Borderlands 2 PlayStation 3 review

The wastes of Pandora are open for business once more in Borderlands 2, but can enough guns to destroy a galaxy make for a good game?

Loot-hounds with a penchant for killing things with ballistic ultra-violence have 87 bazillion reasons to be happy, as Borderlands 2, the sequel to the successful original is here, and as promised, it’s bigger and better than its progenitor.

Beginning with a nod to the original game’s hugely lacklustre ending, clearly a bit of poking fun due to fans’ dissatisfaction with the rather anti-climactic reveal of the vault and last boss, the second outing to Pandora tells the story of what happened next.

After the original game’s vault hunters found and opened the legendary vault, which was seemingly empty, aside from plentiful tentacle death, the planet was endowed with a new kind of ore called Eridium. This ore is powerful, and the Hyperion Corporation wants it. Enter Handsome Jack, Hyperion CEO, egomaniac and generally dickish sort of guy. Oh, and as well as being a bit of a tool, he wants every vault hunter on Pandora dead, as rumours of a new, even more desirable vault have surfaced, and he intends to find it first. Enter… you.

As one of four new vault hunters (with another one the way via DLC), your goal is to explore, fight all manner of creatures, the forces of Handsome Jack and survive an even more varied and dangerous Pandora than we’ve seen before. This is achieved in true RPG fashion, by following main story arcs, and performing masses of side quests and optional missions. Oh, there’s a mountain of loot gathering to be done too, and with a nigh-on endless stream of randomly generated killware to find, this is one aspect of the game that can keep you very busy, indeed.

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Expanded extermination

Now, the original Borderlands was hardly a short game. In fact, it took most average-skill players around 20 hours to complete it. With Borderlands 2, you can add another ten or so hours to that, as this is a bigger adventure, with more in the way of variety. The visuals have been updated and the range of enemies and environments have been increased.

As well as a general boost in content, much of which is, in actuality, more of the same with different skins, there are some new additions and tweaks to the formula. Aside from the expanded world, flora and fauna, and the increase in guns, the four new characters bring new skills and play styles to the mix.

Although the classes pretty much mirror those from the original game, they’ve been refined and balanced, and their abilities are different. For example, whereas the first game’s assassin-like character, Mordecai, had his trusty bird with him as his skill, Borderlands 2’s similar class, Zero, instead has an invisibility decoy skill that lets him sneak around and perform powerful stealth attacks. The siren’s ability is tweaked, and lets her put foes in mid-air stasis, and the berserker (now called Gunzerker) is able to dual wield any weapon in the game, for predictably damaging effects.

However, the actual skill trees, with which you choose your various abilities have been tweaked, and now there’s a much better blend of skills that you have to choose from. As you can only pick so many during the course of a single playthrough, this means that you’ll need to tailor these skills to your style. This not only makes for unique character builds, but also promotes replayability.

Despite the changes though, the actual levelling system remains pretty much the same as before. As you level up, you earn skill points. You then spend these on skills. As you acquire more skills in each tree, the next branches open up, allowing access to better, more advanced skills.

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Alongside this level-climbing is the addition of the new Badass system, which grants minor buffs to various skills. These buffs are achieved by completing goals, such as killing a certain enemy type a number of times. Once you complete enough of these, you earn Badass tokens you can spend to add fractions of a percentage to various skills and stats, such as increased gun damage, faster shield recharge speed, better accuracy, and so on. These buffs seem rather puny when each is acquired, but focus your rewards on one or two specific areas, and they really can give you a much needed advantage.


Aside from a tighter, far more entertaining story , enhanced character levelling and simple customisation options (head and body skins/colours), Borderlands 2 is largely pretty much a case of Gearbox playing it safe here. The core gameplay is almost identical, and the RPG-tinged run and gun combat plays in the same way, albeit a little tightened up and smoothed out. Loot is still king, and the real near-OCD level of behaviour you experience as you search each and every box, chest, locker or safe for that elusive rare, powerful gun is as prevalent as it was in the first game.

This is no bad thing, though, as Borderlands was successful and warranted a sequel because it worked, and was enjoyable. Here, Gearbox has delivered more of the same absorbing and addictive blasting, but has refined it to create a more well-rounded experience.

Closer inspection and prolonged play will reveal a fair few tweaks, though, in particular the reworked and improved enemy AI. Foes will do much more than bull-rush you this time, and many will use the environment to their advantage. This includes the ability to scale the environment, following players around. Psychos are still as bullet-loving as ever, though, and often run screaming into your hail of hot lead.

Enemies also suffer from simple location-specific damage. Headshots are, of course, pretty standard, but the ability to leg-shot a foe can be of great help, especially against fast foes that tend to rush you, such as the aforementioned psychos.

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Teaming with guns

As with the first game, although you can play the game in single player and have a blast, the real strength of Borderlands 2 lies with its multiplayer co-op. Whether online or offline split-screen, this is a game that plays better with friends, and grouping together, using team-based tactics and sharing out loot really makes the game pop.

Not only that, but the game also scales accordingly, increasing enemy difficulty depending on the number of players, and also increasing the quality of the loot you’ll find. This rewards players who play in groups, who will discover bigger and better weapons much faster than solo players. The trading system also makes for the safe exchange of items and money too, which is especially useful when playing online with people you don’t know.


Make no mistake, Borderlands 2 is a very solid game, but it still has its fair share of quirks, and returning issues from the first game.

Technically speaking, it’s a success on the whole, and the cell-shaded visuals and diverse locations make for a treat for the eyes. Sadly, though, this is often sullied by some awful texture pop-in and more than a few muddy and low quality textures. Whilst it’s a cel-shaded title, and some textures are intentionally basic to lend the game that comic-book feel, there are some ugly, and plain models here, including some poor weapon models.

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Frame rate drops are also not unknown, but these are quite rare in most cases. This isn’t the case, however, if you play the game on split-screen. Action-packed situations can slow the game down, understandably, but what’s less understandable is the massive slow-down that occurs when a player opens their menu system.

Yes, players can open menus and maps individually, on their own section of the screen, which works very well, but the slow down can be painful, and in combat, it’s more than a little irksome when another player opens a menu when you’re in the midst of a pitched battle against a Badass Psycho.

Technical issues aside, Borderlands 2 is lacking a little in other areas. Most notable of these is, once again, vehicles. With such a large world to explore, you’d think Gearbox would put a little more thought into the vehicular side of things. Instead, the vehicles, which are slightly improved with marginally better controls and physics, are much the same, and just as ignored. Rarely do they serve a purpose other than getting from point A to B, and few missions prioritise their use.

So, vehicles have been largely ignored, and many players will also largely ignore the game’s shops. Aside from the useful ammo and supply restocking vending machines, the actual shops, where you can buy guns and shields etc, rarely have any items better than the loot you’re carrying. Even the so-called ‘deals of the day’ are often underpowered and overpriced, and instead most will prefer to search for items and weapons in the field. Shops, therefore, are relegated to places to sell unwanted crap.

This is a missed trick in my opinion, and although I agree that the best loot should be fought and searched for in the wild and in dangerous locations, the shop system should also have desirable items that you have to save for. As it is, they’re simply glorified ammo dispensers.

Finally, and again, as with the first game, the amount of weapons is very impressive, and the fact that you’ll never find two of the same weapon is a nifty feature. The problem with this mass arsenal, though, is that there’s little room for true uniqueness. Barring differences between the weapons brands, there’s little variation in guns save for stats and elemental effects. No doubt future Borderlands releases will feature weapon customisation and true-unique firearms, but here it’s still as case of “Ohhhhhh, a new shotgun! Well, it looks the same as my current one, but does 5 more damage and is green. Cool.”

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Clap trap

Niggles and technical quirks aside, Borderlands 2 does exactly what Gearbox promised. It delivers a bigger and better game than the first, and one that’s more refined and polished. And, whilst it’s certainly very similar to the first, and breaks no boundaries or troubles any moulds, it’s still highly recommended, especially if you get some company to play it with, where it can truly shine.

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4 out of 5