As it has been made clear, I love video games. The last two articles have been based on video games that aren’t even theme park related. I’ve been playing video games since I was 4 and my dad got an NES lot from a coworker. I love video games. Almost as much as I love theme parks. And there is one game that has been released (multiple times in fact thankfully) in the last decade that for me stands as my favorite game to come out in the 2010’s and maybe of all time, Borderlands 2. A rare sequel that not only improves on its predecessor, but does everything better that it makes playing the original not as enjoyable and creates a formula that is carried over into not just its sequels, but other games like it. It is a game that incorporated incredible game design combining elements from other games and incredible story telling in such a way that has been replicated but never duplicated nearly as well.
Borderlands 2 is about a group of Vault Hunters who arrive on the planet of Pandora (not the blue cat people one) who join a faction of other Vault Hunters called the Crimson Raiders to take down the Hyperion Corporation because their owner, Handsome Jack, wants to open The Great Vault and unleash a supernatural being called The Warrior (bang, bang) who Handsome Jack wants to use to wipe out all Vault Hunters and bandits on Pandora. It’s a simple plot, but the simplicity of it allows for the real star of Borderlands 2 to shine through, the characters and snappy writing. Many games since have tried to have funny and manic writing for their characters, but none have come close to the fluidity and naturalness that Borderlands 2 does it. Even its sequels The Pre-Sequel and 3 don’t have as good of writing or even characters. All of the characters in 2 are incredibly memorable. Tiny Tina, Claptrap, Ellie, Hammerlock, Mr. Torque and a plethora of other side characters are all incredibly memorable.
But the standout character in not just this game or even the Borderlands series, but for gaming bad guys as a whole, is Handsome Jack. The best villains are usually ones that you can not only empathize with but agree with their motives. Though the way he goes about his goal is obviously bad. He wants a planet that is free of murderous bandits to protect his daughter, but he does this by wanting to commit mass genocide and hold his daughter in captivity. And while his actions are those of a great villain, the writing and performance is beyond excellent. Handsome Jack is the embodiment of charisma and the voice acting by Dameon Clarke more than conveys this. The way he delivers the lines starts out almost like a used car salesmen, charming and a bit snippy. But the further in the game you go and more you interrupt his plans, Handsome Jack is all rage and no longer takes your character like they’re a joke. It’s a great performance that develops as the game progresses. He’s not the same level of self confidence from the get go until the end of the game like (insert your own video game villain after 2013 here that does this). He keeps the player engage through to the end and when you eventually defeat him, it is satisfying.
While great characters and writing are fine, they mean nothing if the game play isn’t fun. Borderlands 2 is a standard first person shooter game, but was one of the only first person role playing games at the time to my knowledge. It combined Call of Duty with Diablo 2 perfectly. Making headshots in a game have not been as fun without dollars and guns coming out with fountains of blood since. The game also incorporates driving mechanics that put Halo to shame. Driving is incredibly easy and not complicated, coupled with the fact that there are customization options so you can drive more than one type of vehicle and even change the weapons on it to fit your play style better. And you get to play as one of six classes to allow for even more play style options. Playing as the solider class requires different tactics than the bruiser class. Coupled with each class having multiple skill trees to give even MORE options on how to play. It makes a game about shooting people more complex, but not difficult.
The big thing that makes Borderlands 2 better than the original is speed. The second game feels and plays faster. The speed at which you move, the pacing of the story, navigating through menus, inventory management, everything has been made with getting the player to the next point top of mind. It takes the same amount of game play time to get to the main hub area, Sanctuary, in both games (maybe even a little longer in 2). But it feels faster in 2 because they move you through everything at lightning speed. A lot of it is probably because with the first game they were creating a brand new gaming genre, so the second game is clearly going to improve on everything because the first game sold well and a sequel was not a big risk. But Gearbox made an incredible sequel that is stupid fun to play.
Borderlands 2 has been released on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation VR and soon the Nintendo Switch. It has had a 4K Patch and new DLC content released 7 years after the original game first launched. It is the Resident Evil 4 of the sixth generation of video games (being released on every platform possible). I have bought Borderlands 2 on Steam and Playstation 4. I have played for 100+ hours on both copies of it. Borderlands 2 is going to release on the Nintendo Switch on May 29th as of writing this. I will be downloading it as soon as I can to spend another 100+ hours roaming through Pandora, collecting loot and defeating Handsome Jack another few times from comfort of my toilet and wherever else I want to. Borderlands 2 is a rare game that I can always come back to, pick up and play until my hands get tired. It is an incredible experience and not just my favorite game of the last decade, but one of my favorite games of all time.