After what seems a eternity, what began as a loose flirtation of an idea from Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford is finally here. The sequel to one of 2009’s biggest hits finally found its way onto the Vita – a full 18 months after it originally hit consoles – but has it arrived at a cost? Is it the title to convince the naysayers of the worth of the handheld, or does it just add another string on the bow for those that are convinced it is doomed to fail?

A lot has been said about this Vita version – which has come in for a lot of criticism for performance issues. I’ve only got my hands on it at the end of May (due to the UK release) and I’ll be honest, there are a few issues, however the game is still enjoyable in spite of them. I’ll outline my grievances with the title a little later on, but in short this is still the massive blockbuster that is was on the consoles, it’s just had to take a few hits in order to make the journey over.

BL2 ABorderlands 2 picks up the pace a few years on from the first title, and all is not well in Pandora. Following the destruction of the Destroyer a valuable new material called Eridum started appearing throughout the world. The Hyperion Corporation and through its leader, Handsome Jack secured this new resource to bring “peace” to the world, but in reality now rules over the people. A new legion of Vault Hunters have arrived and this is where you fit in and the quest to free Pandora from Handsome Jack can begin.

For those not familiar with the first game, Borderlands 2 is a first person shooter at its core, complemented with a RPG-style levelling system for your character. You can choose from six different classes all suited to a different style and can be customised with different abilities. As you progress through the ranks, these perks can be modified depending on the way you like to play, and each class has a different special skill. Throughout your journey you will also earn “Badass” points as a reward for completing challenges. These will allow you customise your experience further, with improvements to shields, health and damage, or reductions in recoil or shield recharge rates. It’s surprisingly deep and allows you to fine tune the experience to your needs.

Back to the start though, after choosing your character you are (re) introduced to Claptrap – who is an annoyingly squeaky little robot – and given a quick tutorial with the controls. The default settings have the left and right triggers for aiming/shooting, X is jump, Circle alternates your stance, Triangle cycles your weapons whilst square reloads or interacts with your environment. With the Vita lacking buttons compared to its bigger console counterpart, the touch screen and pad are used for deploying grenades, running or activating your characters specific skill. I personally got on fine with the controls, but many have found them annoying. Thankfully they can be tweaked very easily through the options screen and tailored to suit. It’s not perfect, but the Vita is lacking the buttons and it’s manageable.

BL2 BThe story is well done – and at times emotional – as you progress through your adventure. You are reunited with the previous title’s cast as they take up supporting NPC roles this time, although previous experience with Borderlands is not required as you will be able to enjoy the game regardless. There is also a tremendous amount to see and do, with multiple side quests alongside the campaign, and that’s before taking into account the DLC bundled in with the title. It’s not quite the full collection, but this is not a game of the year release and it’s nice to have additional content. I just hope the remainder makes it over.

Whether you are a fan of cel-shaded art or not, it’s difficult not to be impressed with Borderlands 2. Sure, it’s not as sophisticated as the console version but it sure does look pretty, especially in person – aside from some very enthusiastic strong bold lines in places. As is sadly commonplace with the Vita, screen shots really do not do this game justice, it does look magnificent at times. Sacrifices have been made in areas to keep the game running as well as it can, with defeated enemies the obvious element. Instead of littering the wastelands, they explode into a mixture of blood, money and ammunition. This is not the only drawback though.

BL2 CBL2 DAs you may have already picked up on, not everything is perfect, as has been well documented elsewhere. During my experience I have encountered many enemies that appear or disappear, and on occasion they have jumped around unnaturally. Pandora is a wasteland, but often it does feel completely devoid of anything, with a lot of aimless wandering around before ambushes with enemies – and many encounters I had in the game had a massive jumps in difficulty. If you are soloing the game, be prepared to grind a little bit, or at the very least make sure you are completing the side missions. The loading times are among the highest I have experienced on the Vita, but with the title loading between areas thankfully these are not commonplace. The biggest problems with Borderlands 2 lie in visual issues, including a delay in rendering textures upon entering new areas but most notably frame drops and some texture clipping, usually in tandem with an increase in action. I also had around fifteen game crashes during my main play through. It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing as at other times you will be simply mesmerised with what is in your hands. The title could easily have done with a little longer in development, although it is worth noting that I have still enjoyed the game despite these frustrations. SCEA is working on patches, two of which have already been released (although the latest is not in EU at the time of writing).

Borderlands was always intended as a multiplayer experience and this leads to another gripe; whilst co-op play is present in the Vita version it has been limited to two players. I’ve played a few times online with The Vita Lounge’s Charlie Large and the experience works well enough, but it is a shame that it’s only two. We still had a great time playing.

BL2 EThe game has the ability to utilise cross save with the PS3 version, however with the Vita version missing some of the additional content, not everything is playable on the Vita. It’s still a nice feature to have and hopefully – as noted above – we will get the remaining content at some point. I suppose it all depends on how well the game performs sales-wise. Missing the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2 – which raises the level cap beyond 61 – means that your character cannot earn any XP beyond that on the Vita, but your stats will return when sent back. You obviously also cannot access areas that the Vita doesn’t have.

It’s a game which mixes pleasure and frustration in almost equal parts, which brings us to the summary. It’s a difficult one to assess for me, as I have really enjoyed playing through the game, although I suspect I was in the minority of those who deliberately waited for the Vita version. It’s an 18 month old title that has arrived to a tirade of fanfare from Sony acclaiming that AAA titles can happen, but a tirade of abuse from many other quarters for the very obvious technical issues. For me it was worth waiting for, because the convenience of playing a title of this calibre at my leisure, whenever, illustrates the point of the Vita. This surely isn’t the best example of the title, but it is the same game, it’s great value and at times it is incredibly impressive. If these are thoughts that resonate within you then Borderlands 2 is definitely worth buying.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Presentation
Gameplay
Lasting Appeal
Execution
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Paul founded The Vita Lounge and is the Executive Editor, but still likes to get involved with the odd piece of news or a review. 35 years young and gaming since 1990, he has a preference for Action/RPG games, Shooters, Racing Games (despite ironically not being able to drive!) and quite partial to a game of FIFA.
  • Lester Paredes

    I had to stop playing the game pre-preformance enhancing patch. The issues were just a bit much for me to continue without mentally preparing myself, and the back touch controls never worked when I wanted them to. Post patch, the game is improved. Not perfect, mind you, but definitely improved. There’s still some sound delays, and choppyness, but it is smoother and the ability to customize how much of the back touch pad is utilized for their assigned functions allows me to hold the system comfortably. Once you get the patch, I expect your personal score to rise between half to a whole point.
    I sure hope the rest of the DLC comes over.

    • Anthony Brinklow

      With a grip I’ve found the back touch perfect, it’s brilliant when it’s split into 2. I don’t like it at all split into 4. Transistor via remote play is near unplayable with vital actions mapped to 1/4 of rear touch.

      • Lester Paredes

        Ouch. That sucks. I sure wish that they’d make remote play controls customizable.

  • Guest

    It’s a 2/5 in my book. A good game, but a horribly bad Vita port. Just look at the Digital Foundry article to see what I mean. Vita is truly doomed as a bad port and indie device.

  • Jonathan Harding-Rathbone

    I want this game but waiting until the issues are ironed out or until it comes to PS Plus. It’s a shame they didn’t just grant the extra time for performance issues so that we could finally have a title that didn’t receive negative press.

  • nonscpo

    The game should not have been released until it was finished. The inferior port will turn people away as vita owners tend to have backlogs of games. Since you only get one chance to make a first impression 2K hurt its long term sales by releasing too early.

    • Anthony Brinklow

      The game has sold really well and is moving a lot of Vitas to the point they are or have been sold out in several places.

      • nonscpo

        Agreed units have been moved but it doesn’t change the fact that in the eyes of consumers, western developed games for the vita are gonna look less appealing in the future. Which in turn is bad for everybody In the long term.

    • Jonathan Harding-Rathbone

      Correct me if I’m wrong but this was ported by Iron Galaxy and published by Sony. I don’t think 2K had anything to do with it aside from holding the franchise rights.

      • nonscpo

        To be a hundred percent honest I haven’t followed all the details of Borderlands for the vita, so you might actually be correct. However it doesn’t change the fact that somebody needs to be blamed for releasing this game early, and I prefer not to blame the developers as they usually end up with the short end of the stick.

        • Jonathan Harding-Rathbone

          Yup, agreed. A couple of extra months and the story could have been quite different.

  • Excellent review. Many people criticize the Vita version way too much, not realizing that even with its technical problems, it’s pretty amazing what they were able to do in bringing the game to the Vita.

  • Anthony Brinklow

    Given its on Vita it’s a 9/10 for me. The issues don’t bother me and I am absolutely loving the game. Its amazing this is on a handheld when Mario 64 on ds was impressive such a short time ago. Highly recommended to anyone who plays games for fun- not recommended to miserable gits who play for a technical showcase. Playing this while the gf watches tv is so great.

  • Raphg1070

    Hello all,

    If you encounter a lot of crash and you are not satisfied with the 2K games and playstation support like us then this info is for you!!!

    I have just started a petition to unify our voices to show that we are not just isolated subject, that we are really a lot to have issues! honestly for me it’s a really great and addictive game BUT in some case you are submerged by crash… And the different support doesn’t listen to what we are facing!

    so this is a link of a petition:
    http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/crashborderlandsvita

    Please if you are agree sign it and share it it would help us showing that we are not just buying machines!

    good games to everyone! 🙂 (without not too much crash ;))

  • Just bought this game off amazon. Very excited to play it as I love borderlands 2. Just wondering if the technical problems have been fixed? and if it is better then release date.

  • Hazey

    I love this game, granted the texture pop in is apparent in places (sanctuary) maybe they could is sacrificed the resolutions bit? Anyway it has improved with all the patches and frame rate drops are nearly none existent.

  • Shadow T. HellJumper

    I have to say that I was rather skeptical when I saw this. My first thought was, “Oh good, a PS3 port with PS2 graphics.” I was expecting something that was going to slow down heavily when it got right to it, and was expecting something that had to heavily nerf a lot of features and flare. I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by this port. Now, I understand that this had to be a port instead of being built from the ground up for the ps vita, that would have taken too long and would have costed the company too much money. I was even more skeptical when I saw the first gameplay videos and that this thing was a mess. I was hoping for the worst. When the patches released, it was a breath of fresh air for this port. Sure, it’s still not a perfect game, but what I will say, is that this is a very respectable port of the game. Sure the textures are a little lackluster, and yes the AI is iffy when they try to shoot at you when there is a wall in the way or run away from you since you’re a total badass, and yes some of the animations couldn’t be included to help this work okay on the handheld. But the reality of the situation is that the entire game is there. They didn’t cut out any levels or maps, they didn’t cut out enemies, they didn’t cut out game mechanics or really anything that the original game came with (Granted it would have been nice to get a seasons pass so that we could get all the expansions, but I respect that they gave us at least 2). I have to say that this game really surprised me. Now, it’s no perfect, but it’s an incredibly admirable attempt and cramming down a full console game and having it at the palm of your hands. If you played the console version, you will notice the dip in quality and performance, but you will still have Borderlands 2 in the palm of your hands. If you haven’t played the game at all, give this a try if you’re into sci-fy first person shooters that has awesome, if at times crude dialogue.

    But I will also say that this game will be a painful reminder of how uncomfortable the Vita is to the human hand, so get a comfort grip before you get this game.