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Let’s get this out of the way right now, I kinda liked the ending(s). Yes, they were a bit anticlimactic and unimpressive by Mass Effect standards. Yes, they looked very much alike from one another, but the ending was not that big of a problem for me. If you think about it, you realize that the philosophical ramifications actually are epic and impressive. The ultimate consequences of your choices at the end of the game are pretty overwhelming and, from a writing point of view, they were good. In my humble opinion.

I think the big problem with Mass Effect 3 is not the ending, but the final mission. SPOILER ALERT. The first part of the final mission when you raid Cerberus’ main base had some pretty cool and interesting moments, but the end and the outcome were disappointing to say the least. Kai Leng had a bad character design compared to his importance in the story. Still, I was looking forward to fighting him. That was a disappointment, especially considering that it was one of the only moments of the game that could be considered a “boss fight”. I hate scripted fights. I especially felt betrayed when I spent the first few minutes of a fight efficiently taking out the enemies Kai Leng was magically spawning so that I could focus on killing him as soon as possible, but the fight’s scripting was so obvious it was painful. An enemy which takes a hell of a beating just to get his shield down shouldn’t take three shots to die after the scripted part of the fight. That’s all I have to say. I also expected a possible epic showdown with the Illusive Man, now that we were in his base. Another disappointment. This could have been great.

But I think the worst part of the final mission was from the start of the fight with the Reapers to the part where you run towards the beam. The Reapers were scary. They were one of the most impressive enemy forces I’ve ever witnessed in a video game. In result, the beginning of the game was overwhelming. For the whole duration of the game, I was enraged and extremely enthusiastic towards fighting the greatest forces of the Galaxy. I think it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a final mission so epic and impressive that it would bring me on the verge of tears (like Mass Effect 2’s final mission did). Here came the betrayal. When you show and tell the player that the Reapers are so powerful that it’s next to impossible to fight them without a weapon as big as a mountain and massive military firepower, you have to make sure the player is gonna put up a crazy fight. That being said, the final mission went against all these basic principles. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect at least a boss fight. There was none. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect the use of special game mechanisms to make the mission more interesting. There was none.

The whole damn mission was about killing the same enemies you did for the whole game in a very repetitive and extremely bland way. There was nothing special, nothing new. “Defend X” and “Survive” shouldn’t be objectives of a final mission, especially for a franchise such as Mass Effect. The action and preparation that lead up to this surprisingly very easy fight (I played at “Hardcore” difficulty and I died 2 or 3 times at most) was like getting a Ph.D. in advanced theoretical mathematics in hopes of solving the most difficult problems only to solve a simple division. What happened to the previous missile-launching, laser-dodging fight against a Destroyer? What happened to the use of biotic barriers you had to defend with your life to provide protection while fighting other enemies? How about the unexpected deaths of important characters the player felt emotionally connected to? Yeah, there was this guy Cortez, but I mean, come on.

As I said earlier, the final mission of Mass Effect 2 was so intense, well designed and expertly written that I almost cried. There were a lot of new dynamics and interesting mechanisms. The fight was so difficult and engaging that I actually screamed, Rambo-style, a few times. BioWare, you were able to make it awesome and to bring a great, emotional and satisfactory ending to an epic and elaborate trilogy I spent more than 60 hours playing, but you didn’t. You got lazy, and in doing so, you betrayed me and a lot of loyal gamers and fans. You make great games and you have talented staff, but you didn’t live up to it. Don’t ever do this to me again.

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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.

Story

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.

Gameplay

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.

Summary

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.

Score: 9,2/10