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It’s not often when a sequel wholly outdoes it originator, but in the case of Borderlands 2, such is the case. While the first game in the series is itself a very satisfying experience, the sheer depth of gameplay and player customization options is unrivaled in the sequel. Not to mention it’s just wildly fun to play both alone or with others in the stellar co-op modes (online and off). From its visually creative art style to the perfectly leveled challenges of the story-mode missions, Borderlands 2 has just about everything a FPS fan could want.
As testament to how good the game is, one of the more difficult things about the experience actually occurs before the first time you even pull the trigger. That’s choosing a character. The game comes packed with four (and two more available from DLC) specially designed characters and each have unique special abilities that make them all fun to play, and in concert with equally leveled teammates, make for some tremendously powerful combinations. Each also caters nicely to typical player gameplay styles ranging from heavy weapons close-quarters specialists to long range sniper users to those with straight-up magical powers. For me, it is with one character however, called Maya the Siren, where some of the most fun derives as she is harnessed with a gift called Phaselock, which allows her to psychically grip and suspend enemies in the air from any distance with a stasis bubble, rendering them incapacitated for a short duration (upgradable) and affected by other destructive or weakening agents the player can assign as they progress. That said, any one of the characters are worth a play-through and since each is so diverse in both how to defeat enemies and how they effect other characters, they all extend the already lengthy gameplay to absurd levels.
The story focuses on defeating a bad guy named Handsome Jack, the president of the Hyperion Corporation, an iron-fisted ruler of the planet Pandora where the action takes place. Players take the role of a Vault Hunter, one of a few treasure seekers lured to Pandora in search of fabled loot though are betrayed by Jack and left for dead in a frozen wasteland. Revived and rescued by Claptrap, a former (hilarious) Hyperion CL4P-TP robot unit who is fending for itself, you are called upon by a mysterious disembodied woman’s voice named Angel to travel to a place called Sanctuary in order to join the Crimson Raiders, the only force able to put an end to the ruthless rule of Handsome Jack. Of course, along the way, there are a lot of side missions and non-story quests to choose from, all of which help to improve your skills, fill your pockets, and load up with some utterly badass weapons.
And it’s the weapons variety combined with the “shoot & loot” gameplay that make every step of the way so mind-numbingly addictive. If there was ever a “just one more mission” game to define that term, this might be it. The promise of a better gun, even just slightly more so than what’s already in your hands is a shockingly powerful carrot that keeps you moving forward. With each weapon decked out with a number of significant attributes, and color-coded by rarity, with the Orange Legendary guns most wanted, these killers pack some real punch, especially the Elemental variety that can inflict persistent damage with fire, explosives, slag (diminishing health), corrosive, and more, there’s no end to the depths you’ll go in search of something undiscovered. You’ll want to set fire to ev-er-y-thing.
And what good is a powerful gun if you don’t have enemies in which to dispatch that require some deadly dealing? Well, Borderlands 2 has no lack of targets, from humanoid freaks wth axes and flamethrowers to monumentally huge monsters with their own especially destructive powers to overmatch your own. It’s all about strategy and weapons combination in finding ways to defeat the often very clever bosses. And that goes hand-in-hand with the outstanding level design. While many maps have a host of missions and activities to choose from, all are staged very well with proper challenges that allow for multiple options in approach. There is nothing more satisfying than taking down a section of the map with enemies two levels higher than yourself because you’ve made the right choices with the guns in your pack and the powers in your skill tree.[WPGP gif_id=”26866″ width=”650″]
Exploration is essential as well if you really want to get the most of the investment. The world is stuffed with hidden treasures, loot, mini-challenges, monsters, arena fights, easter eggs, specialty weapons, upgrades and more if you are willing to go look for them. And looking for them you must. The maps are not so large as to be overwhelming but expansive enough as to make it worth your while to head out in all directions. You can do that on foot or in a few select vehicles, which are also upgradable for speed and power, but honestly, your run speed is pretty fast and there are far more chances to get into some crazy battles if you’re trekking along without wheels.
If realism in your graphics and physics aren’t a concern for you (and they shouldn’t be), and you want to let loose with some top-level FPS fun, you simply can’t beat Borderlands 2 for its high energy, consistent challenge, co-op options and re-playability. Mastering the incredibly deep mechanics that lure you in with simplicity but require commitment to for greatest results is the stuff of genius, making playthroughs one of the best gaming experiences you can have. And with its (now rare these days) co-op couch play, you can play with a friend in split-screen mode while online with others. There’s really no excuse for any gamer to not have played Borderlands 2, and if you haven’t yet, and are a pro or beginner shooter fan, this is the perfect game to satisfy that gamer itch. The Handsome Jack Editions, which feature all DLC is available in both the Xbox and Playstation stores. Go and get lost in the Borderlands.
Publisher: 2K Games
Developers: Gearbox Software, Aspyr Media, Inc.
Modes: Single-player video game, Multiplayer video game