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The Game Effect Review

Borderlands 2 Review

Four players, four reviewers

By Daniel Jones on 10/9/2012
We here at The Game Effect want to bring original content to our readers. We had always planned to review Borderlands 2 as it's one of the biggest games of the year, but we wanted to try something a little different this time. Since Borderlands 2 is a game best played in groups of four, we decided to review it in a group of four. So Whitney, Nate, Charles and myself came together to record the first ever TGE group review. The written review will cover some of the highlights of our discussion, but the real meat of the conversation can be heard on the attached podcast. Enjoy!

Click this link to listen to the entire discussion. 

Welcome to Pandora Vault Hunter

Unlike the first Borderlands, its sequel actually has a story that players will care about. One of the most surprising improvements this time around is the way Gearbox and lead writer Anthony Burch (of Hey Ash Watcha Playin' fame), have crafted an adventure with characters you will care about and an antagonist you will love to hate. Handsome Jack is the CEO of the evil Hyperion corporation, and he has made it his goal to open a vault and unleash a devastating weapon on the world of Pandora, which would give him total control of the planet. Aided by the vault hunters from the first game who return as very well fleshed out non-playable characters, your task is to reach the vault before Jack does and save Pandora.

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There is no doubt about it, this is one of the funniest games of this generation. The script will have you laughing at every turn. Whether its Claptrap planning a birthday party complete with pizza and dubstep, or Tiny Tina's Nikki Minaj meets Honey Boo Boo vocal delivery, every character has a different personality that shines through in the humor. The drive to see what laughs await you and what big event might happen next in the plot is a welcome addition to the formula. It's part of what makes Borderlands 2 more appealing to players who aren't driven by the lust for better loot.

Finally, a game with some class!

The classes in Borderlands 2 are what make this such a great game to play with friends and help to give each player a unique experience. Maya, the Siren can lift enemies and hold them in the air while her partners blast away at them. Salvador, the Gunzerker can duel wield the game's absurd plethora of guns, doubling damage and running head on into firefights. Axton, the Commando can drop a turret gun that will act as an extra offensive unit on the battlefield. And finally, Zero the Assassin can unleash a decoy of himself that will not only deal damage to enemies but will also act as a distraction to allow players to sneak up and surprise their foes.

Each class helps to flesh out the experience and add near-infinite replay value to the game. Upon completing the campaign, players can return to the beginning as their high level character and continue to level up in True Vault Hunter mode or they can choose any of the other classes to start fresh for a different experience. The skill tree and badass rank help add another layer of flexibility to the game as each character can level up various aspects of their skills. Do you want to max out your special ability or would you rather spend your points on improving your health and shield capacity? The choice is yours.

Loot! Lots and lots of loot!

The loot in Borderlands 2 is primarily about the guns. Developer Gearbox has made a big deal out of the insane amount of armaments in Borderlands 2 (it's somewhere in the bajillions). The guns in the game are so well balanced that you will rarely find yourself sticking to one class of weapons. A big reason for that is because the enemies often demand you switch up your tactics and guns. Fleshy enemies are best beaten with fire weapons such as a pistol that shoots flaming bullets at foes, but that same gun won't do much against the robots of Hyperion. For that, you'll need a corrosive weapon.

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The other way that weapons distinguish themselves from others is with the various manufacturers on the market in Pandora. While each manufacturer feels different from the next, you'll still find yourself staring at a weapon for several minutes analyzing the stats before picking it up. Of course shields, grenades and class mods also litter the ground after battles and the same amount of variety graces these pieces of loot as well. A variety of shields can be equipped this time around such as one that deals corrosive damage to melee attackers or sends out a shock wave when depleted. Coming equipped with a better user interface, the loot system is much improved over its predecessor.

Bigger, better and more badass rank

The badass rank is a new mechanic in Borderlands 2 that rewards players for achieving certain goals with a permanent upgrade to any number of skills including health, gun damage, grenade damage etc. These stat increases will carry over if players start over in True Vault Hunter mode or even those who restart as a brand new character. These points are awarded to players who complete any number of challenges that act as achievements or trophies but with real in-game rewards.

The badass rank never effects the game's balance since the bonuses are actually fairly incremental. By the end of the game, each of my skills had improved merely five to seven percent. While this may seem trivial, the game would have been far too unbalanced if those numbers were higher. What the badass rank really does is add an extra level of friendly competition to the co-op experience. You may find yourself volleying back and forth with your partner to see who is the more badass badass. Speaking of playing with a partner...

Plays well with friends

Borderlands 2 can be played solo, but you are guaranteed to have a better time playing with three of your close friends. Communicating with your teammates, swapping items and coordinating attacks makes the first person combat much more enjoyable. Not to mention that players who want to rank up fast, would be best advised to play co-op as more players means more enemies and better loot. You will be glad to have your friends with you when facing the game's much improved enemy AI. The creatures will juke and dodge your attacks and each one demands new tactics for defeating them. Playing as a team is key to success.

On the other hand, the single player experience is vastly different from playing co-op. The pace is slower, the challenge is much higher and the game demands solo players explore the side quests in order to level up enough to survive the game's more challenging missions. Oftentimes I found myself retreating from a firefight to let my defenses recharge before heading back in. It slows down the pace and could easily turn some players off from playing alone. However, solo players don't have to worry about sharing loot with their teammates. It would have been nice if Borderlands 2 had a loot system similar to Guild Wars 2 where each player gets their own loot. While co-op is the best way to play, the solo gamer shouldn't be afraid to pick this one up.

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Eye catching graphics and ear popping wub wub

 Borderlands 2 is a very pretty game. The hand drawn, painted art style fits the experience perfectly and captures the whimsical vibe of the story. The character design is outlandish and inspired, while the detail in the environments is top notch. Players could look at a mountainside and not see a single repeated texture in the entire landscape. The gun design is one area that has seen the most improvements this time around. Each gun looks unique and highly detailed, and the particle effects such as blasting grenades or corroding metal are extremely impressive.

The sound design is also much improved from Borderlands. The voice actors deliver their lines with pitch perfect comedic timing and the sound effects are satisfying and do a great job enhancing the chaos of each battle. While the music won't be winning any awards, it generally stays out of the way. In the course of a thirty hour game, music could get repetitive, but Borderlands 2 never seems to fall into this trap. This is one of the most aesthetically pleasing games you'll play all year.

Overall Impression

To steal a line from the game's advertising campaign, Borderlands 2 truly is bigger, better and more badass than its predecessor and most other games you'll play all year. If you weren't a fan of the first game, this one might actually change your opinion of the series. The humor, story, graphics, co-op and loot are all much improved. While they still haven't made a single player game that can stand alongside the Mass Effects and Skyrims of the world, that's never been what Borderlands is about in the first place. So grab your friends, pick your class and get ready for a wild, hilarious and addictive ride.
The Good
  • Great Co-op
  • Compelling story aided by great humor
  • Badass rank
The Bad
  • Single player is slower paced than co-op
  • Why do we need to share loot?
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powermead on October 20, 2012
the game is already released...................

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