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Borderlands 2 Review

  • First Released Sep 18, 2012
  • Reviewed Sep 20, 2012
  • PS3

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.

It's gonna be a hot time in the old bandit cavern tonight.
It's gonna be a hot time in the old bandit cavern tonight.

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.

Some foes might be intimidated by that snarling paint job. Probably not this one, though.
Some foes might be intimidated by that snarling paint job. Probably not this one, though.

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.

It's easier to run away in terror from a raging Goliath with a friend.
It's easier to run away in terror from a raging Goliath with a friend.

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, but only one PSN ID can be used at a time. The second player's progress will save to the local profile they choose when joining the game, but it won't automatically load when they join in on subsequent sessions. Fear not, you haven't lost your progress, you merely need to choose "Select Character" and select your existing save. It's a flawed system, but once you figure it out, it's easy enough to take a friend along for the ride.

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.

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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
Inelegant split-screen save system
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.
38 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for lionheartssj1

This has finally come up on my backlog. Not too far in yet, but it seems pretty fun so far.

Avatar image for monicker

Totally don't undestand some of these posts...Loved BL1 but hated BL2? Are ya retarded? It's the same Fing game only improved in every way. The first one was an F-ton of fun, and the second one is as well. The world is just more fleshed out, as is the story. Both games are all about fun gun play, and they both deliver. BL2 is a fantastically fun FPS and well worth anyone's time...especially at it's reduced price.

Avatar image for xsteenz

Love this game, best way to waste a few months of your life :P

Avatar image for knixxx

Playing it now. 9/10. This adventure/shooter is gaming crack.

Avatar image for DEATH775

Easily 10/10, the replay value is insane, if you waited for the game of the year edition it is much more sweet :)

Avatar image for goosetroop

10/10 perfect game! So much replay value its insane.

Avatar image for silversix_

I would sell my body for B3 on ps4 running in UE4 in DX11.

Avatar image for jamiegame83

Kicks your ass and leaves you begging for more!!!!!!!!!!

Avatar image for bowchicka07

10/10 perfect game... tons of DLC...Characters, skills, class mods, shields, grenades, relics, skins, heads. tons of customization possibilities that will cater to your style of play and look.

Avatar image for canuckbiker

Best co-op game I've ever played. Can be a drag in single player. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good co-op fps rpg. Btw spoken messages only cross each other if you keep taking missions before the dialogue finishes from the previous one you just took. I don't know how they fault the game for the player not using their common sense.

Avatar image for DAP2010

@canuckbiker hey man is it really that good co-op? seems like u just level up, shoot around and i it a decent story? iv never played borderlands before. dont have a clue about what its all about. just on first impressions the cartoon style may put me off though. could u describe whats so good about it?

Avatar image for canuckbiker

It's a bit hard to define what it is that's so enjoyable. I like the rpg elements, levelling up, picking your skill tree, epic boss fights. It revolves heavily on a loot system of guns for currency and rewards. The story is not that important, like most rpg like games missions can be reduced to fetch quests, or assassinations. The humour keeps it fresh though, this game has a goofy, over the top humour that keeps me entertained. In the end it's just a blast to play with good friends, you won't often be bored with company. My girlfriend and I had a great time with it. If your still on the fence watch a couple mission play throughs YouTube and see if it's for you or not.

Avatar image for Leboyo56

So...I just had a single play session with one of my friends that lasted NINE HOURS. It was by far my longest single gameplay session ever. The save system is so atrocious, however, that right before I was about to fight Firehawk by myself (my partner had given up and stopped playing by then), I decided to Save and Quit to make sure I could start there again if I died against him. It then promptly deleted all of our progress, just like that, without asking any questions. After that happened I threw my already-broken controller on the ground as hard as I could, and it SHATTERED everywhere. So, uh, that's my SCREW YOU moment to Gearbox right now.

Avatar image for canuckbiker

I don't know what your problem is. My girlfriend and I play this all the time and when I save and quite it always leaves me off at the last checkpoint we hit. Haven't lost any progress at all.

Avatar image for Leboyo56

@canuckbiker It's just the split-screen save system that's buggy and/or isn't explained well enough at all. I was really hoping I could maybe use my character then for single player, but of course not.

Avatar image for TreA314

i like the game but just a little bit more than the first one. i enjoyed it but the multi player doesnt work unless ur NAT not on 3 on ur internet router and its was difficult for me to even change it to NAT 2 so i left it the way it is. the first borderlands was no problem for online play. i've bought the season pass on this game and i like the DLC .love the humor and how twisted things get. i'll say a 7/10 because online play doesn't work properly

Avatar image for Liv2rok

What an utter pile of crap this game is. I bought this second hand because I'd heard good things. Kept me interested for an hour. "A bazillion weapons just got bazilliondier" a quote taken from the back of the case... Try "One of each weapon type re-skinned a bazillion times and given a slightly different perk set up each time...". 8.5 out 10? I give it a 3 and thats being generous. I also like games that try to be as realistic as possible. I loved The Darkness and then loathed The Darkness 2 purely because of the cartoony effect on everything. I knew this game looked like a dodgy Disney movie but thought the hype it gets for gameplay might help me overlook the fact that, visually, it looks half-arsed and cheap. Basically, if you've not played Borderlands and are feeling like you want a reason to commit suicide this is the game for you.

Avatar image for goosetroop

@Liv2rok lol you are the first person i ran into that has ever gave borderlands 2 lower than a 5

Avatar image for canuckbiker

Oh my god you didn't like the game so everyone else should hate it too. Go play some cod kid. You sound like an 8 year old throwing a temper tantrum.

Avatar image for Leboyo56

@Liv2rok Seems legit. Completely legit.

Avatar image for Derugs

Omg -

  • Spoken messages sometimes interrupt each other
  • Inelegant split-screen save system.

This is what he's complaining about?

Avatar image for Oil_Rope_Bombs

I love this game so much.

Avatar image for sky-619

i only play battle field: bad company, is this game near it somehow as they are 1st Person Shooter :)

Avatar image for carnivalshow

This game is the best game ever ....!

Avatar image for arnovervaenen

awesome game, i played it for like only an hour and it's just awesome.

Avatar image for Fabyu24

Played the first! Yet to see this but it looks good!

Avatar image for stewarty77

Super game, never played the first but I now intend to. Been laughing out loud at some of the comedy and dialogue.

Avatar image for Garnog

Great game, but the abysmally narrow FOV sucks huge goat balls. Wishing I had picked this up for PC instead.

Avatar image for Dav_id83

Your telling me tha dialog issue dropped the score that much I'm sorry but the game is defo a 9/10 for me improves so much over B1

Avatar image for Andromeda13

A review worthwhile. Played the first game and loved it to the core. Going to grab this one as soon as I finish Resistance 3. So many games and so less time. Sniff...

Avatar image for Nophoria88

Badass review for a badass game, this is how you do a review!! Really, having played it extensively w/ my gf, you do a great job at explaining the game, good and bad. Thanks Chris.

Avatar image for commanderxp90

Hell yeah, this game rocks my life! Some of missions are pretty tough to be completed. :)

Avatar image for Derugs

Gotto luv it ;)

Avatar image for Imperiusmax

Sounds like an awesome game. I missed the first one but will def check this one out.

Avatar image for ZOD777

Great review. The only thing that I can think of that isn't mentioned is the Badass points that you can earn and spend. Essentially you earn points that can be used to level up certain attributes that stay with your user profile and extend to other characters you have created so that you don't have to level up each character seperately (differs from skill trees). This option can be turned off if you really want a bare bones 2nd character. Other than that, the review hits all the marks. Well done.

Avatar image for footbasller

awesome game , having a prob , catch me

Avatar image for BurningWreck

More meat for me!!

Avatar image for Arsyad00


Borderlands 2 More Info

  • First Released Sep 18, 2012
    • Android
    • Linux
    • + 6 more
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    • 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.
    Average Rating3726 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Borderlands 2
    Developed by:
    Gearbox Software, Aspyr, Iron Galaxy Studios
    Published by:
    NVIDIA, Aspyr, 2K Games, Take-Two Interactive, SCEA, SCE Australia, SCEE
    3D, Action, First-Person, Shooter
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol