Taking a massive AAA title and porting it over to a (reasonably) powerful handheld is a mammoth challenge for any developer. Luckily, Iron Galaxy Studios took on that risk and although there are some rough edges here and there, the ability to play a game like on the move is undeniably awesome. For me, it was always clear that concessions would have to be made to bring the sprawling open-world shooter to the Vita and although they often hamper the action, they don’t do enough to derail the entire experience.
This is Borderlands 2, as it existed previously on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Fair enough, the visuals have been toned down with a lower texture rate but every sidequest, character and weapon present is still here. Moreover than that, it comes bundled with all the additional DLC’s for the game, bringing two new playable characters into the fray and a slew of additional quests. That alone is impressive for a portable device, but it’s time to talk a bit about the negatives.
There are frame rate drops present. Now they are not atrocious, but they are certainly there. It was expected, but it can make large scale encounters very frustrating. Alongside the frame rate problem there are some noticeable audio syncing issues. Characters dialogue will fall out of sync with their models and sometimes the background music will disappear entirely in cutscenes. Yet again, taken on it’s own it’s bothersome but does little to stave the enjoyment gleaned from looting the wasteland of Pandora and maiming skags galore.
The controls are one of the stickiest points. The Vita lacks rear triggers, substituting the input for the rear touchpad which is a means to and end, but not an ideal solution. The touch radius is quite large meaning accidental sprints, melee attacks and grenade throws happen disturbingly frequently. Apparently, the developer is working with Sony to introduce several fixes for the game which will improve the frame rate and audio sync, while also allowing players to configure the controls as they desire. This even includes reducing the deadzone on the rear touchpad.
The story and humour of Borderlands 2 is what made the game such a hit on consoles and as no content was cut, it rings true in this portable release. Handsome Jack, the games antagonist is one of the most enjoyably evil characters in gaming. It’s hard not to smirk at his lines, even when he is saying something brutally cruel. At the outset of the game, Handsome Jack destroys the train your character is on and leaves you for dead in the frozen wastes. Obviously, this cannot be allowed to pass unavenged – thus, you head out on a quest for revenge against the handsome devil.
There is easily over 60 hours of content available in the game, even more when you factor in all the DLC’s, playing as various classes and playing online with friends. Sadly, the four player co-op which was so well loved in previous releases is no more, but the portable version does a great effort of ensuring players get a seamless 2 player co-op experience and luckily, it all works fine. Matchmaking is quick and connection drops seem few and far between, at least on my my connection anyhow.
Maybe Borderlands 2 failed in proving that you could move a AAA console game to the PS Vita with no compromises, but at the same time it does showcase that if the experience is inherently good then some slight annoyances shouldn’t mean make or break. I find it hard not to recommend Borderlands 2 to Vita owners, warts and all, as it really does deliver so much content and a relatively faithful recreation of one of the best open-world shooters out there. Then again, it might be worth waiting until Sony and Iron Galaxy squash the bugs present, making for a much more well-rounded experience.