This year, Borderlands 2 blew away Yuliya Geikhman’s expectations and united people in an adventure full of epic explosions, without even needing a second screen.
If I told you to name some recent fun multiplayer games, you’d have no problem doing so. But what if I specified offline, local mulitplayer? All of a sudden that list dwindles to a handful (most of which undoubtedly require dusting off the Wii, or splashing cash on a Wii U).
My husband and I both love games, but we often find ourselves sitting next to each other, playing two different games. This year though, one game has given me hours of entertainment, countless laugh-out-loud moments, and the chance to spend some quality gaming time with my husband. My Game of the Year is Borderlands 2 – and here’s why it should be yours too.
The lost art of local co-op
Not too long ago, playing video games with your friends meant actually getting up and physically moving yourself to their location (crazy, I know!). Today it means firing up your console or computer and logging into your account. Within seconds, the whole world is at your fingertips. Strangers living one block down, or friends away studying in China – it doesn’t matter. You can play with anyone.
Anyone, that is, except whoever you’re actually close to at the moment. Because to play online multiplayer with your spouse/sibling/grandparent, you would need two copies of the game, two consoles, and two TVs. It’s an alienating experience, as well as a frustrating one for anyone who wants spending time together to comprise of more than being in the same room. Nearly every game that’s come out recently has had online multiplayer, but very few include the good old split-screen.
Honestly, that’s what first won me over about the first Borderlands. A decent game with a local co-op campaign? Count me in. Who cares if the story was sub-par and the questing was repetitive? It wasn’t meant to be played alone – it was fun to play with someone else and that was all that really mattered.
So Borderlands 2 was really only supposed to be a fun multiplayer experience. And I could talk about why it was a fun experience. The classes are great and customizable to your play-style. Running around shooting monsters and bandits has never been more satisfying. But these are all things we expected of Borderlands 2. The reason I – and over 5 millions others – loved this game so much is for all the times that it took our expectations and laughed in their feeble faces.
We expected humor, but we didn’t expect the ridiculous level of laugh-till-you-snort comic relief. We expected a gazillion guns, but we didn’t expect the sheer number of different possibilities, as well as firepower strengths and weaknesses. We expected “more wub-wub” to be a joke… but there actually was more wub-wub (silly Claptrap).
But most of all what blew away all preconceptions of the game was the depth of the experience – and the story. The four original vault hunters return in Borderlands 2, but they are no longer silent vessels good only for explosive action. The new playable characters have their own backgrounds that give you a sense that you’re playing someone substantial. Even Pandora itself has more personality this time around.
The game makes us love or hate every friend and foe we come across. It gets us involved in their lives and fates. It makes us care. Does anyone even remember first game’s story? I don’t (something about aliens?). But certain parts of Borderlands 2 will stay with me for quite a while. Handsome Jack’s entire overarching story. Mordecai’s pet. I’m being intentionally vague to avoid spoilers, but I’m sure anyone who’s played the game will be nodding their head in agreement.
That’s what I’m talking about – we knew that Borderlands 2 would be fun to play, there was never a question about that. But we didn’t know that certain moments would break through the farce and Butt-Stallion jokes to make us feel something more than our drinks coming up our noses.
And best of all, we could share these moments with our friends and loved ones while actually sitting next to them. One of the most common sentences I hear associated with Borderlands 2 is “I play the game with my girlfriend/boyfriend and s/he isn’t even a gamer.” Our other Games of the Year might have heartbreaking stories or breathtaking action. But Borderlands 2 is my Game of the Year for its ability to bring us closer together in a world intent on placing a screen between us, instead of in front of us.