Borderlands 2 PS Vita Review: one step forward, two steps back

Minor performance issues have never held back the enjoyment of delving into the Borderlands world, so having this snarky franchise in portable form would be like having a satirical concealed weapon at all times. The handheld edition of Borderlands 2 has a lot of appeal and an equal amount of issues, and the most die-hard of fans might even think twice before jumping from home console to the PlayStation Vita outing. 

A lot of this game has been seen before, and fans who have downloaded every available piece of downloadable content will be amiss by the fact that all of the DLC didn’t make the translation. New weapons, classes, and Collector’s Edition Pack made their way over as well as the ‘Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty’, ‘Mr. Torgue’s Campaigns of Carnage’ extra content. However, it’s still missing ‘Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2’, ‘T.K Baha’s Bloody Harvest’, ‘The Horrible Hunger of the Ravenous Wattle Gobbler’, ‘How Marcus Saved Mercenary Day’, ‘Mad Moxxi and the Wedding Day Massacre’, and ‘Sir Hammerlock vs. The Son of Crawmerax’. To top it off, the co-op side of the game is gimped as well: though it’s possible to play with friends, the parties only support one other member. The game includes Cross-Save functionality, but the game will automatically remove any content from the save that the PS Vita version doesn’t support; having even local co-op between the PS3 and PS Vita may have been a pipe dream, but having it may have made this functionality a little more appealing. 

The other setback to the whole package is the way that the game was translated to begin with. Borderlands 2 looks almost exactly like it does on PS3, which is a testament in itself. However, the overall frame rate dips more often than not, creating a very glitchy feel when things start getting hectic. Even more so, the development team must not have kept in mind that the PS Vita’s display is nothing like that of a television. Granted, the HUD itself doesn’t clutter up the screen, but the way that the first-person perspective is delivered doesn’t allow for much on-screen action to take place. Quite often, enemies will be up close and personal, and if they move much left to right at all, the enemies won’t be on the screen anymore. The struggles of keeping enemies on screen are compounded under the outstanding issue of frame rate dropping when the heat is on, leading to the occasional disappearing baddie after a frame drop. Early on, these issues are forgivable, because the consequences and difficulty is rather lower, but the game naturally grows in difficulty, making the journey to max level rather limited by the hardware rather than the game itself. 

At the same time, the game looks exactly as it should, friends can play together, and a fair amount of extra content alongside the core game is available on the go. The controls themselves are welcoming, utilizing both the front and rear touch screen and pad, respectively, without getting overzealous. By default, sprint is bound to the back left of the touch pad and melee to the back right, and class abilities are activated by tapping the bottom left corner of the touchscreen; grenades are thrown by tapping the bottom right of the touchscreen when available. Outside of that, the general control scheme native to the franchise holds true, and players who don’t like the scheme can map commands to different buttons, making for a very customizable experience. 

The mission scheme that flows with the narrative of Borderlands 2 works perfectly in a portable environment, so the concept behind a game like this on the PS Vita is justifiable. Really, Borderlands 2 is not a definitive version nor is it an equal version to its console counterpart. It looks and plays like it should, but it doesn’t hold up in its current portable state when compared. Perhaps translating PS3 games isn’t what the PS Vita needs, but this proves that the concept works well enough in portable form, and a dedicated version specifically designed for the hardware would blow this outing out of the water. Still, for what it’s worth, this is a passable build of Borderlands 2 on the PS Vita, even though it doesn’t give itself enough credit.



The Final Word

This is by all technicalities a working version of Borderlands 2 on the PlayStation Vita, but the dipping frame rate and the formatting miscues keep this game from bumping elbows with the best that the PS Vita has to offer. Though it's still missing a great deal of content, at least gamers can transfer their saves and still play this with one friend.