Saturday 13 October 2012

Today's Review: Borderlands 2

Yes, I know this game came out a good few weeks ago, but I like to finish my games before reviewing them, and dammit, this is a huge game.

The story continues some time after the first Borderlands, and yes, we're still on the planet Pandora. This time there are four new Vault Hunters, lured to Pandora with the promise of a brand new vault, only to be quickly betrayed by Handsome Jack, the enigmatic and sadistic madman who has taken charge of the Hyperion corporation and forced the remaining good citizens of Pandora into hiding. It's up to you to join the resistance and stop Jack's nefarious plans.

If you've played the first Borderlands, you should know what to expect here. The gameplay mechanics, the graphics, the weapon system, all pretty much the same, though that's by no means a bad thing. What this game does is build upon those core elements with some new innovations that make it a much more enjoyable experience. Now you can pick up ammo and money on the floor just by walking over it, fall damage is eliminated completely, so you can jump off cliffs like a maniac. You can even move around while downed, increasing your chances of killing an enemy and coming back to life. The whole game is just a more streamlined experience.

Of course, the emphasis is still on looting various objects and finding different guns. There are countless chests, lockers, cardboard boxes and dumpsters to open to find various amounts of money and weaponry, and the amount of guns that fly out of enemies and toilets is immense. Thanks to the gun generation system, each one has different properties and elements, meaning you'll constantly be checking which ones stack up better against your current equipment. A lot of people don't really like this concept, but there's nothing more satisfying than coming across a pistol that will take down your foes with one shot as opposed to the several you were using before. As well as the shields and grenade and class mods, you can also equip relics that give extra bonuses, so the right combination of equipment can really make you a force to be reckoned with.

The story of Borderlands 2 seems a lote more involved than the first. There is a very clear and menacing protagonist in Handsome Jack, who is constantly contacting you to let you know how much he hates you and wants to kill you. A neat touch is the fact that you can see his base orbiting Pandora's moon no matter which are you're in, and the robots that are sent down to kill you later are beamed directly from Jack's unreachable lair. Jack's presence is always felt, and while it's quite intimidating at first, you begin to sense the desperation in his voice as you press on through the story. Couple this with some great new quest giving characters, such as Sir Hammerlock and Tiny Tina, as well as some old favourites, and the game just feels a lot more fleshed out and well rounded than the original.

There's still a massive focus on exploration though. Some of the areas are vast, with all kinds of hidden nooks and crannies just waiting to be found. In fact, there's a whole new system put into the game to encourage players to explore and revisit certain areas in the form of Badass ranks. Similar to the challenges in Borderlands, these reward the players for killing a certain number of enemies, with a certain type of gun, but instead of experience you earn Badass tokens, which can increase various stats for every character you play as across your profile. Technically this means you can keep making more and more characters, finish the challenges for each one and become even more unstoppable than usual. The exploration factor comes in with the area specific challenges, urging you to find hidden areas and Vault symbols, or defeat bosses in a certain way. So even after the copious amounts of sidequests are done, and all the achievements are unlocked, there's still a whole lot more that can be done.

Borderlands 2 is a fantastic game. It has a well written, involving plot, the locations are varied, vast and beautiful, and the amount of firepower available is mind boggling. It took me a good 50 hours to finish, and while I completed the vast majority of the sidequests, there were still a few more to do, and several challenges to polish off, and I only managed to reach level 32 out of the possible 50. If I had the time I would gladly do it all again, facing the tougher enemies and better guns available on the second playthrough. And with four DLC packs coming out over the coming months, it seems like the fun has just begun.

My rating: 5/5

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