Borderlands 2 is a 2012 first-person shooter video game developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. Taking place five years following the events of Borderlands (2009), the game is once again set on the planet of Pandora. The story follows a new group of Vault Hunters who must ally with the Crimson Raiders, a resistance group made up of civilian survivors and guerrilla fighters, to defeat the tyrannical Handsome Jack before he can unlock the power of a new Vault. The game features the ability to explore the in-game world and complete both main missions and optional side quests, either in single-player or online cooperative gameplay. Like its predecessor, the game features a procedurally generated loot system which is capable of generating numerous combinations of weapons and other gear.
With the unexpected success of the first game, Gearbox was able to secure a budget of $30–35 million to develop the sequel. Like its predecessor, the game adopted the “concept art style”, which features graphics inspired by both photorealistic imagery and comic-book-inspired visuals. The team attempted to address players’ feedback from the first game, and recruited Anthony Burch who wrote the game’s script which is seven times longer than that of the original game. Among the game’s diverse cast of characters, Handsome Jack, the central antagonist, was created to be a charismatic “douche” that mirrors Burch’s own personality. Borderlands 2 was released for Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in September 2012, and it was ported to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as part of The Handsome Collection in March 2014.
The game received extremely positive reviews upon release. Critics generally praised the game’s visuals, story, writing, gameplay, and online multiplayer, while criticising its mission design and content fillers. The handheld and the virtual reality versions of the game were regarded to be inferior to the console and PC versions. More than 20 million units were shipped upon release and the game became 2K’s most successful release. It was nominated for multiple year-end accolades by several gaming publications. Gearbox supported the game with four add-on campaigns, new characters and five content packs. The game was followed by Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel in 2014 and Borderlands 3 in 2019.
Similar to its predecessor, Borderlands 2 is a first-person shooter with elements drawn from role-playing video games. Four playable character classes are available in the base game, each with their own unique Action Skill: Axton, “the Commando”, can summon a turret to provide offensive support. Maya, “the Siren”, can “phaselock” enemies by trapping them in a sphere of energy for a few seconds. Zer0, “the Assassin”, can temporarily become invisible and spawn a hologram decoy to distract enemies. Salvador, “the Gunzerker”, can use his titular ability to temporarily dual-wield weapons. Action Skills have a cooldown time during which the player must wait before they can use the skill again. Similarly to the original, completing the main story campaign unlocks “True Vault Hunter Mode”, a New Game Plus which increases the difficulty of the game by making enemies stronger, improves the probability of finding rare and higher-quality items, and allows the player’s character to reach level 50.
Weapons can be bought from vendors, picked up from fallen enemies, and found inside containers. The game features six weapon types—pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers—with a procedurally generated loot system capable of generating numerous variations of these and other gear. The in-game manufacturers of the weapons provide them with distinct characteristics. Each weapon also has different stats and properties, such as producing different damage and having varying accuracy, fire rate, reload speed, and magazine size. A color-coded scale is used to indicate the rarity of the weapon or item. Some weapons are infused with additional elemental effects that deal extra damage to enemies. In addition, players can collect mods which would alter the stats of grenades and Action Skill, and Relics, which are rare items that can change any gameplay aspect. Players need to manage their inventory regularly as they cannot equip all the weapons they have collected.
The player is protected by a shield, which can automatically regenerate from damage. If the shield is destroyed, the player’s health would start to deplete. Insta-Health vials can be picked up to restore health. If they lose all their health, they enter a downed state and must either wait to be revived by another player or attempt to kill an enemy to achieve a “second wind”. Otherwise, they will be regenerated back at the last “New-U” station that they passed. As the player completes missions and kills enemies, they gain corresponding rewards such as experience points (XP) and new weapons. Once they gain enough XPs, they level up, which unlocks new skill points to upgrade abilities. Each Vault Hunter can progress in three different skill trees after unlocking the basic class-specific Action Skill. In addition, levelling up increases the maximum health capacity and unlocks new weapons, some of which cannot be used until the player reaches a certain level.
As the player explores and completes missions, new areas of the game world are unlocked. The game has a semi open world structure, as the world is divided into several sections which can be freely explored. In each area, different non-playable characters are encountered who provide side missions for the players. Players can spawn vehicles in order to quickly traverse some areas. The in-game currency can be collected from loot drops, loot containers, completing missions, and selling unwanted equipment, and can be used to purchase items from vending machines. Players can also gather Eridium bars, a new currency for purchasing storage upgrades and other premium items. A major addition to the game is the “Badass Rank” system; completing various in-game challenges award points, which convert into tokens that can be redeemed to increase the base stats of the player’s characters. When exploring the world, players can access certain New-U stations in order to fast travel, and Quick-Change machines allow players to customize their avatar’s look, clothing and name.
The game supports four-player cooperative multiplayer, though the PlayStation Vita version only supports two players. As more players join a session, the game’s difficulty increases along with the loot rewards. Players can trade items and cash, or can duel for the agreed-upon stakes. The game also features split-screen multiplayer.