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Review

Borderlands 2 Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: September 21, 2012
  • PC

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. These elements dazzle in higher resolutions, outshining their console counterparts, and a full suite of visual settings helps you appreciate them while staying in a performance sweet spot. Diligent explorers will find both lovely vistas and amusing sights--the humor of the writing extends into the environmental design as well.

It's only polite to tell your buddy when there's a giant raging mutant behind him.

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.

Race to see if you can run over creatures before your gunner shoots them dead!

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. The inventory screen seems to have been optimized for a controller and feels a bit clunky with a keyboard and mouse, but it's not hard to quickly navigate once you get the hang of it. 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.

That corrosive barrel is going to come in handy against that charging spiderant knight.

Borderlands 2 provides a lengthy adventure, and one that gets better when you play it with friends. As before, 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

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

Discussion

5 comments
prans4u2000
prans4u2000

I play this game repeatedly just to laugh! The NPC dialogues are incredible. The buzzard pilots singing Ride of The Valkyries, shouting "Tora! Tora! Tora!" AND absolutely everything to do with the midgets! It's just hilarious through and through :D XD

Dark_Rage
Dark_Rage

I liked this game, but i was practically unable to play it. After about a playing session of 20 minutes, i got headache and nausea lol. I thought it was just normal. Then 2 days after that i played this game again, i got a headache and nausea again. Maybe the graphics or something. It's the only game that caused me a nausea in all my years of gaming.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Really great game on co-op. You would be hard pressed to find a better one. Playing solo can get boring and very difficult. If you do play solo I'd recommend the soldier or mecromancer so you have something to distract your enemies. My girlfriend and I are playing this and having a great time.

Phlanxion
Phlanxion

Decided this game over BO3, Halo 4, Far Cry 3. What the hell was I thinking. Well what I was thinking was this game had an arcade type feel to it and fun gameplay. Is decently fun but game has horrible graphics. Only thing really  good about this game is the GUNS. That's all it has. But problem is you can only have 12 guns in your backpack. Spend alot of time going through them. Levels are crappy. Basically it's a kids game. 

seanmontela
seanmontela

The game isn't that good. It pretends to be open world, but really every level is just a field with a few smaller fields attached to it. There is no easy way to fast travel, some side missions require you to go back to specific places you already cleared with the same spawned enemies. It is a real drag. The visuals are ok, but gimmicky and the level design is basically fields of flat textures with some objects scattered around. In other words: MEH. Go replay Skyrim again for a true open world rpg experience or Far Cry 3 for a superior open world shooter experience..

leeti
leeti

This game won me over after I was calmly shooting a guy and suddenly, he shouts "I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!". Breaking Bad reference is instant win.

giofighter
giofighter

Love this game.I had a lot of fun playing it.First,the graphics are beautiful and make's the game more attractive.Second,the story it isn't the classic one as all the other FPS and last it's an open world game! :D

don_pafciu
don_pafciu

I was very sceptical about this game but it BLEW MY MIND! 10/10 for fantastic dialogues, brilliant voice activing and original characters. And bazzilion guns obviously.

tarekmallo
tarekmallo

Well i've got nothing against this review except it doesn't go into PC-specific features, Watters should've commented on the highly customizable interface, the usage of PhysX and the higher framerate and resolution the PC version has to offer.

kattamuuran
kattamuuran

i would like to point out that some turd early on in the comments was going on and on about RE6, and how great it was, so great in fact that i swear he wanted to hump the box. i would like to see the look on that turds face as he now plays RE6.

 

go borderlands go!

toyo75
toyo75

Borderlands...feels like I'm going to lose my mind.... LOL!

I liked the first game but I did experience some "motion sickness" while playing it.

daniel1998dude
daniel1998dude

This is an excellent game and excelles in almost every way!! Excellent Story,Graphics,Gameplay etc!!! Nice work Gearbox and 2K

 

IamNick2k11
IamNick2k11

Do I need to play "Borderlands" before playing this????

CptRexKramer
CptRexKramer

This game is great.  There's nothing else to say about it.

IamNick2k11
IamNick2k11

Hey, never played the first one =) Is this open world, can you interact with npc's etc basically is it like Fallout3/Vegas - Skyrim =) But co-op ??? 

kakashi552
kakashi552

the language in this review is...overly flamboyant. gaudy. journalistic. much of it seems more like summary, or even an advertisement of what the game holds--only a few lines are actually critical of the game. and i always liked how the video review was short and demonstrative, while the written one went into more depth, explaining things that are hard or too long to show in video--but i was quite disappointed when I saw the same words from the video here.

 

anyways, i'm glad i got a look at this game. it looks great. i just wish i had the time!

Die-Hard
Die-Hard

Seriously people who cares about the score? If you enjoy the game just play it and ignore the scores/review and what others are telling you. I like it personally and think deserves little more then the score given, especially that atrocious port or should i say biggest insult that PC gamers ever got was Dark Souls which got like 9.5 if i am not mistaken, which is kinda sad.

ZOD777
ZOD777

I don't know why so many people take the review scores so personally.  It is only intended to give an opinion, and is not the end all be all indication of a game's worthiness of a playthrough/purchase.  Bottom line is, the game is "Great (8.5)" which means you should play it.  If you really want to nitpick at 1/2 a point or so, write your own review instead of bashing on "this game got this that and the other" regarding GS reviews.  Use reviews as a basic guideline to steer you toward or away from a purchase, not as a platform for nerd rage.

RIIIIKU
RIIIIKU

GS gives Great Review articles and videos, and i also really like the Good and Bad point they give, as for the Scores.....i pretend they dont exist :D

markosasav
markosasav

Soooo.. Is this game worse than that Dark Souls port? I don't get your scoring system really..But I agree with this score.. It is great, but pretty iterative with regards to the first game.. I just can;t fathom it being scored worse than a crappy port that came out in the same month.. Maybe you guys are just trolling us, eh?

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@Dark_Rage  I've never experienced that while gaming, but typically the reason why people get nauseated gaming is either due to the motion blur or the small FOV.

If you're playing on the PC you can fix both of those.  Try playing around with the settings and see if you still get sick; it'd be a real shame to miss out on this game.

erickj92
erickj92

@Phlanxion How are the graphics horrible? I think it's one of the most unique art styles in any of the modern games. It's not all about super high-res textures and photo-realism. And you can have way more than 12 slots in your inventory if you actually played the game..

AvatarAlpha
AvatarAlpha

@Phlanxion Horrible graphics? Why? Because it has an ART STYLE? Because its been art-directed to fit that style/theme? 

Levels are crappy? Why? Because you say so?

You have no idea what you're talking about, kid....

B4availability
B4availability

@Phlanxion How the hell can this possibly be a kids game? they dont fix the rating at 18 like its a joke u know...

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

There are fast travel stations once you've discovered a new map. This guy doesn't have a clue, disregard his comment. God forbid a fps should try something new and not have life like visuals but an artistic look.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

I was shooting a guy with a fire weopon and he yelled " I smell delicious." Laughed my ass off.

bardos-the-3rd
bardos-the-3rd

borderlands 1 was very light in story, and the few important points are explained at the beginning, the first game also had repetitive sidequest that you were a lot of times forced to do because the main mission would not unlock until you finished a few of them , however you can get the game of the year edition for the first game for a good price,wich includes all the DLC, (but be warned, you get codes for the DLC, they are not on the disc) , so you have more game at a lower price

RiKanKiDD
RiKanKiDD

 @IamNick2k11 It would be a good idea to do so. It helps you get used to the game and you will notice a lot of changes. Give it a shot.

ZOD777
ZOD777

 @IamNick2k11 No, it is not paramount, but it will help you appreciate the improvements much more, and there are a few returning characters.  The story stands on it's own though.

plalm
plalm

 @kakashi552 Ironically, your review of this review holds true to many of the same elements you used to describe it.

koospetoors
koospetoors

 @markosasav And Little Big Planet got a higher score than Jet Set Radio.

HOW DARE THEY DO SUCH A THING?!?!

AzathothMetal
AzathothMetal

 @markosasav i lost faith in gamespot waaaaaaaaaaaay back, kevin shitord and company seems to not even play the games they "review" just some fancy worlds, an injoke of the game, screenshots  and BAM! fresh-review!

0rr3n1
0rr3n1

@bakagami @AzathothMetal listen he is not pissed at your opinion on the website just about the fanboy presumption which you seem to be treating as if it was not rash and hurtful

bakagami
bakagami

 @AzathothMetal  Exactly, I use this site mainly to find out what is coming release dates and such these days, the reviews are too biased to be of any real use.  Just because we have resigned to that fact doesn't mean we have to silently accept it

AzathothMetal
AzathothMetal

 @Gelugon_baat well little turd, gamespot has shit reviewers, but it still has awesome covergae of VG news and stuff, so yeah ill be sticking around even if i dont like some of the reviews, and lookiing down your catfight with the other user ill just say: have a nice day idiot, im not responding you again :)

bakagami
bakagami

 @Gelugon_baat ROFL, you really love getting the last word in, don't you?  I'll let you have it after this one...or if I manage to shame you into shutting the **** up, that'll work too :D

bakagami
bakagami

 @Gelugon_baat I'm not going to get into another pissing match with you, you enjoy it too much

Borderlands 2 More Info

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  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 4 more
    • PlayStation Vita
    • PS3
    • Unix/Linux
    • Xbox 360
    Borderlands 2 continues in its predecessors footsteps with four new characters, tons of new quests, and lots of shooting and looting.
    8.4
    Average User RatingOut of 3546 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Borderlands 2
    Developed by:
    Gearbox Software, Aspyr, Iron Galaxy Studios
    Published by:
    2K Games, Aspyr, SCEA, SCE Australia, SCEE
    Genres:
    Action, Shooter, First-Person, Team-Based, 3D
    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