Borderlands 2 Review

Borderlands 2 Logo

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of the original Borderlands and had the sequel on our most anticipated list from the moment it was announced. But we are aware of our bias, so that counts for something, right?

For the most part, Borderlands 2 met, and in some cases exceeded, our expectations. But there were some flaws as well. Let’s get into detail, shall we?

Gameplay

Ever played the original Borderlands? The sequel plays pretty much exactly the same. Which is great if you loved it, but a total bummer if you didn’t.

Borderlands 2 Screenshot

The addition of timed missions was the main drawback. They felt out of place, and were more irritating then fun.

The Badass Rank system is a nice addition/revamping of the original’s challenges, however there is a nasty little bug that will wipe out your progression. And it kind of sucks all the fun out of it when you go from over 4000 back to zero and lose all the perks that had built up.

Combat

Borderlands 2 Combat

Combat is fast-paced and varied, and warrants a surprising amount of strategy. No matter how you like to play shooters, there is an approach that will work for you, and you may find yourself doing things you never thought you would.

I NEVER use sniper rifles, and yet I found myself relying on them far more often than I would’ve ever expected, screaming “BLAMMO!” as I obliterated bloodthirsty bandits with explosive headshots.

On the other hand, Loser Geek usually prefers the long range approach, but has learned to love shotguns. Especially during the intense panic of a Second Wind attempt.

Borderlands 2 Shotgun

Boss Fights

I don’t mind a good boss fight, but both Loser Geek and I are in agreement that there were a few too many in this game. Sometimes if felt like you were just waltzing from one boss fight to the next, and it took away some of the excitement and foreboding that often comes from stumbling upon an unexpected boss battle.

Co-Op

I know this game is supposed to be co-op focused, but quite frankly, I couldn’t care less. I think this game works best as a single player experience, as it allows you to play at your own pace and soak in all the fascinating details and story nuances that this game features.

Besides, co-op means you have to share things, and I’m a selfish bastard.

Borderlands 2 Loot

Single Player

Borderlands 2 is best as one-player gig. It never feels like you’re missing anything by not playing with more than one person, and playing solo allows you to explore Pandora at your own pace.

Menus

They’re slicker than the first game, for sure. Easier to read and navigate, and more interesting to look at.

Borderlands 2 Menu

But if you think you’re going to be able to figure everything out and find stuff at the touch of a button, you’re kidding yourself.

It’s still really confusing sometimes.

Controls

For the most part, the controls work great. Loser Geek didn’t like autoaim, because he felt like it was fighting him more than assisting. But since that can be turned off, and aiming worked great with it disabled, we can’t really deduct points for that.

And I guess this counts as controls; the loading screens promise the ability to sell all items marked as “trash” with the push of a button, but we haven’t been able to find a button that actually does that. Not a huge deal, but it is an example of the lack of polish that kept the experience from being gaming perfection. [Update from commenter Cordin Bleu: “To sell all, first mark them with the X in your inventory, and then on the middle page of the store, click in your Left joystick. It won’t work on the selling page, or the buyback page. Only on the middle buy page.”]

Borderlands 2 Vehicles

One area where things have improved is the vehicle controls. Big fan.

Characters

There was not a single character I disliked. Scooter, Zed, Moxxi, and the rest of the gang were all great. Claptrap is better than ever. He was marketing a new style of humor, which I’ve branded “sadlarious.”

Borderlands 2 Claptrap

And Loser Geek agrees, all the new characters were great and the original characters were fleshed out so much. He would often just stand around waiting for Claptrap to go through all of his lines, because every one of them was so funny.

Story

This is the crowning achievement of the game. Some people will try to argue that Borderlands had a decent story.

They’re stupid and wrong.

The ending of Borderlands was the biggest letdown of all time.

Borderlands Final Boss

Borderlands 2 not only forges an amazing story on its own, it somehow retroactively makes the story of the first game not suck. I don’t know how, exactly, but it does.

And the first game did not prepare me for the level of emotional attachment I would have with this game. While BL2 is much darker than the original, the sense of humor stays right there at the forefront for about the first half.

THEN ALL OF THE SUDDEN IT STARTS TEARING YOUR HEART OUT.

I don’t know when I started caring about these characters, but there were moments where I was so bummed out or angry that I couldn’t even enjoy the game’s hilarious writing.

Seriously, this game is written so well that you find yourself occasionally sympathizing with characters who are total heartless bastards.

Guns

Well, what do you expect?

They kick ass.

Revolvers, especially. Your character fans the hammer like Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars, and it’s awesome every time.

Gun finds seem more varied than in the last game, although less common overall.

The trade-off is worth it.

Gearbox has worked hard to give every weapon manufacturer a distinct vibe and focus, and they’ve done brilliantly. You can tell what company built a weapon simply by its appearance and, again, there’s a brand that caters to every playstyle.

I’m a Jakobs man, myself.

Borderlands 2 Jakobs

Audio/Music

I liked the music in the first Borderlands, but it was fairly…unremarkable. Here, it’s dynamic and jumps around a ton of genres and moods. The music in this game warrants a soundtrack release, and the composer deserves a beer for his atmospheric accomplishment.

All the voice work is solid, and most of it is hilarious. The standout performances in my mind are Mordecai, Lillith, Claptrap, Dr. Zed, and Handsome Jack.

I will make the bold claim to say that Handsome Jack is one of the greatest bad guys to come along since Andrew Ryan from Bioshock. He’s funny as hell and extremely compelling. But as you progress through the game and learn more about him, Jack becomes something more. Something…bizarrely human. And while I absolutely hated the son of a bitch sometimes, I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him too. That’s a pretty damn good performance.

Borderlands 2 Handsome Jack

The other sounds in the game are all solid, if not necessarily spectacular. The turbo boost for vehicles seems unnecessarily loud, often drowning out the group chat.

Score

A

Despite its flaws, Borderlands 2 is the same addictive fun as the first game. The story drove us to want to complete the first playthrough, but it’s the game’s humor and the lure of loot and leveling that keeps us coming back for more.

Even after two weeks and dozens of hours spent in Pandora, we’re still playing and having fun.

All main story quests and the majority of side quests completed on Normal Mode. Both Loser Geek and I played it on Xbox 360, but we have Sarah The Rebel’s word that the PlayStation 3 version is equally excellent.

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9 thoughts on “Borderlands 2 Review

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  8. To sell all, first mark them with the X in your inventory, and then on the middle page of the store, click in your Left joystick. It won’t work on the selling page, or the buyback page. Only on the middle buy page.

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