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When Gearbox released Borderlands in 2009, the studio managed to simultaneously combine the shooter and role-playing genres while creating one of the most enjoyable cooperative-play experiences ever devised. Borderlands 2 doesn't rewrite the book -- frankly, the changes are somewhat minor -- but when a formula works, sometimes a follow-up only requires just enough in the way of improvements and an expanded story to bring fans back to the fold.
Returning to the junkyard-western planet of Pandora, Borderlands 2 introduces four new playable characters, offering slight variations and improvements from its predecessor's original slate of Vault Hunters. The Siren returns, albeit with some new abilities, while the Commando is a more streamlined turret specialist, the Gunzerker is little dude with amazing gun prowess, and the Assassin can prove deadly with a sword or sniper rifle. While each class has its enjoyable perks, the Gunzerker's frantic dual-wielding mode is a personal favorite.
While Borderlands 2 still focuses on the shoot-and-loot, quest-based gameplay that made the original game so popular, the deep storyline is a vast improvement. Non-player characters are actually a pleasure to encounter, and the plot -- about corporate thug Handsome Jack's dominance over Pandora and its Eridium mineral deposits – proves just as intriguing as the ever-present need to find the best weapon imaginable.
Speaking of weapons, or more accurately crazy guns: Borderlands 2 has an absolutely insane amount of unique ordnance. The first Borderlands kept players chugging along and pairing up with a few buddies to find the rarest items around. Borderlands 2 takes that idea to extreme lengths. Granted, the plot is enough to make the quest-line interesting, but the possibility of finding some insanely powerful gun or a grenade mod capable of lobbing 10 explosives at the same time is joyfully addictive.
Unfortunately, the core ideas behind the quests are occasionally a bit mundane. Borderlands 2 all too often falls back on the standard (and tired) "Collect ten of [insert item]" concept for objectives, but for every seemingly unoriginal end-goal, the game keeps things excitingly weird with unique boss fights. Plus, completing quests in co-op with friends keeps things interesting, with cross-play support with the PC version coming soon.
The bottom line. Borderlands 2 may not stray far from the basic ideas that made its predecessor so popular, but new abilities and a fantastic plot will delight even the hardest cynic of the shooter genre.
Mac OS X 10.7.5 or later, 4GB RAM, 256MB VRAM (512MB recommended)
Wonderfully goofy story. Addictive item looting. Great co-op gameplay.
Little difference from the original Borderlands. Some quests feel repetitive.