Borderlands 2: Saving Pandora Again
A surprising hit among shooter games for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, Gearbox Software’s Borderlands entry Borderlands sold close to 4 million copies. A sequel was sure to follow and on September 18 Pandora beckons once more and is slated to hold its own as the best shooter for Xbox 360, PC and PS3. A few years after the events of the first game, there is a new man in charge, Handsome Jack, a self-declared dictator who will make life interesting for the players. Xbox 360 shooter games are a dime a dozen but Borderlands 2 promises a more engaging story than its predecessor and the rest of the pack. If the reworked weapons and skill trees are any indication, the story is sure to engage and this first person shooter game for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC will break records and deliver loads of fun and solidify its place among the best Xbox 360 shooter games.
The four classes to choose from will seem familiar to returning players: Gunzerker, Commando, Assassin and Siren. There will be a new character available for the DLC, a Mechromancer who brings a mech made of salvaged parts to the field. The original four heroes, Roland, Lilith, Brick and Mordecai, are back but are now just NPCs with whom to interact to move the story along. Returning characters also include Claptrap and Guardian Angel. There are new gun manufacturers happy to provide an arsenal worthy of any warrior.
The improved skill trees now make for deeper customization of classes. For example, the Siren’s Phaselock can be used to hold a target in the air or pull it near and fill it with acid or fire rounds. It can also be used on teammates to heal them and, yes, even bring them back to life. The Commando can launch a turret, or two, and, unlike the turrets in B1, the new ones have full 360 degree rotation and can be modified to attach to a wall, give kill bonuses and allow friendly fire to pass through. The Assassin’s tree has a hologram ability that fools enemies into attacking a ghost image as the player flanks for a surprise beheading. Activating the Death Mark allows for extra damage by teammates while the player sneaks around for a backstab. Gunzerker has a perk that reloads all weapons not in use while other skills give extra damage to the first or last bullet of a magazine. The Sexual Tyrannosaurus and Come At Me Bro additions should spice up the lives of tanks.
To balance the new powers available to players, the enemies have also been revamped. A better game engine allows for tougher, smarter AI. Enemies now use tactics and cooperation to halt the player. Damage effects are contextual so hitting a leg will have a target limping and a headshot will slow it down significantly. Even Psychos now roll around and jump trying to evade fire and utilize space more effectively in their approach. Some of the new enemies teleport around the field and others have crystalline shields that regenerate during combat. Overall the fights look livelier than before and standing in one spot pumping rounds is no longer a viable option. The dynamics on display insure a more immersive experience on par with the best shooter games for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
A pre-order of the special editions guarantee acquisition of the DLC character, Deathtrap, a golden set of guns at the start of the game and a Vault Hunter’s Relic to boost gear discovery. Badass Points are available and determine the rankings on the leaderboards. Four DLC packages with hours of extra guns, enemies and NPCs will be available next year at about US$10 each, or for US$30 for the Season Pass, which delivers the content as soon as it is ready.
Some controversy arose when lead game designer Johnathan Hemingway referred to the skill tree set for the Mechromancer as a “girlfriend skill set” for those who “suck at first-person shooters” and need some help to “actually understand and to play the game,” which to some implied that the ladies were not up to level in shooting games. Anyone who has been on the business side of a skilled female player in Battlefield 3, Assassin’s Creed or Dark Souls knows underestimating the fairer sex is asking for a painful death. The company has since apologized for the faux pas and fans of both sexes are ready to start the party. Borderlands 2 is here to stay as one of the top shooters for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.