The dystopian world of Pandora and it's freakishly weird inhabitants are back in Gearbox Software's sequel to the aclaimed Borderlands; Borderlands 2 is bigger, better looking, and more polished than its predecessor.
Once again, you take the role of one of four vault hunters in their search to find the hidden vault of The Warrior before the antagonist, Handsome Jack, opens it. The four vault hunters from the first Borderlands are also present, though this time around with fleshed-out personalities. Like in the first game, the main plotline isn't very strong, probably because it tries to follow certain narrative traditions instead of fully embracing the complete insanity which makes Pandora such an interesting world.
It's the characters you meet and the awesomely dark, twisted humour that really make the game, and Borderlands 2 offers up these things in great abundance. Whether its luring a bandit to be kidnapped for a tea party or sacrificing a bunch of crazed fanatics to their fire god at their own request, the denizens of Pandora — and the solidly witty writers at Gearbox— do not disappoint or bore.
Borderlands 2, like the first game, is a cross between a first person shooter and a role playing game. Though combat is basically comprised of shooting stuff, as you go along your character levels go up and earns new abilities. Plus you find better weapons with a variety of elemental and other bonuses. Gameplay is a lot of fun — it's quite lonely if you're playing alone, but the sheer chaos of with playing with three other people is how the game is meant to be experienced.
Borderlands 2 is what the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3 wanted to be; large, beautifully designed levels teeming with hordes of enemies. The characters you select have three broad skill paths to spend their abilities in; for example, the Assassin class can choose to augment their sniping skills, their invisibility ability, or their close-combat powers. Unfortunately there is only one active ability per character, the rest of the upgrades being passive buffs, which is quite limiting.
Still, you'll be motivated to try out at least a couple of classes for the different play styles they offer. You can also tweak the appearance of your characters and cars with different colour schemes (and characters have some different faces to choose from), more of which can be unlocked throughout the game. It's a decent thing to have, but Gearbox could have gone further with it and allowed people to create (or assemble) their own skins and colours, and that would have been truly great.
There are, as advertised, 'gazillions' of randomised guns, shields, relics, and other items to choose from. These guns are the basic cause of the many hours you'll spend killing and re-killing powerful enemies in the game. I would have liked to see some more interesting gun types like in the Resistance series; despite the large number in Borderlands 2, they're all basically pistols, shotguns, launchers, smgs, assault rifles or sniper rifles.
Some of the more powerful guns do shout insults or annoying one-liners at you while you're shooting, though. Like most RPGs, there is a significant amount of grinding to be done if you want the best loot, and a lot of the side-quests will have you plodding through areas and enemies you've already beaten in the story mode.
This definitely gets tiring after a while, but Borderlands 2 does a decent job rewarding you for this drudgery with lore or just plain humour, apart from the guns, of course. They're all about the guns. It's odd that there's no loot sharing system; the fact that you're supposed to rely on the essential goodness and cooperativeness of your fellow humans while playing a game that is literally set in a dog-eat-dog dystopia is either a cruel joke or a grievous overlook.
So while one can think of a few very obvious ways in which Borderlands 2 could have been better, it's hard to deny that it is a very good game anyway. It's got amazing visuals, good (and expansive) level-design, combat is fun, and there are a ton of challenges and side quests to do. May you spend many happy hours playing it. Borderlands 2 gets an 8.0.