More guns than you could ever possibly need.
Soon after arriving on the planet of Pandora, the sci-fi/western setting for the RPG/shooter Borderlands 2 from Gearbox and 2K Games, it becomes quite apparent that you will never be short of a weapon. Admittedly, it doesn’t start out that way. As with many games, the player has to earn their weaponry, starting out with the most meager pistol and working their way up. But in a very short time, the player will find their inventory filled with weapons and having to make tough choices about which to keep and which to discard.
These choices are made all the more difficult as the weapons are so varied. Although there are relatively few different types of guns – pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, etc. – each weapon within the particular type will have its own set of stats. This stats themselves vary so much that it can be difficult to tell from one gun to the next which is the best, with concessions having to be made and more than a little bit of guess work. But the differences don’t stop there – weapons can have different paint jobs, use different ammunition to impressive effect, have all manner of added gizmos and, perhaps most interestingly, are branded.
The level of detail in Borderlands 2 is astounding. A number of different weapons manufacturers have their weapons available on Pandora, and much as each weapon is different, each manufacturer has certain traits that carry through the weapons in their brand. For example, Jakobs offer good, solid guns with a nice rate of fire, whereas Vladof guns offer a much higher rate of fire, perhaps at the expense of accuracy. Then there are Tediore guns which can be thrown away, only to have them respawn in the players hand with a full clip. Players will find themselves leaning towards one brand or another as the game progresses in an amazing display of brand loyalty.
Much as it would be easy to keep talking about the thousands of different weapons in Borderlands 2, it would be a crime not to gush over other aspects of the game. As the player arrives on Pandora as a Vault Hunter, it quickly becomes apparent that the current planetary boss, a lively character by the name of Handsome Jack, doesn’t want you there. He attempts to kill you, which is always a good way to start the game. Then enters the rusting box of metal that everyone loves to hate, Claptrap, and the adventure begins.
The player gets to choose from four different types of Vault Hunter, each being a more “boosted” version of the characters available in the first game, and they each come with their own skills and way of playing the game. At the very beginning they are all pretty much the same, but very quickly they will start learning their skills through the games solid RPG-style progression mechanic, which sees the player able to distribute points into various areas as they level up. Then they have their special abilities, which is where they really stand out. The Commando can summon up a turret, for example, whilst the Gunzerker can wield two weapons and go into a killing frenzy. The Siren has the Phaselock skill which can suspend enemies in a bubble of energy, and the Assassin, besides being very cool, can create decoys and become invisible. They are four very different characters and the way that the game plays will encourage players to try each of the classes out for multiple playthroughs.
Not that a single playthrough will be over any time soon. This is one massive game. Whilst the main story can be completed in what most gamers will consider to be a reasonable time, there is so much to see, find and do on Pandora that I will be stuck in the glorious cel-shaded wasteland for many, many hours to come.
Let’s take a moment to talk about that cel-shaded wasteland, which is a wasteland no more. The world is much bigger than in the previous game, and thankfully much more diverse. From the bustling town of Sanctuary and the snow and ice covered Frostburn Canyon, to the wild west town of Lynchwood, there is variety on Pandora, and it all looks great. The comic book style visuals may not be to everyone’s taste, but they set the scene perfectly for the chaos and humour that is to come.
But back to the side missions. The main story is entertaining and will undoubtedly allow the player to progress their character. But it is the side missions that really make the game shine. Not only do they offer a wide variety of different tasks and the chance to acquire even more loot and different weapons, but they also introduce some incredibly well fleshed out, and in some cases absolutely barmy, NPCs. Again, my hat goes off to the developers for the obvious amount of time they have spent on the small details of Borderlands 2. There is a temptation within this open world which gamers will have trouble resisting, and that is to just grab a vehicle and go exploring. Who knows what will be over that next hill…
Do you know what’s better than exploring Pandora by yourself? How about doing it with some buddies? Borderlands 2 offers not only four-player co-op online, but also split-screen co-op for some local action, an option which is missing from too many games lately. Taking on the game with some friends is a truly enjoyable experience, especially if they take characters of a different class as they all compliment each other very well. And then, when it comes to grabbing the loot, it is fun, and occasionally frustrating, to watch as it becomes a free for all. Still, the more players in your team, the tougher the enemies and the better the loot. Just make sure you get to that box first.
There are so many little touches that come together to make Borderlands 2 a great game. The occasional smart ass comment from a character. The tongue-in-cheek, over the top humour. The other loot that can be collected, such as shields and grenade mods. The Badass points that you collect, which can be used to ever so slightly improve your character. Hell, even Claptrap seems more likeable this time around.
In fact, I am struggling to find a problem with the game. I guess it can get a little too chaotic at times, but then if you wanted a peaceful gaming experience, why would you even consider this game. It can also be a little difficult at times, but the well placed respawn points ensure that you are never too far from the action.
The original Borderlands was a bit of a sleeper hit, but it set the scene for many gamers to become fans and now, with Borderlands 2, they can return to Pandora for a massive good time. Why more shooters can’t be this involving, this enjoyable and this filled with wonderful loot? I don’t know. But I don’t really care because, for the moment at least, I am staying on Pandora.