Game Review: ‘Borderlands 2’ a successful mix of genres

Michael Klein, Staff Writer

Borderlands“Borderlands 2” is a major upgrade of the 2009 original and provides the perfect balance of shooter and RPG. Four characters are available after the opening video sets the stage.

Salvador the Gunzerker barrels through Pandora with his Action Skill allowing him to duel-wield any two weapons. Commando Axton has a regenerating turret that is handy for combating large swarms of enemies. Zer0 is the ninja assassin who effectively brandishes both sword and the “bazillion weapons” the title delivers. Lastly, there is Mya the siren who uses levitation powers that can move enemies, a valuable sniping tactic.

As you progress, the means to specialize your vault hunter become more abundant and nearly infinite. Skill trees are broken down into three categories that support all strategies. For example, a fan of realistic shooting games with adept marksmanship can boost accuracy and critical hits with sniper rifles. If a bit impatient and more aggressive, there are melee, elemental and health upgrades.

Digging through it all can become very time-consuming. On the bright side, dropped money and ammunition will be picked up automatically on your travels.

All of the main characters return from the original and blend well into a richer storyline. Claptrap, a headache of a character, went from intolerable to amusing. You will also reencounter a few enemies like skags and suicide midgets but never feel like they’re just recycled, as they too are improved. Many unique new enemies provide new challenges like a ground dweller that sporadically pops up and sucks players into its black hole.

Handsome Jack and his unrelenting barrage of twisted tricks and hilarious insults make him epically entertaining. Lack of a climactic finish is far from an issue this time. Buildup to the final battle in enjoyable, and finally making Jack pay is incredibly rewarding.

Online game play is much more worthwhile than the original “Borderlands,” where it was necessary to sit through multiple loading screens to just quit your file. Now just hitting start gives you complete co-op control with most options.

After your buddy joins your game, you can now effortlessly trade loot from the menu. Also, you can place wagers when smacking your teammate upside the head for a duel. The inability to customize a duel is the only thing missing from these enjoyable squabbles. It would be great to handicap, disallow certain weapons, and choose a battlefield as well.

Issues aside, “Borderlands 2” is likely the most all-around entertaining first person shooter ever. What it lacks in realism, it makes up for in depth, originality and witty gallows humor. Replayability couldn’t get much higher with downloadable content like “Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty” already available and more expansion packs on the way.