I got into the first game late. Borderlands had been out almost a full two years and had dropped the Game of the Year Edition already. Borderlands GOTY was actually the first Steam game I purchased. Before that it had been review copies or games I’d bought at retail that activated through Steam and I got it cheaper there than I’d seen it elsewhere before or since. And oh what glorious fun it had been. I find it highly appropriate that one of the first games I’ve ever pre-bought through Steam is the sequel, the other being Torchlight II which also drops this week. I’mma be busy.
1. Within the first five minutes of the game the loud, violent, irreverent, and highly humorous world of Borderlands is back in action. The opening sequence and area alone set a much faster pace than the first game did right away, giving you a direct line to who you’re gunning for, and setting us up for things to move quicker than they did the first go around.
2. I like the Unreal engine. It looks good and plays well. It has issues, though. I’ve noticed it still in the latest Transformers game and you can see it here in Borderlands 2, but they still haven’t worked out that two to three seconds to load in a proper and decent looking texture. It happens in character creation just swapping heads and outfits, and it happens in the game itself. I don’t knock them for choosing the game engine because it is a good one, but can’t they have figured out how to load game textures before we’re looking at a new mesh instead of after by now? I mean this version of it’s only been in use in games since 2006. And this is happening when I open chests of all things containing cash which, at the point I’m getting texture loading delays on, I’ve seen about 30 or 40 times already in that session.
3. The new classes are interesting and a nice change up of the previous classes, giving us something familiar with them, but the way they work now is completely new. I think it’s interesting that the cap is back at 50 again in this game with the achievement tagline that it’s the cap… for now. We’re getting four DLC for this game so I’m expecting roughly the same level progression as the new DLC hits.
4. It’s not another crappy port. All the bells and whistles to customize the game to fit your needs and your gaming rig are here. At first it didn’t feel like it because the first game menu is bare bones, but once you’re into the actual game you can go in and tweak all the graphics settings to your heart’s content, which I did. I can run it beautifully at 1600×900 (my laptop’s max resolution due to the screen limitations, not the graphics card’s max) so why settle for something lower when I don’t have to? I also like the setting that is supposed to regulate how many frames per second the game is trying to dutifully pump out for you.
5. Along with not being a crappy port, they did a great job making the 360 controller and the keyboard and mouse feel like a natural way to play the game on the PC. You’re not fighting for control of the game using either method and everything feels pretty fluid and natural, much like the first game. If you have a preference or really don’t care how you play your game on the PC, you’re set either way. It’s a beautiful thing.
6. Character customization has been overhauled a little bit. Instead of just choosing your head and shirt colors, they’ve got hairstyles and whole separate heads for each class. If you have the original Borderlands installed you get an additional outfit and head for each class to start with which won’t matter much to you in single player as this is a first person shooter, not a third, but it does help with multiplayer and telling who is who. The full outfit re-coloring and texturing looks quite a bit better than it did in the first game and it feels like there are more options this go around.
7. Matchmaking through Steam works about as well as can be expected. Which is pretty awesome. One of the nice things about this version is you can do this over a LAN too so you don’t have to pop online at all and of course play in offline mode to not play with anyone else. I set my game to friends only for now so everyone else needs an invite or I have to hunt up my own game. I am pretty terrible at this at first, after all. The other nice thing about the online component to this game is I don’t have to be online to play the game, meaning if I’m not net connected my game still works. Kind of important to some people, myself included. I know, there are places in the world you can go where the Internet does not reach and yet you still want to play games. Scary.
8. Boss Fights change things up. I’ve had a few major fights on the way up through level seven, a critter that throws rather large objects you want to avoid, a pair of oddballs with a giant cannon and a jetpack, and finally a guy that really, really takes the whole dragon and flame thing too seriously. Each one required different tactics and weren’t cakewalk to get through even though I’m playing on normal. I’m actually a little annoyed at the last one because I ended up using a cheat to get through as there was just no way to get through all the enemies, the two bigger Badass enemies and the big boss dude all at the same time. So after I reconstituted I hung out on a ledge and plunked them from there instead which only works if you’ve died because there’s no way up otherwise. I also found out the big guy can jump up there and then eventually fit his way in even though he’s too big (he glitched), which turned it into a run and gun on a series of catwalks, which was actually more exciting than fighting him in his arena.
9. Driving controls are still a bit of a joke. The starting vehicle feels a bit tougher than it did before, but they’re still not great to drive. Shooting controls seem to be a bit better, but driving still feels like you’re either drunk or it’s the sloppiest and shoddiest vehicle ever built. Running over critters is still a blast.
10. Save points. It’s nice to get re-popped into a spot with a minor fuss after you die. When I save a game though and I’m out at a specific spot, I really dislike ending up in a different area and having to mow through all that crap again. It’s a minor sticking point, really, as I’m usually not out in the middle of nowhere when I have to quit, but it can and will happen and I will be annoyed on start-up every time.