Borderlands 2 Review: Hell. Yes.
I won’t spoil the story, but a quick note about the game’s writing is necessary. The first Borderlands really didn’t have much of story or writing. It was basically a half decent premise – space western – as an excuse to blow things up and kill people. That is still very much a part of Borderlands 2, but this time out real work has been put into the writing, making a funny idea into a consistently funny and fun experience.
Writing in Borderlands 2 is more than simply beautiful cutscenes and quest-generator dialogue. Missions are full of subtle and not so subtle moments of genuine hilarity that mocks the very idea of a class-based shooter, right down to the death throes of your enemies as they express shock that this is happening to them. Every character in the game is essentially a sociopath – you’d have to be to voluntarily live on a world like Pandora. There is copious violence and gore, swearing (well, mostly minced oaths that sound sweary), crudeness, and humor so jet black it absorbs light, and it’s all held together by a decent script that utilizes the excellent voice talent to the fullest.
Particular praise should be given to the game’s primary villain, a Corporate Douchebag/Evil Dictator named Handsome Jack. Voiced by Dameon Clarke, he’s basically a cross between Archer and Bill Lumberg from Office Space, and one wonders if Archer voice actor H. John Benjamin was Gearbox’s original choice. The character oozes the kind of unctuous, smug dickishness that can only come from people who have acquired an MBA and his constant presence, via radio communication, helps glue everything together. As you play, you kind of start feeling pissed off that such an awful guy has so much power, which is a lot like working in a customer service call center.
Other NPCs are just as good. One side mission has you assist an unlicensed doctor in surgery – by shooting the patient and stealing the valuables he’s swallowed. In another, you’re asked by a wonderful Teddy Roosevelt-meets-Malaprop character named Sir Hammerlock to help him come up with a new name for one of the indigenous creatures roaming the Arctic. At one point, after his other suggestions are either rejected by his publisher or found to be trademarked, he suggests ‘Fartbag’. Yes, the fact that Borderlands 2 is ‘rated M for mature’ is an irony that would make Oscar Wilde blush2. And the game is full of things like that.
Don’t expect Mass Effect (before the end of the third game) or Uncharted. Still as paper thin as in the first game, Borderlands 2 is not a good story. But it’s a great script, and makes playing through even the more tedious moments worth the hassle.
Get It On PC
Borderland 2′s PC user interface is kind of great, supremely easy to use and extremely useful. I had a blast just tinkering with the display settings to make my game looks as good as possible. I did experience a little aliasing at first, but after a few minutes I was able to do something about that without acquiring any noticeable lag or stuttering. (NOTE: the game is optimized for Nvidia’s GTX 680, but my rig uses the 580). In addition, if you play keyboard and mouse, you’ll love the customizable hotkey settings. Controller settings are less generous – you can’t simply assign hotkeys willy nilly like you can using your keyboard – but even with that limitation they’re useful. I also played using both WASD + mouse and using a controller, and can confirm that controller play is smooth and very accurate. You won’t get the kind of precision you can get with a mouse, but it’s close enough that you won’t care, at least in Single Player.
And about those graphics? The PC version just looks amazing, even on lower settings it’s clearly crisper and brighter than the console version. Really, anything you can do on the Xbox 360 version of Borderlands 2, you can do better on PC. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to make the switch to PC gaming, this is as good an excuse as any, particularly as there are some crazy back to school steals on Newegg. Unfortunately, my version at least didn’t have access to a dev console, but setting that aside, simply put, if you aren’t playing Borderlands 2 on PC, you’re not getting the real experience.