Review

Borderlands 2 Review

  • Game release: September 18, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • VITA

Straining for excellence.

by

Borderlands 2 is a big game. The PlayStation Vita? Not so big. And yet the sprawling cooperative shooter has arrived intact on the portable platform, delivering long hours of shooting, looting, and butt jokes. Well, almost intact. Game design changes, like knocking the maximum player count down from four to two and changing the enemy death animations, do a good job of cutting corners while preserving the core action. Technical shortcomings, however, leave little doubt that this is the lesser version of Gearbox's great sequel. Dialogue and sound effects frequently sound flat and occasionally disappear, while the frame rate often slows down in combat and makes the chaotic action feel unwieldy.

Despite these limitations, Borderlands 2 on the Vita is still, very clearly, Borderlands 2. The world is colorful and diverse; the writing is witty and sometimes affecting; the loot is bountiful and rewarding; and the combat is entertaining and rowdy. Teaming up with another player and working your way through myriad quests on the path to increased skills, richer rewards, and Pandoran glory is great fun. It's just as easy to happily while away dozens of hours in this portable version as it is in its console and PC counterparts.

(This review will focus primarily on the Vita-specific strengths and limitations of Borderlands 2. To read a more in-depth analysis of the game in general, check out our original Borderlands 2 review.)

In any transition from console or PC to the Vita, there is a question of controls. The Vita has fewer button inputs than other platforms, and this often necessitates the use of touchscreens for buttons, often with mixed results. In Borderlands 2, the default control scheme puts some pretty important actions on the front and rear touchpads. Some of my battles got a little more heated due to a sprint or a melee attack not registering on the first tap, but for the most part, I was able to act when I wanted to, and my co-op partners reported no troubles (you can also freely remap the buttons if a particular input is tricky for you).

Combat in Borderlands 2 is naturally a bit floaty and loose, largely due to way player movement and enemy behavior are paced. As a result, it can accommodate the small degree of control imprecision added by the touchscreens and be none the worse for it. Likewise, the smaller range of motion of the analog sticks may cause some making the PC/console transition to balk a bit, and indeed, aiming can initially feel ungainly if you're used to the game on other platforms. After you adjust the aim sensitivity and spend some time wandering the wastelands, however, the mercenary satisfactions of long-range headshots and up-close bullet barrages are well within reach.

And taking on enemies in Borderlands 2 is very satisfying. Raving psychos that run toward you in serpentine patterns, heavy flamethrower troops that wield bulky shields, speedy lizards that can turn invisible and teleport, lumbering insects that spew corrosive acid, giant attack robots that build other robots, and shotgun-wielding midgets that jump out of lockers are just some of the diverse forces arrayed against you. To combat them, you arm yourself with a standard variety of weapon types made distinctly nonstandard by varying scopes, firing patterns, and elemental effects. Throw in a wide selection of grenades, shields that can damage enemies, and your character's customizable action skill, and you've got a lot of different strategic options. Marshaling these options and bringing gleeful destruction to your enemies is a lot of fun, and the variety of adversaries and environments helps keep combat fresh many hours into the game.

Play as the Mechromancer and summon a flying killer robot to keep you company.

During full-on firefights there can be a lot happening onscreen, and here's where the Vita struggles. The frame rate slows down and makes things look choppier, adding a bit more chaos to an already chaotic situation. On another platform, you might feel like you still have a grip on things when the action gets frantic; on the Vita, that grip is a bit more tenuous. In many cases, it's just an added nuisance, but in the worst moments, it's another consideration you must add to your decision-making process. Lining up your sniper shot takes a little more patience, and your berserk shotgun rampages have to be a little more wild; it feels like you need to exaggerate whatever your chosen play style is, or maybe get comfortable with having less control.

But this isn't to say that everything spirals out of control when the frame rate suffers; the effect is not nearly that severe. There are a lot of elements that combine to make combat in Borderlands 2 chaotic and satisfying, and while the frame rate adds to the former and not the latter, it doesn't tip the scales. This still feels like proper Borderlands 2 action, complete with all the thrills and challenges that it boasts on PCs and consoles. The cycle of exploring the world, vanquishing enemies (who vanish in a spurt of blood instead of melting or falling down or whatever else they do in the other versions), and collecting loot is still enthralling.

This cycle gets even better when you play with a friend, something that is no less true even though you can team up with only one other player on Vita, as opposed to three. You need an online connection, though, because there's no local connection option. You can ask the game to find a match for you, or peruse the available matches in a list, and after a lengthy loading screen, you're in the action seamlessly. Whether someone joins your game or you join someone else's, the frame rate issues are about the same, so it's generally as smooth as playing by yourself. Playing with someone else not only adds the usual camaraderies, it also lets you use complementary abilities and tactics, pits you against tougher enemies, and gives you bigger rewards. It's like playing a souped-up version of the game, and it's great.

Of course, you might end up with someone who just constantly asks to trade weapons and leaves when you don't comply; such is the risk of all online play. The built-in Vita mic is also active by default, which could either be a great way to communicate and make a new friend, or an annoyance that you quickly mute. The audio landscape in Borderlands 2 is already quite crowded, given all the sound effects, enemy taunts, character quips, dialogue, and voice-over lines. Many of these effects sound flatter and less rich than they do on consoles and PC, even through headphones, and occasionally dialogue lines or effects drop out and leave a conspicuous silence. The lines dropped tend to be prioritized well, though, so you aren't likely to miss any crucial dialogue. This leaves you free to enjoy the irreverent and relentless humor, which is one of the game's greatest strengths.

Audio and video in Borderlands 2 seem to push the limits of what the Vita can handle, but the system merely strains and does not break (though the game did crash once or twice in my dozen or so hours with it). The Vita version also comes with two of the sizable downloadable mission packs, two extra playable characters, and an assortment of bonus goodies. And you can take advantage of the cross-save capability if you own Borderlands 2 on the PlayStation 3. The result is an impressive package that delivers exciting combat, hilarious dialogue, entertaining quests, and delightful rewards.

The Good
Rich, expansive, and inviting gameworld
Humorous dialogue and quest writing
Myriad factors to consider in combat
Looting and leveling are rewarding
The Bad
Frame rate slows during heavy combat
Audio is intermittently overburdened
No local connection option for multiplayer
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Borderlands 2

About the Author

/ Staff

Chris Watters reviewed Borderlands 2 on every other platform and spent many hours in various DLC packs. He loves the artistic style, sense of humor, and chaotic battles, and enjoyed the dozen or so hours he spent with the Vita version.

Discussion

47 comments
ehudzilburg
ehudzilburg

7 for this masterpiece?

... fucking Gamespot.

itchyflop
itchyflop

its a PORTABLE system not a ps3 or home console, i think people before criticizing it should bear that in mind. (and believe me i would be the first owning all consoles) 

itchyflop
itchyflop

a welcomed addition to the vita library. 

EducatingU_PCMR
EducatingU_PCMR

This review is just another case for TB's video "The Great Framerate Non-Debate", in which game performance doesn't significantly affects the final score.


I mean, this POS drops to like single digits, how is that not an excuse to rate this mediocre?


Enjoy the slideshow.

zintarr
zintarr

I think they did a great port with the Vita version. The screens GS has above look like crap and are too gray. The game looks sharp and the colors are very warm on the actual Vita screen.

quickshooterMk2
quickshooterMk2

looks like ultra low res just to keep this game FPS stable 


the entire vita was a scam, so much for a mobile PS3, maybe mobile PS 2.5

same thing with the PSP it was a PS1.5 mobile not a mobile PS2 

serial666k
serial666k

still did not finish first borderlands on ps3. ya i suck at games but like them. killzone on vita more than i can handle!!

klonoa53
klonoa53

Had this since release, looks better than static upscaled pictures, runs around 25-40 frames (depending location). Its Borderlands on the freaking go, the entire game at that too! Its literally the PC version on the lowest setting and it still looks great. I never can tell the difference.

daveg1
daveg1

is this some sort of sick joke????  wow how bad does this game look????? what a waste of time.. no wonder i sold my vita.

foxhound421
foxhound421

It's nice to read a review that doesn't focus SO heavily on comparisons to the PC/console versions.

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

i wonder what this'll look like on a 3ds?

OneStrong2
OneStrong2

It's borderlands 2 on a vita -- enough said. 

galeta
galeta

looks like everybody comparing vita with something else. some talks about phones some talk about pcs or consoles.

well i own the game. its one of the best game in vita. i have no problem with graphics. because screen is small, gameplay is great. you don't notice anything about graphics after a while. i hope they bring some more games like bl2 to vita.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

 It's a 7-Spot now, great. What number next?

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

We're on a roll with the 7's!  Keep more 7's coming, baby!

speedfog
speedfog

The game looks ugly, by ugly I mean very ugly.

Why buy this version anyway?

Thuaxiz
Thuaxiz

I've seen games on phones look better.

liquidbutter
liquidbutter

Wow they really downgraded the graphics since the E3 2012 demo of Watch Dogs.

SoNin360
SoNin360

Maybe they should stop porting games to the Vita given that this and the God of War games don't sound like they run very well on it. I mean, that's not the only reason. I have a Vita to play Vita games, not PS3 games.

Stebsis
Stebsis

@EducatingU_PCMR But it's Vita blah blah blah! It's not as powerful blah blah so we must accept this mediocrity. Kind of joking here, but it's also kind of true that people always present this argument with many consoles. If the platform can't run it even at stable frame rate then why port it in the first place? They should've made something exclusively for Vita that works properly and takes advantage of what the system has to offer, not port a game designed to run on much powerful consoles/PC.

naruto945
naruto945

@quickshooterMk2 Its ports man how does that make a system a scam who wants portable ports of console games anyway? Id rather something made for the system from the ground up

itchyflop
itchyflop

@cousinmerl im hoping nintendo will release and focus more on the handheld side of their company, if it was to be released on the ds i think you wont see alot of difference.

Silverline62
Silverline62

@cousinmerl Prob the same seeing as how the graphics are disappointing for a handheld that's supposed to be a ''Portable PS3''


itchyflop
itchyflop

@galeta in my opinion they need a gran turismo or gta on the vita

koospetoors
koospetoors

@Ripper_TV Next moment they're handing out two sixes and everyone will be ragging on that, the joke got old already when the first million people did it back with Watch_Dogs


Seriously, stop.

itchyflop
itchyflop

@speedfog i think people forget, the VITA is a portable system, you can enjoy your favorite games on the move, some translate better than others.

koospetoors
koospetoors

@speedfog It actually looks surprisingly good on a Vita screen, was quite wary when I first booted it up because man those first few screenshots and videos didn't look good but I'm quite happy with how it looks, like its somewhere between low-medium settings obviously leaning a bit more to low.


It takes a while to get used to the lack of bodies though, but they explode at least so it adds to the comic nature in a rather weird way. Really wouldn't recommend this game to anyone who has it readily available on another platform but hell if one travels around a lot and doesn't have much time to play on the PC or console, this is really a worthwhile buy then, its freaking Borderlands 2 on a small device after all.

Shuda7
Shuda7

@speedfog It's actually not ugly when you're playing it on a vita screen. And to answer your question, it's a freaking portable version of Borderlands 2! It's pretty awesome for a handheld port.

sdinh225
sdinh225

@speedfog Well for people like me who are a bit too impulsive at buying stuff that want the slim Vita model, we have to buy the Vita Slim BL2 bundle since right now the model isn't sold separately. 

The game is playable at least but I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone who can get it on another platform when BL2 can run much better and look better on everything else. 

Heck I had a potato of a computer that ran BL2 better than the Vita did, 2007 Dell 530n Win XP with dual core 2.0ghz process, 2gb ram and a 9500gt gfx card. 


So yeah the game not looking as good or running as smooth on the Vita was pretty disappointing but there are probably people out there that won't mind at all.

sdinh225
sdinh225

@Thuaxiz Considering many of those smartphones that those kind of games run on cost around at least $500 or more total compared to a $150 piece of hardware, they should otherwise you're being ripped off. 


I would say that BL2 hardly represents the Vita's graphical capabilities since games like Killzone Mercs and Soul Sacrifice Delta both look and play better than BL2 but overall the Vita probably won't get much more than that. With how BL2 turned out anyway.

realguitarhero5
realguitarhero5

@Thuaxiz That's because modern phones like the Nexus 5, Galaxy S5, and HTC One M8 are all significantly more powerful than the Vita.

Threesixtyci
Threesixtyci

@SoNin360  Actually, 99.9% of the games on the PS3 can't be remote played on the vita or the PSP.. The only remote play they can do is the menu screen and not much more than that.

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

@SoNin360  you seem to miss the memo that the Vita is now and accessory for remote play for the PS3 and PS4 ... pretty much like the tablet controller for the Wii U, another idea they took from Nintendo.

itchyflop
itchyflop

@Silverline62 @cousinmerl hi!! do you own a vita? have you played uncharted on it? i agree with you i think they can push the console a lot more, if its a portable ps3, why arnt the ps3 library avaliable. i payed 400 quid on release for my vita, i wish id have waited now for a pc portable. i havent played this on it yet its nice to see it arriving on vita assuming it can handle it 


dipdish
dipdish

@Silverline62 @cousinmerl Can't be the same. Since 3DS is not as powerful as the Vita. Even the resolution is different. What are you talking about? 

sdinh225
sdinh225

@Shuda7 I can agree to that at least. Many of the games that can look like poop especially from like a youtube vid will look a lot better with hands on experience. Except for something like mortal kombat, that graphical tonedown on the Vita was just blehhhh

KiraDEATHNOTE
KiraDEATHNOTE

@realguitarhero5 @Thuaxiz Not really. They're all the same.

I haven't seen anything that looks better than Killzone on smart phones yet.

sdinh225
sdinh225

@Coco_pierrot 


I'm ignoring the memo then since I use it to play mostly Vita games, also because I don't have either ps3 or ps4. 


Stolen concept or not, I find the Wii U pad extremely inconvenient for my current Wii U games that I resort to using the Pro Controller for the most part and being forced to use it for browsing youtube or entering the Eshop.

Borderlands 2 More Info

  • 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 3490 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Borderlands 2
    Developed by:
    Gearbox Software, Iron Galaxy Studios
    Published by:
    2K Games, SCEA, SCEE, SCE Australia, Take-Two Interactive
    Genres:
    3D, Team-Based, Shooter, Action, First-Person
    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