Has Borderlands 2 managed to re-capture the cel-shaded magic of the first title? Or, more importantly, has it brought enough guns? I can safely say it does and that it goes above and beyond the first game.
The story is much more engrossing and substantial than it was in Borderlands and really gives you a scope for how important it is that you stop Handsome Jack.
You are tasked with thwarting Handsome Jack’s plans which will allow him to take control of the world – this would be bad, folks.
Although the story is well told, to learn more about the story and characters I strongly encourage you to do plenty of side-missions to collect the audio logs for an abundance of background information.
Many new characters are introduced alongside the familiar favourites such as Dr. Zed, Tannis, Moxxi and the original Vault Hunter crew, and they are all as quirky and likeable as we remember them to be, with the Vault Hunter group being given a personality outside of audio logs this time round.
Sadly, your character’s backstory is limited to audio logs and outside of those the most you’ll hear of them is grunting and screaming during battle.
Gearbox prove their ability to create unique characters with Tiny Tina, although it’s highly debatable whether she’s annoying or endearing, and Sir Hammerlock who is a retired adventurer after he lost his arm to a Thresher Maw.
Claptrap is still a lovable idiot who refers to you as ‘minion’ throughout the entirety of the game but he provides much comic relief and you will genuinely care for him at times, as you will with many of the characters.
Borderlands 2 manages to stand out in the crowd of first-person shooters by including solid RPG mechanics and a wide array of unique weaponry – no two weapons are the same and this is emphasised by their attributes such as being able to set fire, corrode, electrocute and explode enemies.
The skill trees make a return and allow you to upgrade defence, offence and special abilities, allowing you to play to a style that suits you best. If you make a mistake in placing your skill points, you can reset them at a character customisation panel.
Although you are given the option to whizz through the main story, you’re essentially forced to do plenty of side-missions to level up your character so that they stand a shadow of a chance against later enemies. Luckily, the side-missions are enjoyable and sometimes hilarious and so there’s not much to complain about, but for someone who would prefer to focus on them after the main story, it’s an annoyance that the difficulty levels spike unnaturally high between areas.
The gorgeous cel-shaded art returns and gives character and colour to a world that faces its darkest times. We’re treated to a fantastic world with much more diversity than the first instalment; we now have snowy tundra, barren wastelands and dank caverns to visit across the expansive map.
It’s an absolute delight to look at and this is aided by the lack of screen tearing and through its steady frame-rate.
Character models are easy on the eyes – especially Moxxi – if not a bit jerky when they try to look at you indirectly or are performing an action.
Sanctuary Citizens and bandits are mostly re-used models that you’ll eventually grow bored of, but, luckily, that doesn’t matter when you’re aiming to blow their heads off anyway.
You can customise your characters hairstyle colour and their clothing colour, giving you a sense of individuality in a world where you will come across many forms of Maya, Zer0, Salvador and Axton.
If you’re playing on PC then you are in for a real treat as the PhysX engine delivers new layers not seen on PS3 or Xbox 360 such as sprawling dust and debris, environmental damage such as barrel leaks and cloth tearing and it all looks much more satisfying. It’s something that needs to be seen in action rather than read about as otherwise, like I had done, you may be thinking, ‘Nah, the PhysX engine just adds a few insignificant details’, and while it may not change the experience, it makes the action much more satisfying.
The soundtrack gets your adrenaline pumping during battles but otherwise it’s quite tame and not something you’ll find yourself humming tunes from when you’re not playing the game.
Guns, explosions, voice acting and Claptraps beat boxing sound spectacular and never outstay their welcome. You’ll also become best friends with your characters scream as they go in to ‘Fight for your life!’ mode as you will go down. A lot.
Quite possibly my biggest complaint involves audio logs and characters communicating to you. They constantly overlap each other and, unlike in the first game, you can’t replay audio logs so if a character decides to talk over it, subtitles will not save you and you won’t have another chance to listen to them. This is a giant flaw in a game that heavily relies on audio logs to inform you of characters backstories such as why the new Vault Hunters have come to Pandora.
There may be no competitive multi-player but Borderlands shows that not every game needs it, that all it needs is a reason to re-visit the world created by providing an intriguing story which can be played through alone or with friends and family.
Also, with plenty of upcoming DLC and many Easter eggs, you will have many reasons to re-visit Pandora and many new locations.
If an immersive adventure is what you’re looking for then make sure to purchase Borderlands 2 and, if you can, convince others to buy it too as it makes for a much more enjoyable experience than when you are playing the game alone.
Mitchell is a freelance journalist, Senior Moderator at Playfire. You can find more of his work at http://mitchjay92.blogspot.co.uk/ or contact him at www.playfire.com/mitchjay1992.