I’ll start by saying that I didn’t like the first Borderlands, and my main complaint was how the game felt incomplete, like a beta level product that still needed work to make it worth playing. Hubby loved the first game, and when the second came out, I decided to pick up the pre-order and give it a shot. At this point, I’ve played 78 hours with three characters, and I’ve watched hubby play with the fourth. With one of my characters at level 24, I’m ready to drop the game and stop playing, mainly because I have very little to enjoy in this “romp”.
I’d like to start with a comparative analogy. Let’s say there a guy, Dave, and he LOVES Terry Pratchett and thinks Terry is a genius. (Terry probably is a genius, but we’ll leave that for another debate.) He wants to write just like Terry Pratchett, but unlike his literary hero, Dave has no talent for humor. Or any talent whatsoever. So Dave takes all of Terry Prachett’s best jokes and manages to shoehorn them into one slightly incoherent story, and he presents his work to the world as a “tribute” to his hero. Dave is not original. Dave is an asshole with little respect for the material he’s stealing or for the artist he’s stealing from. His tribute is really a pathetic copy of the original, and in this way is kind of insulting no matter what the creator’s intentions were.
This, sadly, is the formula for the writing in Borderlands 2, where all over the place you will find references to other games or cultural icons, sometimes even games or icons that had genuinely funny material. Borderlands 2 would like you to believe it is just a wacky, silly story, and so in addition to all these plagiarized…I mean, “tributed” lines, there’s one stereotype after another lauded over for the lowest humor efforts possible. Midgets talk funny! Irish people are drunks! Fat women are funny! Rednecks are into incest! Retards talk funny! And so on and so forth.
I liked the core concept of the game. Give players a set of characters to choose from, and then give them a planet loaded with guns and bombs, not to mention an unlimited supply of moving targets. I liked the improvements made in how characters react to being shot, both my characters and the enemies I’m pumping rounds into. I like having a huge variety of weapons to play with, so the progression of levels doesn’t feel too stale.
But I don’t like strafing around a corner and getting stuck on a two-inch bump in the pavement, requiring that I jump over a crack like it’s a stack of matchboxes and I’m in a twit of the years contest. Actually, I have a huge list of problems with in game’s bugs, with the enemy AI, and with the often ridiculously overwhelming bosses turning the game into a curse-filled nightmare every few battles.
But the absolute biggest sin here for me isn’t even the suck ass story or the sexist and sometimes racist jokes passing for humor. No, the real crime here is, there is a great story lurking under the game’s methods of reincarnating EVERYONE to keep areas populated with killers, thieves, and rapists. Hyperion Corporation supposedly wants you dead, but then they just keep reviving you. WHY?
This in itself could be turned into a DARK and bizarre story about how one company is profiting off of the deaths of all people and animals by forcing everything to pay for the privilege. Even the animals on the planet are smart enough to be dealt with in such a way, and once they understand the rules, even the animal life is geared toward murder and looting their victim’s bodies to earn the funds for another life in the inevitable event of their demise. The same company charging people and animals to be revived is ALSO the company selling everyone guns and grenades, so this whole murder planet theme is incredibly dark, and it turns everyone, even women and children, into battle hardened psychopaths.
BUT this is not the story the game is telling. Instead, in an effort to shore up their shit story from last time and the total non-ending, Gearbox have come up with a villain for BOTH stories, and he’s a complete fucking doofus. He’s evil in the same way that wrestling heels are, using cheap insults and lousy jokes in an effort to stir the player. When he finally does do something truly evil, the writers fuck it up by trying too hard to tie the two games together.
In a kid’s game where everyone was good, Handsome Jack would come out looking pretty evil. But on Pandora, everyone is killing each other and behaving in majorly psychotic ways. The zoologist Sir Hammerlock only hires you to kill animals, and everyone else hires you to kill people or animals for no other reason than “they’re bugging me.” So even though Jack seems to go over the top to prove he’s the most evil, he’s still competing with the crew in Sanctuary. There’s nary a sympathetic character in this cast except for the player character Maya. Even Lilith, the siren from the last game, comes off as deluded and evil.
And the worst sin of all for a game, even if I accept the lousy story, is that I was rarely having fun. Sometimes, at random, I’d kill someone with a remarkable level of skill, and I’d enjoy that one moment. Then there were my actual mistakes providing a moment of real comedy relief, like me spending three minutes trying to time a train before crossing the track at just the right instant to catch the train in my face. That was funny.
But the game itself is DULL, and a lot of the overwhelming waves of enemies just aggravated me. After a while, aggravation gave way to boredom.
And while I’m complaining about the game, let me talk about credibility. In the start of the game, CL4P-TR4P takes me to his base and uses a fancy door scanner, saying he needs the security to stay safe from bullymongs. A minute after we’re inside, a bullymong descends from an ice tower in the middle of the room and steals the robot’s eye. This is how the security works for Sir Hammerlock’s base too, where he has electric fences surrounding his empty village, but his buildings are already overrun with bandits. Every place promised as secure is usually revealed just moments later as not being secure at all.
This is a trend in the game, by the way. The alcoholic intelligence officer never has good intelligence. Nobody’s security is very secure, and the “demolitions expert” is a little girl who talks like a male gamer who’s never met a real little girl, (and who possibly has limited contact with any females) and whose idea of bomb making is tying stuffed rabbits to the sides of guided missiles with rope. In short, in a world full of morons, if you’ve got two IQ points to rub together, of course you’re the hero. You’re already smarter than everyone else in this game, including the writers.
So this is a game that’s dumb, dull, and dreadfully written, a wasted opportunity where there was a great story possible from the exact same setting and characters, if only the writers could get over themselves and stop trying to crack “tribute jokes.” In short, I couldn’t be more disappointed.
I give Borderlands 2 two stars, and about the only nice thing I can say about it is, I got it at a discount for preordering.