Borderlands 2 Vita Review

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I love me some Borderlands.  The original was a breath of life into a stagnating genre and the sequel build onto that ten fold with a fleshed out story, character development and a streamlining of gameplay elements.  It’s no wonder that it has sold…like.. a bajillion copies or whatever.  While Borderlands 2 was released on most major consoles, the PC version was by far the apex of the bunch with sharper textures, smoother framerate, ridiculous PhysX particle effects (if your card could handle it,) and of course the ability to use a mouse and keyboard, you know, the preferred method.  Up until the release of the Vita variant the “inferior” versions to play were the consoles, but not anymore!

 

Gameplay

I will give Iron Galaxy, the team behind the port to the Vita, some props on squeezing down Borderlands into a tight, little package.  That feat was impressive.  I’ve put about 125 hours into Borderlands 2 on PS3 and PC and I haven’t caught any changes to the actual game content, they even threw in Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, Krieg the Psycho, and the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade into the deal!  Again, impressive feat, but issues begin to creep up while playing.

First off, you will notice immediately that the framerate is consistently low, quite a bit lower than even the console versions which themselves had trouble maintaining 30fps.  But its worse on Vita, dipping into the single digits frequently, especially in Sanctuary.  This has a negative effect on the game to say the least.  Only rarely does it get into the 30-ish range in very small areas, but the other 96% of the time it feels like playing in slow-motion.

Borderlands 2 Vita screenshot 1
See? it doesn’t look that bad, does it? Click for full-sized

Another issue that begins to show its ugly head is inconsistent A.I.  Borderlands 2 on other systems has decent A.I.  It’s steady and very rarely has a meltdown.  You know what I mean:  Enemies walking blindly into walls, spinning in a circle, events not triggering and you’re just kind of stuck in limbo on a mission you can’t finish.  But on the Vita I’ve noticed on more than a few occasions of enemies just standing next to me and twitching awkwardly until I shoot them, flying enemies going through walls in their flight path, etc.  It’s not a constant issue, but it’s enough for me to go “Well, that isn’t very Borderlands now is it?”  Hell, if you’ve never played on anything else you might not even notice, but having played a healthy amount already it sticks out.

Graphics

Graphically… it’s not too bad, but there are caveats to that.  The biggest problem with the graphics is the texture loading.  Everyone who has played any game based on the Unreal engine knows about this all too well.  The game will load and look butt-fucking-ugly for a second or so before higher resolution textures start loading in, after which the game ends up looking however it’s supposed to look.  This happens in Borderlands as well, but in this particular version it takes its sweet time.  High-res textures can take upwards of 5-8 seconds to load, leaving the game looking pretty horrendous until it finishes. Below is a comparison split-screen shot of how it can look.  Left side is fully loaded, while the right hasn’t quite yet.  This particular instance the textures took about 3 seconds to load up, but I had left this area and went back into it.

High-res on Left, fugly on the right.  Click for full-sized
High-res on Left, fugly on the right.

One more oddity that I’ve seen a couple of times is an issue with either lighting or animated textures or something, I’m not quite sure but the effect is clear.  While looking up at a couple antennas with lights at the end that blink, black boxes would effectively highlight them, blinking in unison with the lights.  Not game breaking but geez, it’s not pretty either.

Ugly black boxes make my heart hurt.  Click for full-sized
Ugly black boxes make my heart hurt.

Unless you can’t see from the image above…. it’s the UGLY BLACK BOXES!!!

Audio

Audio has always been a fantastic part of Borderlands, from the Intro’s music track to Handsome Jack taunting you at every turn.  The game oozes character with its visuals and the audio really cinches that fact so I’m glad that little was sacrificed for the audio portion of the game.  The audio is a smidge lower in fidelity, but unless you are using headphones and comparing them to the PC version directly you aren’t going to notice at all.  Something that you might notice though is the drop in a few audio queues and possibly the lack of channels that the game uses.  I don’t mean “left and right” channels, I’m talking about how many sounds are playing all at once.  While the PC version can sound “full” of things, the Vita version plays less sounds at one time, so it doesn’t quite have the same ambiance.   Nothing terrible and most won’t even notice, but it is a difference.

Final Thoughts

Look, I’m not shitting on Iron Galaxy’s attempt at porting a large, expansive, open-world game because I think they did an admirable job.  The game is still all there and I’d say they did pull it off.  But that isn’t to say it’s an amazing port like Titanfall from the Xbox One over to the 360 was, which WAS an amazing port.  This isn’t the worst port either, because I think that title still goes to Mortal Kombat on SNES or anything ported to the Gameboy.  Jesus, why did anyone think that was a good idea?

Borderlands 2 on the Vita is still fun despite its abundant issues, it still feels very much like the game we all know and love, it’s portable to boot and contains some DLC love.  But this should most definitely never be the starting point for someone just now picking up the game.  Seriously grab any other version first, than go for this if you get so addicted you can’t stop playing.

6.5 out of 10

 

The GoodThe BadThe Ugly
It's all there + some DLC

feels pretty much like Borderlands 2
Slow texture loading

Slow level loading

slow controls in menus

sluggish controls in game



quirky A.I.
single-digit frame rate too often

glitchy graphical effects

 

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