Borderlands 2 (Sleepless) ReviewGuest_Jim_* - October 4, 2012
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Starting off with graphics because honestly, that should be the least important in a game like Borderlands 2. The marketing it has received has likely ensured everyone who would read this review has already seen gameplay stills and video, so I see no need to recover it.
I played with all settings on high, Anisotropic Filtering first at 4x then at 2x (will explain the change shortly), and Depth of Field was off (personal preference). My computer has a GTX 570 clocked at 797/1594/1950 MHz (core/shader/memory) with 1280MB of memory, a GTS 250 at 621/1890/1000 MHz, 4GB of system memory, an AMD Phenom II 720 x3 BE unlocked to run four cores at 3.2GHz, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit as its OS. With that configuration, the vast majority of the game ran at what I would estimate as 60 FPS. I did not specifically run a diagnostic like Fraps to confirm this, but typically I can notice a change of just a few FPS from 60 FPS on my monitor.
There were times, however, that the framerate did noticeably drop. This occurred predictably in only certain locations (The Southern Shelf and Thousand Cuts specifically, for me at least), which suggests something about the areas was causing the stuttering. But this is good news as patches and driver updates could relieve this issue entirely for reasonably powerful computers. When I first experienced the stuttering, I dropped the anisotropic filtering from 4x to 2x, hoping it would help. It either did not help or had a minor impact, and I never bothered with changing it back.
At particularly intense game moments, there was also some stuttering, which is to be expected, and again we may see this fade away through software updates in the future. Twice, however, the game locked up and I had to force it to close. As this occurred first after 16 hours of the game being open and again 10 hours later, this could just have been the game needing to be restarted.
The actual appearance of the graphics was quite good but not always consistent. Perhaps it was my eyes getting tired but I am inclined to say some objects were of a higher quality than others. For example, the final boss is truly spectacular, but other characters look more like what we expect from Borderlands 1. Don't take that to mean the final boss looks out of place, it really does fit in, but it looked, to me, much better than other objects in the game. I guess one way to put it would be an HD image in what is otherwise an SD image or video. That is not to say the game is otherwise SD! Just that the difference in quality was that striking to me. Perhaps this is a better way to describe it. Lowering the graphics settings would hit the final boss more than any other enemy in the game.
There was one repeated instance where the graphics were simply subpar in my opinion. Borderlands 2, like its predecessor, features bandits as enemies and at one point attempts to distinguish between certain clans by the addition of a mask to the character model. This mask was just ugly to me. It looked flat and of a lower resolution than the rest of model. I have an idea of why it is like this, but it is such a speculation I'm not going to give it here.
Another thing that just annoyed me, but isn't really a problem or even lower quality, is the blood. It looks like a red cloud hanging in the air for a moment, as opposed to the gory splatter thrown up and out in the first game. It does look good, but it is also different, so I wanted to mention it.
I suppose I should also mention how the PhysX elements looked, especially since I have the GTS 250 specifically to run PhysX on my machine. It is not on par for realism with a game like Batman: Arkham Asylum, although that may be due to the differing artistic styles, but otherwise was the same for the level and kind of presence. Fluids, fabrics, and debris were all PhysX elements, which was actually a little annoying for me, when it comes to the fabrics. In the original Borderlands 1 the fabric covers to entrances of buildings or tents were something you could walk on. Now they are PhysX eyecandy, so you clip right through them. A minor inconsistency, yes, but one I noticed.
Also, at one point I spotted a missing texture, which I'm sure will be taken care of in a future patch.
That's all you're getting on graphics from me. If you want more information, check out the Borderlands 2 website or Gearbox Software YouTube channel for videos where your own tastes will shape your impression of them, instead of my choice of words.
Though I initially wanted to focus some on the sound of the game, when playing I forgot to listen carefully all of the time. When I did though, the music was always quite appropriate for the setting. The wasteland areas had music similar to that of the original game's wasteland areas while the sequel's more colorful environments had a more naturalistic and tribal sound to it, which was perfect for the area.
The voice work is also very well done and comes to you either from the speaking person or over the ECHO communicator. If you are near enough that you could hear the person's voice, you will hear it, but the further away the softer the volume. If you are out of earshot, the voice comes over the communicator, which is definitely a nice change from the original game when it was either a person speaking or an ECHO communication, but not both.
By the way, if you have the subtitles on and pay attention to them, you will notice there are some minor differences between them and the spoken word. Nothing major, but there are differences.