Borderlands 2
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8.52
8
Hyperion are watching you.

Hark at this, look: I’m a Borderlands addict. Maybe not as much as you are, you gaming freak, but it’s still my favourite FPS. A bold statement, I know, but I’ll take the original Borderlands over Half Life or Stalker any day of the week. This meant I’d been almost too excited by the prospect of Borderlands 2 – on my recent honeymoon (congratulations and tributes gladly accepted in the comments below) my poor wife had to put up with me banging on about how Borderlands 2 will be waiting for me when I got home, more than I went on about how lovely our special holiday was. Bless her; she knew what she was getting into though so it’s all her fault really. Anyway, here we are, drooling with idiotic excitement – let’s hope I don’t drown with disappointment in my puddle of spittle, eh?

I should point out here that I’m only about 20 hours in, and I haven’t tried out multiplayer yet, but I do have enough of an opinion to review and rate the game. OK? Good. I’ll also say that I have no doubt that it will be a truly fantastic coop experience – the main problem with the original was the server issues, and they’ve sorted this out now as the game uses Steamworks for match making. It also means it’s much easier to play with your Steam friends, which is always nice. Borderlands multiplayer was a brutal affair that scaled the difficulty and loot brilliantly with more players, and I’m sure Gearbox have just refined this experience this time round. Having said all that, I do actually prefer single player anyway – I’m not one of those people who think Borderlands is a multiplayer game with single player tacked on, as some things don’t work quite how they should in multiplayer (some levels are too cramped to work properly, for example, and I once spent 20 minutes in New Haven waiting for my 3 team mates to sort out their inventories and buy what they needed). Still, mark my words: I shall certainly indulge in some multiplayer blasting at some point in the near future.

Anyway, enough babbling and theorising, and let’s crack on with what I actually do know. It’s brilliant. That’s what I know. Deeply, deeply brilliant. It not only improves on virtually every aspect of Borderlands (except the bizarrely floaty jumping – you still drift about like a heavily armed Neil Armstrong), which obviously justifies my drool pool, but is also a fantastic game in its own right. It knows its strengths, you see, and plays on them mercilessly: Guns, and the constant shooting of them. That’s what it’s all about and Borderlands 2 is filled with deeply satisfying, relentlessly exciting gun battles. The level design helps – well placed cover, spawn points and pick-ups keep the fights flowing, explosive scenery detonates explosively (no!), and the multi-tiered arenas are absolutely excellent. The guns themselves are, as you’d expect, completely ridiculous – in a good way – but more on them in a mo. In short, every scrap you get into descends into a furious, explosion and bullet-filled massacre. Joy!

It’s not all about the guns though, despite me just saying it was all about the guns. There is a plot, which is actually pretty decent, involving the Hyperion Corporation’s search for a second vault – led by Handsome Jack. What do they want it for? Will they find it? Just how handsome is Jack? Old characters return and new ones are introduced, some more successfully than others. All are excellently acted – every character has a distinct voice and personality and they’re all voiced with enthusiasm and skill. Even the irritating ones are brilliantly done, which helps makes them slightly less irritating (step forward Tiny Tina).

Pandora is still one of the finest videogame worlds that exists. Stupidly futuristic technology being wielded by backwards hicks; massive overbearing and mysterious corporations; bizarre characters with preposterous abilities; great locations with memorable landmarks – all this is tied together with real flair. I lose myself in Pandora every time I play the game – oblivious to what’s going on around me. Yeah, I tend to do this in most games – including Minesweeper – but not on my second, fourth, or sixth play through (I’ve completed Borderlands 6 times. See? Addict.). Gearbox have very much created a world and everything in it. And it all looks so achingly beautiful. I’d argue that this is the best looking game around. Sure, others may look more realistic or may be technically more accomplished, but this is a perfect realisation of an amazing world. No other graphic style would suit Pandora.

So, guns then. Apparently bazillions of them, eh? Of course it doesn’t have bazillions of them as that’s a made up number. It does have an unimaginable number of them though. Sure, most differences are simply an extra 1% accuracy compared to the previous 167 guns you’ve blazed though, but there are some wonderful unique guns out there. You want guns that you wang like a grenade when you reload, and a new one appears in your hand ready to fire just as the empty one explodes? You got it. Want a shotgun that fires eight rockets? Goes without saying. A gun made from a robot you tried to help but which tried to kill you? Hell yes! There are guns to satisfy all types of psychopath here and a lot of them work well in pairs (as in, give your teammate a slag-infused sniper rifle – slag is a new element that boosts all non-slag damage – whilst you take an explosive weapon, and watch the body parts fly). They’re all excellently modelled as well – you can tell what guns your enemies are wielding from miles away. I suppose I’m saying that the guns have personality too – just like everything in the game.

God, there’s so much to talk about – new classes (I’m playing as the Gunzerker; dual wield any guns as your special ability. INCREDIBLE fun!); new abilities for the returning classes; new enemies; new vehicles; new class mods, grenade types and relics; a new Badass points system that unlock permanent upgrades for all your characters. The list is endless and I can’t be bothered to write about it all – it would take ages and there are, after all, a bazillion guns for me to be firing at a bunch of weird midgets instead. It all works though – nothing feels out of place or unnecessary.

Seriously, this is exactly how a sequel should be. Everything that made the first game so great is improved on, and there’s a tonne of new stuff here as well – all of it good. Actually, scrub that first bit – this is exactly how a game should be.

Body explosions are 100% anatomically correct.