Borderlands 2 Review for PC

Borderlands 2 Review for PC

Bigger, Badder, Over-The-Top-er

The original Borderlands was a great game. It was this bizarre “Space Western” with a cast of absolutely insane characters, a morbidly dark sense of humor, and a randomly generated loot system that led to the proclamation that the game contained “bajillions of guns.” Needless to say, the game quickly became a cult classic.

Now, Borderlands was certainly not without its flaws, and Gearbox was fully aware of this fact going into Borderlands 2. Instead of getting emo haircuts, moping in the darkness, and writing bad poetry about how nobody loves them, the folks at Gearbox took all this media and fan criticism and used it to refine their particular formula to produce a sequel that addresses literally every concern I can remember having about the original.

Borderlands 2 Screenshot

No, I’m serious. Every complaint I remember being levied against the first Borderlands has been addressed in some way, shape, or form here. In fact, in the opening sequence, the game pokes fun of the original’s ending, which was seen by many to be completely lackluster. It’s this self-awareness, this ability to fully embrace all the negative criticism, that makes Borderlands 2 such a great game.

So what’s changed?

First of all, the Pandora of the original Borderlands was a fantastic environment, rich with quirky details and interesting characters. However, that environment was composed of very little more than brown sand, rusted trash, and only minor variations of the same few creature types. The final portion of the game switched it up, and the eventual DLC missions showed off some fresh environments, but that did little to alleviate the “samey brown” fatigue players no doubt experienced.

Borderlands 2 features a Pandora that’s both familiar and fresh, including nods to the old while integrating brand new details. Apparently, Pandora features some bizarre weather patterns, and that makes for these weird little pockets of contradictory climates existing within a very tight space. Yes, there are places where you can literally lift a foot in a blizzard and set that foot down in a sweltering desert. It’s weird and improbable, but it’s not un-Borderlands.

Borderlands 2 Screenshot

Additionally, the variation in enemy types is far more pronounced here, with a host of new creatures and bandits alike. It’s a glorious buffet of Pandorian terrors and delights, all presented with that classic cel-shaded style that made the first one so much fun to look at. In fact, the graphics quality has been upped a bit, though probably not enough that this will be immediately apparent. (I played both Borderlands games on PS3, and while the second one still has some texture pop-in when new scenes are loaded, this pop-in seems to have been reduced since the first game.)

Another complaint many had with the first game was that the vehicles were awkward to control. And that’s valid; they absolutely were. Borderlands 2 features vehicle controls that actually feel refined and intuitive. I will admit to driving off a cliff at one point, but the blame for that blunder rests squarely on my own shoulders; I legitimately can’t make up an excuse about having trouble with the controls.

Thirdly, people were disappointed by the story of the first game. While I disagree with this for the most part (besides the fact that the ending was a letdown), and I can’t speak for the ending of Borderlands 2 since I didn’t receive my review copy until launch and had a very tight deadline to work under (I still managed to log about 18 hours of game time), I can say that Borderlands 2 has a much more coherent and complex narrative, one with an actual villain and a more obvious conflict.

Borderlands 2 Screenshot

That villain? Handsome Jack, they call him. He’s introduced in an opening sequence that’s a riff on the original Borderlands’ opening: A group of vault hunters rides off to the promise of wealth and glory while a scag is relentlessly abused for comedic effect. This time, though, the vehicle is a train instead of a bus, and rather than dropping the passengers off in some untamed wasteland, the train explodes, sending all these wannabe vault hunters to a fiery demise. Only, the four main characters somehow survive this ordeal and are thrown into a conflict that involves a rogue faction of deserters hell-bent on bringing down this Handsome Jack fellow, who has made no effort whatsoever to hide the fact that he was the man behind the train explosion. He’s also a hell of a narcissist.

Of course, the narrative is really just Gearbox making an excuse to let you use their “gazillions” of randomly generated guns. And while no one complained that Borderlands didn’t have enough weapons, Borderlands 2 raises the bar even further. There’s even a new weapons manufacturer called Tediore.

Okay, so I’m just going to gush about Tediore for a moment here. These weapons reload more quickly than the others, which is awesome. I’m a guy who loves reload speed in my FPSes, after all. However, it’s the method of reloading that makes these guns so incredible. Instead of putting in a fresh ammo clip, you throw your gun, which then explodes and deals massive damage to those within its blast radius before reassembling itself back in your hands with a fresh clip of ammo. And the fuller your ammo clip is when you throw it, the more damage it deals. This sounds ridiculous—and it absolutely is—but it’s also insanely cool. I can barely begin to describe how much fun it is to throw these things and watch them explode, especially among tightly packed halls full of bandits. And when I got my first Tediore shotgun, I’m pretty sure my pupils became heart-shaped for a moment.

Borderlands 2 Screenshot

There’s an additional new feature here that’s pretty awesome too. It’s a series of grindy achievement-like objectives (kill 500 scags, kill 75 enemies with a particular weapon, etc.) that grant you points, which ultimately add up to bestow a currency called “Badass Tokens.” These tokens can be spent on stat upgrades. Now, even those these upgrades are barely noticeable (granting less than a 1% boost per token), they eventually add up. Even better, these upgrades are shared across your entire account, so by upgrading one character, you’re upgrading every one of your characters. It’s subtle enough that it can be ignored by those who’d rather not think about it, but it’s there for min-maxers to go nuts over. Which is cool.

I do have one complaint about Borderlands 2, and that’s that it can feel a little tedious at times. If you don’t want to use the quick travel posts (and you definitely should use them), you’ll find yourself repeating enormous portions of the game in which all of the enemies have respawned. And this includes boss fights. Yes, if you travel through an area in which you’ve defeated a boss, you’ll have to fight that boss over again. Sure, you’ll probably be at a higher level by that point, and you’ll have a strategy in mind that worked the first time through, but it’s both obnoxious and immersion-killing to re-fight the same bosses over and over again.

The bottom line: Borderlands 2 offers a much larger, much more refined version of the original. Even if complaints about the first game bothered you enough that you couldn’t properly enjoy it, the second one improves on just about every aspect of the formula. And for hardcore Borderlands fans, there is a near endless amount of fan service here to keep you laughing maniacally while spearheading your own darkly hilarious co-op massacre. I’m going to wager that if you like fun, you’re going to adore Borderlands 2.

The cel-shaded graphics we loved about the original game, only this time with less texture pop-in. 4.8 Control
Even the vehicles feel good now. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Hilarious voice acting, great music, and sound effects that keep you immersed in the world of Pandora. 4.7 Play Value
50 levels, a gazillion guns, a much larger story, tons of side quests, and an all new “Badass” system for min-maxers. If you need more than that in order to justify a $60 game purchase, you’re probably insane. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Dynamic Co-op online, split-screen, and LAN: Share your adventures with friends both online and via LAN. Borderlands 2 features a seamless system enabling you to drop in and drop out of a campaign without ever having to restart the game.
  • World Connected Story: You will find yourself left for dead in the frozen tundra of Pandora as you begin your quest of revenge and redemption.
  • New Badass Gun System: An entirely new take on the groundbreaking procedural system means millions upon millions of possible weapons. The variety and style of guns in Borderlands 2 is staggering.
  • 87 Bazillion Everything: In addition to the new gun system, you will lust after procedurally generated shields, grenades, Alien Artifacts, class mods, and much, much more. And you thought the original Borderlands had a ton of loot!
  • Brand new environments on Pandora: Hunt through entirely brand new areas of Pandora that are more alive than ever!
  • New Classes: Choose from all new characters and classes including the Gunzerker, who can dual-wield any two weapons in the game.

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