Wednesday, 5 December 2012

1 through 50, a love letter to planet Pandora.

Right, lets do this...I've been putting off writing anything about Borderlands 2 for several weeks now, I comfortably wanted reach the angelic status of level 50 before I committed finger(s) to keyboard. Straight off the bat; Borderlands 2 is my G.O.T.Y 2012, NOTHING over the last 12 months has effected me the same way.  The World, the characters, the graphical style, the music, the writing oh.. and the Guns. So many many wonderful Guns. If the Mad Max universe were to have sex with South Park's dialogue whilst painting the prettiest picture of a lush Alien planet, you'd have an idea of how amazing this game is. I never did complete the original Borderlands back in 2009, I was probably at a point in my gaming life that a BIG open world title felt pretty daunting to me. I had never played Oblivion, Fallout 3 or New Vegas (I have now, Love 'em) so the idea of a playing a vast new portion of Pandora excited me. Skyrim came along at the end of 2011 and really nailed home that this type of open world genre is where I feel most comfortable, with its lush environments I felt part of the kingdom. It blew me away.
I had a run of average titles pass through my 360 in the months leading up to B'lands 2 (yep, nickname!) Darksiders 2 and Transformers F.O.C came and went in a flash, leaving behind a feeling of disappointment and an idea that the developers just wanted to rush through to the end and collect a paycheck. Sleeping dogs however did work for me, a short game but I enjoyed it nevertheless, and let's not even mention the staggeringly misjudged Assassin's Creed 3. Just, no Ubisoft, bad Ubisoft!

Its difficult to really pinpoint what I love about Borderlands 2, for me everything in that universe is perfect, I want to find fault in it and if I'm totally honest in the 100+ hours I've pumped into it its never crashed on me, frozen, kicked me out, glitched...nothing. It may be different on the multiplayer portion, slow-down or whatever but so far so good.

To be fair the humour is a good start; a game that makes me laugh has made a friend for life, each of the main characters have their own charm and personalities, warts 'n' all. I can't think of a stand-out favourite, It features a wide spectrum of lunatics: Claptrap's ramblings are insane, Scooter is THE quintessential inbred redneck, Jack's relentless bullshit and smack talking, Moxxxi's continual ability to make anything sound like sexual innuendo, Sir Hammerlock and his frequent 'go-kill-everything-for-research' requests and then there's Mr Torgue - the newest character on the block added via Gearbox's newest piece of DLC. Some of the funniest lines do actually come from him, they're soundbites when you purchase anything from one of his engine looking 'Weapon Vendors' he'll be heard shouting ' MOTHERFUCKING SEE YA!' or 'EXPLOOOOOOSION NOISE' It works better in-game, as the swearing is bleeped out..Gearbox, you do know how to write comedy.

When i first set out as a fresh faced level 1 Assassin AKA Zer0, I had no idea the sheer scale of the world that was about to open up to me, starting off in a glacial environment was a great juxtaposition to the original sandy starting point from the first game. Following Claptrap around as he dithers and bumps into things, chatting shit about being eaten by Bullymongs and such nonsense, I soon came across the first 'boss' - Knuckledragger - who had taken temporary ownership of Claptraps eye. I loved this introduction and had forgotten about Gearbox's unique way of splashing up a characters name with an off-the-cuff description of them.  Snatch style.
After KD went down in a hail of bullets I picked up my first real piece of loot, a VLADOF angry assault rifle. A lovely bit of kit, with great magazine size, reload speed along with decent accuracy it stayed with me for several hours during the baby-steps of my journey into the icy tundra.  I found the easiest way to approach a new situation would be (in a cowardly fashion) stick to the edge of the playing area and pick off bandits one by one, however this was thrown completely out the window after beefing up several levels. This is the beauty of Borderlands 2, its replay value.
To obtain the best loot in the game you can tussle it out with the games many 'Bosses' over and over to get that elusive orange tagged Legendary weapon - the ONLY one in the game I've managed to swipe from one of these hulking pricks is called 'Happy Rakk shooting' an extremely powerful shotgun (albeit difficult to hit anything because of it's random spread) 15322 x 5 in damage as well as a 5x stacking bonus, a skill tree perk. It can take most things down in 1 shot, but this piece is built for excellent crowd control.
I've been playing on and off over the last week; after finally hitting level 50, with a backpack full of top notch guns and grenades that would rival most Atomic bomb explosions, I waded in with both feet to an area before now had been fairly tricky to anyone on a lower level.
With all the grace of Godzilla and the relentless motion of a Terminator I smashed my way through Hoards of Hyperion loaders and puny human engineers. Melting 'bots left and right with my new kickass 'Corrosive Kitten' assault rifle I obtained through Moxxxi as a payout for a completed side mission, 36k damage a pop and that doesn't include the lingering corrosive spray that stacks up with additional damage. Nerd-gasm! Love this game!
Coming off the back of playing Darksiders 2, one if its redeeming features was the soundtrack - Jesper Kyd has become my favourite game composer.  Hitman, the Assassins Creed series, Borderlands and now he's back for more in this stonking sequel.
His unique style often features a blend of Orchestral strings and voice with electronic ambiance. Its lovely stuff.

The game does have some sort of plot, even though it's wafer thin the real meat and veg comes from the INSANELY huge collection of side missions that range from collecting Porn mags for a dirty mechanic through to shooting a mohawked bandit named Face McShooty, in his face! His request!
I found most of the juicy mods and weapons came from completing these side missions, not that you won't get the good stuff from the main story beats but it's absolutely worth sniffing out these side-show carnivals, tonnes more XP and loot.  The games masterstroke is introducing these extra missions whilst on route to your main objective, walk into a newly discovered area and you'll find a number of exclamation marks peppered around the local map. Gearbox delight in their attempt to make the player an ADD sufferer, grab this, no no no go here and kill these, wait go and collect some bullymong fur, hold up you need to blow that up first! Its a similar trait to other titles like Skyrim or Fallout but because of Borderlands 2's hyperactive gameplay and it's comic book meets sci-fi Steampunk visuals it feels more intense, skittish even.

Feelings of pure unadulterated joy come pouring out as I blast my way through B'lands 2, everything feels larger than life fighting off "Super Badass Varkids" or "Ultimate Raging Goliaths" is some of most exciting gun-play i have ever experienced in a videogame. Frantic and fast paced, i'll find myself giggling at how crazy it all becomes, controlled chaos?!  And I can honestly say I've never favoured a weapons manufacturer before, let alone a bunch completely fictional companies within a self contained game universe. Everything feels complete and fleshed out, a real place to pick your battles wisely or run in Rocket Launcher blazing, its a real testament to how much Gearbox listened to their adoring fans first time round.
Actually it's their attention to detail that has me most gripped, the hours and HOURS of Easter egg hunting, wandering through huge acid dipped caves, fighting giant sand worms, battling fire breathing Pirates...
its beginning to sound like I'm trying to sell it to you; I'm not and if you have read all of this and never played Borderlands 2 and you read it because your nice I thank you. Otherwise go get it, idiot....
My gushing is done. Game of the year for me no question about it, and the fun doesn't stop here we've got a couple more DLC's to go yet. Roll on Borderlands 3. Viva la Pandora!!        


As ever please read, do enjoi, comment
Much love
AKA Dr sanchez