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The Next Level In Gaming

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Welcome back to Pandora citizen! A whole new adventure waits. A funny script, entertaining and memorable characters, a cataclysmic array of weapons; sound familiar? Well that’s because all the features that made the original so popular have returned and been juiced up to make Borderlands 2 one tasty BADONKADONK!

Once upon a time there was a planet called Pandora, and on it were 4 vault hunters who sought to claim the spoils of the “mythical” vault. When any of these hunters managed to reach it, they encountered “The Destroyer” which was an almost indestructible anomaly. Once it was quite fittingly destroyed, the vault was sealed and it was locked for 200 years…….BUT…..fast forward 5 years and a new group of vault hunters have heard a rumour that and even greater and more secret vault exists. So off they go on their merry travels to find it and conveniently enough their train gets explosively derailed by the new Hyperion Corporation Leader, Handsome Jack. Amazingly your character survives (well they’d have to really otherwise there would be no game) and you’re abandoned in the middle of nowhere with one character to aid you; Claptrap.

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The first Borderlands is like Captain America: The First Avenger to me. It had a decent story that built up with lots of terrific action and settings, a bit repetitive but thoroughly enjoyable. Then it dumps one of the worst endings I’ve ever known on me. After both credits I just contemplated impulse electroconvulsive therapy to remove the pain those endings caused me. They both left me with a taste so sour that I’d have to have gulp a 2 litre bottle of lemon juice to even come close to replicating the feeling again.

Up till the ending however, Borderlands had been such a shock to me as to how great it was. The generic design of levels and certain missions were quite tedious though, but Gearbox have certainly tightened the gears and improved the newest game in every imaginable way and the story is definitely far more interesting and engaging; helped by its humorous script. Handsome Jack is basically a robot made to look like a human (because of his mask) and he has mined a ton of eridium, a mineral that was produced as a result of the destruction of the Destroyer, and now fronts the Hyperion Corporation with his twisted, sinister ways. He mercilessly removes competition and does it with an artificial smile.

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All the way through the game it’s littered with character introductions at just the right time, some surprises for you along the way too, and they get the necessary characterisation so that they mean something and become an integral part of the game. Lots of characters return including favourites such as the Dexter-esque, unlicensed practitioner Dr Zed, the incestuous mechanic Scooter and everyone’s favourite little annoying companion; Claptrap. But I do think some characters deliberately get less time than others to give them their own DLC adventure.

It’s impossible to think that a game could be so well written and funny throughout. Until now, Portal 2 was the funniest game I’d ever played. Stephen Merchant’s portrayal as Wheatley was terrific and he had some hilarious dialogue that was consistent throughout the whole game. But Borderlands 2 has one-upped it by making EVERY character funny in its own particular way. From the protagonists to the antagonists, I know I should prepare myself for an incoming barrage of hysterics due to the profound words or paralinguistic features utilised by the characters. Whether it’s a psycho in a flying contraption singing the Ride of the Valkyries tune in a crazy voice or even the guns you use as they try to impose their pacifist ideologies on you by suggesting that killing is wrong after every enemy you kill.

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You are just overwhelmed with characters all displaying their own comedic personality traits that make them unique, stupid and downright funny. Tiny Tina is a 13 year old bomb expert who I’m convinced never blinks, there is an enemy called a one-armed bandit who is literally a bandit with one arm and even has a one-arm bandit machine attached to his back (genius!) and the sarcastic bandit who *congratulates* you after passing an initiation test by walking, clapping and being sarcastic. Tip: Kill the repugnant annoyance.

If you’re thinking “Oh golly gosh there has to be a flaw somewhere in this game. Perhaps it gets boring like its older brother did”. WRONG. Gearbox has put together a package of varied, entertaining fun. There is a whole host of side missions which are excellent and offer a very nice distraction from the main game. You have 2 arenas with 5 rounds of increasingly tougher waves of enemies to fight, plus of course the main story missions are always enjoyable and they progress the ever interesting story; plus the kickass badass ranks!

Badass Ranks are a nice addition that helps to extend the length of the game if you see fit. The game has big list of challenges for you to do e.g getting so many kills with a weapon. When you complete enough challenges then you earn a badass rank which can be used on sub-abilities such as slightly increasing accuracy or gun damage. By gradually progressing through the game you’ll amass a lot of badass rank points which will make you an even better killing machine.

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Along with your usual cast of super soldiers to choose from, the game has a proper bad guy this time round and he’s a strong and perhaps even likable antagonist; kinda like The Joker. He’s smart, he’s funny, you like him, yet he’s a violent sociopath with a long history of violence. But the story is something that you actually WANT to progress through and find out what happens, to see what perilous activity Jack causes. Along the way you find so many unusual quests that can make no sense, last seconds and of course leave you in an uncontrollable whirlpool of laughter.

In common day conversation you can find yourself exchanging intelligent quips with another fellow human. You may employ include some light hyperbole by telling someone to go “jump off a cliff. Well in Borderlands 2 you actually have a quest that lets you either: be a coward and do nothing or literally jump off the edge of a cliff and die to gain XP and rewards. For those who aren’t familiar with the health system, if you die in Borderlands then you get respawn at a near-by checkpoint for a handsome (no pun intended) fee. It doesn’t tread the ground of easier platform games of recent times because say you were facing a boss and you had battered it down to 50% health; then you die. You will have to start again upon respawning and work on the whole bar once more. I can’t argue as it’s a satisfying system that encourages you to make your character excel in combat, discover the weaknesses and strengths of enemies and use this to your advantage.

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This leads me nicely onto the gameplay of which I can’t regard any higher because we get to see Borderlands 2’s tougher and meaner side. If you waltz into a battle with normal powerful weapons then you could get squashed within seconds, this is why you also need cunning you meandering Neanderthal! Gearbox have continued with a system that wants players to use their brain and realise that a weaker corrosive weapon will serve them much better against a robot instead of a very powerful, but ineffective, fire weapon. Brains will get you far, all out over-the-top brawn will have you locked up in Guantanamo Bay for outright stupidity, well it won’t but if you use that approach then you deserve to go there quite frankly. I myself walked into one boss fight with stonkingly strong but elementally weak weapons, which I BADLY needed, and I got pwned miserably. It was like walking into a fist-fight with Stallone with brass knuckles when in actual fact I needed a frigging bazooka!

A lack of races or mini-games disappoints me however. There is even a race track on the map too and games like RAGE had races to change the pace of the game and have variation. Borderlands 2 has variation but racing in some off the modded vehicles you get to use in the game would’ve been nice. There are no mini-games either which is again disappointing, in a world like Borderlands, I’m sure we could’ve had some downright outrageous mini-games to savour. A Psycho shooting gallery? Dr Zed’s Slapstick Surgery? Tiny Tina’s Terrifying Tic-Tac-Toe? (Take note Gearbox).

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Borderlands 2 has a truck full of new enemies which makes you think twice about how you approach combat. Bullymong (big gorilla type creatures), Varkids (BIG WASPS) and the Goliaths. Goliaths are very tall and large figures with little to no intelligence and they are a rare breed of enemy because if you attempt to blow their head off then it will be met with severe consequences. When his head flies off, you’ll stifle him for a few seconds, hear a terrifying screech and he’ll become a Raging Goliath! He’s now angrier, tougher to kill AND will kill anything in his path (including other enemies). If he successfully does then he’ll level up with every kill becoming a hard to kill Fatal GOD-Liath. This is an example of the depth of enemies and how battle is more strategic in Borderlands 2 I feel. I like to utilise a Goliath as an unintentional ally and let him bulldoze everyone else before his epic confrontation with yours truly; exemplifies strategical aspects of the gameplay.

The gunplay is as addictive as it was in the first game as the random gun generator is now capable of FAR MORE than the 17,750,000 guns possible and you can have so many combinations. One of the combinations includes the new “slag” element, although in Borderlands 2 it’s less of a derogatory term and more a useful means of inflicting more damage due to the fact it weakens the resilience of the enemy. Along with the returning elements such as corrosive, electricity, explosive and fire, you also have the same weapons types from assault rifles to SMG’s to sniper rifles etc. The old rating system applies, white being the least rare equipment all the way up to orange being the rarest; doesn’t mean best though so bear that in mind.

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The game is lovely to look at which is something I couldn’t always say about the first Borderlands, locations are more varied and utilise multiple contrasting colours to create awesome looking environments. The environments vary from nice icy cold winter tundra to a rather gritty industrial factory setting.  Character models look prettier, elements also look great as your foe perishes in front of you or as you give them a good hard slagging. Cel-shading is always a contentious issue with games because unless you are Stan Lee, they are best left to another format. Still, Gearbox pulls it off and use the cel-shading to their advantage to make these rather authentic looking locations and people. All the characters use rough-edges to give the characters additional detail and differing coloured textures to add personality.

At times I did unfortunately find myself wedged in between those dashingly dastardly pixels as the game glitched several times on me. The map was also a mixed bag as its massive and open but a couple of locations overlap severely and it’s easy to lose track of where your objective really is.

But Borderlands 2 is a colourful game in more than just the graphical sense. Its exuberant style of quirky characters and missions has more than just the looks; the soundtrack is just brilliant and always enjoyable. I’ve listened to the 2 pieces of music from the battle arenas more than I dare to count and the music accompanying most of the settings is just bafflingly good. The tracks are catchy, sometimes simple; but so effective. I’ve already harped on about the script enough…..

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I will say that the longevity of the game is something to be marvelled at though as the game is like your traditional big-time RPG’s as it has incredible replay value. Once you complete the game with one of the characters available, you can attempt a second playthrough called “True Vault Hunter Mode” and in this mode you can carry on with all your equipment from the first playthrough. Aside from starting all the missions and story again, the difficulty has had a few lumps of coal thrown onto the fire of supreme difficulty as the enemies are all scaled to pretty much the same level as you. But loot is far greater now and you got truckloads full of XP for completing quests to help you level up quickly to match the unstoppable ferocity of later enemies. It continually extends the game and keeps you plodding along to reach the haven of maximum level capacity. A bonus quest is also available once you finish the game but I think I’ll leave you to stumble upon that sick nightmare.

Pro’s

-Very funny script with humour aplenty

-Gripping and expansive gameplay with good customisation

-Great soundtrack to keep your ears entertained on the journey

-Much improved story

Con’s

-Lack of races and mini-games

-Slightly convoluted map

90 / 100XP

So maybe you’re weighing up the moral pros and cons but let me assure you that…OH MY GOD SHOOT ME IN THE GODDAMNED FACE!! I’d say it’s worth getting the game just for Face McShooty alone but I guess you can’t really hype a game based around one psychopathically twisted side-mission character with a bullet-to-face fetish. In many ways, Borderlands 2 is the perfect partner. It’s great looking, fun to play with, doesn’t annoy you (much), makes you laugh and it cannot be complimented enough. Gearbox have taken all the bad from the first game and improved it and they’ve taken all the good and bettered it. Glitches can occur, opportunities are missed for additional fun when they should be a certainty and the map is like finding Davey Jones treasure at times. But the game is brilliant and worth playing multiple times and is a must-have….so………Claptrap dubstep… WUB WUB WUB WUB!!

- Andy

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AndyHighton_YNWA On June - 17 - 2013

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