In the event that you thought you’ve had enough Borderlands and that a sequel wasn’t possible without simply giving gamers more of the same, you couldn’t be more wrong. Borderlands 2 takes what was successful about the first game, improves those elements, and changes everything else up in such a brilliant way that there really is no good reason not to play this game. For those absent from the first game, you will be quickly caught up on the events and background of what lies ahead with the opening sequence, which for those that leave the title screen idle long enough will see before even starting the game.
You control one of the four new Vault Hunters, having your choice of either the Commando, Siren, Assassin, or Gunzerker. Each one has their own skill-set and abilities, with a slightly branching skill tree for each that can cater to your own play-style. There is nothing stopping anyone in your four-player, co-op squad from choosing the same character and upgrading everything the same. Of course, having unique abilities can not only be fun, but can change the flow of the game drastically with upgrades like healing and firepower that can quickly sway things in your favor.
The AI is noticeably smarter than in the first game, so you won’t have to think of creative ways to kill common enemies to keep the game interesting between big fights. They actually move around to seemingly avoid getting shot at, so using a little teamwork, if you’re not playing alone, when fighting groups of enemies goes a long way. Don’t expect the enemies to flank you to the extend of some of the more gritty shooters out there, but rest assured you won’t be disappointed.
Shooter fans will be happy to know that the controls are tight and responsive, but the treasure of this title is the insanely huge amount of loot there is in the game. So much so that if you’re not careful, you could find yourself losing focus on progressing in the game and trying to open up every single chest for that one thing that probably could have been overlooked. Add to that a robust ranking system that rewards kills and other actions with tokens to spend on upgrades, and you have a formula that explains why this franchise is so successful. Don’t worry about all of the great shooter, loot grabbing, and ranking elements because this game really doesn’t take itself that seriously, which is fairly obvious with the generous amount of humor you’ll hear in the dialogue.
The visuals continue to be the familiar hand-drawn texturized, comic book style that you all know and love from the series, with a few notable tweaks and upgrades. It is even more apparent this time around that the game aims to be set apart from fans insisting that it is simply cel-shaded. Characters and environments appear more colorful and vibrant, giving the atmosphere a more organic feel that will easily immerse you in this comic-like world. The animations and general movement of characters and enemies in the world also seem to be smoother than before. Although you will see some minor graphical blemishes and hiccups, they do little to sway your belief of your own inclusion in the game, which is to be somewhat expected in such a large game.
Sounds can easily be a favorite part of this game for a lot of gamers. Again, the dialogue continues the sometimes hysterical nature of the series, and unfortunately can be missed if you’re playing co-op with any number of players. Between ClapTrap and Cave Johnson, your expectations will surely be exceeded by the amount of funny delivered throughout the story. Besides that, the rest of the sounds and music are good, but take a back seat to the dialogue, and like other shooters, can easily be forgotten.
The only multiplayer aspect included in the game is your choice of 2-player split-screen or 4-player online co-op. Don’t take these as modes included as an afterthought, because the experience gets that much better when playing with others. The enemy difficulty scales, the loot increases in abundance, and using strategy to defeat a common enemy can instantly spark virtual high-fives to ensue. It’s pretty obvious the online component was developed with the end-user experience in mind. Voice chat works fine, there are hardly any hiccups when playing with others (less the minor graphical glitches), and like most games with quality co-op modes, you almost feel like your friends are sitting on the same couch with you. It’s debatable whether or not a competitive multiplayer mode should have been included, but you never really feel like you got shortchanged without it.
Overall, it’s a pretty safe bet that if you enjoyed the first game, this one is guaranteed to be in your game library. For the rest of you that are new to the franchise, you can safely skip the first title, and jump right into Borderlands 2 without missing a beat. It’s not every day that you get a game, especially a shooter, that can deliver 30 to 40 hours of gameplay on a single playthrough. Add to that the fact that four guaranteed DLC packs are on the way, as well as hints of other content coming down the road from Gearbox, and you’ll understand why this game will certainly consume a lot of gaming time in the foreseeable future.
*2K Games provided SlimGamer.com with a review copy on the PS3 platform.