2012-09-27

Borderlands 2 – Looting, Shooting, And Praying For Sanity

by Yo Snyder

So to be honest, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the first Borderlands.
Other than it’s unique look with the cell-shaded animation, it looked
to me like just one more shooter in a sea of shooters. Now, granted,
that wasn’t entirely fair. I did know that it had a strong RPG element,
and it also had a really strong loot element, and the setting of Pandora
is pretty unique, and most of the characters are fairly crazy, but I
still just looked at it as yet another shooter. Well, when Borderlands 2
came around, I decided to give it a closer look (also because so many
of you asked us to review it, so, it just goes to show that we do
listen). After playing Borderlands 2, I can confidently say that
“I get it”. I do, I understand how this is actually a “different”
shooter. It’s still not one that I personally would invest heavily in,
but now I understand why it’s carved such a well deserved niche for
itself in that vast shooter genre.

First off, let’s just cover some of the content issues here. The
truth is, Pandora is one of those places that makes Arkham City look
like Club Med. Everything here is out to kill you; from monsters and
critters to all sorts of deranged lunatics. And speaking of those
lunatics, many of them make the Joker look well-adjusted. Some of the
random statements these guys make…well, let’s just say there were a
few times where it made me squirm and gave me a chill. These people are
not “sane” people. They have no regard for anything close to resembling
morals or taboos, and they have plumbed the deepest recesses of true
depravity humanity is capable of. Now, the game doesn’t really focus on
all that, but it does set the tone and atmosphere for the world you’re
playing in. Just thought I’d mention that.

That being said, this game can also be genuinely wacky and pretty funny. There are some shades of Portal 2
and Wesley here as one of the first characters you meet is a funny
little robot. I know, sounds familiar, right? The humor often strays a
bit darker than that of Portal 2, and it’s also often less
refined and more, how should I say this, of a mid-school level at times
with the potty jokes and what not. Nevertheless, there were times when I
found myself chuckling or even laughing out loud. There were also times
when I was cringing because I’m no longer a mid-schooler in a locker
room or because some jokes cross from amusing to just mean, cruel and
just out-and-out wrong. Again, this all feeds the unique tone and
setting of Borderlands 2, and you should know what you’re in for.

The setting for Pandora is very reminiscent of the Old West. Here is a
vast wilderness (in this case an alien one) where humanity is trying to
conquer it; that whole “triumph of the human spirit” mentality that was
so prevalent in the move West in America. It also very much has the
atmosphere of Bioshock and its philosophy of “No Gods, No Kings,
Only Men.” It’s a picture of what happens when humanity is left
completely to its own devices to determine morality and society. It’s a
world where “might makes right”, and truth be told, there really is no
such thing as “right”. It’s about survival, and therefore, anything
goes. It’s actually quite a disturbing picture of just how far the fall
into depravity can take us if it continues without restraint. The point
is while some may want to abandon God and the Bible and those
“restrictive, out-dated, irrelevant” mores and taboos and rules and
traditions and move on to a more “progressive, modern-life”, we
shouldn’t really do that. Why? Take a moment to think objectively about
where it will lead. Or, look at Romans 1:18-32 where it describes
exactly where it will lead; Pandora, Rapture, or something very like it.
God doesn’t give us rules and parameters because he wants to limit us,
he gave those guidelines and rules because he wants us to attain our
best, not descend into our worst, potential. Think things couldn’t ever
get as bad as in Borderlands 2, Bioshock, or other such portrayals of a world without objective morality? Don’t be too sure.

Now, getting past all of that, as I said, I must admit that playing
the game helped me to finally “get it”. The mechanics and structure of
this game are addictively fun. The are so many weapons to choose from,
and so many more to discover. There’s a fantastic leveling system to use
your experience points on and help customize the gameplay to your
preferred style. There are so many quests and objectives to fulfill, so
many fun characters to talk to and stories to discover. Then there’s the
massive world to explore and discover all kinds of loot in. Once I
finally experienced all of that, I finally understood why so many are
fans of this series. The gameplay is just straight up fun, and it’s
constantly tossing new varieties of guns, explosives, enemies and
objectives at you to keep things interesting. Few things are as
satisfying as leveling up to take down that next boss or finding a rare
and powerful weapon to add to your arsenal. Plus, you can enjoy all of
that with your friends in co-op, which makes things tougher but
ultimately more enjoyable, especially if you can work together using the
various special abilities of the four distinct classes to your
advantage.

On the downside is the vehicles. These moments are short and often
frustrating. The control layout for the vehicles just doesn’t work well,
making these segments more challenging than they should be, and the
vehicles have that Halo-esque physics where it often feels like you’re
driving on the moon. So, it’s a nice effort to change things up a bit,
but I just didn’t think it worked

Look, if you’re a shooter fan and you enjoy collecting stuff and
enjoy leveling up in RPGs but you don’t have a lot of time, then don’t
play this game. It’s a huge time-sink. There’s always one more
objective, one more quest, one more side-story, one more batch of loot,
one more level, or one more gun to attain. The gameplay is a blast
(literally and often messily), the characters are often amusing, though
at times disturbing, and there’s just a ton to do. Borderlands has a well deserved reputation of being a fairly unique and fun shooter, and Borderlands 2 takes
everything from the first game, polishes it up to a shiny gleam, and
makes things even better. There are still some flaws, and some of these
characters are pretty dark and depraved despite the twisted, light tone,
yet I have to admit I really enjoyed Borderlands 2. It’s still not a game I’d purchase and invest my time in, but at least now “I get it.”

Score out of 7:

Graphics:
6 – I love the cell shaded look of this game. There hasn’t really been
anything like this since XIII…and, well, the first Borderlands. Anyway, it looks cool, but there are a few glitches like textures that don’t immediately load.

Sound:
6 – The voice acting is superbly done, even if some of what’s been said
is truly disturbing. Weapons all pack some oomph in the sound
department, and have distinct sounds to set them apart. Music helps set
the atmosphere without being distracting, but it also can give away when
there are still enemies in the area, bleeding away some suspense.

Controls:
5 – When you’re wielding weapons, controls are as refined as in any
shooter, and it’s easy to switch between weapons, which is often a
must.  The vehicle controls, however, just aren’t good. I cringed
whenever I had to get into a vehicle of any sort, which is too bad.

Gameplay:
6 – This is pretty addictive stuff; leveling up, collecting loot,
finding new guns. The co-op is great, but I would have liked something
that allowed you play with friends who are a higher level than you while
still using your character. As it is, when I join their games, I’m more
of a liability than a help.

Story: 5 – Borderlands 2 tells a
pretty good yarn, and it has some decent side stories as well. Many of
the characters are very colorful and entertaining, though some are just
all-out depraved. Some parts of the story are pretty dark and sadistic. 

Content:
3 – It’s not just the fact that it’s a shooter, and at times a messy
shooter, but some of these characters and what they say are truly sick.
Other times, it’s just mid-school potty humor. Other times, it’s
actually funny. There’s also some sensuality, and some rather
exaggerated female forms.

Final: 5 – This was a tough one for me. Borderlands 2
is genuinely fun in its gameplay, and many of the characters are funny
and enjoyable. However, the overall tone is one of a pretty depraved and
sick society, and I found that tough to get through. So, the shooter,
RPG and looting elements of this game are excellent. The setting filled
with crazy sickos, however, is less enjoyable. Buyer beware.