The impression that stays with you after playing Borderlands 2 is of being thoroughly overwhelmed. This is not a game for people who believe that less is more. In an age where first-person shooters are increasingly becoming indistinguishably muted and brown, Borderlands 2 is a splash of colour.
Like the first game, Borderlands 2 is, on the surface, a first-person shooter, where you travel through the world of Pandora, killing everything that moves. And a few things that don’t move as well.
If the game were set to music, the genre would be rockabilly. There are over 300 different types of enemies, with different weaknesses and tactics, and there are millions of different guns which you can find.
The player can be of one of four classes—the Gunzerker, who can charge into combat with a rocket launcher in each hand; the Siren, who can freeze enemies and levitate them, making them easy targets for the rest of the team; the Commando, who can set up machine-gun turrets for backup; or the Ninja, who can turn invisible and then slice through the battlefield.
You can play as any of these, and have a friend play the game with you at the same time on the same Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 (PS3). Or you can connect over the Internet to have up to four people playing together—the campaign lasts around 30-40 hours.
What really set Borderlands apart though was the levelling system, which is present here too. As you kill enemies, you gain points, and if you gain enough points, your character gains a level, becoming stronger, and gaining skills. You decide which skills to enhance, so it’s possible for two people playing the same character to have very different experiences by focusing on different skills.
A new concept is “badass ranks”—complete certain tasks, such as killing a set number of enemies, and you get a small bonus to attributes such as reloading speed, which is applied to any character you play as.
The game has the same cel-shaded art style as the original, which gives it a very unique look. These kind of graphics age well—we played the first game again to give a more accurate comparison, and it doesn’t look outdated—so it’s amazing how much better Borderlands 2 manages to look. That’s because many of the designs are sharper and more stylized, and there’s a lot more variety.
The first game took place in a series of deserts, but Borderlands 2 shows you a lot more variety in Pandora’s world. You’ll play in the tundra and in lush green forests, while the hub city of Sanctuary, where you will find missions and shops, is far more detailed than New Haven, the biggest city in the first game.
The designers at Gearbox were clearly conscious of the huge number of fans they were able to create with an unknown name. This time, with a whole lot of hype and expectation, they can’t upset the fanbase, so you get more, much more, of the same with Borderlands 2.
The tight cooperative gameplay remains finely balanced, and the new classes encourage more teamwork. You can still get a shotgun which fires rockets instead of pellets, which explode in a burst of acid, so that battered enemies melt into nothing.
The real changes are the small ones, which you might not even notice right away. Borderlands 2 improves on the original in many ways, without losing its freewheeling spirit. It’s an impressive accomplishment, and the game is a must for 2012.
Borderlands 2 is available on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC (Rs. 2,499 for consoles and Rs. 999 on PC). We played the PC version of the game.