This review has taken me a while, I won't deny it. If you listen to UJFM at all you might have heard me review it as a part of my Friday morning segment for The Arcade, however a combination of factors has meant that I never quite had a chance to write a full review for my blog. I was somewhat harshly prodded by one of my Twitter followers however (not to worry @violentdreamer you are completely correct!), and so thought I better get my ass into gear and post up the review.
So here it is, in all it's glory. Buuuuuut, first let's start with a trailer.
Borderlands 2 is the sequel to the somewhat surprise 2009 hit Borderlands. And I'll be honest, whilst I liked Borderlands 1, I wasn't so in love with it that I felt this absolute need to pre-order Borderlands 2.
Maybe I got caught up in the hype... maybe I saw so many trailers that it started to grow on me... I don't know, but by the time it was released (even along with the shipping disaster that delayed it here in South Africa) it was a game I was looking forward to immensely.
So what is the premise behind Borderlands 2? Well, five years have passed since the events in Borderlands, when four Vault hunters guided by the "Guardian Angel" confronted and defeated the Destroyer. A valuable mineral called Eridium now flourishes in Pandora and Handsome Jack, a member of the Hyperion Corporation, ruthlessly controls the planet's Eridium resources. Rumours of a large Vault are drawing more Vault Hunters to Pandora.
Sounds vaguely cheesy sure, but the best part about Borderlands has always been that it isn't afraid to embrace humour, an integral part of this game exemplified by Claptrap, the robot.
Borderlands 2 (and indeed the first game can be categorised in the same manner) is what Gearbox Software call a role-playing shooter. In essence it's neither as complex as a more traditional RPG game nor as violent and intense as most FPS games, but it does combine the two genres in an enjoyable if slightly more simplistic way. As in many RPG's you develop your skills via skill trees, earning and spending experience points and becoming proficient in certain weapons. You can level up and head down the path towards your chosen specialisation.
Introduced this time around is a somewhat more comprehensive weapons customisation ability as well as more focus on vehicles, and a more intelligent AI, both friendly and enemy.
Visually this game relies on the same cartoon look of the original, which somehow always brings back fond memories of XIII. The world is vibrant, immersive and enjoyable as a space in which to interact with both co-op partners as well as AI, and sucks you in both visually and narratively.
If you thought the loot was cool in the first game, well it just got a whole lot better! Borderlands 2 relies on the fact that you must loot EVERYTHING! And that is totally capitalised on purpose. There are so many new weapons on offer that even the most discerning weapons fanatic is spoiled for choice. The best part is that you really need to adapt your strategy and gameplay style depending on which weapon you're using. Each new weapon is a game changer, keeping combat fresh throughout the campaign.
Exploration is absolutely key to gameplay in Borderlands 2, and with such varied beasts and bad guys on Pandora, this is something you could do for hours without even completing a mission. There are however enough missions to keep you occupied for a good 30 - 40 hours depending on whether or not you're obsessive like me and insist on finishing side quests. To a large degree you'll also find more innovation and creativity evident in the side missions than you will in the body of the game's campaign.
Narrative wise this story is so much better than the first game, which to be honest I barely remember. Oh sure I could tell you the basic premise, but it would be filled with many um's as I tried to piece together the story in between memories of looting. In Borderlands 2 this is helped by the wonderful voice acting coupled with the decision to bring back the Vault hunters from the first game.
Whilst I haven't played as much co-op as I would have liked to (time constraints being the primary reason), the little I have played has been plagued by a few annoying bugs but otherwise has been overall an enjoyable experience. The major gripe has been the difference in player levels and the unbalanced gameplay here. The host dictates the level of enemies, which makes the game ridiculously hard for low level players and a walk in the park for higher level players. That said, if you're playing with friends who are much the same level as you, the co-op is immensely gratifying.
So in a nutshell what are the negatives of this game? Well as mentioned there are some nagging issues with co-op, and if you revisit previous areas at a later stage (and higher level) enemies don't respawn at an appropriate level. If you're just looking to take your frustration out on some bad guys then maybe this isn't a problem, but somehow it doesn't feel like much of a challenge.
In essence, Borderlands 2 is much like Borderlands 1. But better. MUCH better in fact. If you're into quirky FPS games that encourage downright fun and don't mind exploring the RPG side of things, then I cannot recommend this game enough.
Quirky, humorous, fun, beautiful - all of these are words that describe Borderlands 2, and the occasional complaint doesn't really detract from what is a must buy title for 2012.
To end off here's a look at the latest DLC offering from the Borderlands 2 team - Mr Torgue's Campaign of Carnage.