Borderlands 2 Review (Vita)
Borderlands 2 is undoubtedly one of the best titles to be released in recent years. Gearbox Software’s continuing saga of a bunch of Vault Hunters scouring the untamed planet of Pandora for legendary alien artifacts made the term “shoot-and-loot” popular and gave players a game in which they could blend the visceral satisfaction of a first-person shooter like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare with the obsessive loot-hunting of a dungeon crawler like Diablo. Now that Borderlands 2 has made the jump to the smaller screen of the PlayStation Vita, one has to wonder if all of that great content can fit onto the tiny handheld device.
Since the game is already two years old at this point and has been played to absolute death by hardcore fans, given the steady stream of downloadable content and different editions released for consoles, most gamers should at least be loosely aware of what Borderlands 2 is. Players take on one of four new Vault Hunters that have come to Pandora to search for the alien Vault and unlock the powers inside.
The new crew is made up of Maya the Siren, Axton the Commando, Salvador the Gunzerker and Zer0 the Number (Assassin). If you count the downloadable content characters, which you should because they’re awesome and come with the game, there’s also Gaige the Mechromancer and Krieg the Psycho. Each of these characters have specials skills that allow them to add their own flavor to combat and augment their battle capabilities in some way.
Choose your character carefully, because they all have differing playstyles. You might prefer Krieg’s more aggressive, buzzaxe-wielding approach to Zer0’s stealthy skills, for example. Or maybe you prefer to control the action with Maya’s Phaselock ability, which lets her freeze foes in time. If you’re wondering which of these fine Vault Hunters to play, there are plenty of resources online that can help you figure out which of their playstyles is right for you.
Thankfully, Borderlands 2 for the PlayStation Vita includes both Gaige and Krieg, so the whole gang is available for you. It even comes with other pieces of select DLC such as the two add-on campaigns, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage and Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty, along with smaller pieces of DLC that gift you with items and different looks. This all means that there’s a veritable treasure chest of content in the port of the game, so you won’t be starved for things to do. The only problem then is that this just might be the worst way to play Borderlands 2.
While the graphics were lovely to behold in their cel-shaded glory on console and PC, they look rather fuzzy and muddled on the Vita. When viewed from far away, it’s not so much a problem, but then you start to notice all of the popping in of several objects in the environment. What’s even worse is that the framerate is choppy and nowhere near a smooth 30fps. In a first-person shooter, this will not do. It was as if the rest of the game was trying to catch up to render what you were doing a few seconds after you did it. This wasn’t the case all of the time, but I noticed quite a few instances in which my Tediore rocket rounds missed atomizing a psycho bandit because the game registered my command too late and the bugger had moved.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the game still looks pretty impressive since it is, after all, Borderlands 2 on a Vita. But once you get past the novelty of having a huge game like that on a handheld console, then the blemishes start to show. One of which is longer load time. I’ve probably been spoiled by the PC version, but it feels like it takes forever just bring up your menu and flick through your inventory. Transitioning between locations is also an exercise in one’s patience, causing you to gaze at the loading screen as if it were a painting of the area around which you’d rather be adventuring.
As much as the graphics and the noticeable lag in gameplay disappointed me, at least the sound quality was up to par. Of course, this all hinges on how much you particularly enjoy the sound of Claptrap’s voice. But you’ll enjoy hearing the voice-acting from the rest of the cast of supporting characters such as Sir Hammerlock the hunter, Mad Moxxi the barkeep and even the original Vault Hunters from the first Borderlands. They’ll all aid you in the fight to find the Vault and stop the game’s antagonist, the wonderfully despicable Handsome Jack, from getting to it first and releasing The Warrior inside, which will cleanse the planet of Pandora.
The sound effects are quite enjoyable too, as long as they sync up with whatever you’re doing on screen. You might find that your projectiles or melee hits don’t give off a sound until about a half second after you’ve fired them off or swung at an enemy. This isn’t too major when you’re in the heat of battle and fighting off a group of bullymongs or psycho bandits, but it can get annoying enough to a point.
While cramming all of Borderlands 2 into the PlayStation Vita is a very impressive feat, I’m sad to say that it isn’t a perfect port. Being that Borderlands 2 is one of my very favorite games of the last generation, and one that I still currently play, it’s a shame that the translation wasn’t as smooth as we had all been hoping. Add the fact that you can only play co-op with one other player (the full game offers four-player support on other platforms) and it becomes even more disappointing.
One bonus is that there is a cross-save feature, so you’ll be able to bring your PlayStation 3 characters into your PlayStation Vita game and vice versa, but you’ll probably prefer to just play on the actual console rather than the handheld. Yes, the novelty exists, but it feels like such a watered down, restrained version of Borderlands that it will just get you itching to play it on console or PC.
This review is based on a purchased digital version of Borderlands 2 for PlayStation Vita.