Like the rest of the sane world, we at Cheat Code Central love us some Borderlands 2. In fact, most of us love it with a face-melting, loot-whoring, damage-counting passion—though some of us aren't quite so fanatical. But, like the pack of reviewers we are, we also know that the game isn't perfect.
Although our official review will give you a broad explanation, I'm here to talk about the one not-so-little problem that's always bringing my Pandoran adventures down a peg. So before you point your orange-grade shotguns at my face for even thinking badly of the awesome pack of humor and chaos that Borderlands 2 so truly is, hear me out.
For you rock-dwellers out there, you should know that Borderlands 2 is one of the best co-op experiences in recent years. Guns are scaled up, enemies are more difficult, and XP gained increases in turn. Suffice to say, having two or three fellow vault hunters along for the ride will seriously up the game's value. I was originally happy to see this since I enjoy gaming with a buddy, and I applaud Gearbox for encouraging the interaction so thoroughly. The problems start when not having a team seriously hurts the balance of the game.
Although Pandora has more than a bit of unique flare to it, Borderlands 2 can safely be classified as a role-playing first-person-shooter. It isn't an MMORPG, it isn't a team-based strategy RPG, and it certainly isn't a tactical shooter. More importantly, the online component of the game is fairly minimal. With that in mind, why in the hell are half of the bosses stupidly difficult, if not outright impossible (yes you, DLC bosses) unless you're with a team? I'm all for a challenge, but when I literally can't move forward with a game's story until I back out of my game, find a viable party, and replay an area with them until we're back to where I was, something's not right.
Multiplayer should be a fun addition to video games, not a prerequisite. What if, for some odd and unfathomable reason, I can't coordinate a time to play with three friends while all of us juggle more pressing obligations? For other great co-op games like Portal 2 or Rayman Origins, the answer is perfectly fine: Just play by yourself; the game is still fun. For Borderlands 2? Die a lot, make slow or no progress, or throw your hand into the Russian roulette of playing with random teammates.
Hang on; let me back up for a second. By itself, requiring a player to work with others isn't necessarily a problem. But when you throw a lacking multiplayer system into the mix, things get irritating.
If you've spent more than three seconds in any online game, you'll know that working with random players is—more often than not—a total chore. This is especially true to Borderlands 2's party system, largely due to the complete and utter lack of any sort of in-game communication, aside from optional voice-chat—which is a losing gamble in and of itself, since fewer and fewer players seem to know the value of a solid microphone.
So after all that, we actually have two problems: the imbalanced boss system detracts from the single-player experience, and Gearbox's boastful claims of providing enjoyable co-op (which are mostly spot-on) are insufficiently supported by a quick-and-dirty matchmaking system. And that just plain sucks, because the game is so friggin' good otherwise.
But all is not lost; these aren't game-breaking problems. And with such frequent DLC releases, Gearbox clearly supports the game's future. So who's to say that these flaws won't be patched up in the coming future, or in the ever-so-slightly hinted at Borderlands 3? I'm not much for optimism, but I'll gladly put my hopes in that.
Date: January 15, 2013
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*