It’s weird to think that the original Borderlands almost released with a more realistic art style, given the series’ iconic cell shaded look and off-the-wall attitude. As good as its predecessor looked, Borderlands 2 ratchets things up to 11, with a huge variety of environments and a much more colorful palette. You’re just as likely to find yourself mowing down bandits in a snowcapped mountainside as you are blasting through legions of robots in a futuristic city with enough aluminum and glass-covered surfaces to put Apple to shame. There may not be any major graphical enhancements made to Borderlands 2, but the fact that the game’s already beautiful engine now has the opportunity to flex its muscle outside of the browns and beiges of the original desert environments does wonders.
The loot system that made Borderlands such an awesomely addicting game has somehow been improved. In addition to fire, electricity, corrosion, and explosive, you now have “slag” guns, which don’t add any extra damage themselves, but rather amplify any damage a slagged enemy takes. Enemies are also far more reactive and have more pronounced strengths and weakness, making a varied arsenal essential.
In addition to the vast array of guns at your disposal, each of the four new playable characters has a deep well of skills to choose from. Maya, for example, can utilize her Siren abilities to Phaselock enemies in place, leaving them completely defenseless. Later iterations of Phaselock add increased duration, health siphoning, and elemental damage.
And Borderlands 2 gives you plenty of opportunities to unleash its myriad of randomized guns and upgradable powers, with tons of optional side content in addition to the game’s middling main storyline. Ever felt like starting a feud between a group of Irish gangsters and gear head rednecks, or hunting down a giant sea creature using a British explorer’s robotic arm as bait? Borderlands has you covered, and that’s just the tip of the ice berg. Be prepared to surrender a sizable chunk of your life to Borderlands’ wealth of content.
To be honest, the only real issue I have with Borderlands 2 is its scattershot and oft-outdated sense of humor. Random enemy dialogue and a large majority of the side quests in Borderlands feature clever writing and genuinely funny characters. It’s the lazy Internet meme references and main characters, like the game’s antagonist Handsome Jack, that fall completely flat. Jokes about a diamond-encrusted horse named “Butt Stallion” might play in a bad comic’s stand-up routine, but they come off as crass and unnecessary in-game. And that’s a shame, because as bad as the writing can be, the voice acting is generally very good in Borderlands 2.
Thankfully, Borderlands’ fast-paced shooting, creative character classes, and adictive loot-oriented gameplay more than make up for a few lackluster characters and cheesy puns.