Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360 Review)

Summary [9 out of 10]

Borderlands 2 is Gearbox’s follow up to the awesomesauce that was 2009’s Game of the Year and it does not disappoint. The main characters from the first game return as NPCs to interact with and help you out on your journey. This one really starts off with a bang (I hope you will excuse the pun).

Let’s get this train back on track, it has been five years (game time) since we last saw Pandora and things have changed drastically, after the events of the previous game iridium is spilling out of the vault opened by the Vault Hunters from Borderlands. The once mighty Crimson Lance are now a rag-tag group of Raiders and the planet has been ground under the heel of our new main antagonist Handsome Jack, who is a big step from the previous, non-vocal giant lady parts-mouthed, final boss that was The Destroyer.

 

Handsome Jack is one of those villains you love to hate and he really helps drive the story along. We are also treated to the return of everyone’s favorite disembodied AI, Angel, and a few other characters; Scooter, Marcus and Moxxi who all have a bone to pick with Handsome Jack. You really feel back at home on Pandora despite a rapid climate change.

What Is It Like?

Borderlands.

Borderlands 2, like its predecessor, are FPSRPGs… a what? First-Person Shooter Role Playing Games, you get all the engaging aspects of a shooter, on par with Halo, and the ability to level your character to suit your play style, as well as loot guns and other items to alter your appearance.

Each character has 3 specific skill trees you can start putting points into once you reach level 6, each tree focuses on different strengths depending on which class you’ve selected.

The Great

Graphics: The art style just works so well in these games, the world just feels classic science fiction. It does not have the realism a lot of games strive for these days but I think it just pays off well here, we are space cowboys & girls on this planet to shoot and loot.

GUNS: Wow, Gearbox really ramped things up with the variety of guns in this one. Not only do things look amazing at higher levels, but you have the luxury to be a bit picky on the functionality. I think if I ever looked at the engine that drives this game mechanic it would be like Darkseid finally getting his big stony mitts on the Anti-Life equation. In addition to the series staples of incendiary, shock, explosive, and corrosive; a new element is added called Slag. This is basically a way to inflect some serious damage with your other regular or elemental weapons.

Story: The storyline benefits from the change up in writers; we still retain a lot of the humorous element from the first game. Now the focus shifts a bit from pure greed to a quest line focused to defeat an antagonist that really knows how to taunt you into wanting to settle your accounts. Gearbox really knows how to capture the sci-fi space western in a fantastically ridiculous romp.

The Good

Customization: This time around you can change your character up with many custom skins and a handful of different options for heads. This helps out when having a group with the same characters, as well as, just making things more engaging. I really enjoyed having my Gunzerker sport an Odd Job inspired look, if only I could have thrown the hat. You can rack up custom skins via the slot machines in Moxxi’s bar or through item drops throughout the game, custom heads seemed to either a mission bonus or the very rare item drop.

Character Classes: It is a bit interesting what they decided to change up with the four original classes; Brick the Berserker, Lilith the Siren, Roland the Soldier and Mordecai the Hunter. Axton the Commando, remains the same as his counterpart from the first game for the most part. Still deploying that turret and dispensing pain in hot lead form. Maya the Siren, while very similar to Lilith benefits from a new Phaselock ability that is quite a bit more interesting than the Phasewalk from the first. Nothing quite as satisfying at suspending an annoying enemy in the air and having your team provide them with a few extra holes. Salvador the Gunzerker, differs from his predecessor in height as well as by utilizing dual-welding to cut down enemies instead of laying the smackdown. I confess I did miss expending all my ammo and just punching things to death. Zer0 the Assassin, is not a birdman and quite a different character from Mordecai. I think his skill tree might be the most interesting in the game due to the widely different appeals of play style each one can yield.

NEW CLASS ALERT: Gaige, the Mechromancer! A quick playthrough of this character proved to be extremely fun and interesting. She has the potential to be either a good introduction character or more complex with her Anarchy Stack ability which makes her gameplay a bit more varied than the usual classes. It doesn’t hurt to have a giant killer robot that you can summon, it is early to say but this new class might be a bit too overpowered.

The Bad

Controls: Just for the driving, these were rubbish in the first game and I think we were all hoping for a bit of an improvement here, I believe that the ability to switch to first person view while in the vehicle might have been a bit of a game changer. The vehicles just really handle like a rolling pin duct taped to a goose on a hockey rink, once you get used to it you can manage to drive around a bit but you might be better off using the fast travel system, that being said the shooting and looting controls were spot on as always. Granted the driving is not the primary focus of the game, but as a travel option it is a bit tedious. The rumored DLC addition of being able to utilize flying vehicles sounds both exciting and terrifying.

Glitches: Few and far between, but of the two I experienced one was highly annoying. Killing an enemy that had a mission specific drop near the mapping edge might trigger the drop in an area you are not able to access and then you need to reload the level. The other one, I personally like to call it picnicking, was a downed enemies item drop would appear in a blue and white checkerboard on the ground. Really weird and it only happened to me once in the Wildlife Preserve level.

The Randomly Awesome

Conclusion [9 out of 10]

This title is well worth you consideration, shooting and looting can be a put off for some but if you join up with the right group online it can be a fun experience sharing in the laughs, occasional glitches, and all around good times. The DLC from the first game made it a long running game in my collection and I doubt that Gearbox will disappoint there as they have already issued out some Season Passes and the first DLC is scheduled for release on 10/16/12.

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About Charles Lynch, Reviews Editor

Charles co-hosts The Gentlemen Radio (podcast on this site) with J. Patrick Ohlde, Jeffrey Stephenson and one other gentlemen. He is a beard and beer enthusiast, enjoys short walks in the mountains and video games. He has a degree in Business Management from the University of Arizona that he is doing absolutely nothing with. He is an actor, voice actor, sometimes animator, rarely a homebrewer and hosts a show on YouTube about beer culture (youtube.com/spentgrains).

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