Pandora is a harsh and unforgiving planet to the unwary. What chance do eight video game critics have against the insane brutality of Handsome Jack and his minions? Perhaps these review scores will earn them a stay of execution.
Only a stay, mind you; Handsome Jack isn't exactly known for not killing people, at least not for extended periods of time. Sooner or later, once he gets bored with his diamond horse, he's going to kill a person. It's his thing. Can you really blame him? Those pretzels were incredibly stale.
I've played several hours of Borderlands 2 myself, and as far as I'm concerned Gearbox could have made the game Handsome Jack threatening you over the intercom for four hours while you're tied to a chair in a completely white room and I still would have bought it. Hell, they could integrate Kinect.
Thankfully Gearbox did more than that, and it seems to have pleased reviewers, at least the ones not too busy waiting for Halo 4 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2.
Gearbox has taken a fresh look with Borderlands 2 at the often weak connective tissue linking the pile of divergent ideas that defined its predecessor. The story is developed and surprisingly thoughtful, and systems link together more. The result is a better game in almost every regard and, interestingly enough, a more ambitious one. However, a clearer vision from the start doesn't prevent Borderlands 2 from straining in several design directions at once.
The damage modifiers—fire, acid, and electricity, among others—all factor in heavily when selecting the best tool to take down enemy types. It provides a strong sense of strategy to how to approach a mob of hostiles. Though the early stage weapons lack certain tactility, there's a heft to higher-level guns that's truly satisfying.
Sadly, though, little has been done to improve the driving component of the series. Outside of a few quests that require you to use a car, the vehicles feel largely underutilized and not all that valuable outside of getting you to destinations a lot quicker. Borderlands 2 is a shooter first and foremost, but it'd be awesome to see smarter mission design that takes advantage of them in, say, the way Halo does with its vehicle levels. Even so, they offer a change of pace from the rest of the game's shoot and loot cycle.
... there's really only one thing that you need to know about Borderlands 2. It's a tough, stylish, emotional ride through everything that made Borderlands 1 such a great game. Pick three friends, span the character classes, and get to killing. You won't be disappointed.
And just for funsies...
And Borderlands 2 misses on enough counts so that I not only didn't joy puke, I didn't even get a tiny bit of mirthful bile in my throat. It may be the game for you, but if you're in the market for a new FPS, I'd at least counsel waiting to compare it to Black Ops 2, due out Nov. 13, or Halo 4, which is slated for a Nov. 6 release.