Borderlands 2 Review

Title: Borderlands 2
Developer: Gearbox Software
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 4.8 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail
EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail

The PlayStation Vita is well into its third year, and the system has seen a lot of good games coming out for it.  Even just taking into account games releasing in the year of 2014, one could count games such as Demon Gaze, Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster, Minecraft, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace, and more.  The system is getting more games nearly every week, and the library is quickly amassing to pretty good proportions, especially when compared to previous years.  However, there are many out there whom think it has a lack of a certain type of game: AAA Games.

What, exactly, is that?  An AAA game is meant to represent a game franchise, company, system at its very best.  It’s supposed to be a game that a lot of people love that has little to no flaws.  There is also a system involved here.  It’s supposed to be financially successful, provide innovative gameplay, and for it to be successful.  Though, to many gamers nowadays, AAA would simply mean something from a huge franchise.  If Sony were to announce a Gran Turismo for the Vita, it would be considered AAA, whether it really did gain those three factors or not.

Last year, Sony assembled a team to start working on AAA games for the PlayStation Vita.  Their aim is to bring a lot of Third-Party titles over to the portable handheld and show what they could do with it.  The first game they started is Gearbox’s open-world shooter RPG Borderlands 2.  From the very beginning, people were skeptical at the possibility of Borderlands 2 coming to a handheld.  Today, we find out whether that skepticism was justified.  Here is our official review of Borderlands 2 for the PS Vita.

Story

The story of Borderlands 2 takes place on the planet of Pandora.                On Pandora is a large cave-like structure called “The Vault”.  Out of this Vault came a priceless alien mineral called Eridium.  A large company known as the Hyperion Corporation was attracted to Pandora to mine Eridium and use it to control the entire planet.  Their leader, Handsome Jack, rules over the planet with an Iron Fist, trying to control everything and everyone on the planet, including the seemingly endless supply of Eridium.

Rumors began to appear that there was an even larger Vault hidden somewhere beneath the planet’s crust, which attracted the attention of mercenaries known as Vault Hunters.  Traveling to the planet to hunt for this new Vault as well as the Eridium mineral, you take the role of one of four Vault Hunters.  Upon reaching the planet, you catch a train which was a trap set by Handsome Jack.  He bombs the train, hoping to kill you, like every other Vault Hunter that he comes across.  In the wreckage, though, you awaken and meet with a robot called Claptrap as you travel to Sanctuary, with the shadow of a large bounty Jack has put on your head.

While the story is a sequel to the original Borderlands, and includes all of its playable characters as NPC’s that you encounter as you play the game, Borderlands 2 can stand on its own two feet.  The most important part of the first game is explained in the intro scene.  The only back draw is that you won’t realize the four original characters are who they are if you haven’t at least done some research into the first game.

Apart from that, there is a lot of comedy in the storyline to keep you interested and entertained.  From some of the extreme character designs that you will never see coming, like Ellie from The Dust, to the random ramblings that Jack sends you about his diamond-plated horse he calls Butt Stallion, as you play the game, it will not cease to bring a smile to your face.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Borderlands 2 is where you will get the most fun out of it.  The game is something that the Vita has never had before.  It’s an open-world shooter with heavy RPG elements thrown into the middle.  To put it simply, I can only compare it to a game like Fallout 3.  If you imagine Fallout 3 with more First-Person-Shooter-like combat, then that is similar to how Borderlands 2 plays, in an open-world game sense.

The game will place you in the role of a Vault Hunter and you will be able to create your character based on the four characters from the intro.  Each character is a specific character class, and the class you choose will heavily impact the abilities you can use as you progress through the game.  For example, the Commando has a chaingun that you carry around at all times, making demolishing enemies very easy.  The Siren, for example, is more of a psychic-type class that can be used for regenerating Health or paralyzing their enemies in mid-air for a few moments.

Once you create your character, you will be unleashed into the world of Pandora.  Here, you will find lots of things to loot, collect, and defeat.  The Borderlands signature gameplay is called “Shoot and Loot”.  This is because for the majority of the game, you will discover many enemies to shoot down, and even more boxes, chests, and containers to find items in.  You will be collecting a lot, from ammo to health packs to money to weapons.

Actually shooting down enemies is done in a classic First-Person-Shooter fashion (unless you’re in a vehicle, where it goes more third-person).  You can fire upon enemies that you find either with guns, grenades, or a melee attack.  Guns come in varieties, from handguns to shotguns to sniper rifles to assault rifles, and also come in different varieties of elemental damage that is effective against different targets.

Once you defeat an enemy or complete a mission, you will gain Experience, like you would from winning a battle in an RPG.  Experience piles up and allows you to Level Up, which increases your abilities and what you can do.  This, tied with completing objectives by discovering new places and doing certain things will net you Skill Points and Badass Ranks, which are used to increase your arsenal of abilities.

You can use these Points and Ranks to learn new abilities.  Skill Points are used to learn new skills you can equip and use.  An example of this is the Siren’s ability to temporarily freeze an opponent and lift them in mid-air, creating an easy target.  Skills can also be leveled up to strengthen their effects.  The Badass Ranks are used for stat increases, though.  They can be used to increase your gun damage, melee damage, maximum HP, and other stats of that sort.

As you play, though, you will have to watch your health.  You can equip a shield, which will take damage before you will, and it will recharge if you don’t receive damage for a certain amount of time.  Your HP Bar, however, will not regenerate on its own, unless you have an ability equipped that allows for that.  Because of that, you should watch your HP to make sure it doesn’t get too low.  Otherwise, you may have to run your way back to a Vendor Shop, where you can buy health packs to bring it back up while also making sure you have some good weapons and enough ammo to continue to the next area before you can find or buy more.

As you play the game, you will be exploring the huge world of Pandora on Story Missions.  However, there will also be side-missions you can fulfill for certain NPC’s, and it is definitely advised that you do them.  They can help increase your arsenal to make upcoming Boss Fights much more manageable, especially if you’re not using the Online Multiplayer features to play co-op with a friend (The Vita version allows for 2-play co-op, as opposed to 4-player from the PS3 version).

As far as content goes, Borderlands 2 has a lot to do.  Along with the main quest, the game comes with 6 DLC packs, which includes two of the large expansions to the original game.  While this isn’t near everything, the developers have promised the rest of the DLC is in development and will come in future weeks.  Even without the DLC, there are a lot of features to take advantage of.  Cross-Save, for example, allows you to upload your character to be downloadable and played on both the PS Vita and the PS3.

Lastly is play time.  If you want to rush your way through Borderlands 2 without playing any of the DLC and do as few side-missions as possible, you could probably beat the game in about 25 hours, give or take.  Needless to say, the RPG side of the game goes into effect with the time it takes to beat the game.  You will be playing this game for quite some time.

Controls

The control scheme for Borderlands 2 is something to consider and also something you may have to get used to.  When the game is played on the PS3, every button on the PS3 Controller is used for something.  As obvious as it is, the PS Vita is missing a couple buttons that the PS3 has, namely L2, R2, L3, and R3.  So, how do you put these controls on the system?  You do it by incorporating them into the touch screens.

No matter which of the three control schemes you choose, something is going to be done on the touchscreen and the rear touch panel.  Four things, actually.  When you play, one feature will be one half of each of the touch screens.  The most crucial piece to the puzzle you’ll want to know is what you want the Rear Touch Panel to be used for, as there were many times where I accidentally grazed my fingers over that panel and activated what that controlled.

With the default control scheme, you move with the Left Analog Stick and can look around with the Right Analog Stick.  The X Button is used for Jumping, Square Button is used to interact with object and reload a weapon, Triangle is used to switch your currently equipped weapon, and the Circle button is used for crouching.  The L and R buttons are used for aiming and firing your weapon, and the Select and Start Buttons are used for bringing up the Customization and Main menus.

Skills and Grenades are assigned to the left and right sides of the touch screen with the default settings.  The Rear Touch Panel is set for the Melee attack on the default settings.  Until you get used to the controls, you may find yourself accidentally tapping the panel and activating your Melee attack.  While this can be annoying until you learn not to rest your fingers on the rear touch panel, it is better than other control schemes that have grenades set back there.  Nothing worse than being near a wall and accidentally throwing a grenade into your own face.

Presentation

The presentation is the most important part of the review.  There are a lot of reports out there about the game running poorly and not looking very good.  As far as visuals go, the game’s cell-shaded style returns and looks good.  It doesn’t look as good or smooth as it does on the PS3, of course.  There are jagged edges in various places, but the detail is still there.  The world still looks huge and everything still looks like it did in the original game.

How the game runs is a big factor to consider.  For the most part, the game will run very smooth, flowing well from area to area, though there are some pretty long Load Times when you’re using Fast Travel to go to new areas or warp between areas.  During those times, expect to wait a good 20-30 seconds for a new location to load.

There is also some slowdown to consider.  The frame-rate doesn’t stay perfect throughout the entire game.  There are a few instances, like in the larger areas like Sanctuary City where the screen is overcrowded with objects, buildings, and characters, or in areas where enemies are overwhelming you with numbers.  During these times, the smooth flow goes towards a less-smooth flow.  It flows consistently throughout, but you can tell there are some drops in the frame-rate.  However, the game doesn’t freeze when this happens. It just flows into the lower frame-rate.

Apart from this are the sacrificed downgrades from the original game.  The enemy count is a little bit less.  The PlayStation Vita version of the game shows roughly two-thirds as many enemies as the PS3 version.  So, if you were in an area that would normally have 9 enemies, there would probably be about 6 or 7 there.  This is a downgrade, though it does make things a little easier for those of us that are new to the series.

Overall

At the end of the day, this is Borderlands 2, in its entirety, on a handheld platform, which is an impressive feat.  If you’re looking for an open-world shoot-and-loot game to play on the go, then this is definitely worth the purchase.  While there are some technical annoyances, like hoards of enemies slightly dropping the frame-rate, touch controls to get used to, and a lower enemy count, the game is a fun open-world adventure that has more content than you will know what to do with.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Borderlands 2 a 7.5/10.    

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5 comments

  1. Great review! I have been playing the game since last Tuesday and I can’t put it down. I don’t have enough time to play it on my pc or ps3 so having it in my vita is perfect.

  2. Nice review 😀 Good to hear this is actually decent, all the big websites are ripping it to piece’s! Surely a couple of bugs don’t warrant terrible reviews – especially when games like Skyrim get 9/10.

  3. Good review and is exactly the score I would give. It’s a great game despite the flaws. Have been playing the first week the slim was released and have ignored everything else.

  4. The recent Performance Enhancing Patch improves the game a lot, in my opinion. It’s still not perfect, mind you, but with it installed, I’d give it a half point more. So much fun.

  5. Hello all,

    If you encounter a lot of crash and you are not satisfied with the 2K games and playstation support like us then this info is for you!!!

    I have just started a petition to unify our voices to show that we are not just isolated subject, that we are really a lot to have issues! honestly for me it’s a really great and addictive game BUT in some case you are submerged by crash… And the different support doesn’t listen to what we are facing!

    so this is a link of a petition:
    http://www.petitionbuzz.com/pe

    Please if you are agree sign it and share it it would help us showing that we are not just buying machines!

    good games to everyone! 🙂 (without not too much crash ;))

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