Coop Commentary - Borderlands 2 (of pizzas and sewers and the destruction of our childhood)
When we last left our brave trio of adventurers, they were busy swapping seats inside their newly-built Bandit Technical, which seats four and launches giant razor discs of death. That trio would be us, by the way. We are the brave trio of adventurers.
What we're still playing:
Borderlands 2! Read part 1 of our journey here.
Who we're playing:
Mike (blitzio): Axton (Max Payne in Brazil) James (INQUE): Salvador (angry jockey in a ballcap) Jed (jRev): Zero (orange cylon who wears his level on his shoulder)
Check inside for our continuing adventures on Pandora!
We had been put to task: put together a vehicle that resembled the ones the bandits drove around, and infiltrate their base of operations. Time was of the essence, so obviously we spent half an hour just touring around the barren wasteland, wasting other trucks and picking up some snazzy-looking hood ornaments sculpted in the shape of Scooter’s generously proportioned sister, Ellie. INQUE took his position inside the mounted razor blade turret, and blitz clambered up from the back to cover our six. I, of course, was driving. I got behind the wheel, revved her up, and promptly smashed our left fender against a gate post.
So much for a grand entrance.
The ride went pretty well, though; it was a rush pulling up alongside another truck, matching its speed -- without analog gas controls, this meant tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard at just the right intervals -- and letting my passengers let rip. FIRE THE STARBOARD BROADSIDE and all that! I would totally play helmsman in a pirate sea combat game.
I let loose with the cool lingo, calling out bandits at 6 o’clock and enemy buzzards dead ahead. That was when I had the time to spot them from a dozen sand dunes away. Usually though, my military-speak consisted of such brevity codes as “Over there!” and “Gogogoshootit!”
Our desert adventures culminated in a gigantic leap from a natural rock formation that served us as a
ramp highway (complete with a three-voiced chorus of, “Oh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”), landing our vehicle right in the middle of hostile territory the danger zone swarming with gun-toting bandits, GI Joe-esque buzzard vehicles that strafed us from the skies, and three very upset and very shirtless men in aviators who tried to bum rush us after we set fire to their precious volleyball net in the sand. We watched each other’s backs and wasted them all one by one, like proper wingmen should.
I’m not nailing this reference thing right, am I? Well, you had to be there.
Night had fallen by the time we were done with our business -- business which was totally important and not optional or tangential in any way. The clock was ticking and we had to go save Roland, so we traipsed on back to Sanctuary to resupply, buy new guns, change our outfits and headgear, and to waste ammo on Claptrap. After that, we set off towards the snowy peaks, determined to get to the bottom of a strange new cult that had sprung up around the idea of worshipping Lilith, the Siren from the first game, as some kind of deity.
Roland, you say? Who’s that?
Now, I wouldn’t want to bore anyone with our experiences with the Firehawk cult -- it was just a good long smorgasbord of shooting, exploding, stabbing, and looting. Sure, there was some burning, but not much; a handful of the cultists were resistant to fire, which kind of made sense in a gamey way.
We also took out a giant burning spiderant and got ourselves lost in the mountains, largely because of poor in-game minimap rendering. Seriously. Blue lines to denote everything from walls to cliffs to bridges? Where’s the elevation on this thing? I’m not saying we were just bad at following waypoints, but maybe we’re just too smart to blindly follow waypoints.
Yeah, that makes way more sense. Let’s stick with that.
Our little cult adventure reached its zenith during the quest line’s penultimate mission, which involved us setting a midget pyromaniac psycho loose from his port-a-potty prison, stuffing him into one of our packs, and chaining him up right in front of a fire-breathing dragon figurehead at the fore of a gigantic ship perched on top of an icy mountain. A simple button press swung him over to be immolated beyond recognition even as he sang of his love and adoration for the Firehawk. Lilith seemed to appreciate the whole thing, which INQUE found deeply disturbing. That didn’t stop us from taking our comical souvenir pictures, though!
It was at this point when I started noticing changes in my two traveling companions: INQUE had lost the LA Lakers garb in favor of a more subdued color scheme, and he now wore a baseball cap over the dreadlocks which had served him so well in the past. Even more drastic was the change blitz underwent, going from clean-cut commando to baseball cap-wearing mercenary to Crimson Lance helmet-donning legionnaire to what I could only describe as the unholy love child of Double Agent-era Sam Fisher and that Tier One guy on the Medal of Honor box. Or, come to think of it, Max Payne in Brazil. Yeah, that’s what he looked like.
I, of course, had no such options as Zero. I could choose between “pointy helmet”, “alien helmet”, “robot helmet”, and “cylon helmet”. Don’t even ask me to point out which one is which. I wouldn’t know.
So, having run out of more important things to do, we resigned ourselves to getting Roland out of whatever mess he had gotten himself into. We drove up to the bandit compound and infiltrated it effortlessly -- no sweat. Which is to say, it began with us honking the horn at a crude metal gate, and ended with us two levels more powerful. Other stats? A combined total of about eight to ten player deaths, and a bandit body count of roughly five hundred. Give or take a hundred. I grew as a ninja during this time -- having cranked up my melee attack to do 500% damage to baddies who were at low health, I began zooming around the battlefield, reciting haikus about trap cards and moving into the optimal position to do some creative backstabbing. Most of the time, this ended up with me with zero (get it? har har) health deep in hostile territory, crying out for a revive, but I like to think I had my good runs. There were a handful. Or a couple.
The battle to rescue Roland soon shifted from inside a cell block to a madcap chase along a dam, where we found ourselves in a three-way battle between us, the bandits, and a platoon of killer robots. We weren’t equipped for fighting machines at that point -- we were rocking fire weapons and we had no acid-elemental guns on us, but we did formulate some tactics to combat the new threat. The volume of fire was where it was at, since the robots never took cover the way live targets did. blitz cleverly deployed his turret on high ground on top of car wrecks, shipping containers and other debris, where it effectively took out walkers and flyers alike.
When we found Roland, he was imprisoned on top of what looked like a robotic wine cask. We took it apart with some effort, along with with the roughly ten thousand robots that kept dropping in one after the other. There was no floor to speak of after we were done. The scrap heap of metallic parts was the floor. This was when I realized that this game needs some kind of a high five mechanic, because damn, we were awesome in that last firefight!
So Roland was safe, and we spent another long while back in Sanctuary, buying even more guns and recuperating and listening to Dr. Zed bitterly sourgrape about medical licenses and shooting Claptrap some more. We took a job from the entertainingly deranged Dr. Patricia Tannis, who somehow survived the events of Borderlands 1, and ended up venturing into the sewers to kill four teenage mutant dudes who had ninja skills and liked pizza.
As blitz had put it, we had just taken on a sidequest to kill our childhood.
Even more horrific surprises awaited us as we explored their pad, because their rat-like master was holed up back there and we had to waste him too. I’m just feeling empty inside as I write this. Or dead. I’m dead inside. We didn’t even get any cool new guns for our trouble. Or nunchuks! I would have been happy with nunchuks!
Now, here’s the interesting bit: on our way into the sewers, we came across a detached AI core that wanted a body. This, of course, was an AI in a bad part of town, which presumably had been yanked out of a bad robot, who had bad things planned for us, its would-be rescuers. So we stuck it into a giant robot’s body, during which it promptly tried to kill us. Also, it blew up in my face as I tried to move in for the kill, which was quite off-putting.
We set off to find the AI core another body after it promised not to pull a fast one on us again (blitz: “Why are we doing this?”), and after shoving it into an appropriately deadly-looking industrial shell, we were again plunged into a battle for our very lives as it pulled a fast one on us again -- this time with giant lasers and other, smaller robots. Several migraine-inducing minutes of shocking violence later, the AI core was once again lying on the ground, bodiless and pleading for a greater purpose in its artificial life. Maybe we could stick it in a radio, it suggested.
Hey. Maybe we will. Maybe we will.
It’s the little things in this game that truly make it a gem. With the not so subtle nods to pop culture classics like Top Gun with the shirtless dudes playing volley ball, great balls of fire and always being someones wingman, Borderlands 2 just loves to pay tribute (by making you kill and destroy all such references). One can say it sometimes takes it heartbreakingly far. Or perhaps its sort of like that feeling some people (with issues) describe when they see something so cute and lovable, that they just want to squeeze the life out of it. Well Borderlands 2 is kind of like that. And believe me it is fun.
As Jed so rightly described earlier, there was this side mission that essentially had us murder what can only be described as my favourite action cartoon when I was 6 years old, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It just felt so wrong, but by the end of the massacre of the “mutants” and their boss “Flinter” we could no longer stop ourselves from laughing hysterically from the sheer absurdity of the situation. I realized it had been decades since I last thought about my childhood cartoon and all of a sudden here it was again. Cue flashbacks of my youth eating anchovie pizza while watching TMNT. Strangely enough although I thought I felt bad at first, putting a bullet through Splinter’s, I mean Flinter’s head, the whole affair was a cathartic release for me. Almost therapeutic. What does that say about my childhood? Who knows, all I want is a pizza right now and really who can blame me? My names's Mike after all.
As soon as we loaded up the game, I was pretty excited for the Bandit class vehicle. You know, that 4-seater vehicle with either a turret that shoots freaking saw blades (Hell yes!), or a catapult that lobs an explosive barrel. Gearbox finally took the hint and was able to create a vehicle that everyone in the party can ride, because blowing up vehicles together, makes the party stronger! So okay, I just totally made that up.
Anyways, for building up Salvador, I really took into the mindset of being a Gunzerker. Which means, throwing as much lead as I possibly can, without reloading too much and having really deep pockets for ammo. I guess I took it too far when I noticed that I kept running out of bullets after every boss encounter. Shooting in this game is just too damn fun. Shooting Rockets with your right hand and a shotgun on your left is divine.
When we come back next time: We install the AI core into a radio! We meet Roland’s special drunkard “friend”! We shoot Claptrap! We look at more guns, glorious guns!