Borderlands 2 Vita Review: Loot 'n Shoot 'n Go
Sony has been continually claiming that the PS Vita is basically a portable console, not a handheld. A system where players could either experience console-like experiences or continue their console games on the go. And while there have been examples of this system in place, like Ragnarok Odyssey ACE or even Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends, I can't help but be in awe when seeing the entirety of Borderlands 2, DLC included, on Sony's little Vita.
In terms of story, you're getting the entire familiar package. You're still a vault hunter, you're still going after Handsome Jack and the evil Hyperion corporation, you're still picking up a bajillion guns and you're still getting the staple Borderlands 2 humor. It contains all the Butt Stallions and Claptrap quips originally found on both the console and PC, and it's awesome. If you want to get the full, detailed review of Borderlands 2 story and mechanics, you can find that in our Official Review of the game, right here.
Of course, having the full experience on the Vita does come with some trade-offs. First and foremost, and easily the most noticeable, is the game's framerate. If you're expecting a smooth experience from start to finish, lower those expectations. The game suffers from noticeable dips in framerate during numerous occasions, such as running from one place to another, which doesn't give the game enough time to load the area, or when being swarmed by too many enemies at once.
For a game that often requires precise aiming, this tends to be quite a problem, especially when trying to use Sniper Rifles. There is also a noticeable delay in an enemy getting shot. One of the satisfying features of Borderlands is seeing damage numbers fly out from your enemies as you're pumping them full of lead. Here, the damage numbers never seem to sync up with your shots, always appearing slightly after it comes in contact with the enemy.
The controls are also something that console or PC players might have to get used to. Having only one set of triggers and no thumbstick buttons to run and melee, the game has to utilize the rear touchpad and touchscreen to compensate. The rear touchpad is especially problematic, because I tend to hold my Vita with my fingers extended across. Here I had to curl them up because otherwise I would keep randomly sprinting and hitting objects with my melee attack when I didn't want to.
The dual analog sticks are a godsend for a portable, especially when it comes to FPS games, but their size also comes with a learning curve. Since they're so small, precise aiming tends to be problematic, coupled with the above mentioned dip in frames. I could never quite align a headshot in a speedy manor, without it taking me a few seconds to keep readjusting. In a fast paced games like Borderlands 2, that's an issue. Thankfully you can use the Vita's motion controls to aim your gun when aiming down your sights. This does make aiming a lot easier, but it also makes you look like an idiot when playing in a public place.
I do have to give props where props are due though. The visuals are pretty great. Usually Vita games compared to their console couterparts look noticeably worse. Mortal Kombat, for instance had terrible looking character models. However, it also had 60fps gameplay, so that tradeoff was necessary. It seems that the team did sacrifice fluidity in order for Borderlands 2 to look really good on the system and I have to say it does. It looks as if you're streaming the console gameplay to your Vita rather than playing a watered down Vita version.
The signature four player co-op is noticeably missing here, as the max player count is now cut down to two. It does take out the fun of getting four friends together and taking Pandora by storm, and for a game that seems to have kept every other feature intact, it's a little strange that this was cut. But then again, four online players could produce some very bad lag, and combined with the lower framerate, it could have rendered the game completely unplayable.
When completely installed with all of the DLC included, the game comes to a whopping 5.3GB on your memory card. So you might want to make sure you clear up some space if you're planning on purchasing.
Even with some of its unfortunate tradeoffs, this is largely the full Borderlands 2 experience. Even I have a hard time wrapping my head around just how they managed to squeeze the entirety of Borderlands 2 on the Vita. The question is, how much does framerate matter to you in exchange for portability? If the answer is not much, then Borderlands 2 is a no brainer.