So as I’m sure most of our readers and fellow game lovers know, the super hyped sequel to Borderlands is finally here.
And when I say “hyped,” I don’t mean that in a bad way, because the word “hyped” can usually carry a negative connotation. It’s just that everyone I know who’s even remotely into gaming has been looking forward to Borderlands 2… and for good reason. It’s a phenomenal game; not so much in the story department like a Team Ico or Zelda game, but more along the lines of what you’d think of when you picture an extremely well done action movie like, say, Predator or Terminator 2.
Borderlands 2 exhibits Action-RPG gameplay at its very best. Overall, the game is exactly what you’d expect out of a great sequel. It’s basically a more polished and streamlined version of what we saw in Borderlands… which is good, because certain parts of Borderlands needed a little help. But I’ll be completely honest; Borderlands 2 isn’t perfect. As with any other game, there are both pros and cons.
So let’s start on a good note with one of the blatantly obvious pros you’ll see when you first pick up the game — The gunplay mechanics. Each gun I’ve used seemed to have different amounts of bullet drop and recoil, so hitting far-off enemies can be a bit of a challenge with non-scoped pistols and revolvers, for example. The diverse feel of all of the weapons can definitely take a while to get used to, but I still consider that a “pro” instead of a “con”. Why?
Well, why should every single gun in a video game react the same way when you pull the trigger time after time? Why should 5 bullets aimed at the same target hit in the exact same spot effortlessly? That’s not the way it works in real life, so props to Gearbox on injecting a bit more realism into their gunplay physics this go ’round.
However, with the good comes the bad. Although I love Borderlands 2’s gunplay system as a whole, a lot of the guns did seem gimmicky for just for the sake of being gimmicky. I think Gearbox’s cheeky sense of humor, while entertaining, shouldn’t have made its way into their weapon system. For example, this new “throwaway” disposable gun mechanic. I mean, it’s funny, and I loved using it for the first 10 or 15 times… That is, until I realized that the explosion and damage radius isn’t really worth it when you take into account the lost bullets and short throwing range. Also, why on earth would I need a 3-shot burst while zoomed in with some of these sniper rifles? Unless you happen to snag another lucky headshot after the first trigger pull, the second and third shots are going to be wasted. That isn’t the only example of needlessly wasting ammo that I’ve seen… I’ve also looted a good bit of guns that use 3 bullets per shot, but don’t seem do 3 bullets worth of damage.
Character customization is Borderlands 2 is fantastic. Lots of great color schemes and head models to unlock for your character, not to mention Arrested Development references. Tobias, you blowhard.
On a more positive note, Borderlands 2 is visually stunning. Compared to the first game, the areas are vast and diverse as opposed to being limited to one big earth-toned, boring sandbox. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed walking around and taking a look at the diverse landscapes and details within them… even with the countless silly pop-culture references littered throughout. Speaking of pop-culture references, when I heard the audacious “bullet to the knee” comment, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I’ve wanted to kill an NPC quite so much.
I’ve also wanted to kill the menu system on occasion. Inventory management in the first game was pretty frustrating, and it seems to be even worse in Borderlands 2. Swapping and comparing weapons just isn’t as quick or intuitive as it should be, especially considering how often you’ll be doing it. It would be nice to see some sort of implementation of a PC inventory system modeled after Diablo or Torchlight; The ability to hover over items and figure out if they’ll benefit you rather than individually sorting through a pile of trash weapons, one by one. If this is Gearbox’s idea of promising a PC specific user interface, then I’m curious as to how often they actually play PC games.
Borderlands 2’s UI simply screams “designed for consoles.”
One of my favorite features of Borderlands 2 is the variety of new enemy types, all with some very interesting (yet sometimes disappointing) AI mechanics. On the good side of things, enemies actually move around quite a bit and attempt to get out of the way of your bullets. This is something that id’s post-apocalyptic title “RAGE” did pretty well. But if I’m being honest, I think that’s just about all that RAGE did well. That, and wingsticks. God, I loved wingsticks.
Anyhow, enemies in Borderlands 2 will go out of their way to dodge your bullets rather than standing around in plain sight shooting at you, or running straight at your face like they did in the first game. And that’s not just limited to enemies of the humanoid variety either; most of the game’s four-legged-foes also seem do a pretty good job of dodging your attacks as well.
So what’s not to like about the enemies in the game? Well, a lot. Besides the fact that they’re bloodthirsty maniacs, they’re prone to have the occasional brain fart and forget that you even exist. This is good if you’re looking for easy kills, but very bad if you appreciate good enemy AI in a game. In the first game, if a bandit even so much as smelled you, they’d go into aggro mode and come gunning for you… whereas in Borderlands 2, there have been many times where I’ve killed a Bandit and his buddies were either sleeping on the job or just plain blind. At first I thought it was just a momentary glitch or something with my game, but clueless AI seems to rear its ugly head quite frequently. I’ve even had enemies engage me, but then go back to business as usual as soon as I take cover behind a wall. It’s not game-breaking, but hopefully Gearbox will address this issue in the future with some sort of enemy situational awareness buff.
Speaking of enemies, I gotta say, Handsome Jack is one of the best and most memorable main antagonists I’ve seen in a while from any game. The great thing about Jack is that you learn to hate him over time, whereas most other games will tell you plainly from the beginning that the main villain is is a bad guy and you’re not supposed to like him. However, throughout our adventures, we discover lots of audio recordings that reveal just how much of a jerk our buddy Jack is.
One issue that I’ve always been sort of neutral or undecided about in Borderlands is the save system, and it’s back in Borderlands 2. For those uninitiated, you don’t load your game in Borderlands where you quit before.
Bosses and enemies respawn, and you’ll be respawning back at the local area’s fast travel point. So, in all honesty, you should probably never quit during the middle of a quest unless absolutely necessary… because upon loading your saved game, you’ll have to trudge all the way back through tons of enemies to get where you need to go. The long climb up to Flynt’s boss fight is a good example. Again, I don’t really have a problem with this, but I could see where it can be frustrating for some players. I don’t care for it, but I don’t hate it. I think after playing Dark Souls so much, I’ve grown accustomed to being forced to fight through long areas filled with baddies in order to get back to a boss. However, the periodical waypoints in Borderlands 2 are a good consolation that Dark Souls doesn’t offer.
For the most part, the sequel to Borderlands is better in every way than its predecessor… and isn’t that how it should be? I mean, sure… The game has its flaws, but what game doesn’t? If you take a step back and look at Borderlands 2 as a whole, it’s better than the original by leaps and bounds.
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