Borderlands 2 [VIDEO GAME REVIEW]

Borderlands2 CoverDeveloper: Gearbox Software
Distributor: 2K Games
Genre:  Action FPS RPG
Unique Elements: Single Player, 4 Player Cooperative Multiplayer Local & Network
Series: Borderlands
Systems: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Estimated Play Length: 30 hours+
MSRP: $59.99
Discount Link:  Click here
Website: Click Here
Trailer/Video: Click Here 
Purchase Site: Click Here
Reviewed by: Chris Young
Final Score: 4.5 Moons
Four out of Five Moons

If you’re new to the Borderlands universe, you are in for a treat in Borderlands 2.  (And don’t worry, you’ll be able to jump right into this neo-cell shaded shooter without any backstory and have a great time.  With that said, we do give you a little bit of a primer in the Presentation section to catch you up to speed.)

DarkestGoth Brilliant Moon AwardFor those who loved the original Borderlands, Borderlands 2 is a welcome addition to the Borderlands universe.  More bandits, more dark and crude humor, more mayhem, more guns, more Pandora; Gearbox knew exactly what to do with the already successful shoot and loot formula.  While it is true that Borderlands 2 doesn’t offer many big changes from the original, it does refine the concept and fully saturates the game environment to the point that it becomes a vibrant, living world, which is something the prequel hinted at but couldn’t fully deliver.


The original Borderlands took place on the planet Pandora where a mysterious alien vault was said to exist.  Heroes from across the galaxy traveled to Pandora seeking the riches rumored to reside within.  Four of these heroes, known to the locals as “vault hunters,” set out to discover and open this vault with the help of a mysterious woman known as Guardian Angel.  After an exhaustive search, the vault is found and opened, releasing a deadly behemoth called the Destroyer, who was initially imprisoned by an alien race to stop it from destroying the universe.  After a brutal battle finally reseals the Destroyer in its vault for another 200 years, the Guardian Angel covertly sends a mysterious transmission to the Hyperion Corporation Satellite.  -So ended the original Borderlands.

In Borderlands 2, the story returns to Pandora five years after the original vault hunters unlocked the secret vault which sent Pandora spiraling into chaos.  Handsome Jack, the President of Hyperion Corporation now controls Pandora with an iron grip, killing anyone who stands in his way of total planetary rule.  Enter the latest vault hunters, newly arrived on Pandora just in time to be killed by Handsome Jack.  Abandoned on a glacial shelf and left for dead, a lone vault hunter (or group of lone vault hunters, if your playing in multiplayer mode) survives just long enough to be rescued by none other than the loveably delusional robot Claptrap, who was featured prominently in the first game.

Claptrap discovers the nearly dead vault hunter on the glacial shelf.

Claptrap discovers the nearly dead vault hunter on the glacial shelf.

Claptrap is just one of many characters to make a return.  The original vault hunters reappear throughout the campaign to lead the fight against Handsome Jack.  These characters are all brought to life by a team of incredibly talented voice actors including Dameon Clarke and Colleen Clinkenbeard and backed by fantastic writers including Matthew Armstrong, credited with writing the original Half Life game in 1998.  Fan favorites like Mad Moxxi, the sultry barkeep, and Dr. Zed, the questionably qualified surgeon, are back too, each with their own unique missions to help flesh out the expanded world of Pandora.   They offer missions to a variety of landscapes to kill exotic enemies, all rendered in a unique cell shaded art style.   Don’t worry if you can’t reach all the side missions during your first play though, there will be plenty of time to experience everything you might have missed in your next adventure across Pandora.

In addition to missions there are also a series of challenges which track anything and everything you do on Pandora.  We do mean “everything” from elemental damage dealt to bullets fired to enemies killed to loot collected.  Completing these challenges earns Badass Ranks.  Earn enough Badass Ranks and you’ll be rewarded with a Badass Token which can be exchanged for small bonuses to your character, from added gun damage to increased health to better shields.  These bonuses are shared across all your characters, so whether you’re just starting a new Commando or on your third play though with a Siren, you’re always making progress.  The bonuses may not be huge but they add up over time to create a player friendly environment and they allow for character progression even when you’re playing with lower level friends or starting a brand new vault hunter.


The missions, challenges and story are all fantastic, but they are just part of the genius that is Borderlands.  They complement the reason for the genocidal level of mayhem inflicted on Pandora.  The force that turns a fantastic shooter into an incredibly addicting RPG: kill everything and collect shiny weapons, shields and character modifiers that can completely change your gameplay.  Loot is everywhere.  There are literally millions of possible guns, grenades, class mods and shields in Borderlands 2.  They can be found in boxes, chests, lockers, the occasion toilet, dumpsters, and on the corpses of slain enemies.  Walking over loot on the ground will automatically add it to your inventory, a welcome quality of life improvement.  Every new gun is a decision.  Do I give up some damage for a larger magazine?  Equip corrosive damage to melt enemy robots or bullets that are on fire to incinerate those pesky bandits?  Do I want to get up close and personal with a shotgun or use a well-placed head-shot to dispatch this enemy?  The UI displays stats of the newest loot in your inventory and helps compare it with your current weaponry.   Limited inventory space forces tough decisions as you delve further into the game. With shops and vending machines few and far between, some guns will have to be left behind.

The menu allows you to easily compare weapons and select your load out.

The menu allows you to easily compare weapons and select your load out.

The gunplay remains sharp and responsive amidst the chaos of combat.  Many times I found myself carefully planning my next attack only to be ambushed by enemies bursting through windows, doors and even falling from the sky.  Huge firefights will bleed weapons dry, drain shields, and push the limit of your gaming skill.  When waves of bandits aren’t enough, new and interesting enemies create additional choices in combat.  The Goliath, for example, goes into a berserker rage when his helmet is removed and will attack friend and foe alike, with every kill making him more powerful.  It might be tempting, even hilariously entertaining, to let the rampaging goliath tear the whole enemy force apart but, wait too long, and said juggernaut will obliterate you, as well.

Combat doesn't only happen on foot. Fling saw blades at your enemies from the bandit runner. It’s a weapon for a proper psychopath!

Combat doesn’t only happen on foot. Fling saw blades at your enemies from the bandit runner. It’s a weapon for a proper psychopath!

While there are four complex character types in the default game (with 2 more available as downloadable content), I gravitated toward the Siren for this review.  Her phaselock skill creates a levitated void zone to imprison dangerous enemies and take them out of the fight for a few crucial seconds.  Each character has three different leveling paths called “Trees,” which have almost limitless combinations.  With the Siren, for example, you can choose a path that turns her into a support character that can provide much needed healing power to your group.  Or you might choose a path that makes her an emergency tank and crowd control expert.  In solo gameplay, her cataclysm tree can output absurd amounts of elemental damage, melting enemies with acidic shotgun blasts or burning through hordes of bandits with sizzling fire damage.

Depending on your leveling choices, action skills like Phaselock can deal huge damage to the target or cause them to turn against their allies.

Depending on your leveling choices, action skills like Phaselock can deal huge damage to the target or cause them to turn against their allies.

While solo gameplay is great fun and massively entertaining, cooperative play is the zenith of this game. To knock it up to epic scale, the 4 player co-op makes the level of difficulty shoot up, while the rewards become more plentiful and powerful.  Real teamwork is required to make it through some of the harrowing boss fights and playing with friends means once the boss is dead the loot can be divided fairly amongst everyone.

There are a few small issues, but nothing so glaring that it detracts from the experience.  Shared loot in co-op play makes grouping with random players a crapshoot.  In fairness, all cash and ammo is equally divided among the participating players, but weapon drops are a free for all.  I understand the chaotic tone of the lawless Borderlands that Gearbox is trying to achieve with this approach to loot.  However, this is a situation where flavor treads dangerously close to ruining the gameplay experience.  Gearbox could take a lesson from other modern action RPGs like Diablo III, in this instance, and add an individual loot feature to the game.  Additionally, aside from action skills, the gunplay for all four vault hunters is very similar.  I would like to see a few more core mechanics per class to make each one feel distinct.  Give the commando a chance to randomly fire a rocket while using assault rifles or give the assassin a guided bullet.  The game needs something to make gunplay for each class feel a bit more individual outside of action skills.  Further, certain enemies had odd critical hit zones.  With critical hits via headshots being so important in the later stages, some enemies seemed to have unnaturally small or misleadingly placed critical hit zones.


The game’s unique style is wonderfully refreshing to most any gamer, but its post-apocalyptic mayhem, dark humor and brutal commentary on society will definitely be a welcome touch to our readership.  The level of character customization is basic, but still enough to craft your unique style, fashion and persona into any niche.  Play as a tough, gritty commando or take to the role of a brooding siren.  The often crude and morbid humor is sure to get a few laughs, with direct and implied references to a slew of different comic books, as well as classic camp like Mad Max and Army of Darkness.


If you loved the original Borderlands, odds are you will love this iteration even more.  If you’re new to the series, give it a try.  Even if you don’t get hooked by the endless quest for better loot, the game still provides a great action FPS experience.  Borderlands 2 doesn’t feel as much like a sequel as it does a fully saturated version of the original and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Borderlands 2 takes the successful loot-centric formula of the first game, adds a compelling story, engaging enemies and caps it off with a fantastic tone that had me laughing and losing track of time for hours and hours and hours on end.

Presentation: 4.5 Moons (out of Five)
Gameplay: 4.5 Moons (out of Five)
Gothic Fit: 5.0 Moons (out of Five)
Final Score: 4.5 Moons (out of Five)

Score: Four point five moons

Author: Chris "Synct" Young

Chris "Sparvex" Young is an avid gamer and history buff. When he's not laddering on Starcraft II, you'll find him refining beer recipes for homebrewing or immersed in a good fantasy series.

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1 Comment

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