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Review

Borderlands 2 Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: September 17, 2012
  • X360

Stellar writing and a host of small improvements help Borderlands 2 stand tall on the shoulders of its predecessor.

There were a lot of things that made Borderlands such a great game when it came out three years ago: the hardscrabble planet, the oddball characters, the hostile creatures, the diverse missions, the abundant loot, the powerful skill trees, and the novelty of all these things combined in a cooperative first-person shooter. In Borderlands 2, the novelty is gone, but all of the other elements are back and better than ever. This sequel doubles down on the successes of the original and shores up its shortcomings, improving the familiar formula and delivering dozens and dozens of hours of immensely entertaining gameplay.

Perhaps the most notable difference is that Pandora now feels like a vibrant, living place. What once was a lonely frontier planet populated primarily by savage men and feral beasts is, well, still a planet populated primarily by savage men and feral beasts. But it isn't so lonely anymore, thanks to an expanded cast of diverse and entertaining characters. Many familiar faces return, including the delusional robot, Claptrap; the hayseed mechanic, Scooter; and the bawdy vixen, Moxxi. The four playable characters from the first game are back as well, and they each play a robust role in the story (and have way more spoken lines than ever before). There are some delightful new additions too, such as the arrogant antagonist, Handsome Jack, and the teenage demolitionist, Tiny Tina. Random townsfolk also have a few things to say, no longer content with mute or monosyllabic responses, and even the bandits you fight have a broader range of context-sensitive taunts.

The huge amount of high-quality voice acting required to bring this world to life is fueled by excellent writing, which provides some genuinely nasty tirades and surprisingly tender moments amid the avalanche of laugh-out-loud funny lines. The breadth of personalities invigorates your adventure and makes Pandora a lively, engrossing place, the kind of place it fell short of being in the first game. The only drawback to the sheer volume of communication is that sometimes conversations are cut off by other incoming messages before you can hear them through. This doesn't pose any barrier to progression, but with dialogue this good, you don't want to miss a word.

If you apply this same philosophy to exploration, Borderlands 2 will keep you busy for a very, very long time. The environments of Pandora are more vibrant and diverse this time around, and the eye-catching artistic aesthetic is enlivened with a richer color palette and more clever details. Textures sometimes load sluggishly when you're entering new areas and occasionally look rough upon close inspection, but this is still a visually appealing world. Diligent explorers will find both lovely vistas and amusing sights--the humor of the writing extends into the environmental design as well.

All the better to burn you alive, my dear insect.

There are tons of areas to visit during the course of your adventure, some of which you won't even see if you don't stray far from the main story missions. The mission system is one area in which small tweaks have a noticeable impact. The onscreen checklist updates you of any mission progress caused by your current actions, even if said progress isn't for your currently selected mission. You can also choose to ignore missions in the menu so that you don't have to constantly scroll past old leftovers to get to the ones you want. It's not necessary to pursue every last mission en route to the final boss, but to stay at a competitive level with your enemies, plan on doing a fair number of side missions. These endeavors are another great source of creativity and humor, including a logic puzzle to decide which of four thieves cheated the others, and the ludicrously simple task titled "Shoot This Guy in the Face."

In addition to missions, there is an expanded array of challenges. These goals are automatically tracked and reward you for actions like offing a certain number of skags or getting a lot of incendiary kills. New location-specific challenges give you further incentive to find hidden secrets in each area, and this extra layer of reward makes idle exploration more appealing. Every challenge completed increases your badass rank, which in turn gives you small bonuses to various attributes (such as gun damage, fire rate, and shield recharge delay) that apply to any character you create, not just your current one. Tweaking challenges and introducing cross-character bonuses aren't big additions to the game, but they serve as a nice acknowledgement of the fact that many players want to play as multiple characters. This overarching reward system is one of the many small improvements that make Borderlands 2 a more player-friendly experience than its predecessor.

A car that catapults explosive barrels: only on Pandora.

Intangible rewards are all well and good, but a huge part of the Borderlands formula is loot, and Borderlands 2 does not disappoint. Guns, shields, grenade mods, class mods, and relics all offer different ways to enhance your combat effectiveness. Building and updating your arsenal with the embarrassment of loot riches Pandora has to offer is still immensely satisfying, and the increased frequency of odd attributes and bonuses means more opportunity to fine-tune your optimal loadout. The option to mark items as junk in your inventory is a welcome addition that makes selling things to vending machines less time-consuming, though an option to mark items as junk on pick-up could have made it even smoother. In another bit of streamlining, cash, health, and ammo are now automatically picked up off the ground most of the time (there are occasional lapses), which means you can happily spend less time looking down.

Finding new and intriguing guns is fun, but using them on the legions of hostiles is even more fun. Whether human, animal, or somewhere in between, your foes put up a good fight, and different species are more than happy to fight each other, given the chance. There are some interesting new enemy types, including the goliath bandit who freaks out when you shoot off his helmet and starts killing anything nearby. Having him squash his allies is amusing and useful, but he grows more powerful with each kill, so you'd better be ready for the rampaging consequences. New creatures pose new challenges as well, like the skittering stalkers who can turn invisible briefly, and the hulking crystalisks whose crystalline shins are oh-so-punchable.

Despite your fresh foes, the core combat remains very much the same. Scoring critical hits and dealing the right kind of elemental damage can accelerate the demise of your enemies, and the fight-for-your-life moment can save you from your own imminent death if you manage to get a kill as you bleed out. The shooting mechanics are solid and satisfying, but action is largely unchanged from the first game, with the exception of slag. Slag is an element that weakens enemy defenses and amplifies damage from the other elements, making it a powerful tactical asset in many situations.

The four new characters also require new tactics to better leverage their new combat abilities, some of which are more exciting than others. Locking a foe up in a magical floating prison as a siren is more glamorous than simply whipping out another gun as a gunzerker. Though the latter has undeniable combat benefits, gunzerking is the only ability that doesn't offer something different from the core gunplay, merely an amplified version of it. The commando's turret adds a deployable asset to your arsenal that draws enemy attention, while the assassin's deception skill sets a decoy and lets you maneuver invisibly to set up for a damaging shot or melee strike.

Each of these base abilities can be customized in substantially different ways through the three different skill trees, enhancing replay potential even if you want to play as the same character. Though some skills favor certain weapon types, weapon proficiencies do not return in Borderlands 2, removing the incentive to stick with one or two weapon types throughout the whole game. You also have more freedom to tweak your character's appearance, as clothing colors and new heads are now loot items you can collect, and the menu gives you the welcome chance to actually see the results. There are lots of choices to make en route to the level cap of 50, but if you hope to max out, you have to start from the beginning in True Vault Hunter mode, a deadlier playthrough that scales to your level and stocks the fields and caves of Pandora with some gnarly new enemy variations.

Things get a bit out of hand when the Gunzerker is gunzerking.

Borderlands 2 provides a lengthy adventure, and one that gets better when you play it with friends. Two-player split-screen adventurers can now join online games, provided both have Xbox Live Gold accounts, and online games can accommodate up to four players of any character class. A small icon denotes how well you are matched with potential players, and though the difficulty attempts to scale appropriately, it's best to play with someone close to you in level. If you accomplish later missions while someone else is hosting the game, you'll be given the option to skip those missions when you reach them on your own, which helps minimize the redundant play that was often the result of joining online games in Borderlands. A new item trading mechanic, tougher enemies, better rewards, and the excitement of battlefield camaraderie make cooperative play the absolute best way to experience the game.

Now if all this sounds familiar, well, you must have played Borderlands before. Borderlands 2 doesn't reach far beyond its predecessor's scope, but it does do almost everything better. Additions, refinements, and fixes all combine to create an appreciably improved experience, one that fully delivers on the promise of the first game. While Borderlands felt empty at times, this sequel is bursting with content and brimming with life, making it an absolutely delightful way to spend hours and hours and hours of your free time.

The Good
A ton of great mission writing and dialogue
Enticing loot and experience rewards
Intriguing skill trees
Rich, inviting gameworld
The Bad
Spoken messages sometimes interrupt each other
One character ability is not substantially different from the core gunplay
8.5
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Borderlands 2

About the Author

With his Apple IIGS as the spark and his neighbor's NES the fuel, Chris Watters' passion for gaming caught fire early. Y

Discussion

22 comments
Bridgesfall
Bridgesfall

Everything about this sequel sucks. And Borderlands is my favorite game of all time. The enemies are dumb, more frustrating than fun. Most don’t even take cover, like robots and Nomads. Just keep wailin’ ’til they die. Real gratifying. The first had some great gunfights because the Bandits and Crimson would move cover to cover. The side missions are boring and not fun at all. Throw shields into a grinder? Really? And the CONSTANT attempt at humor makes me take this game as a joke. The original didn’t take itself too seriously, but still commanded respect. This one, every aspect of the game is cheap, unfunny humor, from dialog, characters names and gun names. All in all, they really blew this one. I sold it and got the upgrade pack for the original. That was a fun game.And where are all the automatic rifles???? I was at level 20 and the only full auto rifle to that point was the Thick Rifle. Enough pistols and shotguns for Christ's sake.

Clhavo
Clhavo

I am so baffled how the same company can create my hands down favorite game of all time (Borderlands) and such garbage (Borderlands 2) as the sequel. Wow is 2 a bad game. I had some awesome gunfights in Borderlands, and didn't see real powerful weapons until further in the game. I actually had to do a couple side missions to level up - loved it. The enemies were creative and comical.Borderlands 2 showers you with high power weapons. The only tough fights are boss fights, not anything leading up to it. I'm tearin through skull enemies like aluminum foil. I turn off bonus points, don't allow myself to use my Sabre and actually equip myself with lower power guns so I can play strategically. The enemies are stupid and the constant attempt at humor is just cheap. The first one was comical, but commanded respect as well. The sequel is just not funny. there is nothing clever about Badonkadonks and Tina's stupid gibberish.

And why try to be Halo with the tech music and flying repair units? I guess I'll sludge through it just to complete it, but damn, we liked Borderlands. Should've kept it Borderlands.

I_am_Epicus
I_am_Epicus

IT IS SUCH A FREAKING RELIEF TO GO ONLINE WITH NO MOTHER ***********S WITH MODDED GUNS AND SHIELDS. SO. FREAKING. RELIEVING.

carnivalshow
carnivalshow

I think this is the best game ever ....!

lemmy2
lemmy2

I'm not liking it as much as the first one. I think I prefered when the challenges gave you experience because I don't remember leveling up being this slow in the first one...and I played that one a ton. When you think about it being able to reload 0.5% faster really doesn't make much difference and the amout of challenges I had to complete just to get that extra 0.5 doesn't seem worth it. I would rather have the experience bonus. I feel like these bonuses aren't really going to make much difference until my 3 or fourth play through. I'm using Salvador and I'm level 13 and I kind of find his skill tree rather boring. Also I found that in the first one it seemed like each area had more simple, quick quest to do to get you up levels. This one there seems like less quests per area, and they are longer and  a little more tedious. I feel like I've been using the same weapons for ever because i'm just not finding much better. And most of the powerful shields require you to take a loss to your health to equip them. I'm reserving judgement until later on in the game, but right now I'm not as thrilled and the game just doesn't feel as fresh as when the first one came out.

Rampage_chandra
Rampage_chandra

Really an awesome one as compared to the other FPS out there.

Finished it today. Awesome experience.

:fcukyeah: :D

mjaddo
mjaddo

After playing the first one this ones a hell of a lot better on all fronts like weapons, story, character, game play, enemy's.  Its a fun, funny, enjoyable game to play. 

obey21
obey21

borderlands 2's story line felt a bit more involving rather then the first, and the game actually is fun at the beginning, unlike the first one where you are running around getting parts for a vendor. the missons have seemed to improve slightly, im glad they've sort of leaned of the whole 'go there and kill and then get item' approach. loved the first one, but this one beats it only by 0.5.

MegamanX2011
MegamanX2011

Awesome game, playing it now. It freshens the FPS genre. Awesome idea, should have given a 10. All other FPS that shows the same Cod/BF style should be rated 5 from now on for lack of creativity.

Rivboets7
Rivboets7

For me this is GOTY.  I love this game!

grokh
grokh

so many complained about borderlands not having 3rd person camera view....  why the hell borderlands 2 didnt go for it /facepalm

 

asianmutation01
asianmutation01

Does anyone wanna go up against Hyperius with me? Im with xbox and id really like some help haha

blazin640
blazin640

He really marked the game down because of salvador? Thats ridiculous. I bet he hasn't even played as him. No offense Chris but plenty of other games have classes that don't change the gameplay as much. 

Halo4fan117
Halo4fan117

ive been playing this and it is AWESOMENESS. seriously. not joking.

HKILLER88888
HKILLER88888

i have a lot of things to say about this...is it good is it bad?can't tell yet!for now i only say the bad stuff i've found...2 days ago i was lvl 25 i felt game is freaking awesome today i'm lvl 29 just passed the part that roland dies and i think it's not as good as the 1st one!not cuz Roland died cuz i was beat to hell until i got there.the part before Bunker with that big Constructor it just ruined my mood it was totally unfair and not challenging!as soon as i could get respawned it would start shooting those ATTOMIC missile or a thousand normal ones on me and believe it or not 1000 point shield and 3200 HP gone with one hit!i'm like a mile away from him fighting my second wind!so waht did i do?i just spent half and hour dieing till by dumb luck i got up there and took cover like a rat! kept shooting it in the eye with sniper till it was dead and the bad part was my sniper was not corrosive so it took a long long while even thou all my shots were critical...at that part the loaders are like lvl 26 (3 lvl lower)but they still kill you so easily and they are so stubborn to die even with a corrosive rocket launcher....other than that,i gotta say these : why Audio Log has been removed from ECHO device?and why the game is so Stingy with ammunition?and when you open up the ammo boxes it keeps giving you the ammo you already are full of or even don't have their gun to use em?for example in the angel's chamber i didn't even have a pistol with myself it just kept giving me pistol and SMG bullet i was like when that shield goes down angel i'm gonna make you full of holes like SPONGE BOB!but you don't even fight her she just dies by herself at that fight you just keep killing a whole bunch of tough loaders no such a boss!they could have put some ammo regeneration skills for commando but commando is all about shield the shield is gone half of his skills with it.even the turret gets killed faster than its time runs out so bottom line is the game has become way way way difficult and this is only the 1st play through as people know borderlands have second play though too which is the same game but all the enemy lvl,cost,damages, everything raised!(you can say INSANE MODE)

P.S: new character wasn't as much fun as it looked almost every ability of her had a counter benefit also NO PERSONAL LOG AT THE BEGINNING and she is not even in INTRO so why she starts from the SAME PLACE AS OTHERS?even when you wanna pick her as new character she is not in a line with others its like Gear Box is planning to make a Group for her in future DLCs...just a suggestion if you wanna stack up anarchy just put the reload bottom on the other side of keyboard like Numluck 7 or something cuz you would keep reloading by instinct and lose your anarchy (even then i kept tapping R and then "ahh right i shouldn't reload thank god i've changed it!")

P.P.S:if this get deleted by Game Spot Admin (like my other Comment on "hell yeah wrath of the dead rabbit")i'm not gonna put effort to comment on anything in here...instead i would put em in my reviews some day...

jpnelson82
jpnelson82

I don't agree. The game is a seven at most, it's a mediocre shooter. I was rating it higher but now that I've played some more and compared it to the trailers, idk.It still appeals but I have this sense that there's a lot of fluff covering a cash in.

bovian
bovian

This game has the same GREATNESS as it's predecessor and totally worth your time. 

God_Emporer
God_Emporer

It does almost everything better, yet receives the same score as Borderlands 1?

Doobsac
Doobsac

What's with the orange guns in Borderlands 2? I didn't get one orange gun in the entire first playthrough only purples? In Borderlands 1 I had plenty of orange guns after my first run. ????????????????

gix47
gix47

amazing game. guess GS is afraid to give games a score better then 8.5.

imo,should just get rid of the point system. this and T2 are good examples why the point system is broken.

 

estalling
estalling

25 hours in.  The game is a masterpiece.  I haven't been bored for a second--pop an energy drink, pick a random mission, kill things.  This is how FPS are supposed to be.

wavelength121
wavelength121

@Clhavo Yeah, sounds more like you suck at the game and have terrible taste in general.

I_am_Epicus
I_am_Epicus

@lemmy2 Unlike in the first game, challanges can be completed infinit times to get the rewards over and over and over. It really adds up in the end. I spent almost all my tockens on gun damage, and at level 50 I have +64% gun damage. Plus, Salvador is not really fun, hes just good. Pick an assasin if you want a fun skill tree. I had the same complaints as you at a low level. But trust me, it gets a hell of alot better later.

teknic1200
teknic1200

 @mjaddo Actually I thought the first game was better for post levelcap game play.

 

Borderlands 2 is better until you kill the warrior.  I already have two level 50 characters and know I will not spend nearly as much time in bl2 as I did in the first game.

 

the reason is the rubbish drop rate. I need to find some mediocre orange weapons instead of being so exstatic over the fact that I found a couple rubbish weapons.

 

They nerfed some OP combos and opened the door for different ones.

 

I also hate the balancing tweaks that have been going on changing the core gameplay along with it.

teknic1200
teknic1200

 @obey21 I spent a lot more time in bl1 for play-through "2.5" gameplay.   The second game is better up until the end of the story but they took a little of the post game away in the process.

lemmy2
lemmy2

 @HKILLER88888

 Agreed, warn people that your comments may contain spoilers, it's the courteous thing to do. Don't assume that because the game has been out a while that everyone has played it. Most reviews exist for people who haven't played the game and want to find out if it's any good.

JACOBDRAGON666
JACOBDRAGON666

 @Doobsac orange are alot more rare in this game the top tier i have beaten the game and found one gun one sheild that is all.

BushidoEffect3
BushidoEffect3

 @gix47 You're broken. Stop crying fanboy.  8.5 is a great score.  Stop demanding a 5/5 stars or 10/10 just because you bought it.

HKILLER88888
HKILLER88888

@lemmy2@HKILLER88888 yeah right REVIEW!this is the comment section not the review .i'm just putting up my opinion there for the reviewer weather he/she reads it or not!i'm not posting these for PEOPLE to read.you are suppose to read the review and leave a comment.not read the comments and leave a reply!and if you are so upset about it you can simply report my comments instead of leaving replies to me and see if the moderator cares...

HKILLER88888
HKILLER88888

 @estalling doesn't matter cuz the one who doesn't like SPOILERS WON'T BE HERE TO READ THE REVIEW!and come on game have been out long ago and gamers these days are like HYDROCHLORIC ACID they eat up games in 1 to 3 days!

philMcCrevis
philMcCrevis

 @BushidoEffect3  @gix47 lol no doubt.  i like this game therefor it is a 10.  i don't like this game therefor it is a 1.  guess we all have that sentiment.  personally i hated a particular game recently that gamespot scored really well and i'd pay money to get a refund???  wait what?

HKILLER88888
HKILLER88888

@Dozirulf As much as i would love to answer you i can't cuz i'm just laughing my head off!

Dozirulf
Dozirulf

@HKILLER88888 @estallingYou total, total ____head!  Thanks for blowing that surprise for me jack___!  I haven't played BL2 yet but I wanted to see what others had to say about it first!  Sheesh.

estalling
estalling

 @GagPacMan  @HKILLER88888 Indeed. I wouldn't have griped except for the fact that it was a BIG spoiler (the death of a main character).  I get the impression that our friend here doesn't really care for common courtesy, though, so it's probably falling on deaf ears.

GagPacMan
GagPacMan

 @HKILLER88888  @estalling Doesn't matter how long the game's been out. People come to read reviews to see if they should get the game or not and to see what reviewers had to say. The least you could have done was put a tag saying "There are spoilers in my comment". That's just courtesy.

Borderlands 2 More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 3 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Xbox 360
    Borderlands 2 continues in its predecessors footsteps with four new characters, tons of new quests, and lots of shooting and looting.
    8.5
    Average User RatingOut of 3518 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Borderlands 2
    Developed by:
    Gearbox Software, Iron Galaxy Studios
    Published by:
    2K Games, SCE Australia, SCEA, Take-Two Interactive, SCEE
    Genres:
    Shooter, 3D, Action, First-Person, Team-Based
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol