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To get to the point, I like Borderlands 2. It’s fun and kinetic in its action and I love the gunplay. However; is it better than the original Borderlands, and is it something everyone will enjoy? Let’s find out.
There are four classes to pick from and I can say for certain from my experience that if you’re flying solo, take Axton the commando. His turret is on a short cool down (that you can make even shorter with class mods – more on those later) and is like having a second player tanking and dealing damage with you every half minute or so. Of the other classes, I wasn’t impressed with any other one for solo play. The Siren’s phase lock, which freezes enemies in place, isn’t useful solo but can be good for giving a group easy free fire on a foe. The Gunzerker’s rage requires more skill then it looks like it should and Zer0’s Deception again plays better in a group.
The gunplay in the original Borderlands didn’t really impress me all that much. It was more Fallout 3 then Unreal Tournament in that the behind-the-scenes die rolls seemed to effect combat too much. In Borderlands 2 the gunplay feels tight and responsive. The different gun manufacturers have differing qualities to their guns, ranging from Tediore models being disposable so you toss them away instead of reloading (at which point they explode) and generate another in your hand, to Torgue guns’ firing explosive ‘gyrojets’ instead of bullets. These are significantly slower then bullets but they explode on contact. One of my favorite guns for a large stretch of the game was a Torgue shotgun that fired four gyrojets. It was useless at range but up close I could decimate baddies with ease. Hyperion guns require continued fire to increase their accuracy so they’re useless for shotguns and sniper rifles. Allot of people like the Maliwan guns for their affinity for elemental damage but I’m partial to the old-school Jakobs guns because they have a realistic, old Wild West feel to them and they fire as fast as you can pull the trigger.
The story is ok, if a little predictable but it at least provides a bad guy you want to hunt down in Handsome Jack. The guy’s ‘tude pissed me off the whole game. As for random bad guys, it was always a simultaneous thrill and scare to see a Badass version of a mob (meaning a stronger version of a normal baddie). One of my favorite bad guys to kill was the One-Armed Bandit because it meant I got to play the slot machine he was toting around. Anything fast or really mobile (see: Rakk) was a pain in the ass for me to kill but that’s likely user error and not a problem with the game.
Visually Borderlands 2 is slick looking until the PhsyX objects like shrapnel and fluids (blood, water, corrosive acid) start to show up at which point it looks pretty damned amazing. This is a little off subject, but I also loved that I could shoot or tear through fabric like curtains or banners. It’s just another nice touch. The voiceovers aren’t intrusive and some are pretty good. I still think Claptrap needs blown to hell, though. That annoying robot is my bane.
The game can be really hard to play solo but it’s ultimately designed as a multiplayer co-op experience so that’s somewhat understandable. The movement controls – particularly the jumping – aren’t very tight and while it doesn’t hurt the game most of the time there can be times where the game is hurt by this, particularly some of the tougher boss fights. Sometimes I try to get out of the way of a big attack but instead get stuck on the geometry and die. The bullet hit detection is spot-on though. I particularly liked clipping a bandit in the knee once when he didn’t hide himself very well.
Ultimately I really think Borderlands 2 is better than I expected, but I had lower expectations for it than most people. If you at all liked Borderlands, or you think the idea of a first person shooter melded with the loot mentality of a Diablo sounds like fun, you really ought to check Borderlands 2 out. If, however, you’re offended by juvenile humor you may have a hard time swallowing the story and characters. In my case, this is one of my favorite games this year.
BTW, I’m just reviewing the single player experience here. I’ll cover the multiplayer mode on the Xbox 360 in the near future.
|Lots of guns; Great gunplay; Tons of action; Looks great||Sketchy movement controls; Hard solo play; Claptrap should die in a fire|