Borderlands 2 Vita

Borderlands 2 Vita

Almost two years after the release of Borderlands 2, will the leap to handheld keep the true Borderlands spirit, or will compromise lead to a poor port?

Borderlands 2 Feature

If you’re one of the people who spent dozens of hours jumping and looting your way around the world of Pandora in Borderlands 2 back in 2012, chances are you have had your fill with the game.  You’ve probably put it away months, if not longer, ago and have moved onto other things and that’s not necessarily a bad idea considering Borderlands the Pre Sequel will be launching later this year.  Almost two years after the release of Borderlands 2, Iron Galaxy Studios has released their port of Borderlands 2 for the PlayStation Vita.  Originally a fan based tweeting campaign to a few execs at Sony that caused a few heads to turn, months later here it is on a handheld system and it’s being advertised as “delivering hours upon hours of signature addictive Borderlands nonstop collaborative loot-shoot gameplay.”  Many people were lead to believe that maybe, just maybe it could be pulled off,  but is the leap to handheld going to keep the true Borderlands experience intact, or will compromise lead to an unsuccessful port?

Speculation was high as to how the entire open world of Borderlands 2, with up to 4 player co-op would be possible on the Vita.  Much credit goes to Iron Galaxy Studios who were brave enough to accept the challenge and, whilst flawed, their work is commendable.  Borderlands 2 on the Vita is surprisingly playable.  First impressions are an important thing and booting up the game for the first time on my vita, brought back some good memories.  Watching the opening scene where the four character classes are introduced and listening the catchy tune was great, the video quality was not compressed and the audio was crisp.  Whether just using the Vita Speakers or connecting some quality headphones, the audio quality was high and thankfully not compressed to the point of it being noticeable to the layman.

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Visually the game is equally as impressive.  I have not played the PS3 version (which can be considered one of the worst versions of the game) for quite some time, and making the jump to Vita, I could not notice a difference.  Textures were sharp and the colors were bright.  If I were to compare the two side by side I am sure there is a difference.  The complaint I do have with the design is that although this was just a port, some new UI could have been created to adjust the Vita’s screen.  The menu system for borderlands was created to be clear and concise for people who have large, HD TV’s and although the menu is great on larger screens, the menu on Vita is just a little too small.  Depending on where I am the Vita is generally 18″-24″ away from my face and when help menu’s would pop up, or when I opened the inventory screen, I would need to bring it close to my eyes just to read the text.  Thankfully the Vita’s OLED screen and resolution are good enough that you can read the fine print, but you need to have it close to your face.  The text is small enough that I bet the same thing on a 3DS might be un readable.

Now this I think is the question on Everyone’s mind:  How does it run?  The answer, whilst not a simple one is “well”.  The control scheme was brought over in its entirety and it is completely playable.  The Vita is missing four buttons compared to console controllers, so the touch screens are used.  Default mapping has your sprint button on the left rear side of the touch screen and the melee button is on the right side of the rear touchpad.  Your special ability is on the front left touch near the Special Icon, and on the front right side you have grenade throw, which is by the grenade icon.  This of course can be customized and changed around to your heart’s content, so find something that works for you.  I opted to keep the default layout so I could get the experience the developers intended and I thought it worked fine.  In an effort to avoid false button presses, the front buttons will only trigger if you click their corresponding icons.  This was not a problem since they are easy to see.  The back touchpad is different. The Vita 1000 models have smaller finger grips then the new slim models and it is easy for anyone, especially adults with larger hands to have your fingers on the rear pad at all times.  In an attempt to correct the developers added a dead zone around the edge of the touch pad so that it would not be accidentally triggered.  The result is beneficial, but at the same time can mean extra tapping if your first attempt happens to hit the dead zone.  This however is not an issue, just one more thing to get used to and after a few hours becomes second nature.  I personally invested in a hand grip for my Vita.  I have large hands and after a few hours gaming, my hands started to hate me; this has nothing to do with Borderlands, more of an issue with the Vita and if you have this problem, you probably already own a handgrip.

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Technically, the game is inferior to its console brethren, but only slightly.  The frame rate is claimed to be between 28 and 32 frames per second and it feels like it maintains that amount.  There is a noticeable dip at times, especially after shot-gunning an enemy at point blank range.  The dip is not more than a slight hiccup in flow, and never comes to a point where it is a slideshow or unplayable.  A slight delay is found when shooting at times, it’s not always constant, but if feels as if your bullets are slightly delayed when hitting enemies.  Most enemies require a few clips to dispatch and with the constant stream of lead it becomes hard to tell if it is delaying.  The enjoyable numbers that bleed from enemies as their health is take is in full effect and thankfully it was not cut from the final game.  A new aiming mechanic was put in place, which allows the down sights aim to me adjusted by just tilting the Vita.  It feels identical to the aiming on Uncharted Golden Abyss and helps in gunplay.  Whilst that is mostly useful for sniping, the minor aim assist comes in handy for most other conflicts and by no means does it take the control or skill away from you.

Other compromises were made to make the game playable on Vita.  Enemies, when killed no longer rag doll and drop, but instead explode and disappear.  This is a great idea since it frees up Vita’s RAM and looks cool at the same time.  Sadly, the previously announced 4 play co-op was cut only a few short weeks before the games release.  Now only having two player co-op, the game still runs well with two players in the heat of battle.  I don’t blame Iron Galaxy for making the cut, as clearly we would only complain about 4 player co-op being horrible if it existed.

Long story short, Borderlands 2 on Vita is what we all love:  More of the famous shoot and loot action that is Borderlands.  Coming packed with 6 DLC items and the ability to transfer your characters over from PS3 and back, Borderlands is packed with content and is perfect for veterans of the series who crave to “Gunzerk” on the go and for any Vita owner who’ve never played the title.  Vita owners should highly consider playing this game; Borderlands 2 on Vita is the least impressive version of the game, but that pales into insignificance when you consider that you can play the entirety of an open world FPS RPG, while sitting on the toilet.

 

For further reading about Borderlands 2 and what it has to offer, please check out my original review from 3rd October 2012 that appears courtesy of Tech Fixation.

 

Have you ever been sitting on your couch with a friend trying to figure out what game you want to play? You want to play an FPS and your buddy wants to play an RPG. Well now you don’t have to compromise anymore! Borderlands 2, the sequel to 2009’s Borderlands which combines frantic FPS combat and RPG loot dropping goodness. We return once more to the wonderful world of Pandora but this time, things have changed. This is quite a spectacular journey, so bring friends!

Gameplay

Borderlands 2 is so much like its predecessor in many ways. You still progress through a large open world completing main story missions and side quests. You will be shooting several Tons of bullets, driving buggies, and collecting a Lot o’ loot. The world is divided by areas which each have their own missions. Although this is very much an open world game, the mission structure is somewhat linear. Each mission has a pre-determined level assigned to it. Meaning if you are below the level suggestion it will be tough, or if you are higher in level, the mission will be trivial. The mission XP that you earn will still be the same, but enemies will be easier to kill and any loot you find may be below your level if you get too far ahead of the given mission.

The story is much more focused this time around. You play as a ‘Vault Hunter’ who was sent to Pandora to do just that; hunt for Vaults. Four years have passed since the events of Borderlands 1 and  Pandora has definitely changed. ‘Handsome Jack’, the ruler of the Hyperion Corporation has set up shop on one of Pandora’s moons. He is in a never-ending attempt to get access to one of the Vaults. Your goal is to put an end to that, and beat him to it.

MECHANICS – The FPS mechanics are straight on. Shooting feels as great as ever, and pulling off that perfectly timed headshot, Never felt more satisfying!  What makes defeating monsters and bandits even better? When they drop loot! Finding a rare gun or shield that popped out of one of your fallen foes is so rewarding. Being able to instantly compare stats of the weapons you come across, to what you have in your inventory makes it even easier.  Of course you will often come across chests in the wasteland that you can find items in, or even purchase them from Vending machines.

CLASSES – You can play as one of four classes: ‘The Gunzerker’ which allows you to dual wield weapons, ‘The Siren’ which can phase lock enemies, ‘The Commando’ that can deploy turrets, and ‘The Assassin’, who can slice at enemies without them even knowing it. Challenges have returned this time around but are much more refined. Every time you complete a level of a challenge you increase your ‘Bad Ass’ rank. This new ranking system is unlimited, so as long as you keep completing challenges you will have awesome bragging rights. The higher you ascend in your bad-assery, the more Tokens you unlock. Tokens give you bonus stats, like +1% Melee Damage, or -1% Shield Recharge Delay. These bonus stats can be active for every character you create since the Bad Ass score remains constant for all of your characters.

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CO-OP – You can play Borderlands 2 by yourself, or you can bring up to 3 friends to play alongside you. With four classes to choose from, your game can be very exciting, since each of the class specialties can alter the way you fight greatly. The more people you have in your group increases the difficulty of enemies and also increases the chance for better loot drops.

Borderlands 2 is an RPG at heart, so as you may expect you will be leveling up your character all the way to level 50 and unlocking new skills as you go. Gearbox Software has promised more DLC to come, and it is safe to assume that the level cap will be increased as well.

Graphics

Borderlands 2 is a very unique game visually. It has a cell shaded look that gives the game a wonderful  flare. Expect to see a lot more colors this time around in Pandora. The drab grays and browns from the first game are still here, but there are plenty of greens and reds which really livens up the universe.  The gun and character animations are all very smooth and the game overall is technically sound. You will find texture pop-in to be fairly frequent any time you load up a save or enter a new area however.

Borderlands 2 has some new character customizing options which will allow you to choose custom skins for your head and body. New skins are unlocked as you increase in ‘Bad Ass’ rank, and as they are randomly dropped. This helps to make these characters really be your own.

Sound

The sound in Borderlands 2 is excellent. Jesper Kyd, who is known for his work on Darksiders II and the Assassin’s Creed games, composed the soundtrack for Borderlands 2 as well. As you play the game, you will notice that the music is actually unique to each area of the game that you enter.  As opposed to a sound track that may repeat, this enables each area of the game to have its own vibe, and lends nicely to the tone of the game.

The writing in Borderlands 2 is stellar. The dialogue is witty and quite often had me laughing in my chair. The story is much more developed and actually gave me more incentive to run around and explore.

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Conclusion

If you played Borderlands 1, you owe it to yourself to play the sequel. The game as a whole is very similar, but sometimes it is the many small things that really make a difference. Being able to initiate a trade with a friend, or duel them for a piece of loot that they stole from you is Amazing! Being able to walk over money to ammo to pick them up is genius! Borderlands 2 has an improved AI. Charging enemies no longer run at you in a straight line which allows for an easy headshot. Shooting at enemies will cause them to veer off path, much like you would see in RAGE. Enemies can become wounded and limp away from the scene of battle. There are many more enemies in this game which helps to change things up during combat. You can be running away from a Bot that is about to explode in your face, only to have and aerial drone shooting charged plasma at you. Borderlands 2 is always engaging, and very addicting. In fact I need to cut this review short just so I can return to the wonderful world of Pandora! But seriously, if you are wondering if it really is worth all the hype, just take my word for it. If you have ever played a FPS or an RPG and had a good time, then you cannot go wrong with Borderlands 2!

Score 9/10

The Verdict

7.6Good

The Good: Open World FPS on a handheld with fantastic writing that will make the most callous of people laugh.

The Bad: Occasional frame rate hiccups and small menu size. Some control issues only frustrate for a short time.

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Roger

I don’t know how to put this… But I’m kinda a big deal. People know me. In case you don’t I’m a gamer, outdoor enthusiast and part-time everything else.

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