Borderlands 2 ReviewPC
key review info
- Game: Borderlands
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: Yes
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Three years ago, Gearbox Software delighted first-person shooter fans with Borderlands, a shooter that felt and acted like a massive dungeon-crawling role-playing game filled with all sorts of loot and had a distinct cooperative-focused campaign.
Now, the studio is back with Borderlands 2, an experience that promises to improve upon the original while upping the ante in many areas, including story, the open world of Pandora, and the number of guns, which is even bigger than the one from the first game.
With such lofty claims, does Borderlands 2 manage to deliver a premiere dungeon crawling shooter experience or do its millions of guns fail to make it stand out? Let's find out.
Borderlands 1 was a pretty fun experience but, unfortunately, its story was severely lacking. While it did deliver a sprawling world and lots of enemies to defeat, its story delivery was unimpressive and its ending was a big letdown.
Thankfully, this is where Borderlands 2 shows the biggest improvement, as you'll definitely start caring more about the world of Pandora and its various residents, ranging from the protagonists of the first game, to recurring NPCs, like Claptrap, and even new characters, like Ellie.
You'll also learn to hate the main antagonist of the game, Handsome Jack. While he's quite handsome, he's also quite evil and, because he's the boss of the Hyperion Corporation, taking him down requires a huge effort on behalf of you and your various allies.
The whole plot of the game is quite good and takes the player on a roller coaster of emotions. The game's side quests also stand out, as they take the protagonists on all sorts of crazy adventures that involve much more than just shooting enemies (although you'll still do a lot of that).
While in terms of story, Gearbox has completely overhauled the experience, the gameplay has also received a fair share of improvements, starting with the new protagonists. Just like in the original, you can play with one of four classes, the Siren, who makes a comeback from the first game, and three all-new categories - the Gunzerker, the Commando, and the Assassin.
First up, we have Maya the Siren, who takes over from Lilith and wields a new ability called Phaselock. She is primarily a support character as her power suspends enemies in mid-air and can be customized with a variety of offensive or defensive skills.
One of the main new additions is Salvador the Gunzerker, who takes over from Brick the Berserker, and features a distinct emphasis on guns, as his class ability allows him to dual-wield all sorts of weapons. He's great for those who like to play solo or who want to emphasize destruction while their comrades keep them healthy.
Another new character is Axton the Commando, who's basically a more evolved version of Roland the Soldier from the original game. He can summon a deadly turret and has a variety of buffs to his offensive and defensive abilities.
Last but not least, there's Zero the Assassin, a more action-oriented take on Mordecai the Sniper from the first title. His trademark ability creates a decoy and turns him invisible for a certain time. When becoming visible once more, he can unleash an attack with his katana or employ a variety of gun-based attacks. While he's definitely the trickiest to master, Zero can perform plenty of critical attacks on bosses and turn the tides of battle, provided his allies help him.
Just like the first game, Borderlands 2 is best played with buddies, although those who prefer a single-player experience can complete it alone, provided they choose a class like the Commando or the Gunzerker and perform a variety of side quests in order to accumulate more XP and skill points.
Enemies are quite smart and much more varied, as you'll be fighting against the traditional skags or bandits, but also new sorts of monsters and even robots controlled by Handsome Jack. Some have special abilities and, in the case of some bosses, they’ll become enraged if you don't kill them in a certain time.
Just like in the original, you'll explore a variety of environments and areas during your adventures, and you can once again ride in various vehicles that are quite deadly and a bit easier to control, especially on the PC.
Speaking of the PC, Gearbox has made plenty of adjustments to Borderlands 2 for this platform, from allowing players to customize different settings to a new interface that's much simpler to control with a mouse and keyboard.
There are still some downsides to Borderlands 2, as its lack of difficulty levels, coupled with respawning enemies, makes things much harder for players that aren't that experienced with shooters.
What's more, you'll need to make sure that you have plenty of ammo and different types of weapons before exploring new areas, as most of your loot consists of money that can't be spent right there on the battlefield. As such, upgrading your backpack and ammo capacity as soon as possible is pretty much a necessity.
There are also some missions that send you through areas you’ve already cleared and, while it’s still fun to kill enemies, you’re going to get tired and just run through the environment, hoping they won’t chase you.
Like I've said above, Borderlands 2 is a game best played with friends but there are a few things you might want to take into account before jumping into an online match.
The game offers enemies and loot geared towards the level of the host so, while it may be fun to join a match made by a level 7 host with a level 30 character, your rewards and XP won't be so good.
On the PC, Borderlands 2 finally uses Steamworks for its multiplayer, as opposed to the shoddy GameSpy tech in the original, and it's a much more fun experience than the one from the first game.
Choosing classes that complement each other is crucial, as you won’t have a good time if you’re playing with three other Sirens or three other assassins. Variety is the spice of life and, in this case, the spice of Borderlands 2 as well.
Graphics and Sound
Borderlands 1 was originally set to deliver a realistic experience in terms of visuals, but a last minute change resulted in a much more impressive cel-shaded style that attracted plenty of gamers.
The sequel builds upon the stylized look and subtly makes some changes in order to deliver an even more pleasing adventure, especially on the PC where, if you have the system to run it, you're in for a stunning experience. Things can get even more impressive if you own a Nvidia graphics card, as Gearbox implement support for PhysX effects that make the whole game look even prettier.
Sadly, not even a great graphics card can help you prevent the pop in of textures when loading a new zone or interacting with a vending machine.
The soundtrack is a bit more varied than its precursor, with hectic tracks accompanying battles while smoother songs complement the time you spend in various towns and quest hubs.
Voice acting is top notch, as everyone from your character to the variety of NPCs you meet along the way is quite willing to voice their (sometimes hilarious) thoughts. Special props go to Dameon Clarke for voicing Handsome Jack, as he makes the whole character that much more impressive and hateable.
- Gameplay emphasizes variety in builds and characters
- Impressive story with likeable and hateable characters
- Great graphics and stunning environments
- Can still be tough for beginners
- Some missions require lots of backtracking
- Texture pop-in is still present
Borderlands 2 may feel just like its predecessor in terms of gameplay, but Gearbox has improved on a variety of areas, from the top notch story, to the gameplay that's been tweaked for a much more varied experience, depending on what skills you choose for your favorite class.
It's also quite a lengthy game that keeps you going with the great plot and the hilarious side missions, so be prepared to spend a lot of time on Pandora with your friends, in which case you'll have an even better time, or without your friends, in which case you'll certainly have a much tougher time.