Borderlands 2: Irreverent Bloodthirsty Mayhem and FUN!
I am not a fan of FPS games and you, my many listeners know this. Oh they are okay but the mindless shoot them, get the biggest gun and shoot them again wears thin for me really quick. I like a game with backstory and plot, one were you feel like there is really an accomplishment when you move forward. Lets face it most of the modern FPS games lack this.
Enter into the FPS fray Borderlands 2, a sequel to one of the few FPS games I enjoyed. Now let me define enjoyed with borderlands, the game was fun and a bit more fun than most FPS games but for me it still could not draw me in. I put in about 6 hours of game play before I moved on to other games.
Borderlands 2 starts off with a pretty similar opening to the original, you are a “Vault Hunter” and have come to Pandora to find riches. In
BL2 however there is a set enemy, Handsome Jack, that is out to stop all your efforts. The opening movie is an example of some excellent storytelling and just a fun way to introduce the 4 basic characters you get to play. The opening movie is so good I have linked it here for you to enjoy.
Your begin Borderlands 2 by choosing from one of 4 base characters. Each character comes with some special skill that sets them apart and a general skill tree that allows you to customize the character to some extent. You can also custom the looks of the character slightly to pick something closer to your style.
Axton is the Commando style character, what this means is he is the more military in his combat style. His special abilities center around throwing out a turret that brings extra firepower as well as distracts the enemy. If I had a big machine gun racking across me I would be distracted too. Skill advancements can eventually let this gun gain missiles, shields and even the ability to put down a second turret.
Salvador is called a Gunzerker, this mean he is all about his guns. The special power he has allows him to use any two equipped weapons at once. This can be two shot guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, pistols or sub machineguns as well as any combination there of. While in this Gunzerker mode he regenerates health making him even tougher. Taken forward the skills eventually let him have the ability to not use ammo when in this mode, as well as do more damage.
Zero is the Assassin, a creature of unknown origins that uses stealth to combat foes. His special ability is to throw up a false image of himself while he becomes invisible to move around the enemy and take hidden shots. This false image distracts the enemy and allows Zero to setup a killing blow that he gets a bonus for using. As he advances his skills he can make this distraction last longer and can choose to be a master of the up close and personal melee kill of the long range sniper shot.
The final character is Maya, the Siren. Maya is the ode to magic users in a game about guns. She possesses a power that allows her to phaselock an opponent, taking him out of the fight for a short period of time. Eventually this power can be trained up to be quite damaging and have some serious effect. She is also the only character to gain an ability to heal others within the group. While she is capable of good solo play she is the most group centric of the characters offered.
Yes I said group, Borderlands 2 is one of the games that are known for CO-OP play. CO-OP Play is a system that allows a small group to get together and play the game as a group without the traditional MMO system being in play.
The games backstory is pretty simple but very well done. This guy Handsome Jack is out to take control of a planet and needs to find this new Vault before anyone else. The Vault hunters have arrived to find the hoped for riches and now also want to get revenge on the guy that tried to kill them. While the basic plot might sound simple, the storytelling is outstanding. This game is full of memorable characters for you to meet and a ton of cliqued and risqué humor.
The game is also full of guns. Make no mistake this game has a ton of violence and actually glories within it. The game is about killing everything and grabbing your loot as you go. If you are worried about your kids seeing to much violence in gaming then this game is not for you.
However in all that senseless violence is a cathartic release, the ability to throw out all forms of nicety and social convention and mindlessly go around killing stuff can actually be fun and a great stress reliever for the end of the day. The simple mindless play by itself would be fun, at least for a little while but would grow stale quickly. However when you add a decent backstory that is very well told and engaging storytelling that draws you into the game, this game is far from boring, even after hours of play and with multiple replays. Add to this the ability to grab a friend or two and jump into a game together and you have a lot of fun for an evening after at hard day at work.
For our multiplayer testing I choose a Gunzerker and Doug chose the Assassin. You can see us as we drove around Pandora in our little dune buggy with big guns car. The CO_OP play system they have installed into this game is really simple to use and enjoy. Basically you are playing your game, a buddy comes on and sees you in game and if you want just joins in. The game ramps up to match the number of players in the game and even does a decent job of balancing the level differences, if any, between the players. This system is wide open so there is no need to call for a place to meet or take time to set this up, literally jump in and go.
The skills from the various characters work well to compliment each other. In our little run my Gunzerker would pick a fight and then be in the middle of the fray shooting away. Meanwhile Doug would work around the fringe and kill off the enemy while I had them distracted. This happened really naturally and I do not think it is just from Doug and I having experience playing together. The skill sets support this.
From a purely technical point of view the game ran well on a solid mix of video cards and CPUs. The games graphical style might not look state of the art but do not let that fool you it is full of nice features and the game looks great. In fact one of the selling points of this game from a technical point of view is the use of PhysX in the games graphics. The addition allows for a richer particle environment during play. It is not needed to enjoy the game but the experience is improved with it in play. I have put in this entry the video nVidia put out showing PhysX in action, you need to see it in video to appreciate it. This video is not hype either, the looks change is very real. In fact I would go so far as to say if this is going to be one of your primary games then buying an nVidia based card makes a lot of sense. The game performed well at 1080 with PhysX on high using a GTX 660 and GTX 660ti. The GTX 650 needs to tone down to medium but even at that level the difference in the experience was noticeable.
In fact the support that nVidia is putting out for Borderlands 2 is nothing short of outstanding. If you visit their GeForce site you will find a guide they have posted for optimizing game play for Borderlands 2.
With solid game play and a great job of storytelling within the game Borderlands 2 is one of the few FPS games I have found that engage me and draw me into the game. The CO-OP play takes a game that I am enjoying and kicks it up a notch as I can jump in at any time with my friends and spend some time in mindless destruction around Pandora.
While I fully recommend this game to adult gamers, for kids I have reservations. The humor is full of language and innuendo that I do not feel is appropriate for younger kids. The graphics might be cartoony but the level of violence and the way it is portrayed I feel is just a little over the top for younger gamers.
Borderlands 2 could be the biggest release of this year, the game is a blast to play, has great visuals and does a wonderful and entertaining job of telling it’s story. It achieves a near perfect blend of RPG and FPS, plus easy to access co-op play means you can enjoy all this fun with your friends.