Borderlands 2 (PS3) – 9 GPP
Straight to the Point – With a world full of character and unique personalities, a dash of insanity, tried and tested gameplay and fantastic opportunities for loot; Gearbox have once again made the surprise hit of the year.
I’ve always thought for the last few years that there are very few quality split-screen co-op games on the PS3. Sometimes, I don’t want to have to log in and hope one of my PSN Friends is online, or team up with someone I’ve never met before. Sometimes, I just want to relax with some good old co-op action with friends that are actually in the room, and in that regard, I feel the market’s been lacking.
Sure, there’s Resident Evil 5, if that’s your thing, and every Lego game ever made, but as far as solid, quality and fun titles? Very few. That’s why, when rumours began to circulate that Gearbox had decided not to support this feature, I nearly broke out my Jakob Incendiary Six Shooter.
Luckily; they gave in and followed in their own footsteps. Which is what one could say about Borderlands 2 as a whole, as a matter of fact. 2K seem to have understood exactly what made the original Borderlands such a surprise hit when it was first released, namely, that games are supposed to be fun. And there are few things more enjoyable than sending your pet eagle to go and attack a machete wielding psychopath with corrosive acid, while going to town on an armoured, shotgun wielding midget with a revolver that shoots lightning. And that’s just when you’re on your own.
The gameplay is much like the original, albeit with different skills and characters, and its clear right from the beginning that this is a game meant to be enjoyed as a group. You could try and solo it if you wish, but you would more than likely struggle, especially in boss fights, where the bosses have sometimes astronomical health levels. And although any one character’s skill set is versatile enough to be tailored to your play style, each character is clearly designed to work best with a group, and this is where the game really shines.
And the guns, how could I leave it until now to bring up the guns? From the boom of a rugged, overpowered Jakobs shotgun, to the elegant whine of a sleek, accurate, Hyperion pistol, there’s a reason why Borderlands fans all have their favourite weapons. As I progressed, it became an in game obsession for me, to collect, compare stats and try out different weapons. Some explode on impact, some shoot two, or even three, bullets at once, and still others are thrown and explode like a grenade when empty, and another gun is teleported into your hands. And as for that feeling when you open a crate and find your first rare or unique firearm? Priceless.
Borderlands 2 has a cast of 4 brand new characters to choose from, loosely based on the original ragtag bunch of misfits. We have Salvador, The Gunzerker, who can dual wield any two guns he likes, from pistols to rocket launchers, there’s Maya, The Siren, who can suspend enemies up in the air for easy killing, Zero, The Number, who can deploy a decoy of himself and turn invisible, and Axton, The Commando, who can deploy a separate turret to fight for him. As before, they also have three different skill trees each which one can invest points into and customise their character. Although they all sound very similar, especially The Commando, they still play differently, and they hardly ever come across as just a re-hash of the same old ideas. This last fact is quite an impressive feat as well, considering the size of the game.
The world of Pandora is much larger and also much more varied than we’ve seen it before. The game starts on a frozen glacier in a blizzard, but this quickly gives away to rolling green hills and volcanic mountains, among others. A stark contrast from the continuous deserts and ruins of the original. It also makes you wonder why this is a backwater planet after all, until you meet the weird and wonderful cast of characters that inhabit Pandora.
There is a wide cast of brilliantly insane characters, and each one has their own personality problem. From a game hunter with a British accent and robotic arm, to deranged gun shop owners and more, the writing and characterisation is witty, and at points, will have you laughing out loud at the sheer bizarreness of what’s happening around you. And that’s not even including the player characters, who run around in gunfights enthusiastically shouting all manner of insults, jokes and downright nonsense when they heal a partner or use their special ability. Old hands will appreciate the amount of return appearances from the first game as well. The main characters are present, and the developers even went as far as to include characters from the downloadable content packs as well. All of the above was technically unnecessary; the original was still praised without this level of polish to the characters and world, but it shows how much Gearbox wants to give their world a sense of personality above just gunfights and endless loot, and bring Pandora to life.
The personality of the game is also shown through it’s authentically Wild West theme. When walking through the world’s main town there is a lovely slow background twang of music, lending it an authentic Wild West/Outback theme that the series is famous for, and even in battle, the music changes to a low, aggressive, bass heavy hum, perfect for a good ol’ shootout. It goes without saying that the guns boom and crack in a satisfying manner with every shot, and it all emphasises the backwater nature of this funny little planet.
Complimenting this; the wonderfully colourful cell shading effects are back as well. They are very well implemented technically, it never looks over the top or Sly Racoon style cartoonish, and now that Pandora and its inhabitants have blossomed to a full world rather than just a brown desert, the graphics look truly spectacular, and also unique. The cell shading style lends the game a general atmosphere of fun and light-heartedness, showing us again that this is not a game to be taken seriously or be emotionally invested in, it is a game to be enjoyed and laughed at; more Saint’s Row than Call of Duty.
Gearbox have taken the recipe of the original Borderlands, added some spice, and increased the portion size. But if you think this just means more of the same, you would be making a grave mistake. Just because a sequel doesn’t have any major new innovations, or a brand new gameplay feature, doesn’t immediately write it off as a re-hash of the original. Gearbox has quite rightly stuck to doing what they do best, and it has really paid off. This game could seriously give Journey or Mass Effect 3 a run for their money for Game of the Year. Try it, and when you’re running around a gunfight with a disappearing assassin, laughing manically to yourself with a shotgun and a rocket launcher, all for a Doctor with some seriously questionable credentials, tell me I’m wrong.