the numerous weapons I encountered.
The enemy A.I. was solid as some enemy stayed in character and maniacally charged right at me, while others did attempt to take cover and even lays traps. I highly recommend taking advantage some of the covers specifically cargo carriers which are early in the game allowed me to take down a pack of creatures as I was able to fire out of the container and they were not able to get in.
The soundtrack of the game is also a real hit as not only is there great musical accompaniment to the action but there is plenty of humorous banter and other standout moments from the conversations and dialogue that pop up throughout the game as well as the extremely impressive sound effects. On more than one occasion had to be careful to continue fighting instead of listening to what was being said by my opponents.
The control system in the game was very well designed, and I was able to customize the controls in the PC version of the game without any problems to my ideal configuration.
It is clear that the developers put a lot of time and effort into the game as well as listen to the feedback given to them from players of the first game. Outside of the saved game issue I encountered early in my gameplay, there was absolutely nothing about the game that I could find any type of fault in. I am eagerly looking forward to being able to play with staffers and friends as well as experience the game from the perspective of one of the other characters.
I will not spoil the remainder of the game but suffice to say there are plenty of surprises along the way and the game is without a doubt one most enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time as well as a solid contender for our Game of the Year award.
5 stars out of 5