A breath of fresh air. That is how I would describe Gearbox Software’s last title that’s sure to win shooter lovers’ hearts, Borderlands 2.
During the last couple of years, we have seen a lot of new shooters. Most were incredibly realistic and boasted breathtaking graphics as well as surgically precise gameplay mechanics. However, few proved that shooters had still plenty to bring to the table in the gaming industry. Since the beginning of the 2010s, the genre seems completely dominated by a couple of huge money-guzzling franchises which need not be named to the point where lots of what were once shooter addicts left to greener pastures of the gaming world, where progress and innovation were actual possibilities. I was one of these people. Enter Borderlands 2.
A few years after the events of the first Borderlands title, four varied characters are looking for a Vault on another planet, called Pandora. Unfortunately, the Vault Hunters fall in a trap set by Handsome Jack (superbly voiced by Dameon Clarke), ruler of the Hyperion Corporation and tyrant of Pandora. You are the only survivor and, when waking up, you meet Claptrap, your new (hilarious) robot sidekick. The overall storyline consists of gaining revenge on Handsome Jack and try to find the Vault, albeit a lot of very interesting, fun and rewarding side quests are also available. I won’t say more about the story. Just to say that, being much more original and interesting (California Gold Rush, anyone?) than comparatively boring contemporary shooters (good vs bad, terrorists vs counter-terrorists, you get the idea), the flow of the story and the writing speaks for itself.
Even if this game’s story is kind of original, it could be said that it lacks a certain depth. It’s no surprise that, for an all-out, super-fast and crazy intense shooter, there is not a lot of space for detailed storytelling and character development. Nothing’s perfect.
Simple is good. No, simple is great. This game has a simple gameplay. It’s great.
When you start the game (without the Mechromancer DLC), you have to choose one of the four available player classes. You can be Salvador, who has the ability to “gunzerk”, which consists of being able to temporarily dual-wield any of your weapons and having a health and shield boost. You can be Maya, whose effectiveness often relies on environmental attacks and who has a special power that allows you to suspend helpless enemies in midair. There’s also Axton, who uses powerful turrets, and Zer0, a stealthy assassin. This nice variety in classes, reminiscent of subtle RPG-style gameplay, allows you to choose a very specific playing style which you will be able to fine tune and exploit as the game progresses.
During the game, there will be a lot of various enemies, loot, upgrades, items and guns. Especially guns. I swear you won’t even believe the sheer variety of guns in this game. Having a pretty limited inventory space where you have to keep grenades, shields and other items as well, it’s up to you to decide which guns you keep. This can be difficult and even heart-breaking at times, but it’s a significant aspect of the game, because the decisions you take about your inventory will reflect precisely how you fight. This is key, because, as you progress in the game, you will see that the enemies get a lot stronger, a lot more numerous and so do the bosses (which, by the way, are very interesting, fun to fight and can sometimes be incredibly tough to beat).
The HUD is pretty simple and has everything you need to access fast. The maps are clear, the inventory is efficient, the character development and special aptitudes section is crystal clear. The management of your inventory and skills may take you a little while to get used to, but it works. Beautifully.
To put it shortly, Borderlands 2 plays kind of like Unreal Tournament. It’s not realistic, but it’s not meant to be. I could have said much more about the technical aspects of Borderlands’ gameplay, but, when I play this game, I simply get distracted because I’m busy having too much fun. That’s a good thing.
I’m sure most people can find some technicalities that they don’t like about Borderlands 2, but I can’t. I could say that some people could consider that most of the fights, with similar enemies that have typical behaviors, can make a lot of the action a little repetitive. However, I personally think that repetitiveness is a good thing when it ultimately stays fun. You could also point out that the gameplay might be too simple and I would (cautiously) agree. But this is why it’s called a game: the point is to have fun.
Pros: With its great pace, interesting story, immense variety, hilarious dialogs and writing, awesome characters and, especially, its fantastic gameplay, Borderlands 2 is sure to win the hearts of a lot of gamers this year.
Cons: Some people could say that it can be repetitive at times, but most shooter enthusiasts probably won’t even realize it until they finish the game. People who require intricate gameplay complexity, surgically precise storytelling and character development need not apply.
In a sentence: This game may very well be the best sixty bucks I have ever spent.