‘Borderlands 2’ Review
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 16:10
Gearbox Software’s “Borderlands” was released in 2009 as a first-person shooter with role-playing, stat-leveling, loot-collecting elements that added a sick twist of macabre humor to a formula that has been successfully employed in the gaming industry for the past decade.
Praised as a “space western” that brought a distinctive flavor to a lawless environment where the player takes on one of four roles and is turned loose in search of a great treasure, “Borderlands” wound up selling 4.5 million copies worldwide and received critical acclaim across the critical industry.
The problem Gearbox faced with “Borderlands 2,” released last Tuesday on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, was deciding where to take the game’s story following the climactic battle with the ancient alien terror the Vault held. Integrating characters from “Borderlands” and the game’s four downloadable content packages, Gearbox took what was a fun dalliance into a wild and whacky environment into a serious story that polished many elements that made the series’ first installment so addictive.
“Borderlands 2” reveals that the series’ home environment, a desert planet named Pandora, has experienced much change in the few years since the Vault was opened, and opportunistic factions have risen to oppress and exploit the planet’s simple-minded citizenry. The game’s primary antagonist, Handsome Jack, offers an early catalyst and frequent comical taunts to the player, establishing an early animosity that only deepens as the plot develops in later stages.
Making cameo appearances are each of the four playable characters in “Borderlands,” often in a role pivotal to the story’s progression and aided by secondary characters both recurring and new. Arguably the chief failing of the original was the game’s thin storyline, progressing perhaps a measure too quickly between grotesquely-fun-bullet-rampage and takes-itself-too-seriously heroic epic.
That transition flows much more seamlessly in “Borderlands 2,” and the additional character exposition provided by the non-player characters does much to effect the player’s perception of their role as the savior of a world too corrupt and untamed to know what is good for it.
Literary pettiness and high-mindedness aside, “Borderlands 2” retains all the fun that made the original so charming. A combination of guns, grenades, and melee attacks can leave enemies in pieces on the floor or exploding in showers of well-rendered blood gushes that give the game a visceral feel that satisfies the catharsis most gamers look for in a shooter.
With the diverse roles of the four player characters, players can customize their character and battle plan to suit their preferred style of play, choosing to use deceit and trickery, massive explosions of phase energy, or good old-fashioned hailstorms of bullets to wreak havoc on scales more gratuitous than “Borderlands” offered.
Toss in an enemy database that dwarfs the original’s, and you have the recipe for a game that can provide dozens of hours of enjoyment to casual gamers and dedicated enthusiasts alike. While the violent aspect of it may not appeal to all, “Borderlands 2” nonetheless earns high marks for the plain old fun it forces you to push through.