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Game Review: Borderlands 2 117

CowboyNeal writes: "This week sees the release of Borderlands 2, the sequel to Gearbox Software's 2009 role-playing shooter Borderlands. Pandora is ready to be explored yet again, with a cast of new heroes, and a few familiar faces along the way. There's new and different guns, and also guns, and did I mention guns? Also, there's guns. Read on to learn about my experience in Borderlands 2, and the joys of Pandora's gun-based economy."

Borderlands 2: Electric Gundaloo

If you haven't played the original Borderlands, allow me to quickly catch you up. It was a first-person shooter with role-playing game elements tacked on, and randomly generated loot. What this ended up creating was a shooter with some of the feel of games like Diablo, where there's always that perfect weapon left to find. While the maps were static and not procedurally-generated, the loot wasn't, and combined with the choice of character classes and skill choices made a game that warranted multiple playthroughs. The story began on the distant planet of Pandora, an alien world with a landscape inspired by the Mad Max franchise, full of colorful characters and humorous contacts and enemies. Eventually our heroes found the vault, and its contents proved to be less than all they had dreamed for, and the quest for more experience and more guns continued on.

Borderlands 2 picks up five years after the end of the first game, and we are told via narration that a second vault is allegedly on Pandora and that the Hyperion corporation is looking for it. A man named Handsome Jack was able to steal credit for the finding of the first vault and take over the Hyperion Corporation, and now he's leading the efforts to uncover the second vault. Handsome Jack tries to kill off our new vault hunter protagonists, they somehow miraculously survive, and the stage is set for a whole new game.

The game doesn't stray far from its ancestor, keeping the same gun-hunting formula at work, while also adding new brands of guns, as well as more gun modifiers into the mix. One of the first guns I found had an effect so that when it was reloaded, it was thrown at my target and exploded like a grenade, then warped back into my hands fully loaded. Besides just letting me live out any Police Squad! fantasies I might have had, it was a pretty handy addition. In Borderlands, one of my favorite weapons was a shotgun that shot rockets, and the rockets subsequently lit my targets on fire. All of these combinations and more await vault hunters on Pandora.

Like before, there's four character classes to choose from. They are somewhat analogous to the previous game's classes, with some tweaks. The siren has a different psychic power than in Borderlands, and the gunzerker is less focused on melee combat than the berzerker was. The sniper class has been replaced with the assassin, who instead of using a pet, projects holographic duplicates to act as a distraction. The commando utilizes turrets like the solider from the original game.

The fast-travel ability is unlocked as soon as the player finds a second teleporter, instead of being dangled a few levels in the future like it was before. This makes getting around a little easier from the start. There's also new "customization stations" that contain the customization options from the New-U stations in Borderlands, plus some new options. At the customization station you can choose how to color your character, and swap heads and hats around to make your particular vault hunter unique. Added into the loot drops this time around, are character and vehicle themes that are unlocked in the customization stations when used.

PC Gamers: Claptrap Wants You Back, Baby

One of the most criticized aspects of Borderlands was that the PC version felt like a hastily made port of a console game, because it was. Back in May, Gearbox Software posted a love letter from Claptrap, the game's mascot, detailing how the PC version would be better this time around. While making good on most but not all of their promises (more on that shortly) the PC version this time around does feel like more effort was put into it. Configuration options that were previously only available by editing configuration files by hand or forcing them on via video card drivers are integrated into the game. Multiplayer uses Steam integration rather than GameSpy to find friends to play with. Performance seems to be better optimized for PC as well, with the game feeling more responsive out of the box, even when running on the same graphics card I used for the original game.

However, like any jilted lover writing a please-take-me-back letter, Claptrap is not without empty promises. While promising that no port forwarding would be required, at least at launch, that is not the case. The only folks I know who were able to enjoy multiplayer games either had to forward ports or move their PC into their firewall's DMZ, which is pretty much how Borderlands worked. Multiplayer games are really the best part of the Borderlands formula, planning attacks with your friends and reviving each other when necessary, so it's unfortunate that they're still difficult to make work out of the box.

The inventory UI is still rather clunky to use. While it has definitely gotten a nice face lift from its predecessor, it's still a pain to move guns around, and given the number of guns found and sold during the course of a game, it detracts from a good experience. The quest UI is likewise nearly similar to, and just as frustrating as it was in the original. Granted, both of these issues are related to the game's dependence on the UT3 (Unreal Tournament 3) engine, but more time spent on these interfaces would have been greatly appreciated, since so much time is spent comparing gun stats and swapping guns around.

Conclusions: Is Vault Hunting for You?

If you played the original and enjoyed it in spite of its flaws, then Borderlands 2 is definitely for you. It's also a good jumping-on point in that the events of the first game while occasionally referenced, aren't needed to have been played through. With its clunky menus and multiplayer support, however, what could have been a stellar game is bumped down to merely a good game. So unless Claptrap makes good on his previous promises, players need to enjoy playing alone, or jumping through some firewall configuration hoops to make things work. For me personally, there's still my quest for that perfect gun out there that will keep me playing.


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Game Review: Borderlands 2

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  • Never could figure out how to save my game in the original. I bought it, tried to play a couple of times, but then whenever I needed to save and quit, I could never figure out how to do it, and wound up back at the beginning of the game every time. I gave up after about three hours of gameplay.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @02:00PM (#41390113) Journal
    I played multiplayer with UPnP off and no ports forwarded, as did all my friends. Maybe he meant software firewall? When i first launched the game, windows 7 popped the normal firewall access dialog. I clicked allow and it all just worked.
    • by PIBM ( 588930 )

      I've had quite a lot of problems with multiplayer games so far; yes it requires to forward a lot of ports for over the internet games but at least we've been ok for lan ones.

      • I had some issues as well, due to the .net install that happens. after that I rebooted and haven't had any problems, no forwarded ports here either. just the windows firewall allow pop-up.
        • by PIBM ( 588930 )

          Yeah, we tried that; it helped as in my friends were able to connect but I had forwarded the ports. When we tried connecting the other way around (to one who was able to connect to my game) we could not succeed :(

    • I think Steam was broken some last night. When I got the game installed, I couldn't connect to a friend nor could he connect to me. I was about to try putting my PC in the DMZ, when my friend tried restarting Steam and it suddenly worked.
      • I had a similar experience. On the first night my friend and I could play with each other just fine, but then the next day we couldn't connect to each other. Nothing seemed to fix it (firewall, dmz, port forwarding, etc..). Finally we both restarted steam and it magically worked again...

    • Same experience here, though on windows 8.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @02:08PM (#41390249)

    I found that while it's practically a copy of Borderlands, there are a lot of small improvements that make a big difference:
    - Quests flow together better and are awarded at the time of other quests for the same location, so you don't go to the same map over and over - even though you'd totally just been there - nearly as often.
    - A lot more funny dialogue and interesting characters. It feels like the antagonist is always right on your ass, as well.
    - More guns, with more variety.
    - Smarter enemy AI, not only will they occasionally dodge (but not psychic sniper rifle dodging like in the first game), but in sustained fire they'll try to roll away.
    - A lot higher difficulty than the first game, but also a few levels doesn't mean as much. I could kill level 13 guys at level 8, but it was difficult, but was not totally impossible.
    - Much more enemy variety.
    - Way more variety and useful abilities in skill trees. You can practically customize your skill points to your particular playstyle, much more than in the original.
    - Inventory upgrades, bank upgrades, SDUs, all are chooseable by you. If you want to dump all your eridium into having a big backpack and no ammo, that's fine. If you want all ammo, that's fine too.

    I didn't find the multiplayer that frustrating, but if you liked Borderlands you will definitely like Borderlands 2. I didn't find the inventory interface that clunky either.

    • by Lordofthestorm ( 675024 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @03:14PM (#41391075)

      I didn't play the first version and bought the 2nd with high hopes only to be horribly disappointed.

      -Quests are far too linear and repetitious. You can play this game quite "into your cups" and do just fine (and that's probably how it should be played)
      -Meh - some mildly funny stuff, Claptrap ruins it for me
      -The Guns are awesome, but the ammo stacking limitations are frustrating. To maximize the firepower you can carry you have to have one gun for each ammo type, which gets annoying.
      -Then wow the old AI must've been terrible, you can duck down behind a simple obstruction and the AI will totally forget about you. Just make sure you aren't LOS and in about 5 secs you're clear.
      -Depends on positioning, there are tons of holes in the scenario designs where you can fight up many levels without peril. In a standoff, as much as they try to create those, I'd agree that there's decent balance.
      -Sure they have enemy variety, but they all behave similarly enough that its gets boring quick. Renderings are excellent though.-
      -You can customize your skill trees to, but to balance the bad scenario design they try to bottleneck you into a play-style that really limits your options.-
      -No where near as good as many other games in terms of world interaction, you can have ammo but your ammo stack is limited to X of each ammo type, so you can't have all sniper ammo. Its really not that flexible.

      FPS - if COD is a 10 this is a 4
      Immersion/world - if Bethesda is a 10 this is a 2

      Mostly I think this is just a boring linear shooter with good graphics (and you have to be a fan of that style of graphic art). Having seen the style of game 2k produces I'm going to skip X-COM now (and I'm a huge old X-COM fan).

      My first few hours were so horribly boring I'm not sure I can pick this back up, but I'm intrigued by mechs and the mechromancer class coming up so maybe I'll check back in later.

      • by Omestes ( 471991 )

        FPS - if COD is a 10 this is a 4

        In what world would CoD be a 10? CoD would be around a 3, and this would be around a solid average 5. Perhaps even 6 or 7 if you like the gimmicks. CoD is YACFPS (Yet another console FPS), with boring cover-based combat, idiotic progression (I want to kill shit, not play WoW like grind). Horrible color schemes (ooh grey and brown, how realistic.. oh wait the world is full of colors... nevermind), and one of the worst communities to ever grace gaming (and that is saying a lot, considering LoL, Diablo 3, a

        • On my shooter scale, I'd put MAG at a solid 9, COD at a 6 and Borderlands at a 4 if you can ignore the completely impossible physics.

      • 2k is a publisher.

        Gearbox is a game developer, and they made Borderlands 2 (and Borderlands, and also finally completed Duke Nukem Forever, and the expansion packs to the first Half Life game). Some hits, some misses.

        Firaxis is a game developer, and they made the new X-COM, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Civilization IV, and Civilization V (some of the best strategy games ever for PC).

        Both of these developers are published by 2k. I don't think you can draw any conclusions about X-COM based on Borderlands 2...

    • Easily the best change was the level scaling. Yes indeed, the level scaling of damage certainly doesn't appear to be nearly as crippling as before. In the previous game, enemies only a few levels above were impossible because the damage inflicted was in single digits. Now the disparity in level does not seem to be all that oppressive, and the enemies won't always just one-shot ya either. It makes for very open gameplay and allows you to free roam into more dangerous territory without it being overwhelmingly

      • Borderlands 1 got so old for me for this reason ... 'guess I have to level up to make this fight possible' ... then 'oops, I gained two levels, now its too easy.'

  • On a certain video game discussion board, there's been a significant viral marketing campaign by the folks who published Borderlands 2 (much like there was for the first one). I'd take any gushing positive feedback you hear with a grain of salt. This, however, seems like a pretty reasonable review. I'm not sure why it's being reviewed here when Black Mesa hasn't been and Torchlight 2 probably won't be; probably because of all the hype, I suppose.

    I'll pass on this one, just because I didn't like the first o
    • felt more like 4 player World of Warcraft with guns

      ... did we play the same game? I don't think we did.

      • Questing in Borderlands 1 felt extremely similar to WoW questing. A lot of quest text with not much going on in the actual quest itself.
        • If that's all you took away from WoW or Borderlands, I'm guessing you only played either for maybe 20 minutes. They are "similar" in that you have quests, carry an inventory, kill things, and have some sort of character progression or skill tree.

          Like any other RPG would have. Borderlands is a hybrid FPS and RPG, so of course it has those elements.

          So do Planescape Torment and WoW, are you going to tell me those are the same, too? How about Fallout?

  • playing ME3 now after finishing 1 and 2. saw the trailer and it looks like the same kind of game. bunch of different classes. some use weapons and others powers.

    • The only real difference is a system that doesn't care about your actions good or bad) and a incredibly wide ranging array of weapons in 4 general types, though several sub-styles).

    • It's a bit like, and a bit unlike, Mass Effect's RPG elements.

      Neither are really RPGs, but both take large RPG elements. They differ in which elements they take. Mass Effect steals the branching storylines (OK, Mass Effect 1 did), and the character attributes, and the lengthy dialog, and small amounts of other RPG trimmings. Borderlands focuses much more on the gun stats than the character stats, and has much more emphasis on sidequests and random loot. It also has the whole "elemental rock-paper-scissors"

      • I bought ME 1 on a Steam sale and really just couldn't get into it. The game was just painful to try and play because the controls and such were just horrendous. I did however really like all the in game lore, I'm pretty sure I spent more time reading all of the stuff I had access to than actually fighting. I don't think I put more than three hours into it all told though.

        Borderlands didn't have nearly as interesting or indepth of a story and universe but it was hilarious. And the game play was excellent. T

        • The key to ME1 is that it's not supposed to be a precise, actiony shooter. Think of it like Star Trek - just point the phaser/rifle at the bad guys, hold trigger until it's dead. The go bang a chick with a weird skin color, tell the admiralty where they can shove their regulations, and punch a reporter.

          Mass Effect 2 definitely made the gameplay much more of an action shooter, but it also did quite a bit worse at the storytelling and setting. Plotlines started in ME1 are ignored, new species just pop into ex

    • ME* is a third person puppeteering, ideal for consoles. this one is fps and lots of fun (i think).
  • Years ago, the MUD I used to play had a simple 'keep' feature. You could then 'sell all' to a vendor, but it wouldn't sell the stuff that you had marked.

    So that back up grenade pack, or alternate class mod, ... you have to keep tracking what you don't want to sell, which when some's green (or even white at the beginning) is a royal pain when you want to just drop off the crap stuff and go back out again.

    • There is a "star" button by weapons/items, I'm not 100% sure what it does though since I haven't tested it. There isn't a sell-all function (that I've seen), but the star will definitely help (or would if I used it).

    • While there is no "sell all" feature, they have added a nice solution to your problem. You can now "star" or "x" items. There is no added functionality besides the visual indicator but it makes it easy when going through the vendor to quickly sell all your X'd items. I star my important, must keep items and then during downtime (waiting on co-op buddies) go through and X anything I want to sell.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @02:40PM (#41390729)

      Highlight item. Hover to right side of it.

      If you click the red X in the bottom right of the item, it will mark it as trash. Do this as you're out exploring/looting. I mean you check your loot anyway, right? Next time you hit a vendor, press the delete key, and all your trash (X'd items and whites) are sold.

      Clicking the top right will star the item, so it's not trash. Useful for white items you're using/keeping for whatever reason. Also, can be used to highlight the items you want to "keep", making it easier to see what you need to sell if you prefer doing it manually with mouse clicks/enter.

      It's actually a good use of K.I.S.S., just not explained very well. Happy Hunting!!

      PS - Aardwolf? I loved Aardwolf. :)

      • Oh wow - that is the best feature and the most under-rated and under-documented tip! That helps streamline managing the bazillion guns you find.

        Please mod parent up as informative!

    • by PIBM ( 588930 )

      You can tag your items as favorite in this one:

      'To make managing your inventory easier you can click the left stick while highlighting an item to mark it as Trash or Favourite, so you don't have to compare weapons more than once. This also has the added bonus that when you visit a vending machine or trader to offload your unwanted items, you can sell every item you've marked as Trash with a single click of the left stick, though this only works when the Buyback or Purchase window is selected'

    • I still think that MUDs were/are some of the best gaming out there. Followed closely by Battlefield 3 and Minecraft. :)

  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @02:23PM (#41390477)

    The empty clip explodes, not the gun. WTF? Why would the gun explode and then teleport back into your hand? Even by Borderlands standards that would be goofy as hell.

    • The gun does explode: the idea is that they are cheap plastic guns which it is easier to simply make again ("digistruct") than to bother reloading. It doesn't teleport back, you replicate a whole new (identical but full clip) gun.

    • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @02:44PM (#41390771) Homepage

      That's not what the Borderlands 2 wiki says:

      "Tediore weapons have a different feel for Borderlands 2, having been described as "Cheap, plastic pieces of crap" and "Wal-Mart guns" by Randy Pitchford himself during a demo presentation. Instead of being reloaded, Tediore weapons are thrown away and explode like grenades; the more ammo left in the clip, the bigger the explosion. A fully-loaded gun regenerates in the user's hand after the expended weapon is discarded. Due to their explosive capabilities, there is a chance they will explode in the user's hand before throwing it away." []

  • I liked it better when it was called Fallout. Seriously, did nobody else notice the similarities between the two when Fallout 3 and Borderlands 1 were released so close to one another?

    • by Anonymous Coward


      Both are Shooters .... ....

      Seriously. No. And I played FO3, FO:NV, BL1 and BL2.

    • Re:Eh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MistrBlank ( 1183469 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @03:36PM (#41391293)

      They are both post apocalyptic games with comepletely different feel.

      For one thing, Fallout has that tacked on RPG mode on the PIP-Boy that can completely remove the FPS aspect of the game. But it is also much more focused on training up skills. Weapons are also pretty static and it's tough to create something better, let alone different stats.

      Borderlands is a FPS first and foremost with LOTS of weapons, they all do different and FUN things. The game borders on outrageous in building a fun environment to run around. It also happens to be pretty hilarious.

      Sorry, I've played and loved both. They're different games. You might as well try to compare them to Gears of War while you're at it.

      • Also:

        Fallout 3 while not being a complete sandbox does allow you to go pretty much anywhere at any point in time with a variety of quests and events happening all over the map that are completely independant of the main story. The world was also a bit more dynamic than Borderlands. It had day and night cycles and NPC's for whom that mattered. You could decide to blow up the starter town or disarm the bomb to save it. You could protect the interests of a bunch of racists in a high rise or betray them and let

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @02:29PM (#41390563)

    It's "UnrealEngine 3", not "the Unreal Tournament 3 engine". The former refers to the more generic engine; the latter refers to the specific version of UE3 that was used for Unreal Tournament 3.

    Yes, it's a pedantic distinction, but a significant one. Between UT3 and now, Epic has added quite a number of new features - tessellation, deferred rendering, bokeh DoF, and so on. I don't know how many of those features Borderlands 2 uses, but it's definitely a far newer UE3 than UT3 used.

    Translation to /.-speak:
    Calling it "the UT3 engine" is like calling Linux "the Android kernel". Technically correct, in that it is the kernel used by Android, but it completely misses the point.

  • by SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @02:44PM (#41390769)

    I really like the game but the absolutely retarded vehicle control is pissing me off. Only steering via mouse. Turbo sporadically working and when it does it stays on until empty (2 deaths so far because of that), I can crank the wheels to one side and when I back up the front wheels automatically swing to the other side. Fucking annoying as hell.

    • That sounds a lot like vehicle control from the first one. It took a while to get used to, especially reversing direction like you said. It would be nice if you could use the mouse for looking and aiming and turn with keys.

  • by hendersj ( 720767 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @03:46PM (#41391421)

    The PC version multiplayer may not work well, but the PS3 version sure does. I started playing a solo game, and my stepson (who has his own copy and PS3) came online and joined my single-player game with no trouble at all. I wasn't even aware that it would do that. What is lacking is some player-to-player communication options when the bluetooth headset isn't available (had some trouble with pairing mine and ended up horking the PS3's bluetooth up until the next restart).

    Having played the first game all the way through, I like the UI changes so far.

  • I found that a little of the artwork in Borderlands went a long way. Eventually, it just seemed really ugly to me. In fact, it was the kind of ugly that after a few hours makes me kind of queasy.

    I remember when I was a kid, Speed Racer had a similar effect on me. I remember one day when I was home sick from school with a stomach ache, and Speed Racer was on one of the UHF channels and it all seemed so ugly to me. The grimacing faces, the flashing colors, I still can conjure nausea from thinking about Sp

    • A friend of mine is in the same boat as you. We're constantly looking for co-op games to play online, and there's precious few that have everything we want. Borderlands hit all the right gameplay notes. An FPS/RPG with simple enough gameplay that we can jump in and out of sessions but enough complexity to keep us from wearing it out in two days. After messing around for 30 minutes, he said "as great as this is, I just can't deal with the graphical style." I love it-- but there's no explaining personal

  • I'm about ten hours in and so far I'm enjoying the game for what it is, but its got a few problems I didn't have with the first.

    The enemy AI has certainly improved, as often times a bad guy will dive for cover when I start shooting at them, but nearly every time they've done that so far has resulted in them visually clipping through the barrier they are behind. It's really not very immersive combat when arms and legs are sticking out through concrete walls. I thought that technology was nailed down years a
    • by PayPaI ( 733999 )

      Framerate performance is... meh. For the hardware I'm running on (eVGA GTX 670FTW, Intel 2600k), I'd expect nothing less than a rock solid 60fps with the graphics on mid-to-high settings. Most of the time there isn't anything graphically intensive going on, but my framerate often dipped into the low 20s anyways.

      I'm running everything maxed on a 560Ti / 3930k. Everything seems smooth although I'm not watching the FPS. Maybe it's more CPU dependent?

  • The only feature I really want in Borderlands 2 is the ability to abandon quests from your log. I hope they fixed that!
  • ... proof that big worlds and FPS don't get along very well.

    My main beef with borderlands 2 is it takes so long to get anywhere and the dead-space between enemies really sucks the actiony parts out of the game. Borderlands is basically a super casual FPS, the action is quite lite, the AI is braindead and when you die it's more to do with enemy layout and inability to see where enemies are on the map then anything else.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @08:52AM (#41397769) Homepage Journal

    Did anyone else think Borderlands is a sequel to James Cameron's Avatar?

    The RDA nuked the Tree of Life from the orbit roughly 200 years before Borderlands take place,

    This pretty much destroyed the ecosystem, leaving only few very vicious breeds of creatures. The natives almost completely died out, but some of their secrets remain. The mines of Unobtainium got depleted, and Pandora remains dull and gray, and worthless.

    The appearance of the "ancients" (or their ghosts), the vicious remaining wildlife, the backstory about depleted mines, the cutthroat corporate morality of the powers-that-be,
    There are things that are somewhat mismatched. Na'vi don't seem to be an "advanced civilization" though they had their tricks and secrets indeed. It's lacking the predominantly 6-limbed fauna typical to Cameron's Pandora. The gravity seems normal. But then, the writer of the game might have been "inspired" by Cameron, while the artists/designers were not.

    • by NSash ( 711724 )

      Na'vi don't seem to be an "advanced civilization" though they had their tricks and secrets indeed.

      It seemed to me that the Na'vi were obviously the descendants of an extremely advanced civilization, who (living on a just-dangerous-enough-to-be-interesting garden world curated by a planet-spanning AI) had eventually reverted to a state of nature.

  • This isn't a review. It's a summary of the game and a list of PC issues fixed (or not fixed) from the first one. Only the very last paragraph constitutes anything resembling a review, and it boils down to "if you liked the first one, you'll probably like this one" without expanding on why that is.

    Also, I'm not sure how being on the UT3 engine justifies having a bad inventory/quest UI as you imply. I've played plenty of UT3 engine games that had good quest/inventory or similar screens. It has a bad inventory

  • I really can't stand the new UI. Slightly isometric, wobbling, with your character covering part of your inventory? The fonts are tiny, gun pics are tiny. Even the "manual" has the tiniest fonts ever. Would it have broken the bank to have one extra page and a 10pt font?

    The previous UI was better in every way and it wasn't great.

    I'm also unimpressed with the Angel. She just kinda stares at you, the previous one had much more "personality" (and better looking in my opinion). And the whole "damn, I mean drat".

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"