Borderlands 2 Review
This review is pretty late. The game has been out for a little while now, but I purposefully put off writing this up until after a long promised patch was made available. The patch came down the pike late last week, so I'm going ahead with this review. If you want details, I'll go over them but I'll break it all down for you right here: Borderlands 2 is a great game, one of last gen's best, on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. And even though I really wanted it to be, Borderlands 2 on PS Vita is not. Know this: It brings me no joy to rake this game over the coals, but truth is truth. Sigh... ready?
Since everyone already knows what Borderlands 2 is all about, I won't spend much time on the basics. The expert mix of RPG loot-gathering and first-person shooter is one that no one ever thought could work, but it does. Borderlands stole over 100 hours of my life on the Xbox 360, and the sequel nearly doubled that. The sequel added more enemies, more areas, more quests and, of course, more guns to the original formula, and it is a game that has sold and been reviewed extremely well. Back when the PlayStation Vita first came out, there were rumblings of porting the already successful game over to the new portable. It took nearly two years to get it done, but Borderlands 2 finally found its way to the struggling portable. The result is... not good.
So what is wrong with Borderlands 2 on Vita? How can such a great game on consoles be such a disappointment on a portable, especially when you consider how well the gameplay seem suited to a portable experience? It's a lot of things, actually, but we are going to start with the good stuff.
The main positive point in this port's favor is that it is, in fact, the entirety of the Borderlands 2 experience squished down to portable form. On paper, the game is identical to its console big brothers, and that in and of itself is an achievement.
That's really where my positivity on Borderlands 2 Vita ends. Where to begin? Let's talk about how the game looks and runs, or more accurately, doesn't. Before I say this, I'll always be the first person to say "graphics don't matter, gameplay does" and the constant drone about 60fps/1080p on next gen games is one I not only don't get, but am also infuriated by. If a game plays great, who cares about frames per second, resolution, etc.? Borderlands 2 on Vita is the first time in my gaming life where I agree that frames per second and graphical fidelity actually does matter. Borderlands 2 runs about as smoothly as Mega Man 2 on NES when there were more than five enemies on the screen at once. The framerate slows to a crawl in any populated area, making aiming an impossible ordeal. The game skips frames to catch up, meaning you'll often see the game flash directly from one position to another, again, destroying the ability to aim. The game is still technically playable and sometimes even enjoyable, but this issue robs the game of about 90 percent of the fun.
The problems don't stop there. The texture pop-in is atrocious, with vending machines and structures remaining blurred blobs until you are basically on top of them. The same stuff happens with guns and almost every surface in the whole game. The menus (yes, the freaking menus) suffer from the same issues, often taking noticeable pauses before switching or clearing up. There is also significant input delay with this stuff, and it further drags the game down.
There are other issues as well, like audio problems, map glitches and pretty much anything you can imagine. I waited for the patch to come before reviewing this game because "improvements a'plenty" were supposed to come with it. Not so much. The patch fixes exactly ZERO of the games problems, and instead works on "stability issues" and remapping the Vita's back touch pad. I know, I know, I'm as dumbfounded as you are. Maybe another patch down the line will fix some existing issues, but I'm no longer holding my breath.
You'll notice I didn't bring up common complaints like enemies disappearing after they are killed or restrictions on the number of multiplayer partners you can have. I am willing to let these slide because certain concessions need to be made to get a huge console game down to portable size, and I'm ok with that kind of stuff. What irks me beyond measure is the Borderlands 2 version released for the Vita is barely playable at all, due to its technical issues. I really, really wanted to overlook the game's flaws and give it a decent score, but after my third, fourth and fifth full crashes, my lives lost due to the inability to aim, my frustration in dealing with slow, unresponsive menus and my general feeling of shock over how a game so great could be reduced to... this... makes handing out a nice grade completely impossible. Sony recently announced the end of focus on AAA Vita titles, and if this is what they consider to be AAA, then I think we are all a little better off.
I haven't been this appalled with a Vita title since the Resistance: Burning Skies disaster, and somehow, I think Borderlands 2 is worse.
Final Rating: 20%. Released and patched, but still not ready for release - Borderlands and the Vita deserve better.