Update: There has been some question about the amount of time I put into the game prior to writing this review. I have put over 80 hours into the PS3 version. When I began writing this review I had over eight hours into the Vita version, with 16 by the time the review published, and at this point I have well over 20 hours with it. My score still stands. My experience with the Vita version has been nothing short of great and fun. While I do encounter minor framerate drops, I personally do not feel that they affect the experience I am having. I am playing on an original release day Vita (not the new Vita 2000) with the game loaded onto a 32 GB memory card, which some have said may decrease the performance issues. Quite simply, there is no other way to play Borderlands 2 on-the-go, and the positives of what it is far outweigh the negatives to me. Take that as you will.
Original: We don’t need to review Borderlands 2. We already know it’s a great game. But even great games can ran into snags when being ported to other platforms, especially in the portable space. The question with Borderlands 2 Vita is whether it remains that same great game when you’re on the go, and for some people, if it is worth purchasing for a second time.
The staple cel-shaded graphics of the PS3 title are recreated beautifully on the Vita’s screen. I was consistently impressed and had to remind myself often that I was playing one of my favorite PS3 games on a Vita, it looks that good. There are a few graphical aspects that are toned down for the sake of the portable, such as shorter draw distances and most enemy deaths occurring in a splash of blood while the body just vanishes (no popping the head of a psycho while playing the Vita version), but things like this are extremely small trade offs for how faithful the remainder of the game is to what we know and love.
While some may worry about how the Vita version’s controls feel, I never perceived that anything was out of place. Sure, it may not be a PS3 controller, but the default controller mapping felt comfortable and easy to use. Borderlands 2 makes full use of the Vita’s front and rear touch screens for a variety of inputs, but anyone familiar with remote playing PS4 games on their Vita shouldn’t have any trouble. If you find yourself running into any problems with the controls, you can re-map them to whatever feels most comfortable to you. Initially, I did have a bit of a problem with the right stick feeling a lot more twitchy than what I was used to on the PS3, but after I got used to that and adjusted my play style slightly, I was just stoked that I could be playing Borderlands while laying in bed or on break at work.
Limiting the game to a two player co-op may be a deal breaker for some, but as most of my experience with Borderlands 2 on PS3 was playing co-op with my wife, I am used to a two player aspect. While getting four people together is a ton of fun, I don’t find this limitation on the Vita version to be extremely limiting at all. If you care enough about it, you probably already own the console version and should just boot that up to get your four player action. I can also respect this decision as attempting to add more players may have caused other issues with the game, and I’d prefer to have a working game limited to two players than a broken one that allowed us to play with four. It also feels like a great excuse to get a Borderlands 2 Vita bundle for my wife, just so that we can play together on our own screens.
The Vita version comes with a few extras, but it’s not quite a complete package. Your purchase will net you the first two campaign add-ons, (Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty and Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage), Gaige the Mechromancer and Krieg the Psycho characters, along with the Vault Hunter Upgrade pack and the Collector’s Edition Pack, which increase the level cap to 61 and give you some new heads and skins for your characters respectively. Notably absent are the final two campaign DLCs, one of which is arguably the best one (Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep), in addition to the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade 2 which further increases the level cap to 72. While their absence is disappointing, I’m just happy to have even gotten what we did. They could have just as easily released this as the base game with none of the DLC, so the fact that we get complete access to all released characters and half of the additional campaigns adds a ton of value to this package.
Here’s another tidbit that might help the undecided: While it was unavailable at the time of my review (pending an update for the PS3 version of the game), Borderlands 2 will allow your character saves to cross platform. That’s right, you can grind out a couple levels, or get a couple of new weapons while out and about on your Vita, and take them all back to the PS3 version in time for dinner. Or vice versa, whichever direction you prefer, really. That’s what tipped the scales for me. As much fun as Borderlands 2 is on the Vita, and as faithfully as everything is recreated in a handheld form, it would be hard for me to start from square one after the many hours that I have put into my characters on the PS3 version. This feature is the pretty little bit of twine that neatly ties everything together and really nudges me over the edge into finding a ton of value in the Vita release of Borderlands 2.
If you own a Vita and haven’t had the opportunity to jump into Borderlands 2 yet, there is no better time than now. If you already own Borderlands 2, you will find that you are honestly paying for the portability, as the game is virtually identical in every way that matters. The ability to cross-save your character data shows just how confident they are in the reinvigoration of the console version in a portable space. Some very minor issues may hold it back if you really want to get nitpicky, but they are only issues when compared directly with its PS3 counterpart. As amazingly as this game was done, not only is Borderlands 2 an excellent portable version of the console game, I would argue that it is simply one of the best games on the Vita to date.
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