@adamnajberg on Twitter recently reviewed Borderlands 2 and this may be a rebuttal depending on whether or not you think my words are worthwhile. I also don’t advocate spamming Mr. Najberg’s Twitter account or spamming his email. I think it’s best to reason through words… and possibly a match of Command and Conquer Generals.
Dear Mr. Najberg,
I’m writing to inform you that First Person Shooters have come along way since back in the day, often a Saturday, often a night rather than a day. Halo, created by Bungie, became a great staple in the diet of many console and PC playing fratboys at the turn of the century. The college players who had less time to study and more time to shoot each other over archaic internet connections and curse at one another. A time long before Call of Duty Elite, Premium Packages and subscription services.
Sure, the Halo series has progressed, risen and fallen, especially after ODST but the fanbase still loves their multiplayer, but that’s not the only way we play. Halo was once about the story. The story of a lone protagonist…who is rather silent and apparently “does his job, walks off, doesn’t even get the girl, he’s that cool he doesn’t need her,” according to the Halo 2 DVD special features.
Those of us, whom are apart of the gaming community understand the mass appeal of first person shooters which comply with the standards of Xbox Live, but you have to understand that Borderlands 2 works on the premise of being hyperbolic in every faction. Similar to the game Bulletstorm, created by People Can Fly, the game takes the usual tropes associated with the overly masculine and brutal semiotics which often plague first person shooter games. Borderlands 2 tries to take the usual machoism presented by the average FPS and change it up a bit with a great focus on story and characters in a wasteland scenario. There are some inherent criticisms that I have about your criticisms, and call me biased or subjective due to my love of Anthony Burch and Gearbox, but I believe neither needs defending and your review was abruptly biased and ignorant in some places.
Firstly, your comparisons to Halo and Call of Duty Black Ops are oddly astounding. Whilst I understand the comparison of genre’s is substantial, the series in question could not be adverse to one another. Both Halo and Call of Duty, have a strong representation of fictionalised Nationalism mixed with the blank Hero’s Journey, akin to Campbell, while Borderlands 2 has a significant amount of role-playing elements, unique characters and roaming experience. The linearity and multiplayer experience are the first things that come to mind when thinking about the popular Xbox (and multiplatform) series, but it is not something I associate with the Borderlands series.
Borderlands to me, at least the original, was about having friends play together, go out searching and scouting missions, upgrading, learning more about Pandora and going out shooting skags. Playing CoD:Blops I more associate with just a meh storyline, a bad American accent from Sam Worthington and a lot of fun in zombie mode (something originally introduced in World at War).
I think you were expecting too much or something different from Borderlands 2, because the dynamic for what “FPS” means today has moved far beyond a way of storytelling and turned into a massmarketing ploy featuring expensive DLC and a large advertising campaign towards multiplayer. Personally, I think the term FPS should be retired as a genre, but should be considered more as a gameplay style or presentation of the video game medium, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Secondly, the cartoonish nature, which you “don’t like” is understandable but going back to the original Borderlands it was a decision that was something that was market tested and was a way to take the usual bleak shooters for a spin, as confirmed back when the original game came out. Also I don’t think it works as a criticism since it’s the same art style as the original game, if a little tweaked.
Thirdly, Claptrap is understandably annoying but even in the original Borderlands, the character’s arrogance was tided over with moments of embarrassment and humility placed within sections of the game where other ClapTraps had been damaged. The new Claptraps are equally adorable and humourous, at least in my opinion.
Finally, I’m glad you enjoyed your combat but more importantly you enjoyed playing with your son. The focus of the game is on the co-op and I’m glad you at least got that experience out for yourself. However, boiling the last paragraphs in your review down to a price vs. experience comparison makes your review seem infantile. As a freelance Uni student who is currently unemployed, writes reviews, editorials and creates videos for free, AND often pays full price ($100AUD = at the moment $104US) I think Borderlands 2 at a sale of $US60 is a fair price and would be a lot better as an investment than the hundreds of dollars people spend on maps and upgrades in certain other FPS experiences.
I will say however, having not completed Borderlands 2, this is not my review, but I believe some of the things you noted as positive in your Borderlands 2 experience, can easily be compared to the first Borderlands, a game I feel you either haven’t played or somewhat forgot some of the features in it. The quick travel and the second wind were featured prominently in the original and were a welcome part of the game’s experience. I trust your credentials over mine, mainly because I’ve only been doing this for over a year, but I know a reviewer who didn’t enjoy the game, even more so that clearly isn’t a fan of these type of games.
You are entitled to your opinion, almost more than anyone else, because you actually get paid for said opinions, but you have to understand that Borderlands 2 was a real labour of love that I really think will be a crossover hit due to it’s large advertising campaign, it’s passionate fans, excited word of mouth campaigns and finally, a great string of reviews and a large single player campaign which will be talked about for years to come. Also the fact it went Gold before being released…that might show a bit of mass appeal and I wouldn’t be surprised if the game made a few top ten lists. Borderlands 2 is not trying to be a populist game, it’s trying to appeal to the people who want more colour, story and madness in their FPS, to try and stray away from the bleak, grey/beigeness of war and intergalactic space marines. Borderlands 2 is not Master Chief, Borderlands 2 is PeeWee Herman, Invader Zim and Joss Whedon all hanging out in a spray painted buggy filled with weapons, loot and moonshine.
While other reviewers focused on some issues with framerate, the fact you had to be at similar levels to play together, some grinding/padding moments and even the most negative review on Metacritic was more positive than your sixteen paragraphs. You tended to spend most of the review praising Black Ops and talking about the future releases in different FPS franchises when you could have talked more about the experience, the writing and the game mechanics. I do hope you enjoy Halo 4 and Call of Duty Blops 2 when it is released.
P.S. I apologise for any grammatical mistakes since I wrote this early this morning, but still stand by my words…even if they are a bit haphazard.
This article was reprinted with permission from its original author and source.
Original article; http://totesvidya.tumblr.com/post/31828019831/dear-mr-najberg
Adam Najbergs Borderlands 2 Review; http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/09/18/game-theory-borderlands-2-fails-to-cross-ove/