Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
System requrements: Windows XP SP3/Vista/Win 7, 2.3 GHz quad-core CPU, 2 GB RAM, 512 MB GeForce GTX 560/Radeon HD 5850 or better graphics card, DirectX 9.0-compatible sound device, 20 GB hard-drive space
ESRB rating: Mature
Release date: Available now
I’m rarely apprehensive about playing games. Usually the only thing I lose if one disappoints me is whatever I paid for it (and a few hours). I had seen the hype (and the dubstep) that promised me great things from Borderlands 2. But this time around, my fond memories of the original Borderlands were a stake. What if the sequel was a repackaging of the original with little more than a shinier veneer? Are a bazillion new guns and loot items going to increase the game’s fun factor? Would Claptrap still exhibit the ridiculous humor that was simultaneously annoying and entertaining? Once I dove into the world of Pandora again, would any of these questions even matter?
Set five years after the original game, BL2 has you returning to the planet Pandora. New dictator Handsome Jack has taken credit for discovering the Vault and is actively killing all who attempt to locate it. After an ambush, your Vault hunter awakens in a frozen wasteland to the robot voice of Claptrap as he scavenges the dead for anything valuable. While following Claptrap back to his hideout, you’re visited by the Guardian Angel and given a purpose: rescue the original Vault hunters and kill Handsome Jack.
The mechanics of BL2 should be immediately familiar if you’ve spent any amount of time in the original game. If you haven’t, then here’s the skinny. Borderlands is essentially three things: lots of guns, lots of killing, and lots of loot. The four classes of Vault hunter are Commando (tactical gunning), Assassin (sniping and stealth), Gunzerker (run and gun) and Siren (guns and energy weaponry). Your Vault hunter’s main defense is a regenerative shield that can be upgraded by finding improved shields throughout the world. On Pandora, however, the best defense is a good offense.
Guns are everywhere, and you’ll constantly find yourself checking the stats of new weapons against your currently equipped arsenal. Not all weapons are created equal, and the rarer ones (distinguished by color coding) usually yield the highest damage. Weapons are also identified by their manufacturer (Maliwan produces weapons with elemental damage that are more effective against biological enemies, for example). In addition to the guns you hold in your hands, each Vault hunter has their own perk tree that supplements their strengths. The Commando, for example, can deploy an auto-firing turret that can act as a distraction while you reposition your character in a less vulnerable firing spot. I recommend playing each class for a few hours to find your favorite weaponry and perk combination. I favor the Commando, as he’s somewhere between the Assassin and Gunzerker classes.
In describing the pros and cons of BL2, I run the risk of labeling something as a “con” when it might be a “pro” to another gamer. So I’ll just go ahead and mix it all together under the umbrella of “my first impressions” and let you decide. I honestly couldn’t come up with a verifiable con in my hours of gameplay. There were things that bugged me, but nothing as objectionable as a glitch, poor control mechanics or busted physics. Is BL2 an awesome game? Absolutely. Does it feel like you’re playing the original Borderlands? No doubt. But I’ve consulted the game review gods, and we’ve come to a unanimous decision: in this case, a sequel being alarmingly like the original gets a pass.
What captivated me in the original Borderlands is 100 percent present in Borderlands 2. Seeing the red “CRITICAL” text above a perfect headshot is just as rewarding as it was before. The weapons are familiar, but with enough variation and enhancements to make looting as enjoyable as it has ever been. Claptrap still annoys me, but I find myself wanting to hear what he has to say next. His humor is hit or miss, but it somehow makes this trash can-shaped robot as awkward as he is endearing (similar to Disney’s Wall-E). Somehow Gearbox has managed to create a sequel with the perfect balance of familiarity and novelty, while dodging the mistakes of many sequels that are so familiar they’re boring or so novel they’re destroyed by gimmicks. If you’re expecting something groundbreaking from Borderlands 2, don’t. If you want more Borderlands with some cool new additions and a new environment, you won’t regret paying full price for the sequel. The only possible con of Borderlands 2 is that it’s an enhanced version of the original. As it turns out, that’s exactly what I wanted it to be.