Borderlands 2 PS Vita Review
Seeing other people’s reactions to the handheld port of Borderlands 2 has been startling to say the least. I’ve seen complaints of technical issues, the controls, and the parring back of four players to two, and while there is certainly evidence to go along with the complaints, they rarely got in the way of my fun. Perhaps I’m more forgiving than your average player, or perhaps I’m more patient, or perhaps I should just get on with the review.
I should point out as little disclaimer that the PS Vita port is the only version I’ve played of Borderlands 2. Oh sure I own it (thanks Steam sales), but never played more than the first area of it as it crashes just when I think I might get away with it this time. In that regard, the Vita port shares some similarities with its PC version. Did you know a PS Vita can crash to desktop? I thought that was a luxury only afforded to computers, but Borderlands 2 opened my eyes. It took three attempts to get through Bloodshot Stronghold without a crash. I was ready to write the game off as unplayable, but it honestly got better, although by no means perfect.
Crashing isn’t the only technical issue, but it’s the only one that had a detrimental effect on my fun. Borderlands 2 has the longest loading time of any handheld title I’ve played, which can seem to go on for an age if you’ve just restarted after a crash. Generally though, the loading times aren’t a deal breaker, especially for as much is going on in one area of the game, although it doesn’t prevent texture pop in. No area is fully textured upon arrival, with several seconds needed for it to catch up. Detailed areas are particularly bad, such as the Crimson Raiders HQ, which not only has pop in, but causes the game to lag briefly whilst it tarts itself up. I can’t help but think that including every poster and flyer in the building from the console version was just unnecessary. Dialogue lags consistently as well, with odd occurrences during conversations involving two NPCs taking ages because they both leave huge dramatic pauses before getting on with their line. As for lag within a fire fight? Very infrequently actually. Marvelous.
As you might expect, Borderlands 2 on the PS Vita makes a number of technical compromises. Where it holds up well is in its controls, which may surprise anyone who’s kept up with the critical reaction to the game. Call me a savant, but the controls make sense to me, including the Vita’s back panel ones. Sprinting and melee attacks are assigned to the back panel, and always worked; simply flick my middle finger across the back of the Vita and I’m sprinting. Trying to melee attack multiple times in a row is awkward, although I’m not sure if there is any need to do so unless you’re in Krieg’s Buzz Axe Rampage, but then melee is assigned to the shoulder button. For the sake of comparison I played Borderlands 2 on a friend’s Xbox 360, and did notice a few touches absent from the Vita version. Driving a vehicle on the Vita feels as if it was overlooked during its porting; the vehicles can feel weightless and difficult to control with any skill. Aesthetically, they don’t feel as powerful as their console brethren either. On the 360 vehicles roar as they boost, and firing the gun feels as if it could shred a Bullymong to pieces. The Vita version is certainly lackluster in the vehicle department.
At last, to multiplayer. It’s true that nothing quite rivals the fun of four friends teaming up against the horde Left 4 Dead style, so the disappointment surrounding the Vita’s capability to handle only two players is understandable. It also means that items aimed at teams of players, such as those that raise a team’s accuracy by 20% for example, are now literally half as useful, meaning I just sold any I found. Getting into multiplayer games took multiple attempts, but once a connection is established the game runs fairly smoothly, in battle and through area transitions. Other players were quite unwilling to chat though, which personally makes co-op very dull if you can’t talk tactics or item-swapping. Playing with a friend would sort that out, but then I don’t know anyone else who owns a Vita.
If you can suffer through the issues above, you’ll find the spirit of Borderlands 2 is still in the PS Vita port. Finding an orange rarity item is still as exciting as it would be on console, as is the tactical depth if you want it. If you won’t let technical issues ruin a good time, you’ll find a lot to love in the Vita port.