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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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'Borderlands 2' builds on the success of standout original

2k

By Julian Aidan, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 3, 2012

If you’ve ever wanted to blow a shotgun-wielding midget riding a yeti to smithereens with a rocket-propelled grenade, you’ll find solace that, in “Borderlands 2,” your wish will be fulfilled not too far into the game. The cartoonish and visually striking world of Pandora once again acts as a backdrop for the hilariously violent, tongue-in-cheek sequel to 2009’s megahit.

As a new crew of Vault Hunters arrive in search of treasure, a satellite A.I. Guardian Angel begins to communicate with them, aiding them in their search for a new Vault, the one from the first game having disappeared. The world of Pandora is more or less run equally by roving bandits and the Hyperion Corporation, an ultra-powerful organization capable of everything from making living ponies out of diamonds to keeping an entire planet under constant surveillance.

The game is true to its predecessor in bringing nonstop, over-the-top action and gore to the player’s fingertips. It looks and feels pretty much the same as the original “Borderlands,” with the graphics and gameplay having evolved little. The game is as riddled with cheeky Easter eggs and dark humor as expected. The constant stream of new quests, new enemies and nearly infinite amounts of new weapons keeps things interesting for the player as he or she progresses. Each character has numerous customizable aesthetic options, including different heads and costumes, as well as three very different skill trees to put points in as they level up, changing combat handling and providing vastly different bonuses depending on the player’s choices.

Ridiculously photogenic antagonist Handsome Jack, head honcho of Hyperion, hounds and harasses one of four available player characters throughout their journey through everything from frost-ridden canyons to futuristic cities guarded by lunar bases. Axton, the Commando, runs and guns his way through enemies with the help of a deployable and highly upgradable turret, while the assassin-for-hire Zer0 prefers stealth, sniping and swords to deal with foes. Steroid-abusing “Gunzerker” Salvador is a balls-to-the-wall, dual-weapon-wielding Pandora native, and Maya, the only female of the lot, prefers using her “Siren” powers to disorient, manipulate and mutilate those in her way. Later, Gaige, a “Mechromancer” character, will be available for download. She will use robots and the specialized "Deathtrap," a Terminator-esque incarnation of the series’ beloved Claptrap mech, to carve a path to the Vault.

The game’s sound design and music selection are appropriate for the atmosphere and contribute enormously to the players’ experience. Kamikaze bandits rattle off strings of insults as they charge player characters, grenade in hand, while pterodactyl-looking Rakks let out an otherworldly screech before dive-bombing into sight. The voice acting is occasionally of questionable quality, but not so much that it detracts from the overall experience and feel of the game.

While the game hasn’t evolved much in the audio and video department, it feels smoother and looks sharper than its predecessor. The run and gun gameplay is still the same, as are the multitudinous ways to get rid of Pandora’s crazed enemies. And while the game may grow stale for some, the four-person multiplayer and promise of expansions should keep the game at the forefront of the genre for a while to come.


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