October 7, 2012
The story in Borderlands 2 is completely aware of how underwhelming the first game's ending was and uses that to its advantage in delivering something significantly better. While the story is fairly simple, the ways you can go through it are what makes it so memorable. Once again you play as one of four vault hunters who have come to the planet Pandora five years after the ending of Borderlands. Your mission is to try and reunite with the original vault hunters from the first game and take down Handsome Jack.
Jack is in charge of the Hyperion Corporation and is trying to control the planet of Pandora by finding the vault. So when it comes down to it that is all the motivation you need to start your journey that will introduce you to a number of crazy characters and locations. The writing stands out in a way that not enough games do, by being very witty, clever, and extremely referential. This leads to always wanting to hear what each character will have to say next.
Writing also makes every side mission in the game so fun you can get lost completing them for hours. These can range from something as subtle as a quest that has nothing but Top Gun quotes in it, or where you need to find a group of ninjas who love pizza in the sewers. This is just a taste of how many easter eggs and nods to other games, TV shows, and movies you will find while playing. It is hard to not fall in love with the world that Borderlands 2 gives you, it will just keep bringing you back for more until you see everything there is to see in this massive game.
Borderlands 2 gives you so many different ways to play that if you want to play four player co-op or single player, you will need to play completely different. This all depends on what class you choose from and how you want to develop your skill tree. The different types of classes cater to different player types and picking just right matters. The Soldier can throw a turret and is best for new players who want to play it safe. The Siren can phaselock her enemies and trap them in place leaving them vulnerable and Gunzerkers are more of the crazy run into battle duel wielding guns. Lastly, there is the Assassin who is more complicated than any of the other classes with his ability to become invisible and send out a decoy of himself.
The character development doesn't stop there as each unique character can place skill points into a tree which adds to their individual ability and how they play. You have three different trees and unlike the first game where you put your skill points after leveling up really makes a difference. So if you play by yourself you might want a lot of ways to heal yourself. While you might want more power in a certain skill tree when you know you will be playing with others online or in split screen.
Despite all of the customization in Borderlands 2, when it comes down to it you can't deny that it is all about shooting things. Guns are a big focus as well with this game hosting a gazillion different guns. While the basic type of guns such as pistols, small machine guns, snipers, etc. are here, the way these guns work make them special. Different manufacturers in the game will make all sorts of crazy guns. You will find guns that shoot bullets with different elemental damage, shotguns that fire rockets, and guns that you throw like a grenade when you reload.
Playing the game is always hectic and crazy, but it does have a few points that keep it from being perfect. Some of the missions feel like the only way to not want to yell at your screen is to play them in co-op. This shouldn't have to be a case of grinding up until the mission is no challenge. Still there are enough balanced missions to never make this too much of an annoyance. Also the game has a problem of skipping over dialogue with the newest voice message you receive. This is only disappointing because there is no way to go back and listen to these moments. The writing is so good that you just don't want to ever miss out on what anyone says.
At first glance you might not notice the graphical changes that Borderlands 2 makes compared to the original game. When you take the time to sit down and play the game though you will notice how colorful Pandora is this time around. The brown deserts that made up such a large part of the original game are still there, but now more variety is included. You will travel through snowy mountains, volcanic craters, grassy plains, and the ever brown deserts.
Sound is a big part of the game as well since when you are just playing by yourself the subtle music and distant noises really make Pandora feel alive. This transitions over to playing co-op and fits nicely since you will want to be aware of your surroundings and talk to your partners. Still when someone in the game is talking to you about a mission and your teammates won't be quiet that can be a mood killer so choose your partners wisely.
There are not enough good things to say about how much content there is to be played in Borderlands 2. If you are a fan of the first game or sound interested at all there are tons of missions, secrets, easter eggs, and new game plus to keep you busy for a very long time. The support of the game threw DLC should also keep fans pleased for the coming months.
Borderlands 2 hits almost every note a sequel to a successful game should have. Gearbox include every aspect from the original and improved in many other ways while adding to the overall experience. Very small gripes with missions and dialogue keep this game from being perfect. Still the stellar gameplay and writing blend into a game that is one of the best releases in 2012 so far. If you are a fan of the genre and just great writing in general you are truly missing out by not playing this game.Editor's Choice
Borderlands 2 was reviewed on the Xbox 360. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.