Monday, October 1, 2012

Borderlands 2 Review

I never delved into the world of Pandora. I never faced the Destroyer. I never opened the first Vault. I barely had any interest in Borderlands 2 coming out. It honestly wasn't even a consideration for purchasing. My friends had all abandoned me to return to the story, as they all were addicted to the first game. So, since I no longer had anyone to play with, I figured I could burn $60 to have fun just playing with them, even if I didn't enjoy the game. Boy was I mistaken.

Borderlands 2 starts off with a bang. Literally. The train you're on explodes sending you into a frozen wasteland. There you meet the best character in the game. Claptrap, the robotic wonder. The most hilarious and random NPC I've ever seen. He has a misguided idea that you are his minion and he is your master, and pretty much he's right. He sends you fight a gigantic Bullymong named Knuckle Dragger and get his eye back. I'll end the story here so I don't spoil it for people who aren't far along.

The gameplay is fantastic. Finding weapons and mods drives you to search every chest you can find and tackle the largest enemies you can conquer. The items you find through the progression of the game are leveled towards your characters, which is helpful as the enemies get tougher with each new area discovered. Weapons are also hidden in places you wouldn't expect. For instance, in Moxxi's bar there is a tip jar. There is an achievement/trophy for putting in $10k. If you keep going though, she hands out a weapon, Miss Moxxi's Bad Touch. It's a corrosive weapon and is leveled based on storyline progression. If you keep going even further, you get Miss Moxxi's Good Touch. It's an incendiary weapon, and is also leveled through story progression. The bonus to Miss Moxxi's Good Touch is amusing if you have the vibration setting for your controller turned on.

There are some useful features of the game, including Second Wind, which revives you if you can kill an enemy while you bleed out. Vehicles are also in play. Driving is fun but the controls are a little sensitive, so you can be screaming down the dusty road and suddenly find yourself airborne in a 90 degree turn from where you just were. The controls for weapons, abilities and pickups are all smooth and precise. The one downside to picking items up, is certain objects can take priority based on proximity rather than direct visual cues. The stats that pop-up can be useful to view which weapons are desirable if you are low on space, but they also block viewing anything else on the ground. The poorest function in the game is the mini-map. The accuracy of it is minimal when dealing with barriers or pits. Driving is exceptionally frustrating trying to gauge the paths. It really could have been done better.

Character skills can be vast, or they can be very specific. Each character's specialties can force you to play the game differently. Currently I am playing as the Commando. His turret is powerful and a particularly effective ally on the battlefield. Other players will enjoy the stealth of the Assassin's sniper, or the devastating sword when up close and personal. Maybe you would enjoy the brute force of the Gunzerker, whose ability whips two guns out to deal extreme damage and who never seems to run out of ammo. Or perhaps you would prefer the Siren. One of only 6 Sirens who can exist in the universe at any given time, Maya has a few abilities up her sleeve. Phaselocking opponents in a stasis bubble allows for uninterrupted fire. Or maybe brainwashing thugs to fight their own buddies. Whichever character you pick, the results speak for themselves.

The best part about this game is the 4 player co-op feature. Battling it out with your buds is some of the most fun I've ever had in a video game. The opportunity to troll is just as much fun as the bond your characters make. A rounded out team with everyone using a separate character is the best strategy, as you get all the uniqueness tossed onto the field. Watch out though. With 4 friends all bunched up together, the loot will rarely be divided evenly. As someone told me, the #1 rule of Borderlands is "YOU SHOOT, I LOOT!"

Wait, I changed my mind. The best thing is not the co-op. It's the gambling. I feel I need to warn you about  the slots. You gain a lot of money traveling Pandora, and the stores never have what you want or need, so the best use for it is the slots. You would be surprised how fast $50,000 will disappear. Winning guns only to sell them to fuel your addiction is commonplace in this game. The pull is just too strong. You can win some pretty good weapons, leveled to your character once the story moves forward. 3 cherries and you've got yourself a green weapon (4th rarest), 3 ladies legs will net you a blue weapon (3rd rarest), 3 Marcus faces will get you a purple (2nd rarest), and 3 Vault symbols will toss you an orange weapon (rarest) with insanely high stats for the time being. Be careful though. Rolling 3 bandits will have you ducking for cover as a grenade comes flying out of the machine.

There are always bigger, badder and more badass weapons to find, so searching for them can be as addictive as the slots. But that's what keeps this game this game interesting. Well, that and finding a few surprises along the way.

Pros:
Story
Mechanics
Co-Op
Smooth gameplay
Lack of glitches

Cons:
Bad mini-map
Weapon pickup displays overwhelming other pickups
Not enough Claptrap

Final Score: 9.5/10 (extra points taken away for not enough Claptrap)

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