The campaign will likely run you a few dozen hours if you mix in some of the side missions, but even blowing through it will take plenty of time and leave you with a bevy of options left to explore.  Pandora this time around is massive and exciting.  From indoor complexes to snowy peaks to deserted wastelands, Pandora is a much more varied world this time around thanks to the countless vault enthusiasts and greedy companies making their way to the planet.  Warring factions, a safe haven populated with old friends and merciless bandits making their way through the borderlands all signify different exciting aspects of the world to explore.  It’s startling how much there is to cover even after I found myself deep into the story, and for fans wanting to explore all the class options, expect to be playing Borderlands 2 for quite some time.

Classes this time around have several improvements to their name.  Each character has a special power to unlock first before diving into upgrading portions of three separate skill trees.  It’s a holdover from the first game that allows a nice level of customization without feeling too convoluted.  While each class has a finite number of options, no matter your specialization there are a host of routes to take when making your Axton, Maya, Salavdor or Zer0 unique.

Additionally, the game now includes a Badass rank, rewarding players for completing challenges (killing a certain number of enemies by running over them, for example).  As the rank increases, players will be rewarded with tokens that can be spent on stat-boosting upgrades like accuracy and health.  Better yet, these stats are permanent alterations that will apply to every character you create on one profile.  While you can turn the entire system off, it provided one more incentive during my playtime to go out of my way to go through certain motions and added another appreciated level of customization.

Pandora has gone to hell, and it's up to you to take advantage of the chaos.

I loved the many layers of options, from random loot to skill trees, that made the already strong experience feel like my own.  Even in the presentation of these customization options does Borderlands 2 outclass the original.  Having recently returned to the first to familiarize myself again with the universe.  Menus are better designed and smoother to navigate, and it’s the little touches that make the refinements so enjoyable.  I noticed almost immediately in my playthrough that items dropped by enemies no longer need to be individually picked up (except for weapons).  They simply are accumulated by the character as he or she walks nearby.

These minor upgrades in conjunction with the major upheavals make for an experience I have not wanted to end.  I intend to be playing Borderlands 2, both in single and cooperative play, for many more hours to come.  I still hold a few quibbles with the franchise – sharing loot in co-op is a pain and many side missions can feel like unnecessary padding – but by and large this sequel delivered much of what I wanted as a fan of the original.  The writing is genuinely funny, the gunplay is varied and offers plenty of options and Pandora is now a more intriguing world to explore.  If the original, the genre mash-ups or the art and character style has interested you in any way, be sure not to miss this fantastic follow-up to a series that knows what it wants to be, and intends to have fun throwing it in your face.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Vastly improved story and characters
+ Loot-hunting is as addictive as ever
+ This game will keep you busy for a very long time
– Some dull and uninspired missions
– Pandora may be vast, but driving between missions can be monotonous
– Loot sharing can still be a hassle in co-op

9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.

Borderlands 2 was developed and published by Gearbox Software.  It was released for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 18, 2012 for the MSRP of $59.99.  A copy was provided to RipTen bu the publisher for the purposes of review.

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WHOA! Hang on there, kids! Don’t go anywhere yet. This is Michael Futter, Managing Editor and I’m giving this review the Dr. Zed treatment. Before you take off and go shoot the place up, I wanted to talk a little bit about the PC version of Borderlands 2. When the original shoot-n-loot came out, I was mystified to find out that people playing on Windows were having massive problems with multiplayer. Bummer.

Fear not! Things are all better now. More importantly, the PC version comes with a suite of options that had better make its way into pretty much every game from here on out. Do you guys remember “tallscreen gaming?” It was popularized by another 2K-published title. Never fear, this bad boy is true wide-screen all the way. In fact, you can adjust your field of view… ya know, if you are married to your cutting edge tallscreen setup. Hold on, I have a picture here somewhere…

Uh… no. That’s not it. 

There we go. You can cap the frame rate at 30, 50 or 60 per second, or simply have it smooth from just under 30 to just under 60. The chances of getting Borderlands to run, and run well, on your system are good. It’s pretty darn gorgeous once you get it cranked up to the highest settings, but knowing that you can scale down the frame rate to keep it from taxing a slightly older system should give players the confidence to give it a try.

Even with maxing out the settings with no sweat, I have a bit of video card envy right now. If you happen to have one of nvidia’s PhysX enabled cards, you’re going to get a visual experience that is markedly different. I will warn you right now, if you are on a budget and can’t afford a new graphics card, do NOT look at the video below.

You looked… didn’t you? Yeah. Me, too. I’m currently trying to figure out how to eek enough money out of my budget to make that happen. The particle effects look pretty amazing, and I wish could offer a first-hand testament to their performance. I’m just going to watch that video again…

… later.

If you are a console gamer and simply can’t abide using a keyboard and mouse to aim and shoot your way across Pandora, Gearbox didn’t want to leave you out of the pretty party. Just plug in a gamepad (any wired Xbox 360 controller or a wireless one with the adapter) and you’re off. Just don’t tell your PC-native friends what you’re doing, because apparently that’s taboo. [insert eyeroll here]

To sum up, the PC version is amazing to look at (not that the console version isn’t, but c’mon). If you happen to have an nvidia card that supports PhysX, well… chances are you already had your mind made up. The game is the same, but Steam functionality (cloud saves, screenshots, and achievements) are all here. 

All of that aside, as Jonathon said, this game is designed to be played with friends. Go where your posse is. If that’s not PC, then you’re better off with a lesser visual experience having fun than staring at a pretty screen all by your lonesome. Whichever way you decide to go though, GET YOU ONE!