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Borderlands 2 Vita review

AT A GLANCE
  • Looks surprisingly good on the Vita
  • Comes with tons of post-launch DLC
  • Same great game...
  • ...but frequent frame dips make it frustrating to play
  • Aiming feels sluggish
  • Controls suffer as a result of the Vita's fewer inputs

On consoles or PC, you've scoured the planet of Pandora for eight gajillion guns, mowing down thousands of Psychos and six-legged gorilla things in the process. You're considering picking up the Vita version, maybe for another playthrough, or simply as a fun distraction to kill time when you ride the train or are forced into attending boring family gatherings. And now you want to know if it's any good. At its best, Borderlands 2 on Vita is just OK--but more often than not, it's far more frustrating than fun. 

It should come as no surprise that some concessions had to be made to accommodate the Vita's hardware capabilities. Cooperative multiplayer has been reduced from four players to two, making it a lonelier experience for those looking to play with friends. Gun textures, specifically, look muddier here, making most of your firearms come off as generic-looking pistols, rifles, shotguns, and rocket launchers. That said, the environments still have a good amount of detail to them, and none of the visual changes distract from the gameplay. All said, it looks surprisingly good.  

What is a distraction, however, are the framerate dips. When multiple enemies appear on-screen at once (which happens often), the Vita struggles to keep up with all the action--this, obviously, is problematic for a game that requires twitch reaction and precision shooting. Enemy counts in general have been reduced to accommodate (you'll see only two or three Psychos where you once fought eight or more), but you'll still run into this issue on regular basis.

Then there's the controls. Aiming and turning feels sluggish, making it difficult to be precise. In fact, hitting enemies at all is a difficult task, as it often seems as though your shots pass right through them without registering. And because key skills--melee attacks, class abilities, grenades--are mapped to the Vita's touch screen and rear touchpad by default, you'll often activate them by mistake when your thumbs slip from the thumbsticks, or when you hold the Vita a certain way. These are crucial abilities that require strategic use; putting them on cooldown by accident often results in an unnecessary death. The controls can be customized to your liking, which is an excellent feature, but I never found a sweet spot that made them less frustrating. 

The Vita version does have some perks, though. For instance, its cross save feature makes it super easy to play on the PS3, save your game, then pick it right back up while on the go. Plus, buying this version gives you access to tons of post-launch DLC. If you don't mind the frustrations that come with playing on the Vita, it's a pretty complete package.

It's certainly impressive that a game with the scope of Borderlands 2 can run on Sony's handheld device at all. The visuals, while lower in quality compared to the console or PC versions of the game, are adequately detailed, and there's a great game here under the surface. Unfortunately the Vita doesn't keep up with the fast-paced gunplay, making this port difficult to recommend.

More Info

Release date: May 13 2014 - PS Vita (US)
May 30 2014 - PS Vita (UK)
Available Platforms: PS Vita
ESRB Rating:
Mature

Borderlands 2 remains an excellent game--unfortunately the Vita port makes too many concessions. Frequent frame dips, sluggish response, and OK controls make it hard to recommend.

11 comments

  • brickman409 - May 16, 2014 2:08 a.m.

    I'm very tempted to buy a vita. It sounds like there's a lot of problems with this game, but just the ambition of putting a game like borderlands 2 on a portable console is cool enough for me. Reminds me of Doom for the GBA . Plus there's other cool games for the system like tearaway and some other stuff.
  • JanDXFan - May 29, 2014 8:44 a.m.

    You should definitely get a PS VIta. It has games for every type of Gamer and it is the greatest handheld ever.
  • Maginko - May 15, 2014 11:59 p.m.

    I've had it for 3 days now and I still can't stop playing it. Sure, it's a ported down version of the console/PC game so it's understandable that they need to tone it down (less max players/ less enemies on screen/ no ragdoll physics deaths) for the hardware to accommodate its vastness. Despite the game's cons, it's still Borderlands 2 on the go, which is a feat in itself.
  • shawksta - May 14, 2014 6:11 p.m.

    Shame, Borderlands 2 is a great game too. I mean i would still buy it if i had a Vita because i love borderlands, but still.
  • BladedFalcon - May 14, 2014 5:16 p.m.

    ...Wow, so Gearbox has become so shitty, that now it can't even re-release it's one good franchise right... Geez.
  • meg127 - May 14, 2014 2 p.m.

    I have the game and I haven't experienced many frame rate drops at all. One, maybe two. I also don't have problems with the touch screen controls. Maybe it's because my hands are small? I wouldn't say the Vita version is as bad as this review says, but it definitely has some problems. I've noticed the audio cut out once so far.
  • GStylez80 - May 14, 2014 5:51 p.m.

    I agree with this sentiment. I've had no control or lag issues and I've played the game for a few hours. It looks good, plays well, and is a great portable complement to the PS3 version!
  • Jackonomics2.0 - May 14, 2014 1:40 p.m.

    THERE'S NO PLACE FOR THE WICKED GEARBOX KEEPS FUCKING UP
  • Cyberninja - May 14, 2014 12:20 p.m.

    Poor Vita it seems fans of western games literally have no reason to get one
  • Jackonomics2.0 - May 14, 2014 1:41 p.m.

    The problem with the Vita is that nobody in the west gives a shit about handhelds and even then nobody uses the Vita's gimmick good. It kind of says something when even Miyamoto thinks it has potential nobody is utilizing. Console ports on handhelds isn't the way to do it.
  • Shigeruken - May 15, 2014 11:52 p.m.

    Agreed, the Sword Art Online game looks fantastic, and the Gundam Seed game was perfect. If all of the great Japanese exclusives were localized in a timely manner the Vita would have been a much stronger console from the beginning.

Showing 1-11 of 11 comments

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