Borderlands 2 is ridiculous… but in a three-barreled-exploding-shotgun kind of way.
Gearbox Software’s sci-fi “shoot and loot” level-cruncher takes the best aspects of first-person shooters and role-playing games and stitches them together with a loot system that will keep players engaged throughout the 30-hour campaign and beyond.
With a wonderfully absurd cast of characters, even more absurd weapons, smooth controls, a graphical style that oozes personality and seamless accessibility in everything from managing inventory to joining friends’ games, Borderlands 2 has nearly perfected the formula that was conceived by its predecessor.
This is the most fun you will have with your three best Internet-friends this year.
The game never takes itself too seriously, which is a refreshing change of pace from the assembly line of generic military shooters.
The story is almost identical to the original. The player is hired by the leader of the Hyperion corporation, Handsome Jack, to search for a vault on the planet Pandora.
The vault is rumored to hold unknown alien technology and power.
At the outset, Jack tries to kill the player, leaving him or her for dead. From here the player tries to exact revenge on Jack, crossing paths with a slew of hilarious characters along the way.
While the constant need to find better guns and loot hidden throughout the environments is what truly drives the player onward, the dialogue and interaction with the characters of Pandora gives the game incredible depth, humor and context.
Standouts include Tiny Tina, a 13-year-old explosives expert, and Ellie, a gargantuan mechanic who uses a trash compactor to dispose of bandits.
It has constant references to pop culture (Breaking Bad fans will burst into laughter when they hear bandits scream, “I am the one who knocks” as a battle cry) and other video games make Borderlands 2 even more memorable.
The meat and potatoes of Borderlands 2 is much simpler however: guns, guns and more guns. Battles with Hyperion mechs and alien monsters yield loot drops of better weapons, shields and equipment.
Playing with groups of friends makes the game significantly harder but increases the odds of finding better gear.
This system taps into players’ natural hoarding instincts, creating a game that can consume hours upon hours and still feel fresh. The chance to find that perfect new shotgun makes playing another hour almost irresistible.
The accessibility of co-op, smooth controls and tactile weapon animations, makes shooting and looting with friends seamless and satisfying. Players can drop in and out of cooperative play on the fly without being interrupted by loading screens or menus.
The game also automatically scales the difficulty of enemies and combat when new players enter and exit games. Shared experience and money keeps players working cooperatively rather than competitively in combat.
The only notable problem with the game is the difficulty of playing with friends who are far above or below the player’s level.
For instance, in my experience with the game, I played with a friend who was 20 levels above me. This meant that he received little to no experience from killing enemies in my game and I had an incredibly difficult time in combat when he wasn’t actively fighting with me.
While it’s unlikely that there is a possible solution to this problem, players should coordinate with friends before starting their characters in order to be close to each other in level.
It also takes significantly longer to level up when playing alone than when playing with friends. However, in order to enjoy the story, I found the game was best played alone without the distraction of another player.
This is a problem that is easily remedied, however. I happen to play with very funny, but loud-mouthed, friends. Tell your friends to shut up and the game can be enjoyed in company.
Borderlands 2 is a significant improvement on its predecessor and an incredible opener to the fall game season. Players will be hard-pressed to find a better cooperative experience this year.