For a lot of gamers, Borderlands 2 stands as potentially one of the best gaming experiences, the biggest values and the title with the coolest aesthetic the industry has to offer this year. It's been preceded by a wealth of hype, thanks to the relative obscurity of the original's pre-release, and Gearbox hopes to live up to that new standard.

Is this one of the best games of the fall? Should fans and newcomers alike welcome a brand new chapter in Pandora's tale?

The short answer: yes.

Improving everything.

Gearbox, ultimately, did exactly what fans hoped they would set out to do when it came time to develop Borderlands 2. They made this game a refined version of everything that worked so well in its predecessor. They also took time to add key components that were missing entirely.

Borderlands was a bit of a surprise; so, it was okay that the storyline was lackluster, the NPCs got boring and major gaming components (like minimaps) were missing. Borderlands 2, however, arrived with an overwhelming amount of hype. Gearbox meets it head on.

The story here is much better. There's a maniacal villain (Handsome Jack), there is a constant flow of funny and friendly NPCs and the dialogue serves as some of the best in gaming today.

Heck, even the loot management has been improved with the ability to mark junk and favorites. You'll have a safe for storing weapons and a locker for transferring them to other characters.

Finally, my favorite new bit, this game feels diverse. You're not going to trudge through the desert for 50 hours fighting different versions of skag. You'll rock snow, mountains, caves, pastures and deserts fighting a whole manner of beasts, bots and bandits. Once you get tired of fighting one creature in one locale, the game is smart enough to point you somewhere entirely different with a new host of baddies. Things are a lot less boring.

The driving is still a little rough at times, but I count that as one of the few things that still needs a healthy dose of tweaking.

Hilarious yet rigid characters.

You're going to laugh. You're probably going to snort. The humor in Borderlands 2 is an ever-present device that will actually push you forward in the game. Perhaps, the humor might even be the best catalyst for progress within this entire package.

Gearbox tried to make every single aspect funny. And, for the most part, they delivered.

In a way, Gearbox took a page from the book of Portal humor with Borderlands 2. You'll almost always have an NPC talking over your adventures, and the stuff they say is consistently witty. Whether it comes from Claptrap, Maya or Handsome Jack, the dialogue in this game (both in-person and over the "radio") is funny.

While the dialogue in person is great, the character models themselves are exceptionally rigid. This works fine for our good buddy Claptrap (since he's a robot), but more important NPCs seem a bit too stiff for their own good. In a world that so perfectly pulls off this sense of immersion, these rigid characters will definitely make snap you out of the moment from time to time.

Granted, it's certainly not a game breaking problem. It's simply that opponents move fluidly in combat, so NPCs should do the same in moments of chatter.

Gearbox tried to make every single aspect funny. And, for the most part, they delivered.

The life of a solo vault hunter is a tough one.

If you're considering a romp through Pandora's second full length tale, I suggest doing it with friends. I soloed this game for most of my review. After around 20 hours of playing by myself (as an Assassin, for what it's worth), I was found myself incredibly frustrated quite a bit.

It's still fun, mind you, but you're going to hit a wall of death loops around level 15 that seem almost insurmountable. It's around level 15 that enemies get stronger, smarter, bigger and more difficult to fight. The game gets downright tough.

You'll still be abe to push through the campaign if you're playing by yourself. The game still honors your actions with a solid story and fantastic humor. So, don't let this section of the review deter you from snagging Borderlands 2. I predominantly soloed the game with my play, and I'm still not done yet, but I've really enjoyed it in spite of the furious difficulty.

Guns, guns, guns.

The vast amount of weaponry at your disposal in the Borderlands universe (spanning the first two games) is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the seemingly infinite system of randomly creating loot that drops at a stunning rate is a brilliant way to encourage constant play. On the other, Borderlands 2 is a quest of inflation. Having so many guns present in the world decreases the value of extreme weapons.

In the ultimate quest to collect the most stuff with the most upward facing green arrows, Borderlands 2 is at its most mechanical moments when it comes time to pick up and sort through loot. For some gamers, this is a thing of bliss. I, however, am not really a fan of loot systems like this one.

It's not that I don't find the process of beating a "badass" boss in order to collect his sweet, sweet loot drops rewarding; I do! It's that Borderlands 2's practically infinite weapon amount leads to moments where the quest or boss loot is less spectacular than the guns I'm already toting.

The reward for plugging away on a particular boss or quest chain for hours on end is significantly diminished because of the simple fact that the gun on said boss is not really all that special. I've seen the gun your dead body drops before, Wilhelm, and the few in my equipped slots are better.

I know that this "bajillions of guns" thing is a selling point for Gearbox; however, speaking as a gamer who loves those sweet epics that drop from big bosses, I wish Gearbox refined this reward system to be, stick with me, genuinely rewarding.

Do not skip this game.

The classes are worth playing a few times. The funny moments remain funny. The storyline is heavy enough to enjoy once through and light enough to get out of the way when it's time to grind. The mechanics are sound. The art style is amazing. And, most importantly, the game finally feels perfectly diverse.

If you game with friends, if you love shooters, if you like humorous characters, if you're looking for a general good time, do not skip Borderlands 2. This is one of the best efforts for 2012. Be warned, though, solo players may hit a few walls of frustration.

We purchased a copy of Borderlands 2 with company funds. We played the game for roughly 30 hours before starting this review. We did not reach the level cap. We plan to begin doing so right…now.

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4.5 out of 5

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