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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Borderlands 2.

TranscriptEdit

Borderlands was a game from 2010 about a prolonged second-hand gun bring-and-buy sale which some people liked and I didn't very much. There's a longer version of this story obviously, but basically while shooting Jason Vorhees in a scrapyard might sound like a stimulating escape from the workaday world, it loses something when it's all you're supposed to do for about twelve hours. Borderlands? More like Bored...rlands!

*pause*

But now it's time for the sequel and just to remind you of my personal formula for sequels, a good sequel leaps off from the original spreading silvery wings to explore uncharted skies while a bad sequel spends most of its runtime motorboating the original's titties and rubbing its head in the gravel. So in what category sits Borderlands 2? Well, from the comfortable territory of shooting Jason Vorhees in a scrapyard, Borderlands 2 has shyly thrown aside its dressing gown and taken its first nervous tentative step into the unexplored realms of shooting Jason Vorhees in a scrapyard and also it's been snowing a bit. Borderlands? More like Snore-derlands... 2!

*pause*

Anyway, we return to the planet Pandora (or to give it its full name, the planet Pandora-No-Not that one) with four Vault hunters of varying skill sets, different superficially from the four Vault hunters from the previous game but not in any practical sense, and after the Vault that drove the first game's plot was revealed to be short on treasure and long on tentacles, it turns out there's actually more than one treasure Vault on Pandora-No-Not that one, some of which actually do have treasure in. So that means that everyone in the game gets to keep calling you Vault hunter. Phew, thought we'd have to change our stationery!

But now your quest is to end the tyrannical regime of one Handsome Jack who lures you out to Pandora-No-Not that one and then try to kill you because he hates Vault hunters! Oh no, wait, actually he wants to manipulate Vault hunters, but then why would he try to kill you? Oh stop thinking about it and kill some more Jasons, Mr. Picky-Pants! After Rage demonstrated that you can't ask someone to hate a villain who spends most of the game quietly minding their own business behind a big wall, Handsome Jack's job is to call you up every five minutes and be an asshole at you, although come to think about it, that might describe the behaviour of every character in the game.

The hilarious thing about Borderlands 2 is that its main strategy for ramping up the stakes is to tell you the stakes are ramped up and that's about it. The player characters from the last game show up as NPCs just to confuse matters, let's call them Team Widdlebiscuit, and when a big robot boss shows up some way into Borderlands 2, they make a point of going, "Oh no, not that guy! He defeated all of Team Widdlebiscuit off-screen, no really!" And then I took him down inside five minutes! Now bearing in mind Team Widdlebiscuit basically defeated Shub Niggurath last time around, either we take from this that the new characters are all super-powered in the least apparent way possible or maybe Team Widdlebiscuit have spent the last two years sitting around drinking pints of cream with ring doughnuts hooked over the rims.

Or alternatively, Gearbox is trying to dress up the sequel as bigger and better despite it being neither of those things and not having significantly evolved in the slightest degree, and if that's the case, then the really insulting part is the halfheartedness in the disguise. It's like a small boy sitting half-in and half-out of a bear's mouth and trying to get into a nightclub by claiming to be Robin Williams.

So like its predecessor, Borderlands 2 is a game that's all wallpaper and keeps introducing new quirky characters with graphical freeze-frame effects like how a character called Jimmy Ninecocks would be introduced in a Guy Ritchie film, and then every single one proceeds to stand around doing bugger-all except explain that you're going to have to raid another bandit camp. Usually it's because the bandits nicked some component you need for the story mission. Yes, bandits snuck into someone's house while the occupant was presumably off doing something wacky and hilarious, and made off with a single dubiously resellable piece of highly technical equipment rather than any, say, money.

Perhaps everyone should rethink the standard home security policy of letting every random thug wander in and ransack every box with a green light on the front. It's like bandits are the local equivalent of Oompah-Loompahs whose job is to contrivedly pad out the gameplay before too many interesting things happen in quick enough succession to actually start engaging me. Strip off that quirky wallpaper and we're left with dull repetitive shooting where every gun somehow manages to be slightly worse than the previous one.

Borderlands is a game in which the central mechanic is the maniacal gathering of random objects, like a fat bastard who suspects he's about to be thrown out of the buffet, and proudly self-identifies as a shoot-and-loot game. Personally though, I call it stop-and-start. It's like riding a rollercoaster that just won't build up a decent speed because it comes to a lurching halt every ten feet so you can pick some flowers. You clear an area of baddies (perhaps you might even enjoy doing so, you monster), but then you have to rummage around opening the empty boxes and lockers, holding down X to pick up the ammo and money, checking every weapon against all your current weapons to make sure they wouldn't make things 0.1% more dead. Why make us open five ajoining lockers one by one when we could have dumped all their contents into one convenient trough? It's like the game takes perverse pride in flowing like a string of three-inch beads into a virgin butthole.

And why can't I track more than one quest at a time? Is it so maddening that I might want to take care of a few issues in the same general area at once rather than adhere rigidly to the to-do list like a passive-aggressive beaurocrat? Believe me, Borderlands, it would work in your favour to let me spend as little time as possible in the company of your user interface. Me and that guy, we don't get along too well. He got drunk at a party once and started asking women to sort his tabs. I can't remember, did I mention that the vehicles in Borderlands handle like ass? Well, they do, as in they literally handle like someone stuck a steering column into a giant pair of twitching buttocks that slide along the ground leaving a trail of ball sweat.

The best way to review a game I find is to start with the broad overall gut opinion about it and then work backwards to explain those feelings, and in the case of Borderlands, my broad analysis is that it bores me to fucking tears, and in fine analysis, there are lots of little reasons for that: the quest system, the item grind, the fact that I spent several hours stuck using an assault rifle with a ten bullet clip and a four second reload time. But at the end of the day, all you need to take is that after a while, I was greeting each new swarm of baddies as a data entry clerc would treat a fresh stack of forms plopping into their in-tray at four in the afternoon.

I don't even have the enthusiasm to hate it that much. Well, I used to, but then some bandits nicked it!

AddendaEdit

Got a finger stuck in Pandora's Box: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

I never understood the phrase 'bored to tears' until the day I accidentally mistook an upward-pointing drill bit for a bicycle saddle

How can a whole planet consist entirely of 'borderlands' anyway

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2

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