This is the game Gearbox both wanted and needed to make, rejigging a successful role-playing shooter template and refining it just enough to make it one of 2012's first genuinely must have AAA games. Borderlands 2 showcases all the excitement, razzle and oomph a mammothly high-budget boxed title can produce when at its best.
Borderlands 2 opens with knowing acknowledgement, dumping the player, alongside the occasional Claptrap soundbite, into miles of snowy valleys - because snow is basically the opposite of sand, right? It's not long before you'll need to be busting out the suntan lotion, but there's something to be said for the game's frequent ability to take you across myriad environments, often across massive quests that throw everything at you bar the kitchen sink.
Borderlands 2 is the kind of game where you'll be driving at a few hundred miles per hour and happily veer off a cliff because you saw something off in the horizon you thought was interesting. There's floaty jumps and (eventually) four weapon slots, and you don't take stuff like fall damage because, let's be honest, who has the time? Also: guns and explosions.
Your window into this manic world is via one of the four new characters, with a fifth being made available post-launch as DLC. Each is a nice spin on traditional RPG roles - tank, ranger, thief and mage - but packing a more varied and distinct twist than Borderlands' original quartet.
I like the new quartet of characters, but the randomly generated guns are still the game's undisputed stars. Colour coded by rarity, the key thing to consider now is the elemental effects, which have been made more potent since the original - meaning you've got to spend more time considering how best to fill your backpack.
It's all tied together by a tight script, rich in comedy and packed with both character and characters. Make no mistake, either, it doesn't take long before the original's ensemble cast of characters are folded into the proceedings. Plot is definitely secondary to this game, but the addition of so much razor-sharp dialogue and an excellent new antagonist in the form of Handsome Jack helps keep things delightfully buoyant. Some of the one-liners on show here are absolute corkers.
Borderlands 2 is the kind of game where you'll find yourself shooting over 200 rocks thrown at you because it feels like the right thing to do, and also because it gives you loads of Badass Rank, the game's new system of in-game challenges that gives you bonus attributes which apply across any character you make.
Though the game manages to be eminently playable in single-player, co-op is how Borderlands 2 is meant to be played. There's no shortage of games making tired claims about being more fun when played co-operatively, but Gearbox makes a noticeable effort to encourage it with visual customisation options, loot storage and a trading system - standard features that were all bizarrely absent from the original. Borderlands 2 feel like a game four people are playing together rather than in tandem; a subtle but crucial difference.
On paper, this sequel reads much the same as the original. But it's not - it's a vastly superior game with a sharper focus, better quests and more enjoyable blasting. Borderlands 2 is a gamer's game, so if you like shooting things, levelling up and exploring every cubby hole across a massive, varied world - if you love games, basically - then it's definitely for you.
Virgin Media verdict:
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