Borderlands 2 Review: Hell. Yes.
So What About That Sexism?
We can’t talk about Borderlands 2 without mentioning the uproar over comments made by Gearbox Software’s John Hemingway regarding the co-op ‘Best Friends Forever’ mode, or as it was clearly called during development, ‘Girlfriend Mode’. The clear evidence of a dudely, quasi-sexist culture behind the scenes provoked fears that Borderlands 2 would be a broed out, hah-haw tits lol fest with little to offer female gamers other than buttons to push. Luckily, that’s definitely not the case. It’s mostly an equal opportunity clusterf*ck based firmly on the stupidity and basic indeceny of human beings generally, and it’s refreshingly free of gender-based potshots
What’s particularly interesting is that for a game so fully loaded with testosterone, female characters are portrayed with considerable diversity. Fat, frumpy, hot, athletic, strong, crazy, cowardly, weak, the women you’ll encounter during the game are every bit as useful, awful, or hilarious as their male counterparts. Of course, it would be better if Borderlands 2 had included swappable genders for all four classes, and it’s certainly true that there are considerably more male characters than female. But considering the amount of baggage Hemingway’s comments gave the launch of the game, Gearbox has acquitted itself handily. Socially conscious gamers shouldn’t worry too much, in other words. Unless violence is the thing you’re concerned about, in which case WTF are you doing even playing Borderlands 2?
A Few Missteps
It must be noted that Borderlands 2 isn’t a perfect game. For all its strengths, combat still feels unbalanced in a lot places. This is especially true whenever you’re in a vehicle, and suddenly whatever class you’ve chosen is a moot point. More than once, you’ll find yourself in a situation best suited to, say, the Gunzerker, forced to play through more than once because you keep getting killed just because the mission generator NPC says so. Future installments should address this by allowing a greater range of options for completing objective, or even differing objectives depending on class.
Looting also remains a huge bore. The game is almost overstuffed with boxes full of stuff, stuff that often has no utility for your character or stuff you can’t take because you’re already full. Yeah, I get that this is a disease common to all games with RPG elements, but it’s no less tedious for it. While the randomization is welcome whenever it gifts you with excellent weapons, it would have been better for the system to take into account the need for ammo over weapons or (scant bits of money).
Related to this, despite the open world elements being streamlined, the game still has a huge amount of space to cover and often, no real fast way of doing so. Your vehicles can be destroyed in combat, and if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you might find yourself outgunned and outnumbered by enemies before you can get away. You don’t die in Borderlands 2, or at least, you always rematerialize at checkpoints which are admittedly generously distributed throughout the game, but it’s still a huge pain in the ass to have to cover huge distances on foot, or even in a vehicle, knowing that the nearest checkpoint is far enough away that you’ll spend several minutes getting back to where you are. Fortunately, the checkpoint system is smart enough that you almost never have to do the same tedious thing again – if you’re killed in action, when you rematerialize, enemies you kill in a certain mission area remain dead – but the game could still benefit from a better warp whistle system.
Finally, the enemies can be both over-similar and unbalanced. You’ll notice the same general archetypes coming at you again and again, especially when you come across a random bandit encampment. You’ll also notice that some harder enemies give a pitiful amount of XP for the amount of time it takes to kill them. That’s because you get more XP for how you kill an enemy rather than their overall difficulty, and it can be impossible to take out bosses and minibosses with skillful headshots as opposed to cheesing them down via camping and shooting at their exposed torso.
The Final Word
Those problems aside, Borderlands 2 is an extremely good game, perhaps even a great game. Fun, challenging, varied, and almost witty, it also manages to make RPG elements work within a traditional FPS framework in a way that puts the first game to shame and ought to be studied by other developers in the future. It might not be game of the year – that should be reserved for a game that also has a truly amazing story – but it definitely lives up to the hype. Play it, play it often, and for godsakes, play it on PC.
* Fast Pace Combat.
* Excellent combination of RPG elements and shooter gameplay.
* Varied open world.
* A great script, memorable characters, funny dialogue.
* Gorgeous, beautifully cartoonish aesthetic.
* Thankfully, not sexist!
* almost constantly fun to play.
* Looting is still tedious.
* Unbalanced in some key moments.
* Enemy, weapon recycling.
* Quick travel system isn’t comprehensive enough for the open world.
FINAL SCORE: 90/100
1. As of this writing, we’re still trying to verify whether or not the bank can also be shared between characters. This will be updated once confirmation is made.