Borderlands 2 Overwhelms with Guns and More Guns in Our Review

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bill-swift - September 18, 2012

Borderlands 2 deserves some recognition for being a high-profile shooter franchise that has no problem coming to store shelves right in the teeth of the mega marketing campaigns for Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The challenge is how does a game with no iconic characters or armies of Hollywood-caliber creative talent compete with those two pillars of the industry? Firepower, baby.

Bazillions is not a real word, nor a real value, despite what your spell check may suggest. However, it is a good description for the variety of weapons to be found in Borderlands 2 and it's a feature that should be celebrated. The management and proper application of the guns, shields and throwables in Borderlands 2 seems like a game within the game. In fact, the aiming and moving in B2 (what many reviewers will call "feel") isn't anything special when compared to those shooter mentioned above. Gearbox Software probably won't enjoy this but Borderlands 2's feel is closer to something like Bioshock than slower pace of a Halo game or the emphasis on precision in a Call of Duty title.

But enough comparisons to other shooters. Borderlands 2 stands on its own merits because of the weapon variety and management mentioned above; its extremely well developed comedic characters and its self-awareness that it's a shooter in an industry full of shooters.

Don't try to count the weapons in B2 because you only get a headache. You should learn to read ammunition types and ammo counts quickly, though, if you want to succeed because looting bins, boxes, lockers and trunks will keep you preoccupied. Throughout the game you'll be balancing your inventory with your human desire to have "the best gun" possible so dropping and selling guns that are redundant, underpowered or just a remnant from when you were a low level chump will be a way of life for you. Essentially rather than letting you upgrade or modify a weapon or loadout, Borderlands 2 is simply offering you every option in the game world of Pandora, you just have to find it and decide how important is to risk a bird in the hand for one in the holster. I like to melee and play up close in first person shooters so fast-firing shotguns and weapons with melee bonuses were my favorites. So in my game you'd see me constantly ignoring sniper rifles and pistols that didn't do anything special.

Handsome Jack will eventually go down as one of the most beloved antagonists in video game lore. His wisecracks and insults are legitimate comedy if you're composed enough to actually be listening to him over the radio and not running around frantically looking for ammo and upgrades. Same thing with other neutral and enemy characters. They're offering some great lines of dialog and helpful hints if you can keep things calm enough to hear what they're saying. Still, characters will repeat and you will have the option to sort out plot points for the main and side quests if the game seems to be getting too frantic for you.

And that previous point is an important one because Borderlands 2 is the shooter fan's shooter. This game presumes you've played many shooter games before and relies on that institutional knowledge to instruct you on how to succeed. Everything from shooting barrels to appropriate use of cover and control of vehicles/turrets is presented as if you should already know what you're doing. This is not a game for beginners and if you start off as a first person shooter virgin, you'll be as seasoned as Wilt Chamberlain by the time you're done.

Borderlands 2 takes a simple approach to the shooter genre and then stands out with a lot of sophistication and polish wrapped around its weapons, inventory and characters.

Get this game if: you like the run-and-gun style of first person shooters; like seeing how much damage you take off of bad guys with each shot; enjoy twisted comedy from companion and enemy characters alike; like a large variety of guns and weapons; driving a vehicle like the Dark Knight's Tumbler; like playing easy-to-use cooperative games and like a change of pace from those other shooters.

Don't get this game if: you're intimidated by choice; if you like class-based team games; you prefer "serious" sci-fi in your video games; have an aversion to "cartoonish" cel-shaded art styles; can only play games with defined "hero" characters or you only like modern military themed shooting games.

Star Rating (out of 4): 4 stars

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