Borderlands 2


  • Developer: Gearbox Software
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3 (tested), Xbox 360
  • Release date: 21 September
  • Price as reviewed: £39.99

Borderlands 2

The Wall Street Journal is right on this one. Clunky writing and a clear misunderstanding of the FPS genre aside, Adam Najberg's very negative review of Borderlands 2 got one thing absolutely right: The game is painfully, irrevocably, insultingly stupid.

Internet meme stupid. Shooting "psycho midgets" stupid. Jokes about robots having sex with fuseboxes stupid. There's even an enemy called the "BullyMong" and whereas with other games you could maybe write that off as a misplaced shot at Spike Milligan-y wordplay, you can't trust Borderlands 2 to even try and be that clever.

gun

A lot of writers, in website comment sections as well as reviews proper, have lauded Borderlands 2 for its writing and humour. The plot is thin, they admit, but the jokes and the patter are enough to carry it through.

You can see what they're getting at. There are plenty of pop-culture references and a lot of swearing which some people might call good writing, but they are probably the people safety matches were invented for.

If Borderlands 2's script were a person, he'd wear a "One Man Wolfpack" t-shirt and play air guitar to the A-Team song; he'd probably say "epic" a lot.

Dull, witless and boorish

Dull, witless and boorish, occasionally outright offensive; Borderlands 2 makes jokes like a drunken frat boy and is only half as funny.

Gameplay wise, things aren't quite so bad. The four character classes - Commando, Assassin, Siren and the Gunzerker - are your usual mix of skills and attributes.

The Commando can summon up turrets and robots to do his bidding; the Assassin goes invisible, and specialises in melee attacks; the Siren can hoist enemies up into mid-air and the Gunzerker is a weapons expert.

Killing enemies and finishing quests earns you skill points, and you can pour them into making your characters stealthier, gunnier, turret-ier and so on.

You can customise your look, too, swapping between different clothes, faces, colour schemes - like its predecessor, Borderlands 2 is a welcome blend of RPG and FPS mechanics, which still works fine and hasn't changed much.

Guns play a much bigger role now, though. From the stuff you pinch off corpses to the ones you buy from vending machines, Borderlands 2's weapons line-up covers hundreds of iterations of pistol, shotgun and sub-machine gun.

Favourite

Our favourites are the Maliwan guns - elemental specific rifles that shoot electricity or hot slag, depending on your preference.

Picking the right shooter won't just mean the difference between life and respawn; there's so much on offer that your arsenal becomes an extension of your character's appearance, as you constantly rotate your weapons to stay at the height of gun-chic

customise

They all sound a bit puny, though; like the Psycho on the game's box art, shooting in Borderlands 2 often feels as if you're pointing your fingers at people and saying "pew pew."

Later, boomsticks get louder and more fun, but the earlier stuff is limp and poxy, leaving you to empty your clip, reload and repeat to slowly grind down a BullyMong's (ugh) HP bar.

And when you've finally wasted your horde of attackers? Loot - loads and loads of loot. There's ammo, money, guns - lots of guns - and the occasional rare and valuable item.

Pandora

As a Vault Hunter, searching for lost treasure on Pandora (the deep space waste-planet from Borderlands 1), most of your quests and game time will be spent looking for swag and trinkets.

Like the dialogue, it's kind of mindless, and empty. In the way that bum jokes and swearwords lose their force after the hundredth time, it's hard to stay interested in Borderlands 2 once you're carrying enough bullets and money to call yourself America.

The quests themselves are fun and varied (there's a great one later where you're only objective is to jump off a cliff) but Borderlands 2 could do with another incentive than just meaningless loot.

Loot works better in the four player co-op mode, where more stuff gets given out but is split between each of you. Working together and dividing the plunder is much more satisfying than just gorging for yourself.

Adam Najberg bemoaned the lack of a team death match mode, but the co-op idea is far more rewarding.

combat

Verdict

Borderlands 2 is not a good game. The writing is thick and annoying; the quests always end the same way; and for all the guns and special abilities, combat boils down to a tactless, slapdash game of HP points, as you charge from enemy to enemy spraying bullets and spamming attacks.

It looks gorgeous - Borderland's trademark cell-shading is sharper than ever - and the soundtrack comes courtesy of the ever brilliant Jesper Kyd, but Borderlands 2 is deeply unsatisfying.

It's clearly intended to be big, hyperbolic and silly (the blurb invites us to have so much fun we'll "joy puke") but Borderlands 2 feels bloated and tiring. There are too many weapons, too much loot; the characters talk too much and the enemies are everywhere.

Dumb jokes, big muscles and guns with everything; Borderlands 2 is like eating an entire bag of sugar. Bigger isn't necessarily better: Borderlands 2 is mindless fun in a bad way.

Scores:

  • Gameplay - 7/10: Too much grinding and the combat is directionless, but the varied quest ideas and customisation keep things going
  • Sound - 6/10: Even Jesper Kyd's score can't help the tinny gun sounds 
  • Graphics - 8/10: Sharp and cel-shaded, for all it's shortcomings, Borderlands 2 is still very pretty
  • Replay Value - 5/10: If you manage to find this fun, there's plenty to get on with but it's far easier to just get bored
  • Overall - 6/10: A bit boring and very stupid, Borderlands 2 has just enough to make it not all bad, just mostly.