Gaming with friends is great fun; especially shooters, as the ‘banter’ (eugh) flowing either face to face or over headsets is rivalled only by games such as Fifa. However, something happened when I was playing Call of Duty online with a friend the other night. On beating some poor teen with a tomahawk to the head, I reeled away from the console bored and unwilling to go on. Had the curse of adulthood finally taken over or was it something more sinister? Luckily, it wasn’t adulthood, but instead the fact that there was no joy left. NO joy in playing the same maps, no joy in getting shot from 12 miles away by a junior but, more significantly, no joy in being hand fed the same crop each and every year. What the first person shooter genre needed was a boost, some fresh blood to re-enliven the stale genre.
Borderlands did that for me, and many others, when it was released back in 2009 as it introduced a fantastic role playing element to the typical shooting mechanic, whilst its weapons cache was just hysterical. A quadrospazz number of guns greeted gamers on playing, and not those boring real life guns that you get. Guns that set enemies on fire, ripped psychos in half and rocket launchers that took up half of the screen’s real estate. Borderlands made gun games fun again and, at the same time, became such a hit that a sequel was always going to be on the cards.
Fast forward three years, and Borderlands 2 has been released to an expectant audience. Thankfully Gearbox have fulfilled their promise of making a game that not only beats the original, but f**king blows it away.
Following on from the first game, you are put in the shoes of a new elite company of vault hunters who have been lured to Pandora only to find themselves on a train to nowhere. The new protagonist Handsome Jack thought the best way to introduce himself was to blow them up, and it is here that our story begins. As per the first game, each character has his or her strengths and weaknesses. Salvador the gunzerker has the ability to duel wield any gun during his special mode, and killing people, as well as getting, will heal him. Maya the siren has a more biotic skillset, with her special ability allowing her to suspend enemies in a stasis, making killing them much easier. Roland is the standard commando/soldier class who has the ability to deploy life shredding turrets, and has an accuracy that can be upgraded to a near pinpoint level. Final character Zero is an assassin who carries a big ass katana; a bit unfair really, as that’s like three potential weapons to do damage with. Zero can outwit enemies, using a deception hologram that can be dropped to lure victims in one direction, before he slices them up from the rear.
What’s important with every class is that, together, any foe is potentially decomposing corpse. Teamwork is an element that Gearbox worked hard on for this iteration in the series and it really shows: the range of enemies is so diverse that you need a strategy not just for yourself, but for your partners as well. Guns are a key part to the strategy in Borderlands 2, and as there are more than a Gazillion, picking the right tool for the job can be tricky - but at the end of the day you can only use what you are given. Taking on a mech? Then make sure you use a gun that fires corrosive rounds that will tear through the armour of a robot. Facing multiple enemies? How about equipping a Tediore weapon that explodes like a grenade on reload? Don’t worry, it doesn’t explode in your face. As mentioned above, teamwork is key, and Borderlands 2 isn’t boasting when it states that you need friends involved. Double the enemies and double the XP is what is on offer when you have friends along for the ride, and believe me when I tell you, this game is the most fun you will have with friends this year. Period.
Borderlands set the graphical world alight with its cel shaded art style, a style that was only adopted at the 11th hour due to testers feeling that the graphics shared too much in common with Fallout 3. It’s a general consensus that this move was for the best, and the cel shaded Pandora in Borderlands 2 has added visual punch, showcasing how Gearbox have embraced their style, and not just settled for it.
The player no longer fights in deserted wastelands, they now have the pleasure of slaughtering their enemies in green pastured wildlife reserves and futuristic cities. These locations are beautiful, and help move the story along with significant pace; That is, if you’re following the story.
Just like any RPG, side quests are plentiful, ranging from the typical ‘kill a baddie’ (don’t get me started on the Medical Mystery mission, 15 attempts until success ) to the more obscure Claptrap super quest that lists out the most diverse objectives until he eventually has you finding his stash. It’s the humour in each and every quest that has you coming back for more, regardless of how much you end up hating the game when you fail.
Borderlands 2 is a huge game and, if you are a purist, then you will be wanting to play through the game with each and every character class, as they provide you with a different experience each time. The humour never grates (apart from the Claptrap’s voice), so playing through for a second time won’t have you wincing at jokes you’ve already heard, but laughing again in a ‘that was great the first time around’ way. Just like rewatching the scene from Friends where Joey wears all the clothes.
Overall, Borderlands 2 is a solid game and one whose only fault lies in the fact that we are going to have to wait far too long for a third instalment.