Borderlands 2 on Vita will either be a miracle or a disaster
Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I’m a pretty big advocate for the Vita. It's my favorite handheld game console of all time, and I take it everywhere I go. It’s powerful, the screen is beautiful, the interface is slick, and there are a ton of awesome and unique games. By all accounts I should be excited for the Spring release of Borderlands 2, but Vita history and what we know about the game so far has left me extremely pessimistic. If BL2 on Vita is a good port, it will be a miracle.
Let’s start with one simple truth -- Borderlands 2 doesn’t run very well on PS3 and 360, let alone a handheld with less horsepower. That fact alone means that BL2 on Vita must be a carefully considered downgrade. Borderland’s art style probably lends itself to such a downgrade, but the balance between visuals and playability will be key. Consistent framerate matters a lot on Vita, because those tiny thumbsticks aren’t doing FPS controls any favors. On the bright side, developer Iron Galaxy won’t have to take split-screen play into consideration, and they’ll be working with a lower resolution display vs. 720p.
As much as I like Iron Galaxy for Divekick (not to mention their excellent HD versions of Dungeons & Dragons and Street Fighter III), their previous 3D work like Dark Void and Tron doesn’t suggest they’re the ideal studio to handle Borderlands 2 on Vita. I don’t want to sell them short, but they have a lot to prove, and history isn’t on their side.
Of the franchises in the same technical domain as BL2 -- Call of Duty, Resistance, and Assassin's Creed, for example -- very few were able to produce Vita games that looked great, played well, or maintained a steady framerate. Killzone is the exception, and it was built from the ground up by a team known for squeezing amazing things out of hardware. Iron Galaxy has insisted (via Twitter) that the Vita is a capable Borderlands machine, but we still haven’t even seen a screenshot or trailer.
It would be amazing if Borderlands 2 was the Persona 4 of triple-A Vita ports, but even games like Spelunky have their share of technical issues. The Jak & Daxter Collection (a rushed port on most accounts) couldn’t even run PS2 ports smoothly. The recently released Dustforce suffers from some awful framerate issues on Vita as well. Other games, like Sly Cooper or WipEout, have oppressive loading times -- not something you’d want in BL2, with all its fast-travel loading.
There’s a bright side of course. Many ports like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom, Stranger’s Wrath HD, and Jet Set Radio manage to make the Vita transition unscathed. It certainly comes down to the type of game and the skill with which the game is ported. That’s the issue, though. Borderlands 2 is a big game. Compared to everything else I’ve mentioned short of, perhaps, Assassin’s Creed, it is a larger, more ambitious game.
Even if Borderlands 2 turns out awesome, deserving of a bundle with a the new Vita model, there are still some concerns. BL2 isn’t just a big game in scope, but in actual download size. The Vita 2000 bundle comes with an 8GB memory card, but BL2 on Vita includes the main game, Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, Psycho Character Class, Mechromancer Character Class, Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 1 and the Collector’s Edition Pack. You have to wonder how much of that 8GB card that will that take up. Presumably the rest of the BL2 DLC will follow as well. Will that 8GB memory card even be enough for BL2 and all of its DLC, let alone more games down the line?
What little we know of BL2 thus far leaves a lot of questions. That said, the features they have announced so far do give me some hope. Cross-saves between PS3 and Vita, touchscreen menus, and proper, 4-player online co-op all seem to suggest that they’re doing it right. But that’s still not a lot to go on, and until we see it really running on a Vita, I’ll still have my doubts.
So what do you think? Miracle, disaster, somewhere in between? Leave your predictions in the comments below.
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