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Game review: Borderlands 2 video game combines laughter with first person shooter

BY SAM STEWART | OCTOBER 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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Released: Sept. 18
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Cost: $59.99

While blasting my way through a wave of bandits, I stumble across an odd character named Face McShooty. He has a frame around his neck with two arrows pointing at his face, and he pleads with me to shoot him in the face as he dances around. “Not the KNEE, not the ARM, not the SPINE — FACE. IT HAS TO HAPPEN.”

Confused, I line my sights up and oblige him. As he falls to the ground, he yells, “THANK YOU,” and I am rewarded with money and experience. Yeah, I must be playing Borderlands 2.

Borderlands 2 is the epitome of the first-person, shooter/role-playing game hybrid created by its predecessor, Borderlands. With a stronger focus on story and writing this time around, Borderlands 2 is a big improvement over Borderlands, but it runs the risk of being too similar to it.

The game begins five years after the events in Borderlands. Since then, Pandora has undergone a hostile takeover at the hands of Handsome Jack, the CEO of a weapons company that is mining the planet for eridium, a valuable radioactive mineral.

Your character, a vault hunter, is lured to Pandora, where Handsome Jack tries to kill you. When his attempt fails, you set off to stop him from destroying Pandora. Handsome Jack is the star of the show, an amazing villain whose wicked presence is felt all over the game world, constantly driving you forward toward defeating him.

Many of the best characters from the first game return as major players in the story, and although I love those old characters, there is a noticeable lack of new ones.

The game’s humor is also massively improved. Borderlands was a hilarious game, but Borderlands 2 takes it to a new level. Ranging from some very smart jokes to crude potty humor, the game is unrelenting, sometimes assaulting you with more jokes than you have time to laugh at.

For me, listening to dialogue often took priority over combat because it was so entertaining. 
The game uses traditional first-person shooter controls — all of that Call of Duty experience will certainly make you a better player — but you won’t be punished if you can’t continually make headshots.

Although the gunplay is the same, there have been some significant changes to items and enemies. Guns now have a variety of unique features, such as firing as fast as you can pull the trigger or turning into a grenade when it runs out of ammo. This makes picking a gun more complex than finding the one with the highest damage.

Also adding to the combat are the new enemy types and tactics. Enemies now will duck and weave when coming after you rather than just running straight at you. They will also react to being injured by crawling or limping. This makes battle more complicated, forcing you to change your strategy and continually be aware of enemy movements.

The role-playing-game elements have also stayed the same since the first game. Each of the four characters has one skill and three skill trees that all offer different styles of play. For example, the ninja Zero has one tree that focuses on sword attacks, while another makes him a deadly sniper.

As with the first Borderlands, the game’s big draw is the multiplayer. Two-player split-screen and four-player online options allow you to get together easily with friends and enjoy the game. More players mean harder enemies; harder enemies mean rarer items. However, it feels as if the co-op focus may have taken over the game’s development, hurting players who go it alone. Certain areas of the game are ludicrously difficult without the help of a second player, leading to many cheap-feeling deaths.

Although it still uses the same comic-book style of the first game, Borderlands 2’s world feels more varied and full. This is good, because you will spend a lot of your time running and driving around in these areas because of the poorly implemented travel system.

The dialogue and sound effects all sound great, but I can’t say that any of the soundtrack is memorable. Also, the game can lag during intense battles, but it is rarely more than a temporary annoyance.

Other great new features include the “Badass Rank,” which gives you small bonuses for completing a variety of challenges. Challenges range from “Kill 1,000 enemies with pistols” to “Deal 25,000 points of fire damage.”  Because you are able to choose which statistics you want to upgrade, you are able to tailor your character to your style. You are also able to change your character’s face and the color of his clothes. More faces and colors are unlocked as you play the game.

Borderlands 2 is an amazing game that I can’t recommend strongly enough. It is a big improvement for the series but not a big enough step forward to set itself apart from its predecessor.

Still, Borderlands has almost become its own genre, and that I can only compare Borderlands 2 with Borderlands is both a point in its favor as well as against, so I will say this: If you are looking for an intense, fun, hilarious, and interesting shooter/role-game experience, Borderlands 2 is your best (and maybe only) option.

Reviewer Rating: 8.5/10


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