The lights are on
It was over a year ago that a friend of mine recommended I try Borderlands. I enjoyed spending hours with him on Pandora and shooting the comical bandits whose inspiration seems to have been taken from a Mad Max film. The underlying comedic references were good, but there was something. I found myself unwilling or unable to latch onto the ambiguous story with an equally ambiguous villain and no payoff at the end of the campaign.
Let's fast forward to this year and the release of Borderlands 2. Up until the E3 release of information and game play footage, I cared very little about the title. But, the post-E3 hype machine got to me and I found myself pre-ordering the Loot Chest Edition of the game (one of the biggest collector's edition let-downs of all time) and standing in line at midnight to grab my copy of the game. Luckily for me, my newly found anticipation was not without a solid reward.
Borderlands 2 improves on its predecessor's formula in just about every single area I found fault a year ago. The art direction remains unchanged, but the scenery and areas have far more variety to them than just the dust and sand of the previous Pandora. The addition of snow, grassland and even an eridium wasteland add to the beautiful modern-comic-book-style art direction. But while the visuals have some great improvements, it is the story element that gets the biggest makeover in Borderlands 2.
In the original Borderlands, the story was simply a vault hunter trying to find a vault with treasure and having to face the Crimson Lance to get in. The characters were un-relatable and didn't seem to have much of a back story aside from taking a bus to Pandora. In Borderlands 2, each class comes equipped with an ECHO device explaining their reason for being on Pandora, and every last one of them is interesting. There are even additional side quests to deepen your understanding of your character's history. Even NPC's stories are interesting, especially that of the teenage psychopath Tiny Tina whose dialogue is endlessly entertaining. But the real champion of the story is the villain, Handsome Jack.
In the commercials and even throughout the first act of the game, Handsome Jack is just a comedic villain you'd like to meet and have a short boss fight with. However, by the middle of the second act I found myself happily willing to kill Jack with my bare hands. His character is fleshed out and his motives progress through the main story as well as some important side-quests you really should not miss.
The comedy value is high throughout the game including some amazing pop culture references including Donkey Kong, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Lord of the Rings, The Fifth Element, Deus Ex, and even Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. As always, Claptrap makes the comedy of the game memorable with some of the most hilarious dialogue and quests within the game, none of which should be missed.
The replay value of the game is extremely high with all of the side quests and hidden quests to be found as well as True Vault Hunter and True Vault Hunter 2.5 modes, there is no excuse not to play this game over and over. Even the different classes are worth a playthrough or two of their own. Each character has dynamic class trees where your selections make dramatic differences in your play style and abilities.
This game is definitely an orange item in the loot chest filled with green and blue games beside it. In other words, it is a truly rare and solid game worth your time. I give it a 9.75 out of 10, bravo Gearbox, bravo!
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