Well, it’s been five years since the original Vault Hunters — Brick, Roland, Lilith and Mordecai — opened the first Vault on Pandora after battling bandits, Crawmerax, Moxxi’s Underdome, Colonel Knoxx, Claptrap’s Revolution and the Atlas Corporation. After getting the loot, the Vault Hunters went their separate ways…that is, until Handsome Jack and the Hyperion Corporation decided to find another vault — and mine Eridium and destroying Pandora’s environment in the process.
Gameplay (Out of 10)
Overall, this game is far more accessible than the first with easier transitions between bosses and areas. The game sets you up by fighting enemies that preview and prepare you for the tougher versions of it. For example, the Nomads prepare you for the Shock-Nomadic which prepare you for…well, I’m getting ahead of myself. For newbies to Borderlands, it’s far easier and “accessible” compared to the original with many missions giving the Vault Hunter “rare” loot. Unlike the original, the enemies now work more cooperatively, seek cover and work as a team. Besides that, the gameplay remains much the same — shoot and loot. Most missions are basically the same, aside from the bosses. Unlike the original, with boss fights, often the new Vault Hunter has assistance from the original Vault Hunters.
Now there are five classes — the Assassin, the Gunzerker, the Mechromancer, the Commando and the Siren. All have their strengths and their weaknesses. As for their original counterparts, Salvador the Gunzerker is closest to Brick; Maya the Siren is closest to Lilith; Axton the Commando is closest to Roland; and lastly, even though this may be debatable, Gaige the Mechromancer with her Deathtrap may be closest to Mordecai and his Bloodwing.
Unlike the original, each of the companies have significantly different properties. Maliwan is still the best elemental weapons, but it does have competition in Hyperion and Tediore.
For the veterans, some elements from the original Borderlands. What is most apparent are no more storage of health vials and no more gun-proficiency leveling. These changes either force one to adapt and think more methodically and strategically, if playing alone, or resort to cooperative gameplay.
Overall, the gameplay deserves a 9.0 out of 10.
Graphics (Out of 10)
The graphics are similar to the original Borderlands — a tad cartoonish, but this time, they run on the Unreal Engine 3. You either love it or hate it, but I love it. Overall, I’ll give it a 9.5 out of 10 for the minor glitches that appear here and there.
Sound (Out of 10)
The sound is pretty amazing, particularly the NPC voices of the enemies (especially the midgets and goliaths.) Overall, a 9.8 out of 10.
Barring somewhat most of the tedious “tutorial” missions in the beginning, playing the campaign in single-player is quite enjoyable. The references to the previous Borderlands is a nod to those who played the game before and actually quite funny (at least some of it). All in all, the Scooter and Ellie missions were probably the most humorous and enjoyable while Dr. Zed’s missions were the most intriguing.
This is how the game was meant to played — still. Having a couple of friends join you in the fight against Handsome Jack is great fun, especially with the latter boss fights and arenas. It can get pretty frenetic and kinetic as three more people join the game. Case in point: two gunzerkers and an assassin battling level 30 enemies in an arena gets pretty chaotic pretty quickly in round 5.
Overall (Out of 10)
This game is not made for loyal-bound Call of Duty or Battlefield fans where the FPS is fairly straightforward with minimal complications. Borderlands 2 deserves a 9.4 out of 10. It is a solid follow-up to the original, but with the story and changes, this game lacks the charm that the original Borderlands had.
Happy holidays, and thank yous to all my family, friends and followers! With the end of 2011 coming to a close, it’s now time for the celebrations to begin as we discuss the top ten XBox 360 games of this year. This has been a good year for video games in general so it was kind of tough to decide.
After some grinding, here are my picks for the Top Ten XBox 360 Games of 2011:
Gears of War 3. With the selection of multiplayer and the improved and tougher cooperative modes, this game is one game that’s tough to beat.
Battlefield 3. With the selection of Battlefields already available, this third selection of Battlefield tops them all with the team-based multiplayer and the destructive impact by the Frostbite 2 engine.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Although Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 isn’t particularly one of my favorite franchises, it deserves a top spot for having a more entertaining single-player campaign than Battlefield 3. However, the run-and-gun gamestyle of the multiplayer doesn’t play favor to me. However, it is cream for some.
Portal 2. The second Portal has definitely topped the first, and with the co-op mode, they only improved the game further. Instead of watching on the sidelines, two people can now solve the mind-bending puzzles.
Batman: Arkham City. Improving on the first Batman: Arkham Asylum, the single-player is more enriched as there are more villains to encounter, and the hand-to-hand combat is more fluid. With Rocksteady thanking its fans with the recent Batman, Inc. batsuit and other additional add-ons including Catwoman, Nightwing and Robin, this game deserves top honors in 2011.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Using the Fallout 3 engine, the massive content of this game is incredible. Even spending a few hours in single-player, one can easily get lost in the game with the primary and secondary quests. Unlike Oblivion, this game is much more focused. The Fallout 3 engine is both a curse and a godsend to this game as the game’s graphics are a bit outdated.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution. A prequel to the original Deus Ex video game played great homage to the original. The gameplay is fluid with the exception of some of the Matrix-like stealth and typhoon explosion cut-scenes. They are a bit jarring at times and take away from the game. However, unlike the original Deus Ex, this game had boss fights which were unnecessary.
L.A. Noire. This 2011 neo noir masterpiece published by Rockstar games is one of those games that changed the landscape of gaming. With the use of Motionscan, the characters of the video game have facial expressions like never before. However, despite this, this game only reached cult status at best. And the worst, well, the studio Team Bondi tore apart at the seams soon after this game was released.
Orcs Must Die. A gem among XBox Live Arcade with its humor and traps. This is tower defense done right, although some of the levels are very tough.
Trenched/Iron Brigade. Another gem among XBox Live Arcade. Another tower defense game with humor. Still tough at times, but it’s enjoyable.
This was a very tough year to judge for XBox 360 video games. Which was your favorite among my list, and which should have been added?
Transformers: Dark of the Moon video game surprised me, given I have played Transformers games in the past. However, this video game exceeded my expectations in single-player but somewhat disappointing in multi-player. This video game explains the events leading to the third of the Transformers movie trilogy by Michael Bay scheduled to be released later on June 29, 2011. In single-player, the Autobots discover a plot to unleash Shockwave, the deadly Decepticon assassin, by Megatron and his cohorts. In the story, as well, Megatron takes on a new vehicle form that will be in the third movie as well. Upon learning his new vehicle mode, it is quite ironic and unexpected, given his rivalry with Optimus Prime and that he was a tank in Generation 2 and in the previous film Revenge of the Fallen.
Now to the review:
Gameplay (Out of 10)
Well, the single-player plot is pretty simple, as described above. There aren’t any twists or depth of say, Bioshock or anything similar. In generally all chapters of the video game, the player moves from one place to another obliterating every enemy that stands in the way. Most of the enemies are fairly generic, aside from the occasional rocket launchers and juggernauts. However, some of the major bosses and later levels require some use of tactics and wise use of cover. Some of the boss fights are pretty epic though in light of this video game. Most notably, the boss fight against Stratosphere and Shockwave. The use of Stealth Force is quite necessary, as it serves as an intermediate form between vehicle and Transformer. The handling of the Transfomers, whether in vehicle, Tranformer or Stealth Force mode, was extremely easy, but in vehicle mode, most vehicles, including the fighter planes, handle very loosely. The weapon handling were sufficiently different although I wished there was more use of rumble to differentiate the weapons. Overall, the controls are extremely intuitive, and it is a 8.5 out of 10 for me.
Graphics (Out of 10)
The game uses a modified Unreal 3 engine so the graphics are usually pretty spectacular. The only visible flaw of the Unreal engine is while most things are destructible, some things are not. Unreal 3 engine, while amazing, still pales in comparison to Battlefield’s Frostbite engine. However, when playing the Decepticon Starscream, the view of the skies above while fighting Stratosphere and his fellow Autobot fighters is quite amazing. Another major flaw is that sometimes the game loads while still in the chapter. This may be the flaw of the graphics engine or perhaps the game itself. In light of this, however, the graphics are pretty amazing and deserve a 8.5 out 10.
Sound (Out of 10)
The sound effects of the Transformers changing is generally fairly good, although it is not consistent. The weapons sound like generic weapons. The explosions, however, like Michael Bay’s Transformer films, do sound better than both of the previous. The sound effects deserve a 9 out 10.
As a single-player experience, the campaign lasts no more than 5 to 6 hours on the first playthrough. This is expected as a single-player experience for this kind of game.
Although the multi-player is fairly balanced, it is not quite as populated as say, Call of Duty or Battlefield. The tactical experience is often given away to run-and-gun, much like Call of Duty. There are three modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Conquest. Conquest is my particular favorite, as it reminds me more of Team Fortress 2 somewhat. Two downsides of the multi-player creator are the limited chassis and color schemes should you wish to create your own Autobot or Decepticon. The limited chassis availability was disappointing to me as I wished to create Rodimus Prime. However, the multi-player creator wouldn’t allow me to design such a model. In multi-player, the player gradually acquires perks in-game and as one levels up. This is reminscent of the Call of Duty series, which is also published by Activision. Lastly, I wished that this game had a Horde mode or something similar. It would have been a nice addition.
Overall (Out of 10)
Overall, it is a solid 8.8 out of 10 for me. The single-player experience was extremely enjoyable even for a short 6-hour romp, compared to Homefront’s short single-player experience. However, the multi-player experience could use some work.
This was an afterthought of a game Portal that was packed with Half-Life 2, Valve’s single player game, and Team Fortress 2, Valve’s multiplayer game, and it was relegated as one of the best and original games of 2007. However, some video game players and Valve fans are still waiting on the forthcoming Half-Life 2: Episode 3 and perhaps Team Fortress 3. Instead, Valve developed Portal 2, the full-fledged sequel to the original Portal with single-player mode and co-op mode packed into one package. This game is incredibly good and humorous although generally not quite as difficult as the original Portal, even in the later levels.
Single Player Story [SPOILERS AHEAD]
Chell is forced to return to Aperture Laboratories after destroying GLaDos (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), the evil feminine artificial intelligence construct, in the first Portal. Some years have passed, and through assistance of Wheatley, a British male artificial intelligence construct, Chell escapes the destruction of her stasis chamber and early on, retrieves the portal gun that creates orange and blue portals. Additionally, she finds the original pictorial scribbles of Ratman, an early test subject perhaps. On a side note, there is a semi-hidden Ratman chamber early on whereby there are singing turrets which I found surprisingly entertaining.
As she progresses, Wheatley and GLaDos ultimately confront each other, and through Chell’s mistake and Wheatley’s suggestion, Wheatley takes over GLaDos and the Enrichment Center, and Chell and GLaDos are ejected to the old Aperture Laboratories below. GLaDos artificial intelligence is unfortunately injected into a potato and an uneasy alliance is formed between GLaDos and Chell as GLaDos is escorted at the end of the portal gun. Chell enters the original tests as performed from the 1950s to the 1980s whereby the original testees were given a whole $60 for completion of the tests. Cave Johnson, the original owner and founder of Aperture Laboratories was funded by Black Mesa Research Facility, the research laboratories in Half-Life, whereby the testing with Experimental Gel caused Johnson to fall deathly ill. This Experimental Gel, specifically the white Conversion Gel, created portal-friendly surfaces and was created with Lunar Dust. This Conversion Gel is the white “paint” that covers most of the testing chambers in Portal and Portal 2. Chell also finds out that Caroline, the assistant to former CEO Cave Johnson, was the personality core for GLaDos. As a side note, Chell can find a portrait of Caroline in one of the later chambers.
After passing these tests, and progressing skyward through the elevator passageway and Experimental Gel machine rooms, Chell and GLaDos ultimately confronts Wheatley in the final testing chambers. Chell finds out that these were the testing chambers originally conceived by GLaDos. GLaDos asks Chell for a truce; in return for Chell returning GLaDos to her original body and her position as monitor for the Enrichment Center, she will let Chell go free. And, as a first move toward defeating Wheatley, GLaDos initially attempts to outthink Wheatley by giving him a paradox of sorts, but Wheatley pursues to answer the question simply and directly thereby unwittingly outthinks GLaDos. Ultimately, upon completion of the last test, GLaDos defeats Wheatley and replaced as head of Aperture Laboratories once again, and Chell is freed.
Co-Op Story [SPOILERS AHEAD]
This is a tale of two robots — P-Body, the Orange robot, and Atlas, the Blue robot. Both of these robots are designed to accomplish tests that were originally designed for humans, according to GLaDos, and since these robots are immediately rebuilt upon their destruction, GLaDos perceived these two as mere automatons designed to serve her will. In fact, upon completion of each series of tests, GLaDos requests that one of these robots place in a CD from an office, and unfortunately, she destroys them so she can reassemble them in the hub once again. After completion of the team-building chambers, where basic co-op portal techniques are introduced, the other puzzles are performed in separate chambers from a hub area. Throughout the test courses, GLaDos ultimately reveals that she wants this duo to open the hidden vault deep within Aperture Laboratories for her surprise for them. However, GLaDos tricks the duo of robots into opening the vault whereby upon finding the contents inside, she destroys them. Inside the vault, she finds lots of humans, or test subjects as she puts it, in stasis chambers, stacked in such a manner reminiscent of The Matrix.
Gameplay (Out of 10)
For the single-player, it involves placing two portals and sometimes involves using blue excursion tunnels, aerial faith plates, lasers and gels. However, placing portals to funnel or otherwise transport things were done simply. However, in co-op, both Atlas or P-Body are capable of emoting and gesturing far more than Chell as single-player can. In fact, one could decisively say that Atlas and P-Body were more human than Chell is in the game. Playing with a partner and four portals was infinitely more enjoyable than playing single-player in my honest opinion. Whereby in single-player, accomplishing these puzzles served as the engine to move the story along, the co-op experience was an experience and an enjoyable one in of itself. The communication during our resolution of these puzzles was fantastic as we both logically pursued each puzzle. For the single-player gameplay, it was a mere 7 out fo 10, but for co-op, it deserved an 8 out of 10.
Presentation/Immersion (Out of 10)
The presentation is remarkably similar to the original Portal, particularly during the beginning and the end in single-player and throughout co-op. However, the humor has become darker and a bit funnier. The fights that ensue between Wheatley and GLaDos are comical. While Wheatley has absurd and sometimes British humor, GLaDos has more of a passive-aggressive touch to it. However, the loading times between each test as Chell, P-Body and Atlas take elevators should be removed. Although it does temporary reprieve for those players who may have difficulty resolving their puzzles, if there were no loading times, the game would be truly immersive for both single-player and co-op.
Sound Effects/Immersion (Out of 10)
The sound effects resembled the original Portal. GLaDos and Wheatley’s conversations with Chell and between each other were often humorous. Out of 10, the sound effects were a solid 10.
Test Complexity (Out of 10)
Majority of the single-player tests were not complicated at all. Most were fairly logical. Other than a non-test puzzle which I was perplexed where to go, these puzzles were easily solved.
The co-op tests were remarkably similar in their complexity. My partner and I resolved these puzzles with relative ease, except for a couple of puzzles which we overthought. Other than that, most of the co-op puzzles were not difficult at all. However, a couple of co-op tests required some unexpected ingenuity, particularly later on.
Compared to the original Portal, these tests in both single-player and co-op deserved a mere 7 out of 10 in terms of complexity at best. However, downloadable content, or DLC, is coming from Valve. Hopefully, these downloadable packages will have advanced puzzles for single-player and co-op.
Overall (Out of 10)
This game has reached critical acclaim by several game magazines, and it does deserve such acclaim. But this game still remains flawed — and short. Although the 10 hour playtime in single player and comparable playtime in co-op were enjoyable, this game should have been longer at the cost of $60. Overall, it was a near perfect masterpiece — an 8.7 out of 10 for me overall, including both single player and co-op.