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PLATFORM: 360, PS3
ESRB RATING: M
So I never finished the first Borderlands mostly because I didn’t have anyone to play it with and I didn’t particularly enjoy the world, humor or action. I also don’t appreciate killing a group of bad guys in an area, leaving, then returning to that area having to fight that same group again. It got old quick.
I get what Gearbox was trying to do: take outdated RPG framework and place it over a fairly “modern” first-person shooter game. Add in dick and fart jokes. Repeat. It’s fine if that’s what you’re looking for in a game, but these days, when I’m playing, I just don’t have the patience for a game that’s far too in love with itself to allow players room to explore and enjoy the universe that, at least at first glance, seems lovingly well-crafted.
That said, onto the review.
An evil corporation has seized the planet of Pandora after the events of the first game. The vault hunters who opened the vault at the end to find the ultimate big bad have all scattered across the planet and have gone their separate ways for the most part, though they keep ties. Handsome Jack, the main villain of the game, has begun hiring new vault hunters to try and open some new vault on the planet. Of course, nefarious dealings occur.
The intro to the game sets up the leads nicely, feeling like a sequence directed by Robert Rodriguez or Joe Carnahan. If both of those guys were hopped up on cocaine and weren’t relative masters of the film medium.
Unfortunately, the game’s narrative is murky and over-the-top. Gunfights happen. Jokes are made. Claptrap dances. He’s a little robot fella, you see.
The game does a good job of thrusting you into the action right away, dishing out the missions fast and furious. As mentioned, Claptrap has returned and serves as your guide at the early onset of the game. He actually has a sad backstory that’s really quite brilliant, but truly, it’s the only brilliant thing about the game.
Gearbox shooters all typically use the same button scheme, so if you’re used to the Call of Duty/Halo/Medal of Honor layout, you might be in trouble. A game like Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway naturally lends itself to the Gearbox brand of shooter, however; something a bit more frantic like Borderlands 2 or the upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines requires the standardization of the Halo-type of control scheme. I know this sounds nitpicky, but in terms of control and latency of command, the standardized/modifiable Halo control scheme just works better for a shooter than any other layout. Just the way it is, folks.
Scrounging for loot is not fun. I’m sorry. It just isn’t. I don’t play Diablo. I hate that game, too, so don’t think I’m some kind of dungeon-crawling loot-happy goof, I’m not. I don’t find scrounging every nook and cranny of a recently-shot out town exciting in any way, shape or form. Taking a break from the action in order to hold the X button to scrounge thirty bucks is silly.
The Borderlands games are hyped for their co-op aspects. Personally, I preferred to play this game alone, as teaming up with someone made the action almost too frantic. I was running Axton, the Soldier (renamed Rob) and a friend decided to run the ninja character. Battles were over fast, mostly because I was unloaded upon rather quickly and forced to hide while he stealth-killed everyone with his sniper rifle. Boring in every way.
Unfortunately, missions are typically of the fetch variety. Go here, get this. Go here, kill that guy. Repeat. For the entire game. Story-based missions are just extended “fight your way out of the craziness”-type exercises in futility. I found the game to get old incredibly fast, less fast than its predecessor, but it got old quick nonetheless.
It seems to take entirely too many bullets to put an enemy down. Of course, weapon damage can be leveled up accordingly, but in this case, the damage dealt is so incremental that it doesn’t feel powerful at all. You can level up your weapon damage five or six times and never feel much of a difference. Of course, the enemies level up, too, but when one levels up a weapon, it should have a feeling of weight to it.
The narrative is abysmal. While the playable characters afford the player plenty of variety in terms of execution, they’re not enough to salvage the poor narrative design. Maybe I’m spoiled by Fallout 3’s open-world narrative, though to be fair, Fallout 3 made use of a similar fetch-quest system, albeit in a drastically deeper way. By allowing the player’s character to speak and make decisions, the already huge world of Fallout 3 opened infinitely more.
Unfortunately, Borderlands 2 never opens up. The art design, where everything is heavily cartoony. In all honesty, the massively thick, black lines are somewhat oppressive in terms of looking at the world.
Handsome Jack somewhat redeems the horrifically bad narrative, as he’s genuinely charming and funny, at times. Not all the time, though. It’s tough writing an omnipresent villain, for sure, but when you have one as flamboyant and silly as Handsome Jack, it’s like writing The Joker, you can do whatever you want and get away with it.
I guess high for most folks. The “fun” might be found in going through the game multiple times as different characters, with friends. Realistically, running through the same game over and over again seems boring to me, unless the world is open enough like in Mass Effect of Fallout: New Vegas.
The game also has plenty of DLC on the way and available. This includes more boss creatures to fight, a new character to play as and some more junk. A billion more guns that are all exactly the same gun with a slight cosmetic change. That kind of thing.
I know I’m in the minority in not liking Borderlands 2. I can live with that. It’s a juvenile and poorly-executed shooter from Gearbox, much like the previous one. I’ve set a rule for myself that if Aliens: Colonial Marines sucks, I won’t buy a Gearbox game ever again. I stand by that rule.
I wish I could care more about this game, I really do. I just find the world void of any flair, fun or charm. I know it’s hugely popular, but I don’t see the appeal. Lots of guns, zero brains or heart.