Sunday, 19 April 2015

[PlayStation Vita Game Review] Borderlands 2

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Released: 2014
Genre: First Person Shooter/Roleplaying Game
Developer: Gearbox (Ported by Iron Galaxy)
Publisher: 2K
Buy on eBay

Borderlands 2 is arguably my favourite game of all time, so when I heard it was being released for the PS Vita, it quickly became a system seller for me. I promptly purchased a PS Vita in 2013 and in 2014 the game was finally released. It's taken me a while to get around to reviewing the Vita version, but let's find out if this game is worth your money to get on the Vita. This review will focus exclusively on the Vita version and how it compares to the home console and PC versions of Borderlands 2, but let's begin with a short story recap and a basic summary of the main gameplay.

Borderlands 2 takes place a good time after the first game and as a result of the vault opening at the end of Borderlands 1, a substance known as Eridium has begun leaking out of the planet's core to the surface. The Hyperion corporation saw this opportunity to mine this substance, to use it for their own ends (among other things creating a unique type of gun known as E-Tech that turns bullets into lasers), which aren't always in the best interest of Pandora's citizens, especially when Hyperion legend Handsome Jack is in charge of it all. Your adventure starts as 1 of 4 (6 if you have the DLC characters) vault hunters who come to Pandora to, well, hunt vaults (duh), though it turns out the entire thing was a trap set up by Handsome Jack and the train you're on gets attacked by Hyperion soldiers. Although you easily survive the attack, the train turns out to be rigged with explosives and after an earth-shattering kaboom, you wake up in the frozen cold north of Pandora, greeted by everyone's favourite annoying robot, CL4P-TP (Claptrap).

Gameplay wise the game largely keeps the same formula from Borderlands 1, consisting of doing quests, choosing which abilities you want to upgrade on your character and all the while looking for the sweetest guns you can find. Some things are much improved in Borderlands 2 though. For instance, you no longer have to manually pick up shit from the ground as you'll automatically pick up ammo and money as you run over it. Guns and other items still have to be picked up manually though, as well as loot from chests. The skilltrees are also far more interesting in their structure, offering a broader range of abilities that affect each other in different ways. In short it feels like there are more skills to choose from in this game, which is a welcome change from the rather boring skilltrees in Borderlands 1. The guns also feel more like they have an identity in this game from a design perspective. In BL1, it seems the guns blended together a lot, and it wasn't easy to tell the various manufacturers apart aside from some minor differences such as colour schemes. In BL2, each gun manufacturer has its own unique design, making the guns more aesthetically diverse which I approve of. The colour schemes change based on the rarity of the gun. The only thing I would say is a step down is that legendaries are far more difficult to obtain, as it seems Marcus has completely removed them from his shops in this game (tough times it seems), so your only option is to hope they drop from the enemies you kill, or you can farm bosses (each boss has a higher chance of dropping certain legendaries).

The Vita version restricts the co-op to only 2 people as opposed to 4 people in the console and PC versions. I haven't had the chance to test this out yet but I'll update my review once I get to play the game multiplayer.

The Vita version controls pretty much identical to its console counterparts, although with some unique twists, such as sprinting, powersliding and meleeing by tapping the back screen of the Vita, or pressing the left and right side of the Vita screen to use your ability or throw grenades. It's fairly intuitive once you get used to it, although I would like to have more control options since a lot of people don't like being forced to use the Vita touch screens.

Graphically the game looks a lot less impressive on the Vita. Compared to more powerful systems it is obvious some sacrifices had to be made in the graphical department. The game doesn't look ugly by any means and the Borderlands graphical novel style definitely is intact, though less flashy and with less impressive effects, especially when compared to the PC version's PhysX liquids. It's a bit sad as games like Killzone: Mercenary show that the Vita CAN pull off impressive graphics without sacrificing framerate, however it is important to keep in mind that KM was developed specifically for the Vita while Borderlands 2 was never intended to run on a handheld system, so it's understandable at least.

The audio department is also stripped down a fair bit. Due to what I would guess are memory restrictions, there's no processing on the voice acting, so most of the time it can be a bit hard to hear. I also noticed the audio lags heavily sometimes whenever the game starts using up a lot of memory, especially after playing a map for an extended period and after playing a lot of dialogue.

It seems in general most of the problems of the Vita version are related to memory. The maps and the amount of data in them are obviously meant for more powerful systems and I've experienced crashes and audio lag and stuttering a lot when playing one map for a longer time. Loading times are also painfully slow at times. It's obvious that porting a game to a handheld system it was never intended for brings its share of issues and I wish the game had been given more time or budget so that we could've maybe gotten an exclusive Vita Borderlands game or a more customized port that would work better with the system's limitations.

In short, Borderlands 2 on the Vita is what it is. When it works it's pretty much the same game, pretty much everything is there and intact, although a bit stripped down. I've had hours of fun with the game personally and despite its flaws, I keep coming back to it. It offers shoot'n'looting on the go and to me, that's all I want from it.

STORY: 9/10
SOUND: 5/10

TOTAL: 6/10