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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!

Jed:

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.

You may THINK I was headed straight for that cactus. You would be RIGHT.

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.

It’s not that easy to make out, but that burning line used to be a volleyball net.

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.

Stocking up on ammo. But what I’m really doing is showing off my tights.

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.

Good for a laugh: Mike’s turret taking out some Rakk. Over and over.

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!

Here’s Mike’s dramatic yet straightforward shot.

Here’s an action-packed picture James took from a dynamic angle.

And here’s my piece of shit extreme closeup!

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.

“Okay, guys. Here’s the plan. Whisper whisper whisper...”

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.

A turret up high: man’s best friend.

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.

Ninja? Sewers? Pizza? SOMETHING ABOUT THIS ISN’T RIGHT.

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!

This would be a great time for a driving song!

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.

Mike:

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.

Go ninja go ninja go!

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.

The bittersweet ding that ushered in the end of Master Flinter’s reign.

James

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.

Those guys over there are about to become stronger, if you know what I mean.

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.

Seconds before I flush myself down a giant drain.


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!

Coop Commentary - Borderlands 2 (or: Gunshoots for His Lordship Sir Hammerlock)

Coop Commentary is a series of posts designed to give you an idea as to how the gameplay feels in our eyes. It is not meant to be a definitive review in any way shape or form about the game. The 3 of us usually kick back every couple of weeks and play a coop game and decided to write down our thoughts.


What we're playing:

Borderlands 2!

Who we're playing:

Mike (blitzio): Axton (the new turret guy) James (INQUE): Salvador (the dwarf) Jed (jRev): Zer0, or the significantly less cuter name of Zero (the masked guy)

Check inside for our initial foray into Borderlands 2!

Mike:

Playing as Axton, the military esque Commando with a portable turret, I immediately focused on providing fire support for Jed and James. In accordance with US army field manual #3246 in article XII, the doctrine for positional superiority dictates that an engaged and prolonged nature of attack must commence from the rear with combined arms and support. Ok I totally made that bit up. Milfag detected.

You now have a grenade.

Moving forward, I think the playstyle of this class is for the kind of person who enjoys hanging back and providing covering and suppressing fire for his comrades. From time to time I’d find a perch, switch to a heavy damage sniper rifle and hit targets while the turret provides cover fire for the boys, feels good man. I’d say our group dynamic has been pretty solid with constant communication on Teamspeak and using the typical fire and manuever basic tactics we have learned from other games and movies we have watched over the years; which as 4chan would term in true “milfag” fashion.

Us raiding Roland's pad!

Having played the first Borderlands, the transition to this was pretty seamless, with obvious graphical and visual improvements, however I am experiencing the occassional fps drop/stutter which is pretty strange on my machine (i5 2500k, 8GB Ram, GTX 680). Upon meticulous googling, I realised this problem is pretty common for guys with Nvidia cards, so I’m hoping for a future patch/driver update. Otherwise the game is still very playable for me, and I look forward to many more coop sessions and completing the game with the boys.

Jed:

Half an hour after our brief character creation session, we were knee-deep in Bullymong entrails and bandit corpses. We made the acquaintance of the dapper Sir Hammerlock, and began to gravitate towards our preferred weapons.

Buying guns at the Happy Pig Motel: fun for the whole family!

Borderlands is like a psych exam in loot form: you can tell much about a person from his weapons of choice in Borderlands. I went with a grenade launcher/SMG combo -- I prefer the indirect approach, so the grenades are for indiscriminate firing from a distance, and the SMG is for emptying out into the backs of bandit heads after I sneak behind them with my invisibility power. I also have a sword, which of course is for embedding into the backsides of my enemies. No direct confrontation here -- my two teammates are doing enough of that already. INQUE is always grabbing shotguns left and right, and blitzio has his assault rifle and turret.

The neatest thing about all this is certainly the wide range of guns that the game can spit out at us! We've got pistols that have side-loading mags, shotguns with drums, and fire-spitting assault rifles that only accept high-tech batteries. We actually spent a good amount of time showing off our guns -- something we do in RPGs that lack other show-offable things like silly hats. Unfortunately, some animations like "fanning" a single-action revolver aren't visible on the third person model. That's a bit of a shame.

Shown here: INQUE's magnificent pink car.

We did get some adventuring done, too. We quickly established the unspoken rule that Claptrap must always be shot in the face whenever he talks, and that pink vehicles are hip and stylish. We leapt our fair share of ravines and failed less than half of those attempts. We also went on a merry hunt for Bullymong fur, chasing wounded Bullymongs all over the icy expanse to punch them dead (only Bullymongs killed by melee will drop fur), only to moan loudly when a stray bullet from a trigger-happy spread lands on the wrong target.

Good times. Now that we have a nice and secure operation based out of Sanctuary, things can only get better and wilder from here!

James:

After the new classes were being revealed before the game was released, I decided on the get-go I wanted to play as the “Gunzerker”. Not only did Salvador look like a dwarf, he can dual-wield any combination of guns in the game. I long for the day when I can get 2 rocket launchers and keep spamming’ em to hell. But so far, while putting in a few hours into the game with Jed and Mike, the experience has been very enjoyable.

<3

Shooting and collecting guns, guns, guns is what’s it all about and the game does it very well. For now I’ve been focusing on collecting good assault rifles and shotguns, the launchers have just been introduced and I’m very much looking forward to them (SEE: dual rocket launchers above).

Standing back while Claptrap takes a serious beating. We stood back and enjoyed the view for longer than was probably appropriate or polite.

I am genuinely looking forward to progressing the game and wanting more guns to shoot at those blasted bullymongs (and Claptrap)!


NEXT TIME: We get into the groove of questing and take the bandit technical for a long desert drive!

Coop Commendation: Renegade Ops

Welcome to the very first installment of Coop Commendation, where Koop is King, and spelling goes right down the drainpipe. Through this series, we intend to share our cooperative play experiences and opinions, as well as give our impressions of games that offer cooperative play as a gameplay mode. Coop Commendation is not a review column; we will still feature specific games, but we will mainly discuss the cooperative experience, and how fun it was for us to play through the game as a group.

In this post, we'll be discussing the high-octane twin-stick blastfest that is Renegade Ops!

Mike:

Awesome. That’s how I can describe my experience playing RenOps. From the ridiculously over the top dialog to the gorgeous Avalanche Engine 2.0 based on Havok’s solid tried and tested physics engine. When I first played this I was thinking to myself, wow this has BF3’s graphics from a top down view with matchbox cars under your control. What else is this game about? Explosions and blowing things up. Over and over again. The physics engine allows for stunning visuals of tanks, armoured vehicles and helicopters blowing up in spectacular fashion like a Michael Bay movie, only better, so much better.

When it comes to coop, what I really enjoyed was the experience of moving from point to point with your buddies capturing or destroying objectives while the chief bad guy shrieks at you in comic form. There are 9 missions which you can play with up to 4 of your buddies, and I must say this is the best way to enjoy the game. Make sure you have a gamepad controller and fire up voice chat and sit back to enjoy a really pleasing coop experience that leaves you laughing with your friends and blowing everything up in your path. The strength of this game is its simplicity. At its very core this a no frills and fun game to play while you kick back after a long day at work or school. In my opinion it’s a great game to unwind with, like an ice cold beer.

Jed:

Renegade Ops is already perfect. The only thing they could do to drive Renegade Ops into new dimensions of greatness is to turn it into M.A.S.K.: The Game. Sure, I had a blast guiding Gunnar and his bouncy little jeep through jungles, deserts, gigantic military platforms, and mysterious underground complexes, but imagine how much better it could have been if I could play a cool 80s dude in tinted aviators whose lime-green motorcycle could transform into an attack helo at the press of a button. The game's cast is composed of the staple 80s gimmicky heroes of the ragtag variety, but unlike the grunts of G.I. Joe, these heroes are savvy enough to know that You Never Get Out of the Car. Therefore, I love this game, even if it isn't M.A.S.K.: The Game.

The coop aspect more than makes up for the lack of snappy acronym-based team names like M.A.S.K. and V.E.N.O.M. The game supports up to four players playing through the campaign, and with the full complement of four, it is sublime. Because you never run out of ammo for your basic gun, you can basically drive everywhere and do all sorts of powerslidey stunts while firing enough rounds per minute to whittle down Ayers Rock into a fine mound of instant milk chocolate. Multiply this by four and you've got Contra on wheels with two additional players, minus the notable dying-every-two-seconds habit that most classic Contra games tend to feature. The bottom line is this: Renegade Ops is all about shooting and blowing things up and laughing at the barefaced shameless 80s bluntness of it all with up to three of your friends. On wheels. I love this game. Even if it isn't M.A.S.K.: The Game, it's close enough for now.

James:

I think Jed and Mike totally summed up how good the game is with coop. Blowing shit up and laughing at the cheesy lines that Bryant and Inferno throw at each other is gold right there. It’s a simple game to pick up and play with your buddies, if you want something relaxing while looking at some pretty explosions.

Each character has its own unique special ability, so knowing when to dish out your special attack is vital for this coop-centric game. Calling an air-strike, commanding some antlions (yes for some reason Gordon Freeman is around) or getting an energy barrier up that heals, needs some straight-up communication with your buddies. To control your awesome vehicle, a game pad is highly recommend with dual analog sticks. I personally used an Xbox 360 controller as the game was made for it, but I’m sure any 3rd party gamepads will work with the game. Movement and combat feel very natural with the controller. Delivering some hurt to the enemies felt very very satisfying (my favorite secondary weapon are the missiles).

For the love of everything coop and huge explosions (I do love me some explosions), get this game and get some of your closest buddies to join you. You will thank us after.

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