“Borderlands 2” will rival “Mass Effect 3” for game of the year


“Borderlands 2” is a dangerous game, because it’s so fun, I want to take a long vacation, hunker down in my house, eat pizza, cut off all communications with friends, and play this game.

As of now, 2012’s “Game of the Year” competition seems to me to be a face-off between “Borderlands 2” and “Mass Effect 3.”

This sequel to the 2009 original “Borderlands” takes place on the planet Pandora, populated with a violent cast murderous men, murderous giants, murderous birds, even murderous bugs.

I portray a warrior. I travel across desert landscape (alternately hot and snowy), shooting these murderous creatures, while I’m also engaged in missions to stop a nefarious corporate warlord from doing corporate warlord stuff.

I didn’t love the first “Borderlands.” I felt it had too much backtracking, making me repeatedly tread the same terrain, over and over.

But “Borderlands 2’s” creators (at Gearbox Software studios in Plano, Texas) fixed everything I didn’t previously enjoy. And they expanded the style, scope, shooting and humor tremendously.

The style offers pretty, comic book-esque visuals (thick illustration lines), with slightly “Mad Max” motifs.

And the first-person shooting is exquisite. I am constantly finding guns (pistols, shotguns, machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket launchers). They only get more rad as the game progresses.

Even more impressive is the artificial intelligence of powerful bad guys. Most villains don’t just come running toward you. Many hide behind cover. Many duck and weave. They are difficult to kill.

In other words, this is a hard shooting outing for big boys and big girls.

The main and side missions usually tell me to travel across the desert, find a cave, desert steppe group of people or animals, and assassinate top-ranking villains of heinous natures.

In many other games, side missions are rote or redundant. That is absolutely not the case in “Borderlands 2.” Side missions are sometimes more vital, detailed and fun than main missions.

And the scope: Wow. I imagine there’s about a small American state worth of geography here. To help me cross it, I get cars at times.

And I can “fast travel” from one location to another when I don’t want to jog for an hour across dangerous desert.

The humor can be strikingly offbeat. I fired flaming bullets into one species of villains, and while they burned to death they said, “I smell delicious!”

Plus, I’ve experienced no lag time. And loading times are fast.

This comes with a multiplayer, featuring cooperative missions with other online gamers.

And at the beginning of the game, we choose which of four characters to portray: A soldier-type guy; a Schwarzenegger-size bigger soldier; a woman warrior with mystical power; and a slinky assassin guy.

So the replay value is gigantic. Feasibly, I could play and replay every character and mission for a year, and totally obsess over every battle and hidden loot.

In fact, I now have to get back to playing this game. If you don’t hear from me next week, mail me some rescue pizza.

(“Borderlands 2” by 2K Games retails for $60 for Xbox 360, PS 3 and PC - Plays insanely fun. Looks great. Challenging. Rated “M” for blood, gore, intense violence, language, sexual themes, use of alcohol. Four out of four stars.)