Archives by Day

August 2020

Borderlands 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Release Date: Dec. 14, 2018

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


PS4 VR Review - 'Borderlands 2 VR'

by Andreas Salmen on Feb. 4, 2019 @ 1:45 a.m. PST

Borderlands 2 is the ultimate role-playing shooter loot fest, featuring all-new characters, skills, environments, enemies, weapons and equipment, which come together in an ambitiously crafted story.

Buy Borderlands 2 VR

Borderlands is one of the biggest and most successful modern first-person shooter franchises, and it's in dire need of a proper sequel. Despite all of the rumors, the third entry has not yet been announced, but owners of a PSVR headset have another good reason to return to the dangerous lands of Pandora with Borderlands 2 VR. We tested out how well the game has been optimized and transformed to work on a VR headset, and we also evaluated whether the game still holds up six years after its original release.

Borderlands 2 is somewhat of a modern classic. There are few people who haven't played a Borderlands game on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or PC. Given its popularity, it was a good candidate for VR. Similar to Skyrim, Borderlands 2 VR is a timed exclusive for Sony's VR headset but will likely drop on the PC in the not-so-distant future. It also faced the same challenge of transforming a strictly flat experience into an immersive adventure, an endeavor that didn't turn out perfectly but was much better than expected.

Before jumping into the VR part of the game, let's first assess what Borderlands is in case you haven't had the chance to experience this universe. The story premise is as simple as it is crazy. The player takes on the role of a vault hunter who — you guessed it — hunts down vaults. While doing so, we face the evil-but-lovable antagonist Handsome Jack, head of Hyperion, a major company that aims to rid the planet of Pandora of its riches and resources. We choose one of four playable characters. There's the stealthy Assassin Zero with ranged weapons, the balanced commander Axton, the stasis-wielding Maya, and the heavy gunzerker Salvador. All characters have their own skill trees and special abilities, which enable a few different gameplay options if you play through the campaign multiple times. If you've played the game before, this is a great opportunity to try out a new character.

The comically overdrawn aesthetic of the game transcends its visuals. Throughout your adventure, you meet eccentric and aggressively "out there" side characters that range from the annoying Claptrap Roboter unit to the aforementioned arrogant Handsome Jack, one of the most memorable bad guys in recent video game history. With cheesy, repulsive and occasionally plain dumb dialogue, the game has a certain charm. It may not be entirely your cup of tea, but it went all-in with a style that goes well with the gameplay. Even six years later, Borderlands' setting and story is still enjoyable, something that can't be understated if you're thinking about jumping in for the first time.

The general level design and gameplay aren't incredibly complex. Basically, players wield an array of weapons to reduce enemies to a bloody pulp. The game also relies on an extensive and randomized array of loot and weapons, so every crate, drop and locker has the potential to be something special.

The randomized weapons with different rarities make the gunplay very satisfying. Accuracy, clip size, damage, and fire rate are just the beginning, with several bonus damage modifiers and elemental damage types. Due to the number and frequency of the drops, you're constantly forced to compare new items to your current arsenal, and you must make tough decisions about which items to throw out to make room for the shiny new additions. The same principle goes for grenades, shields, and special character modifiers that enhance your stats and abilities.

As we wander through Pandora, we accept main quests and side-quests, try to make sense of the mysterious voice in our head, square off against Handsome Jack, and find vaults. We also level up constantly. As mentioned before, every character has their own skill trees in which we can invest skill points. From time to time, we also complete challenges and receive tokens, which can be used to boost stats like ammo, critical damage output, or shield recharge rate. Given the emphasis on stats, you'll inevitably spend a huge amount of time in your inventory screen comparing and swapping out gear and making sure you're the most effective killer you can be.

Pandora and the quests aren't nearly as in-depth as your character development. The game features a semi-open world with large area maps that are connected by certain entry points and separated by brief loading screens. Even with larger areas that can be traversed by vehicles, the game often boils down to corridor-like passages and outposts that must be taken down through brute force. Enemy variety is decent, and the game has creative boss battles, many of which make their scope known in VR, where size perception is enhanced. However, the mission structure is rarely on par with the creativity. Most tasks boil down to fetch quests in different forms, hunting down and killing certain enemies, clearing out camps or fighting off waves to defend something. The great combat and mechanics ensure that even the most mundane mission objectives are fun, but the quests show the title's reliance on cooperative gameplay, which the VR version doesn't have.

Borderlands 2 VR contains the original base game. No DLC is included, and while that doesn't impact the gameplay length too much, it would've been a nice touch given the age of the title, the high price tag and the fact that even Skyrim VR offered every bit of content that had been released. We also have to note that Borderlands 2 VR scraps one of the original's biggest draws: cooperative play with a friend online. Cooperatively tackling tough enemies made the simple mission structure of Borderlands 2 less noticeable and bothersome. Without it, it's tough to disguise the simplicity of the quests. Borderlands 2 is still a very enjoyable experience, but it wears it down significantly. Playing VR can be a lonely endeavor, and being able to invite another player into that world would've been a killer feature.

Apart from the absence of these features and the apparent age, Borderlands 2 VR does a mostly excellent job of transferring and enhancing the gameplay experience into VR — especially for a game that wasn't intended to end up that way. Don't expect a fully interactive physics playground. Much like Skyrim VR, everything is mostly flat on an interactive level, such as loot or objects. Collecting stuff in the environment or pulling levers is still very much a button press or automatically triggered, rather than offering an additional level of interactivity.

The emphasis is on the controls and comfort options. The developer has gone to great lengths to ensure that players can customize just about every setting. Borderlands 2 VR offers support for both DualShock 4 and the PlayStation Move controllers, and both controller options are equally viable and fun to varying degrees. The PlayStation AIM controller isn't supported yet, but I'd be surprised if we didn't get a patch to rectify this oversight at some point in the future.

The DualShock 4 offers an experience that is closest to the original game, except it leverages the movement of your head to aim, making it far easier to line up critical shots. While full movement is available, we can also teleport and adjust how we turn around, but aiming is always centered around our head movements. This can feel strange at first, as your character's hands feel like they're stuck to your face, taking away even more immersion. Nonetheless, once you get the hang of it, it becomes a comfortable and easy way to jump into the action with minimal concessions. It's perfect for days when even moving your hands is too much to ask and you're looking for a middle ground between immersion and couch comfort.

The Move controllers make things more interesting. As expected, the Move controllers are rendered as arms in-game: one for your weapon and one to move around. The controller scheme is fairly similar to Skyrim VR, as we have the option to either use full locomotion by pressing the Move button and tilting the off-hand Move controller in any direction or teleporting around. We can use both movement options at the same time to mix and match as we see fit, and we can even use a regular jump function, although that may be a bit much, depending on how well you do with motion sickness.

Generally, the Move controllers require more of a learning curve, especially if you're not used to their control scheme. That'll likely result in wrong button presses or general sensory overload for the first few encounters. Tracking is not better or worse, so it's a solid experience throughout.

This extends to driving vehicles as well, which is already weird with a DualShock, but with the Move controllers, the moments in a car will likely feel out of control. This settles quick as you get used to it, but it's not the greatest or most natural way to move around. What's great is that vehicles are now steered from the first-person view, with head movement to aim your turret guns, so it's a fun roller coaster ride through Pandora's wastelands.

There are so many settings to adjust the controls and the comfort that it's likely players will find a setting that enables them to play Borderlands 2 VR. Some of the settings include blinders, move speed, turning, setting off the aiming in accordance to your Move controller position, and height offsets. You can be completely stationary and teleport around (that may be quite stressful in heavy combat scenarios), or you can turn off everything and run through the scenery like the weapon-wielding madman that you are.

The game feels a tad easier because aiming is much improved with both the Move controllers and the head aiming. Borderlands 2 VR introduces another feature, BAMF (Bad Ass Mega Fun) Time, which slows down time around you, so you can gain an advantage over enemies. The game has also been tweaked to accommodate this feature with special character skills, some of which replace skills previously used for co-op play that would otherwise not a serve purpose in this purely single-player adventure.

Visually and technically, the game is quite stunning for a PSVR title. The simple art style and age of the title enable Borderlands 2 VR to run with fewer downgrades than expected, especially playing on a PS4 Pro. Your immediate surroundings and models are sharp and retain their details very reliably (although the initial load-in is rather slow), no matter how fast or wild the action gets. As we gaze further in the distance, details vanish and the scenery becomes quite bland, but compared to other titles, especially Skyrim VR, Borderlands 2 VR looks rather stunning — even in its ugliest moments.

There are a few other annoyances here, such as menus constantly being obstructed by clipping scenery. They will generally be centered at your view, so looking in another direction will make them visible, but being forced to look in another direction than your facing is annoying. Menus in general are a bit cumbersome with the Move controllers since navigating with a pointer isn't always great, but it's serviceable to drag and drop weapons into slots or slide through the map works. The HUD itself looks pretty decent, and the 3D depth effect makes it feel like it's a real thing dangling in front of your face. The only downside is that the minimap and mission objectives are displayed so far out of your line of sight that you really have to concentrate to be able to read them. I had to stop and focus to make sure I could read and see everything in the corner of the screen, but that's not helpful and slows down the game in several key situations.

There are also several flat moments that are still present in the game. Cut scenes play out as flat videos, binoculars show flat views, and zoom scopes are rather irritating. We can use weapon scopes in the game, which open a small screen within our screen that zooms our vision. Unfortunately, that window runs at a much lower frame rate that makes aiming tougher and awkward. These are minor gripes, but they break the immersion.

As a sum of its parts, Borderlands 2 VR is a good and fun game even though it shows its age in the level design. Its VR implementation is impressive but not perfect. The lack of DLC content, co-op or AIM support may turn off players, especially given the game's high price point, but it's truly a solid and long VR experience that will keep you entertained for at least 30 hours. If you cannot wait for Borderlands 3 or have never played Borderlands 2, Borderlands 2 VR is perhaps the best excuse in a while to immerse yourself and return to vault-hunting on Pandora.

Score: 8.2/10

More articles about Borderlands 2
blog comments powered by Disqus