Title: Borderlands 2

Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Gearbox

Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC

Release Date: Out Now

Developing a sequel is something of a double-edged sword. There are so many traps to fall into when it comes to rehashing material that developers can often hamstring themselves by trying too hard to prevent the gameplay from going stale. Conversely, a sequel has a huge advantage when its source material is good. Thankfully, Borderlands was a top notch starting point and Borderlands 2 is an improvement on virtually every facet of that original experience.

That said, this game can at times feel a little too familiar when compared to its predecessor, with an opening and tutorial so similar to the original you’d swear you’d loaded up the wrong disc. Fear not, after a few minutes of gameplay you get to explore a completely new Borderlands, filtered through the beautifully underused cartoon aesthetic of the previous title.

The humour aspect of this game isn’t exactly subtle; probably the last time we had a robot make us laugh was Portal 2. While Steve Merchant (the voice of Wheatley in Portal) may not be around to grace us with his voice, the cast here do a great job with special credit going to Handsome Jack whose comical transmissions punctuate the main quest line. The sharp-eyed player will notice some great references from Pulp Fiction to Hitchcock to TMNT. Less subtle is an axe-wielding psychopath reciting the “O that this too too solid flesh would melt” soliloquy from Hamlet.

This is a game for gamers: the looting speaks to the most seasoned of players, but the whole atmosphere is lifted by the general tone of not taking oneself too seriously. The upgrades, the weapon comparisons, the purported “bazillions” of weapons all speak to the veterans of the role-playing genre, those accustomed to spending a decent chunk of their playtime scrolling through lists and weeding out the best kit to be going on with. However, the user interface is minimalistic considering the sheer volume of information it has to deal with; this decision clearly being made in service to the frantic core of the game, gun’n’running, which is so much damn fun virtually anyone can pick up the controller and enjoy themselves.

It’s certainly recommended that everyone picks up a controller, because if there’s one way to improve the core game-play it’s to multiply that madness by four in the multiplayer mode. This game works as a single player title but its best served as a cooperative experience.

Ultimately this game sometimes veers a little too close to the original, but keeps enough of what was great from before and injects it with the vitality that courses through this title’s veins.

Rory Crean