In my opinion, a game should use the opening few minutes as a statement of intent. The introductory scene of Borderlands 2 is stylish, full of explosions and accompanied by a brilliant soundtrack. It sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the game.
In the space of a few minutes we are treated to a showcase of the four playable character classes; the Commando, Assassin, Siren and Gunzerker, and a glimpse of each of their special abilities. The commando plays as the standard run-and-gun affair; finding cover, lobbing grenades and exploiting the mighty turret that has saved my ass on more occasions than I’d care to mention. The assassin is geared towards sniping at long range and getting in behind enemies using the Deception skill to dice out some sweet pointy death. The siren is essentially a telekinetic class designed to change the pace of battle by taking individual enemies out of contention. Lastly, we have the Gunzerker. We can guess what he’s all about – shooting the hell out of stuff using ANY two guns at a time. Bloody mayhem.
After a genuinely lengthy mental debate, I chose the Commando over the Assassin. Mainly because I don’t think I’m suited for sniping. I believe the PC term is cock-eyed. Also, the turret appealed to me because I considered it as a faithful companion showing unconditional loyalty to help me through the tough times. Like a bullet spitting Labrador.
Despite the characteristic RPG elements, Borderlands 2 plays as a standard first-person shooter for the most part. The combat is crisp, well-paced and smooth, there is an impressive variety of human and non-human enemies to contend with and the skirmishes are well spaced out and challenge you without feeling tedious or dragged out. There are a few small niggling issues, such as having to fight the same group of re-spawning enemies as soon as you leave the main hub area, but these are minor grievances.
The enemies tend to be very vocal, showcasing the games good use of wit and humour, particularly in the random cries from the axe-wielding Psychos as they sprint to cave your head in (personal favourite – “I can’t wait to take your picture!”). This helps to breathe life into each encounter, and give you extra incentive to shut them the hell up.
Next, the guns. So many guns! The frankly staggering variety of weapons allows you to approach situations in many ways, and you’ll have to make of use each different type of gun to take on the tougher enemies and larger groups of baddies. Assault rifles, pistols, shotguns and rocket launchers make up the bulk of your death dealing repertoire and range from the simple to the bizarrely brilliant. Incendiary and corrosive based weapons give you and edge against certain enemy types, while “slag” weapons increase the damage dealt from non-slag gear. One of the more creative features of some weapons is to hurl them as an explosive projectile instead of reloading while a brand new one materialises right in your hand. It makes absolutely no sense, but is brilliant fun and a great twist on the traditional squeaky-bum moment of reloading in the middle of a firefight.
The return of vehicles from the first game is an excellent way to break up the pace and goes a long way to give a genuine sense of scale to a visually appealing world that’s full of dangers and secrets. The supporting characters are numerous and generally well voiced but always seem to have something wacky or quirky to say, and sometimes you’re just too busy blowing things up to notice (or care) what they’re on about.
Co-op play is well worked, with the difficulty being hiked up proportionately depending on how many players are present and what level everybody is at. The rewards are better, too. Tougher enemies fork out more XP to spend on skill points and the random loot tends to be more badass. Play with strangers though and you run the risk of being paired with shameless lone wolves who will nip in and take your loot from under your nose. Cue shameless muttering of swears down the headset.
The obsessive need to search for shiny new guns, using skill points to mould your character into a personalized killing machine and the obsessive need to search for even MORE shiny new guns is an absolute delight, and having the option to include up to three friends makes this trip through Pandora an experience that you can’t afford to miss.
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