Developers: Gearbox Software
Publishers: 2K Games
Plot: Four Vault Hunters race to open a vault, before Handsome Jack can get to it and use it to destroy the city of Sanctuary.
Right from the off, Borderlands 2 is a much more confident game. The opening cut-scene suggests that it has finally found a good use for its comic book style of animation, instantly throwing us into an explosion of colour, humorous practical effects and action. Before Borderlands’ style seemed quirky yet pointless, now it is the palette that sets it apart from the competition. It is the louder cousin to Fallout, the more amusing counterpart to Elder Scrolls.
Its biggest improvement is creating that drive to progress. Borderlands became a chore, my only connection to the game wanting to get a full perspective of the gameplay, so I could write a coherent review. With Borderlands 2, I had a fair sense of fun. The characters are more prominent this time around. They were quite fun in the first game, but the layout of the gameplay never gave them interesting to do. We were told how fun they were, but our only contact with each of the supporting cast was a text screen with the occasional gag. Borderlands 2 boasts more cinematics, quickly becoming a fresh take on the game, as it boasts that comic book style which pretty much makes Borderlands 2 so iconic. Meeting a girl, no older than ten, with an addiction to dynamite and teddy bears is more fun, thanks to a great opening sequence, where she explodes – and explodes is the right word – onto our screens. We also have the bad guy figure of Handsome Jack, who fuels the fun of the game for a lot of the running time. He chips in with the usual bad guy remarks as you complete each mission, essentially doing a Mark Hamill impression from Arkham Asylum, but it works. Trekking across a wasteland is made more engaging, when you have a bad guy to play off against, the chemistry between your nameless hero (you choose one of four), and Jack fun to get to. The ‘home’ locations are also more thought out. Borderlands had checkpoints, where you would hit a group of vendors to refuel and rest up – they were pretty simple with their basic functions. Borderlands 2 creates worlds, which I find an important part of an open world game. What is the point of exploring a game when every landmark is a dull computer-generated eyesore? When you hit the City of Sanctuary, you bond with the town, encouraged to explore each alleyway, chat to the store clerks (cameos from figures from the first game sometimes). A lot of the plot’s mission is protecting this town, so Borderlands 2 works hard to make sure you care about it.
While it does add improvements to the game, the series itself still suffers the same problems. There are just more good points to make the bad ones forgivable. It does feel like Open World game 101, a group of fetch quests stapled together into a plot. The missions are less ‘complete this specific map’, and more of trekking across the open world to pick something up, with the environment between you and your objective. There are still frustrating moments, when a whole day of gaming is spent travelling across a glorified shoot-out, clinging to your last clip of ammo and hoping that the finishing line is coming up just after this current battle. The fights are done fairer, with less swarms and more convenient baddie spacing. When you struggle with a battle, it does feel like the difficulty is planned by the developers, rather than an accidental over-achieving spawn point for the enemies. The point still remains that as far as open world games go, Borderlands doesn’t try to break the mould. In coming up with a fresh take on the apocalypse genre, it calls it a day and falls back on the usual tropes. And for a lot of the gaming community, this is more than enough to make this series one of the freshest franchises on the current-gen. It inspire a prequel game that came out fairly sharpish and this very game got its remaster for the PS4. People like this game and I can see the charm. Myself – I am not entirely convinced and I cannot see myself coming back to this particular series. I might have to give the Telltale Games version a college try however.
Final Verdict: While generic as far as open world games go, Borderlands 2 is finally worth getting hold of, entertaining, explosive and so much fun.