For all its faults, Borderlands 2 still gets a lot of things right. Its humor is dead-on most of the time, and the loot almost never stops flowing. Blasting bandits and robots in their big dumb faces with friends is as fun as ever. New nude mods keep popping up. And I always want to complete the current quest, if only to find out what the next one will be.
But despite the swashbuckling success of the first Borderlands 2 expansion, "Captain Scarlett and her Pirate's Booty," the game's second DLC campaign, "Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage," succeeds in only some of these areas.
It's still a worthy addition to the Borderlands 2 formula, but I couldn't help but feel like there was something missing. For that reason, I'd recommend the "Campaign of Carnage" only to hardcore Borderlands 2 fans who can't get enough and have already done everything else in the game. Read on to find out exactly why.
THE VENERABLE MR. TORGUE
Let's start off on a high note: the writing and humor is, as always, excellent. Few other games (Portal comes to mind) have made me laugh out loud as consistently as Borderlands 2 does, and "Campaign of Carnage" is no exception. Yet most of the laughs come from one character: Mr. Torgue.
Torgue is the in-game weapon manufacturer that makes all the guns that shoot rockets instead of bullets. If you've ever equipped a new assault rifle only to accidentally blow yourself to bits shooting at a wall, then you've experienced the genius of Torgue. And Mr. Torgue is that philosophy incarnated in the body of Hulk Hogan mixed with The Venture Bros.' Colonel Hunter Gathers (both before and after the sex change).
He screams in rage-filled capital letters about how Torgue's shareholders modified his voice box to "bleep" every time he swears (it doesn't stop him). Gearbox lead writer Anthony Burch even hosted a hilarious in-character reddit Q&A yesterday.
The expansion's missions revolve around a newly discovered vault that's been prophesied to open only when Pandora's ultimate badass spills the blood of a coward on its doorstep. Thus, Mr. Torgue sponsors a tournament of sorts to discover who that number one badass is.
Most of my complaints with the expansion can be filed neatly under "missed opportunities." As I played, there were so many times when I though to myself, "Why can't I do this?" or "Why didn't they include such?" or "It would have been great if…" And that's not exactly a good sign.
Here's the big one: many of the new enemies, including one new boss, are bikers, yet you don't get to drive a motorcycle around. Biker bandits speed by on spike-adorned choppers with equally deadly sidecars, and you're stuck in the same old Runners and Bandit Technicals. The "Captain Scarlett" expansion added sand skiffs, which were terrific fun—probably the best part of that DLC. So why the hell can't I ride a motorcycle around?
Elsewhere, there's a decided lack of worthwhile loot. The pirate DLC ended with a treasure trove that put even the original's "Secret Armory of General Knoxx" to shame. I'm still using some of the weapons that came out of that. But here, despite (*SPOILERS, I GUESS*) the vault opening at the end, the loot was only meh. And there wasn't very much of it.
And if I could just keep complaining for one more second, why is there no arena mode at the end? The story definitely leaves room for it. Maybe Gearbox thought because people complained so much about 'Moxxi's Underdome' that fans aren't interested in arena modes, but I believe they're wrong, and I was pretty surprised that one wasn't included in this DLC—especially given how short it is (with about five hours of new content).
REUSED AND RECYCLED
Okay, I'm going to complain a little bit more. "Captain Scarlett" felt fairly fresh, with an all-new cast, a totally unique vehicle, and tons of new enemies and locations. 'Mr. Torgue,' on the other hand, feels painfully familiar for most of its duration. The environments aren't as interesting as 'Captain Scarlett''s desertscapes, feeling mostly like rehashes of existing location themes.
Beyond that, many of the characters (besides Mr. Torgue himself, who's an instant classic as far as I'm concerned) are far too similar to existing ones. Gearbox seems to have reused several character models—the obese biker boss I mentioned earlier looks suspiciously like Scooter's fat sister, Ellie—and while there's nothing wrong with that, it's occasionally a tad too obvious. A few of the characters, like number one badass Piston, even look like bizarro doppelgangers of player characters (Salvador, in this instance).
In addition, several character—Moxxi, Tannis, Tiny Tina—reappear from the main campaign, and while I was happy to see them again, I'd have rather been treated to some more interesting new personas.
AT LEAST IT'S NOT 'MOXXI'S UNDERDOME'
Despite the premise of a tournament of badasses, at least "Campaign of Carnage" is nothing like the oft-maligned "Moxxi's Underdome" DLC from the first Borderlands (though Moxxi does appear here to play a part). Rather than just being a straightforward arena (Gearbox won't repeat that mistake), "Campaign" sends you on quests to track down the leading badasses, who are reticent to give up their positions (to say the least).
You'll fight through armies of biker bandits and airborne cadres of weaponized buzzards, all the while being verbally abused by a hot-blooded 16-year-old badass, a bodybuilder convinced your character is a noodly-muscled wimp, and more hilarious antagonists.
In other words: "Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage" has got personality.
These characters—the obese biker chick, the hotshot teenager, the bodybuilding blimp pilot—make up plenty of the game's requisite funny, though they never quite hit the highs that Mr. Torgue does. That's okay, though.
Here's another way to sum it up: in that official "ask me anything" session on reddit, Mr. Torgue responded to a question asking about the different between his and Moxxi's expansions with the following gem:
"MORE EXPLOSIONS AND MORE BAD GUYS AND MORE GOOD GUYS AND MORE QUESTS AND ALSO I'M IN IT WHAT THE F*CK ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW." Well put, sir.
BUT HEY, IT'S MORE BORDERLANDS
If you're still on the fence about dropping another wad of cash on more Borderlands 2 DLC, especially when it's not exactly the highlight of the series, you need only answer one question: do you want more Borderlands 2? Because that's what you'll be getting with "Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage."
It's got all the ingredients: hilarious writing, ridiculous characters, insane weapons and loot, jolly cooperation, and a new vault to open. There's even another super badass level 50 boss to take on with your experienced friends once the main missions are over, in addition to multiple side quests and other distractions.
So how about it? Are you down for more Borderlands 2, or are you still holding out for the "Zombie Island" or "Robot Uprising" of this installment?