Borderlands 2 Playstation 3 Review

Article first published as PlayStation 3 Review: Borderlands 2 on Blogcritics.

The original Borderlands, released in 2009 was a surprise hit from Brothers in Arms Developer, Gearbox but even after their widely criticized Duke Nuke’m sequel, anticipation was high for Borderlands 2.  Of all of the elaborate booth and statues that littered the floor of the L.A. Convention Center for E3, the Borderlands 2 corner display was one of the most popular.  The RPG-shooter formula fulfilled a unique multiplayer niche, unintentionally inspired in part by the recent single-player post-apocalyptic Fallout games.   More than offering a social take on a couple of popular games, the cell-shaded art style added accessibility that Bethesda’s epics didn’t.

Here we are a few months after the E3 Expo and Borderlands 2 is finally available and improves upon the original in almost every way.  Widely regarded as Diablo with guns, the Mad Max-like world of Pandora makes Borderlands much more like the wastelands of Fallout.  In Borderlands 2, Pandora is much more vibrant and more alive than before, setting the game apart from the stark locations in either Fallout 3 or New Vegas.  That’s not to say everyone will like what Borderlands 2 has to offer or even that everything is perfect in this sequel.

Borderlands 2 picks up five years after the end of the first game where the four original vault hunters were guided by “The Guardian Angel” to the vault.  What happened after that, resulted in a valuable mineral called eridium turning up all over the planet of Pandora.  Now, rumors of an even larger vault have spread across the universe, drawing new vault hunters to the planet in search for it and this is where you, the player comes in.  Unfortunately, Borderlands 2’s new villain, Handsome Jack has other plans.  Lured into a trap aboard a booby-trapped train, you are left for dead in a frozen landscape littered with the debris of the train.

There are of course four new playable characters with new classes in Borderlands 2.  I played most of the game with Zer0, an assassin.  He is capable of projecting a decoy of himself and becoming invisible for a short time and is able to strike a critical hit on enemies during his invisibility.  Probably better suited for a single player campaign is the gunzerker, Salvador.  He can dual-wield any combination of guns and eventually even throw multiple grenades at once.  Again there is a siren.  Maya has a phaselock ability which lifts enemies and can be upgraded to explode or turn enemies into allies.  Finally, Axton, is a commando similar to the previous soldier, he can construct turrets. All of these characters can be somewhat customized and a bonus set of skins is given to veterans of the first game.

The controls are pretty much identical to the first Borderlands game and typical of most first-person shooters.  The special abilities are mapped to the L1 or left shoulder button and equipped weapons are mapped to the d-pad.  The triangle button can also cycle those weapons.  The vehicles, for better or worse are controlled with both analog sticks.  The left stick drives and reverse and the steering is the right stick which is also the look controls.  This means you automatically drive toward whatever you are looking at.  Reverse is probably the biggest difficulty with the system.  Gearbox has tweaked the driving somewhat and made it pretty much impossible to drive where they don’t want you to.

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