There are some simple pleasures involved with gaming that any self-respecting gamer can enjoy. Two of those things are explosions and loot. Just blowing some shit up and then finding a new sweet ass gun with a shark teeth paint job brings a smile to my face every time. The first Borderlands scratched that itch so much that I pumped almost 100 hours into it across all three platforms. Gearbox sets out to do this again with Borderlands 2. Hopefully, this sequel will add a narrative that makes playing through it alone worthwhile and some variety to the last game’s repeated desert and factory environments. Also, more dub step.
Visually the game is very similar to the last. The cel-shaded style of Pandora still gives the over the top action a unique look and feel among shooters on the market. The environments are vastly improved with more variety. There are still desert areas but the inclusion of more fertile areas like the Highlands and the futuristic city of Opportunity make Pandora feel more like an actual world and less like a director’s cut of Dune. Enemies have more animations as well. Psychos and other enemies will now dodge and roll out of your line of fire and the inclusion of new enemy types like Bullymongs and Nimrods bring more variety to the combat.
With new enemy animations and types, the combat is now more hectic and explosive than ever. Borderlands 2 is not afraid to unload a bus full of enemies down your throat at any given time. With rockets, chainguns and grenade-wielding suicide Psychos, the game runs into one of the same problems as the first Borderlands -- the combat is meant for more people. Action is scaled better for single player, but there are still many instances where you are just overwhelmed and barely make it out alive.
Speaking of co-op, Borderlands 2 is hand down one of the best co-op experiences available this generation. Playing with a group of friends as a mixture of classes is an absolute blast. This is where the true brilliance of Borderlands 2 shows itself. Robots are dropping from the sky, engineers are running in for melee and enemies are coming from every direction. The commando drops his turret for covering fire while the gunzerker runs duel-wielding to draw enemy fire. The assassin goes invisible to take out a sniper and the siren is phaselocking the heavy gunner so everyone can focus on it. It’s an amazing combat experience that no one should miss.
The narrative is also markedly better. There is an actual story leading players from mission to mission. Do you remember the story from the first Borderlands? No? That’s ok, neither do I. There are some good story beats along the way but it's still rather forgettable. Also there's almost constant chatter coming from every character in the Borderlands universe on your radio. For many people this will become grating and probably annoying, but I enjoyed it because I have a horrific sense of humor. And I hope you like Claptrap and Scooter, because they sure do love to talk.
The bazillion-guns-looting-element is back in business as well. Now each company is more unique in both looks and statistics. For example, Jakobs guns have an old west aesthetic with wood grain stocks and are usually very powerful, but don’t have any elemental abilities. While Tediore are usually good all around guns that after reloading, the player throws like a grenade, dealing explosive damage dependent on how many bullets are left in the clip. Finding a new gun is always exciting and Gearbox is not afraid to dish them out in spades.
I cannot say enough good things about Borderlands 2. While it’s still worth playing single player, if you get a group of friends together in Pandora this is one of the best first-person shooters this generation. Period. It’s a fun romp with robot explosions and screaming midgets, which thankfully doesn’t even try to take itself seriously in the least bit. While the improvements from the first Borderlands are visual more than anything that is not really a bad thing. Even if you haven’t played the first one, just jump in. This is a required play for any fan of action.