Hybrids are the cool new cars these days, and they’re the cool new games too. Borderlands 2 is a Western shooter … with lots of RPG development … ample loot rewards … skill-tree upgrades … scores of side quests … a bunch of roaring beasties … laser-blasting robots and grizzled human foes … and more than enough oddball characters to keep the story dialogue humorously off-center.
Four Go In, One Crawls Out
The gaming action takes place on a planet called Pandora. This place was little more than a wasteland filled with brutish men and deadly beasts at one point. And then someone discovered that it was chock full of the rare and powerful alien element Eridium, and things quickly changed. A massive company called Hyperion moved in to claim the priceless stuff and tame the savage land. But with time and warring conflicts, the established civilization was overrun and everything crumbled back to dystopian cities full of, well, brutish men and deadly beasts.
Into this vibrantly crafted borderland—colorfully displayed through cartoony images with 3-D depth—four “Vault Hunters” show up. These curious (and curious-looking) adventurers are seeking the treasures of a fabled alien vault somewhere on the planet. And each comes toting unique skills: There’s a massive gun-wielder named Salvadore, a phase-shifting siren named Maya, a turret-specialist commando named Axton and a shifty assassin named ZerO.
The four heroes land … and are immediately blasted by an explosive trap. But fear not, your limping survivor of choice crawls out of the wreckage and, with the help of a noisome robot sidekick, sets off to find that hidden vault and fight against the devilish trap setter—the world’s ever-confident and über-snarky dictator Handsome Jack. As the game’s robust and twisting story unwinds, your hero works his or her way through scores of quests while leveling-up skills and blamming away at anything and everything that comes along.
As you might guess from the established setting, all that questing and crushing comes complete with lots of M-rated content. A unique weapons-generating system has you searching through scattered chests and cabinets, looking for any of over 10,000 different randomly generated weapons. All manner of machine guns, sniper rifles, pistols, shotguns, rocket-launchers and flamethrowers—many with special explosive or corrosive side effects—can be found and used to obliterate foes. That adds up to lots and lots and lots of graphic depictions of splashing blood and mess. Some of that weaponry can cause creatures and humans to lose heads, limbs or simply explode into bloody chunks.
Involving, But Bring a Mop
Packed in amongst the frenetic gunplay and dribbling yuck is some pretty raw language. One large Goliath-like enemy lumbers around blankly, for instance, until you blow his head off. Then, instead of falling down dead, he charges around in a blind rage with his brain dangling, somehow managing to bellow out “g-d‑‑mit” and other swear words while suggesting intestine-rending ways in which you should die. The s-word, “a‑‑,” “h‑‑‑,” “p‑‑‑y,” “b‑‑ch” and “b‑‑tard” pepper other bits of dialogue too. Salvadore has the ability to throw out a double middle-finger taunt to other combatants.
There’s other character-driven muck on tap as well. One ruthless foe, for example, carries a shield with three screaming “midgets” tied to its face. Thus, in order to get to the big guy, you’ve got to puree the little guys first. And then there’s a teen girl demolitionist named Tiny Tina who likes to torture strapped-down and screaming enemies with massive electrical shocks.
A busty female bartender named Moxxie likes to wear outfits that showcase her ample assets. And she can venture into sexual lingo with the right prompting. Other conversations range from winking punchline-laced discussions of incest and physical conquests, to foes yelling out the various forms of sexual abuse they intend to visit upon you. There’s sexualized imagery that shows up in the form of cartoon-style centerfold pics (with strategic bits covered) and girlie mags for soldiers with titles such as Gun-Ho and Grunt.
Admittedly, all these gross gags, nudging giggles and sequences of flesh-rending goop are designed to be tempered by this shoot-and-loot game’s eccentric quirkiness and cartoony color. But gamers will be spending between 25 and 50 single-player hours in this land—with some 19 central quests and 70-plus side missions to explore. So when the novelty wears off you’ll find that the crude and gory messiness is still strapped to your shield like a screaming dwarf.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.