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Borderlands 2 picks up five years after the events in the original with you selecting between four new vault hunters. All the characters are new but it’s clear that their classes all take some cues from the first game. As a Commando you can lay down a turret, Gunzerker can wield two heavy weapons, Siren can lift people up and freeze them for a few seconds, and the Assassin can make himself disappear while laying out a holographic decoy. I ended up playing through the game with the Siren class and found it to be perfectly acceptable; no class seems to have a distinct advantage over another. But the issue is that no class really pops out, either. The ideas behind them are great but the repetitiveness of using the same special move for 30+ hours really dulls down some of the impact it has on the combat.
This is obviously where the skill tree should come in and liven things up. And while the menu itself looks quite good, no skill within the menu packs the oomph you’re really looking for out of a XP based game. There’s no doubt that more than a few of the unlockable skills have their own uses but that doesn’t mean they add a pound of excitement on the side to the already fantastic combat sequences. It’s far from a game killing issue but it’s definitely disappointing that the skills were not a tad more varied across the board.
One thing the original Borderlands was known for was the exciting, at times insane combat that squeaked itself into every 20 minutes of the game. That combat returns this time around and only improves upon its original success. While the skills are not drastically exciting, they get the job done and with even more loot to gobble up this time around, you’ll quickly become addicted to offing every enemy that attacks you just so you can see what glowing item pops out of them. Then after you’ve put them in their place, the urge to search every inch of their camp for a weapon is just too great to ignore. Everything in Borderlands 2 just feels flashier and more exciting, partly due its beautiful world and partly due to the ridiculous weapons (and weapon combinations) you use throughout the game. No matter what you’re always on the hunt for your next main weapon and once you find that weapon, you never want to let it go.
Borderlands cartoony art style is another reason why taking the disk out of your console was a difficult task. It seems as if Gearbox recognized their issues (or lack thereof) with the visuals and did their best to tweak them in all the right ways. It mostly works out as the world around you and all the enemies look incredible. But the downside is that frame rate drops remain prevalent throughout the whole game, especially when you’re playing co-op your friends. It seems as if Borderlands chokes any time something big begins happening on screen.
The story in Borderlands 2 all revolves around one villainous character, Handsome Jack. Throughout the main story line, he will chime in at random intervals to let out his own little asshole remarks. Your characters goal throughout the game is to stop Jack and his attempt use the vault key and unleash all kinds of madness upon Pandora. In all honesty, story is clearly not the main reason you come to Borderlands and that is apparent throughout the game’s 20+ hour story line which ultimately concludes in one of the most lackluster endings I’ve seen this year. If you want to avoid the story you can always indulge in the plethora of sidequests that are always available. The amount of sidequests spread throughout Borderlands 2 seem endless and completing every one of them is a task that I won’t believe possible until I see it for myself. The quests themselves can range between a multitude of tasks, some being funny, some providing more insight into Handsome Jack, and some being just damn interesting.
A staple of the first Borderlands was the dry, at times hit or miss comedy. That hit or miss aspect returns as phrases like “teabagging” and “cool story, bro” are tossed around and are about as unfunny as you would expect. Claptrap attempts to bring about some laughs but he wears out his welcome rather quickly. He isn’t the only character that wears out their welcome as so does almost every other character that is pushed into Borderlands for comedy reasons. Most of the comedy in Borderlands 2 is a bit hidden, mostly through side quests or hidden collectibles. Like the first Borderlands, laughs are not something it shoots out repeatedly but when it does, it’s always a clever laugh. Except for the character that is Scooter’s sister. That’s one fine woman.
Something that came as a bit of a surprise in Borderlands 2 was the frustrating and inconsistent difficulty. Boss battles within the first Borderlands were stupidly easy and Gearbox knew that, but it seems as if their fix to that issue was to make things just plain unfair in spots. Be it making a boss much more powerful than its level entails or just throwing a humongous boss into a rather small area, frustration is something I came by quite a few times in my journey throughout Pandora. These issues are avoided by doing one of two things, however. You can either play co-op or do a ton of side missions before story missions. These are two things that I’m sure Gearbox expects of their players but it’s still disappointing to see them do their best to force you into one of two play styles,
Truth be told, Borderlands 2 is exactly what I and many others wanted before its release, that being more Borderlands and more loot for us to sink our teeth in for at least 30 hours. Gearbox delivered upon that and provided even more on top of it to keep things fresh and fun throughout. The combat and loot system remain some of the best on consoles today and are only enhanced in this sequel. While Borderlands 2 is just more of a game you played three years ago, it’s still a great game that can easily give you 50+ hours of entertainment.
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