Borderlands 2 is one of those games that you can forgive for just about anything. It sits right up there with the likes of the Elder Scrolls series and the Fallout series in terms of games that are admired as much for what they aspire to as what they actually are.
And what Borderlands 2 is is a hell of a lot of fun.
The Borderlands series has very lofty ambitions. It attempts to blend the free-roaming RPG aspects of the Fallout series with the immediacy of modern FPS gaming, the loot gathering of Diablo and the cooperative party-based play of MMOs. Its a lot to put together in one game and a concept that could seem very cobbled together.
Borderlands 2 builds what made the first game so much fun running about Pandora, shooting enemies and collecting increasingly powerful guns, either solo or with friends. And, it does it in Gearbox's typically brash fashion.
Where Borderlands was silly, Borderlands 2 is ludicrous. Where Borderlands is fun, Borderlands 2 is downright addictive. Most importantly, where Borderlands was slow, Borderlands 2 cranks up the pace exponentially.
Right from the start, where your chosen class of Vault Hunter wakes up in the frozen wastes of Pandora with a Claptrap unit with more than a few loose circuits looking over you, Borderlands 2 throws you straight into the action. New three-armed yeti-like creatures called Bullymongs are your first enemies with Claptrap leading you on a quest to recover his eye, which was ripped out by a particularly nasty one.
Facing a boss battle within the first 20 minutes is the perfect antidote to the comparatively slow opening of the first game in Fyrestone. Its a shot of adrenaline that Borderlands 2 will keep giving you if that is what you want.
The storyline of Borderlands 2 is very similar to that of the first game. Find the Vault and open it before the bad guy does. This time though, it is a bigger, badder Vault that imprisons a super soldier that can be controlled by whoever frees it. The new bad guy, Handsome Jack is several steps ahead of you and also has all the resources of the Hyperion Corporation at his disposal.
Opening the first Vault had some strange side-effects on Pandora. It caused a new powerful element, Eridium, to appear all over the planet and it can be used to barter for black market mods like increased ammo capacity. It also enhances weapons either producing E-weapons that are the games equivalent of energy or in a more raw form as the Slag weapons both of which have some interesting effects.
Other new weapons features include guns that turn into grenades when their clips are empty, double, triple and quadruple-barrelled shotguns and guns that become more accurate the more shots you fire in a burst.
There's a huge new array of enemies from Bullymongs to Hyperion's Loader robots even to the monstrous Threshers that will look very familiar to Mass Effect fans.
Geabox has gifted players with a larger array of vehicles as well. The new Bandit Technicals are the most interesting as they have some more quirky weaponry like the saw-blade launcher. Thankfully Gearbox has also made it possible for ammo and cash discarded by dead enemies is now collected by running over it as long as you have space. This means no having to get out of the vehicle to collect what turns out to be two dollars. You still have to manually pick up weapons, shields and other goodies but given your limited inventory space, especially at the beginning of the game this is no real shame.
Everything is wrapped up very nicely in a new, sharper, cleaner version of the first game's cel-shaded look. The new visuals serve to demonstrate just how much the Unreal Engine 3 and even the Xbox 360 are still capable of. Even UE3's characteristic texture pop-up has become more of a fade in. It is still there every time you respawn though.
Having more of everything does have its downside and, as is typical of games with the sheer scope of Borderlands 2 there are more bugs to contend with. Some bosses disappear mid-battle requiring a reloading of the save game to make them return. Fink's Slaughterhouse, the game's arena, seems to forget to load up additional waves of attackers and on one occasion the ability to open boxes and crates stopped working.
There are no bugs that don't disappear with a reload of the save and there was certainly nothing that prevented completion of missions like on one or two occasions in the first game but it can be frustrating having to go back to the current save, especially in extended play sessions.
It's rare to find a game that lives up to even a small fraction of its hype. Now, for Borderlands 2 it was pretty simple to just add more guns but Gearbox has done so much more. They have rounded all the rough edges they never got a chance to with Borderlands and have turned out a game that is bigger, faster and far more brash than its predecessor.
In a game this size there will always be bugs but with Borderlands 2 we can forgive them for one reason and one reason alone - it's just too much damned fun.