Three years is a long time for someone to wait for the next entry in one of their favorite series or franchises. Borderlands 2 was three-years in the making well spent. Gearbox takes everything from the original, amps it up (with a bit of wub-wub, of course) and sends it out the door with a coat of gorie sheen. They may have stuck to the basics of what would make it a sequel, but Gearbox also shows us that more of the same is more! can, indeed, work.
This time there's a cohesive plot to follow. Sure it's a typical race the badman to big bad weapon so he won't cap a fool and rule the world! scenario, but it's a lot more interesting than the originals vague set up and the villain, Handsome Jack, is really a [not nice person]. The plot that is based around Jack's racing to the super-weapon that is in a vault directly and indirectly involves the vault-hunters and this is where you come in. Sure, it may be cliché, but it fits Borderlands' insane sense of humor and visual design very well.
You get to choose from four vault-hunters, you lucky gamer you. Salvador, the Gunzerker, can duel wield guns, regenerating health and ammo while gleefully shooting baddies. Axton, the Commando, can throw out (and redeem) a customizable turret, which can emit a defensive shield, act like a nuke, or shoot missiles. Maya, the Siren, has a Phase-lock enemies, lifting them into a force-field, paralyzing them and leaving them prone to bullets, explosions and other kinds of unpleasant acts. Zero, the Assassin, can snipe, stealth and use his samurai sword for some serious crittastic melee damage, he also releases a decoy to distract enemies while in stealth. Each has their sets of one liners and zings to make them even more distinguishable.
Pandora, though, remains the most endearing character. At once beautiful and deadly, Gearbox has done a great job of showing us that there are more than just deserts and pretty-plains to Pandora. From icy tundras, to acidic caverns, to warehouses and cities, the environs in Borderlands 2 are very diverse.
Gearbox shows us that it's not the ending that's important, but the journey and those we meet along the way. And the loot! Oh, the sweet-sweet loot! There are guns, lots and lots of guns! There are shields, relics, class mods, and grenade mods as well. Most of the gear that drops is random, so there's mostly no guarantee you'll get the same gun, shield, etc., twice.
Characters, old and new, make up a large part of Borderlands 2's zany-charm. From fruit-cake favorites like Clap Trap, Zed, and Marcus, to newcomers like Tiny Tina and the now NPC vault-hunters from the original game, the writing is fun and the delivery is pitch perfect. The humor may mostly be low-brow, but good writing and execution make it hilarious and fresh all the same.
Large and diverse talent trees for each class let's you hone in on your play-style. If you want to tank with Salvador duel-wielding a rocket launcher and shot gun, go for it. If you want to snipe with Zero and communicate all of your enemies critical spots, there's a build for that too. Each character has three different trees to spread their points around. Unfortunately, there are 50 levels and leveling begins at level 5, which at first feels very, very, far away, but so good once you finally obtain it.
New head and body customization drops have been added. You can now change your character's (and your vehicles) appearance via the new New-U machines scattered throughout Pandora. This only really matters in menu screens and co-op, considering you never see yourself in game, but it's a nifty little add-on that gives loot hunters that much more to hunt for.
The customization also stretches to the PC settings. From standards like Resolution to an fov slider, there are plenty of graphic, sound and rebinding-key options for your gaming enjoyment. The game runs at a pretty smooth 30-60 FPS with my medium-grade gaming PC with PhysX options turned on high. There are very short load times and the game looks gorgeous, especially with the PhysX and lighting options on.
Playing with friends is also fast and easy. If they're in your Steam list, you can just join their games. You can also invite them to yours, complete with a lobby where you can see yours and your friends avatar.
Of course, playing with friends is the preferred way, considering you trust them and all. Loot is once again free-for all. There is a trade option available, but if you're pugging, you should probably still expect to play a game of Who's the Fastest Ninja?
Gearbox does not introduce a whole lot that's new. They took what they had, which was very solid three years ago, and polished, spit shined it, wrapped it up in a larger container and laid it before our feet. The vehicles still control with mouse and key-board. Characters, both hostile and friendly, blurt out crazy and often hilarious lines. Weapon chests still have that awe factor to them when they open. The game play is still based around shooting stuff and blowing stuff up but good.
It's also not perfect. Rag-dolls get caught in the environment and sometimes enemies will stare ahead of them as they're being flanked and shot from the sides. I also experienced one or two quest glitches that may have since been fixed.
Borderlands 2 is a fantastic and fun journey. It may be more of the same, but everything I loved about the original feels improved. The water color tapestries that make up the environments where I spin donuts in my bandit truck or ruthlessly slaughter bandits shows a new and beautiful side to an old friend. The increased use of voice acting gives great depth to the characters and makes the aged plot that much more palatable. Having a defined purpose also makes for great incentive to go out and stop that Jerk, Handsome Jack.
-More of the same "Borderlands"
-Diverse quests, great writing
-Plot gives room for character development and emotional moments
- Things blow up good
- A few graphical and quest bugs
-More of the same "Borderlands"