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Gaming review: Borderlands 2 is extremely ADDICTIVE

Last updated on: October 17, 2012 06:45 IST

Gaming review: Borderlands 2 is extremely ADDICTIVE

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Borderlands 2 should come with a statutory warning for just how addictive it can become, thinks Murali Venukumar.

Murali is a full-time marketing exec, part-time writer and a life-long gamer.

Platforms: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC

Price: Xbox 360/PS3: Rs 2,499 / PC: Rs 999

Developer: Gearbox Software

Publisher: 2K Games

Distributor: E-xpress Interactive

Genre: FPS/RPG

Ranking: 9/10

The first Borderlands was a revelation when it came out in 2009. Gamers hadn't yet seen a title that effectively blended visceral, addictive first person shooting with all the bonkers-loot obsession of an RPG. Much of its appeal comes from the inherent pleasure of seeing numbers pop out with the damage you deal in combat, especially when said combat feels just right. The mechanics were so good in fact, that most fans overlooked its almost non-existent story, cardboard characters and dull landscapes.

Lucky for us that Gearbox actually listened to the fans for the sequel. Almost everything that was wrong with the original has been tinkered with (and mostly fixed). The story is now meaty and paced well enough that players needn't dread a solo play through. It's still more fun in 4-player co-op mind, but the very fact that going it alone is a perfectly viable option is a triumph. Along with a much better story this time round, the characters you'll meet in the various settlements on the planet of Pandora are also entertaining in their own right. The new scripting duo of Mikey Neumann and Anthony Burch have done wonders for Gearbox, filling the game world out with a great over-arching plot and a must-hate villain, as well as hilariously well written and voiced side-missions and NPC chatter that makes Pandora feel like a living, breathing world. Even the names of the rank-and-file enemies and assorted planetary citizens will have you chucking to yourself.

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Image: Gearbox Software/2K Games

Tags: Borderlands , Gearbox , RPG , NPC , PS3

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Also new to the sequel is colour. While there's still some brown in the palette, you'll also make your way through snow-covered outposts, lush jungles, swamps, futuristic cities and a lot more besides. These areas are filled to the brim with main and side-quests, so you'll be doing a lot of running around. There are times when you'll wish there was a more comprehensive fast travel system than what's in the game, but the combat and random loot is so enticing that you won't mind the trudge too much. It should be noted that you will be driving vehicles as well, although they're more a means of getting from point to point rather than anything else.

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Your path to ultimately foiling Handsome Jack's plans to mine enough Eridium (and open a new vault) to take over Pandora will be a long one. You'll start by picking from four classes of base characters (Axton, Maya, Salvador and Zero) whom you then spec up through three skill trees each. There's some minor visual customisation, but it would have been great if they were more than simple palette and part swaps. Axton is your typical RPG all-rounder, Maya the mage, Salvador the tank, while Zero is a cybernetic stealth ninja. They all have unique skills and special powers (such as Axton's turret and Maya's phase-lock) that you can unlock based on your style of play.

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Firing your weapon feels right, although a lot of that is dependent on which of the random guns you're fortunate enough to come upon. Borderlands' randomly generated guns trick hasn't got old yet, and you'll find yourself using some really odd weaponry (made by various in-game manufacturers) over the course of the game. Ever thrown your weapon at enemies with each reload? Which then explodes? Yea. Also to be bought, sold, looted and traded are shield upgrades, gun and grenade mods, class mods and a whole lot of other add-ons and upgrades that make your experience in Borderlands truly unique.

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While these classes play perfectly fine individually, they've been made to allow for complementary online co-op play (or split-screen with a friend). The main menu and the pause screen both let you set up games easily and the fact that it's all drop-in/drop-out makes the experience seamless. You may want to choose your friends wisely however, as the loot in a co-op game isn't evenly distributed. Engaging in a free-for-all with randoms online doesn't make for a pleasant experience. Rope in enough people you know with headsets however, and you're in for a whale of a time -- especially with the scaled up enemies.

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Also useful (both in solo and co-op) are the brand new and butter smooth UI which will make the times you'll need to visit the menus much more pleasant. As with most games now, Borderlands 2 also comes with a series of in-game challenges that earn you 'badass' tokens, which can then be used to buff up your character. It's a neat little addition that works in tandem with the regular skill system.

The mission checklist lets you prioritise missions whereas the new mini-map is a godsend when it comes to finding you way around the vastness of Pandora. Unfortunately, you may find some of the map markers a tad confusing, especially when your objective is at a different elevation from you.

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Borderlands 2 also retains its sumptuous cell-shaded aesthetic which now looks a tad sharper than before. There are some truly other-worldly vistas to take in on your journey through Pandora, with the only blemish being the now standard Unreal Engine texture pop-in. Veterans will also be interested to learn that the old cast does return in a supporting capacity. Also returning is Claptrap the robot, who is now far less annoying thanks to the superior writing.

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Borderlands 2 should come with a statutory warning for just how addictive it can become. Watching your ever-present XP bar increase at the bottom of your screen can become an obsession, leading to all-nighters in search of the (not so) elusive level cap of 50. Throw a rock-hard new game+ into the cauldron and you've got the most appealing FPS-RPG hybrid this side of the galaxy.

Are you a gadget/gaming wizard/afficianado? Would you like to write on gadgets, gaming, the Internet, software technologies, OSs and the works for us? Send us a sample of your writing to gadgetsandgaming@rediffmail.com with the subject as 'I'm a tech wizard/afficianado' and we will get in touch with you.




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