Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
I’m generally not a fan of first-person shooters. With only a few guns to choose from in your arsenal, I find they can get pretty repetitive, but, more to the point, I’m not very good at them. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a teammate exclaim, “Who the hell shot me?” and then ended up spending ten minutes explaining it was an accident only to be killed in retaliation. As you can imagine, I was less than enthusiastic when my friends suggested I try out Borderlands 2 by Gearbox Software. Three words eventually convinced me to give the game a shot: “no friendly fire”.
In Borderlands 2, you play a vault hunter looking for a vault (duh!) hidden on the planet Pandora. Its content is unknown, but you only accepted the mission to quench your thirst for adventure anyway. However, you soon cross paths with the game’s antagonist, Handsome Jack, and things get personal… No, not that way, you pervert. Rather, I would compare the setting to Firefly, except with dumb mutants instead of Reavers and a lot more redneck jokes.
Before you begin your journey, you’re given the choice between four vault hunters: a commando, a siren, a gunzerker, or an assassin. Each has a special ability that comes in handy in combat, but I feel the characters lack somewhat in balance. For example, the assassin’s fifteen seconds of stealth hardly compares to the commando’s turret, which annihilates every enemy in sight. Mind you, the developers make up for these varying power levels by giving the weaker protagonist the best dialog. Sure, choosing him makes it a lot harder to plow your way to the finish line, but who can resist a hero who speaks in haikus throughout the game?
On top of protecting teammates from my friendly fire, Borderlands 2 solves the other major problem I have with shooters, as you’re not stuck with the same handful of guns throughout your whole journey. Instead, you build your arsenal from weapons dropped by your kills. There are six types of weapons available: pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and sub-machine guns. The variety within each category seems almost endless, and you can change your weapon to match the specific circumstances with which you are faced or your personal preferences: do you favour damage, accuracy, a high rate of fire, or a large clip size? The game even throws special attributes like explosive shots and elemental bullets into the mix.
If mowing down the opposition in a flurry of bullets isn’t efficient enough, you can lob a grenade or two to speed up the process. You’ll eventually find cool modifiers for your explosives so that the latter split into tiny fragments or suck in the bad guys before blowing up. More concerned with your character’s survival? Just equip one of the many shields available to absorb damage from incoming bullets. Of course, these can also have special properties, like absorbing ammo or amplifying your attacks when at full capacity.
What really sets apart Borderlands 2 from other shooters, though, is the humour. This is the funniest game I’ve ever played through, and I still chuckle when I think of the midgets yelling, “I smell delicious!” as they die horrible burning deaths. Your interactions with the non-playable characters also prove fantastic. Consider the bit when you meet up with the leaders of the resistance and they act more like awkward lovesick teenagers than efficient military leaders. By the same token, Handsome Jack, the main bad guy, manages to be charismatic, cruel and insanely funny all at the same time, thanks in big part to the award-winning voice acting of Dameon Clack.
If you enjoy first-person shooters, run to the store right now and get yourself a copy of Borderlands 2. Even if you’re not an aficionado of the genre, the game is still worth a shot if only to experience the insane story and its completely inappropriate humour. Heck, Gearbox Software even released a downloadable character dubbed “girlfriend mode” who can basically plow through the game without any effort. Of course, as my former teammates will be quick to tell you, their girlfriends never shot them in the back by accident.