"Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt" is the third major expansion for Borderlands 2, and it's undoubtedly the best one yet. It's also the most difficult by far, so if you're looking for a challenge you won't be disappointed.
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Release date: Jan. 15
At its epicenter is Sir Hammerlock, a dashing gentleman who appeared toward the beginning of Borderlands 2's main campaign. In "Big Game Hunt," Hammerlock takes up residence in a hunting lodge in a previously unexplored area of the planet Pandora, inviting the vault hunters there for "a carefree weekend filled with nothing but hunting, companionship and bawdy jokes about social taboos." Or so he says, though things quickly go south.
There's plenty of big game hunting—many of the new quests, including a plethora of optional ones, involve hunting down huge monsters like giant, flying Rakk and Skags with loose bladders (seriously). But when the dastardly Professor Nakayama reveals a plan to clone Handsome Jack, the main game's (late) villain, and get revenge on the vault hunters, he becomes the prey in the most dangerous hunt of all (man being the most dangerous game, as Claptrap is kind enough to remind you).
There's a definite Heart of Darkness vibe—they even threw in a "heart of relative dimness" joke at the start. You'll discover plenty of savagery, including some of your own when you're faced with the expansion's difficult enemies. And the new environments are more wild than what we're used to in Borderlands 2. Savages replace the normal bandits, with most choosing to chase after you with spears and clubs or simply hurl themselves forward on hands and feet like wild beasts. Add to this new witch doctor enemies, who constantly buff their allies and regularly transform into fire tornadoes, swarms of bats, or singularity-like black holes, and every normal combat encounter is a fight for your life. I got really good at running backwards while shooting, and found myself relying on my gunzerking skill more than ever before.
There's a new vehicle, a hovercraft with acid, electric or fire attacks, and tons of new loot, of course. Hammerlock's return is welcome, as is that of Claptrap, who pops up in a rather unexpected place (I won't spoil it—it's hilarious though). Nakayama is the only major new character, but his comic incompetence—he regularly switches between taunting you to come fight him and begging you to wait until his "secret weapon" is done—makes it a joy whenever he pops up on the communicator.
My only complaints with the "Big Game Hunt" expansion have to do with the way every piece of DLC that's been released so far has seemed more and more balanced for level 50 players, and less balanced for anyone else. Playing as a solo gunzerker starting at level 42 (and gaining four levels in the process), I died countless times. Enemies who were only one or two levels higher than me—especially the witch doctors, who turn invincible and then heal themselves at regular intervals between long-range magic attacks—proved incredibly challenging to take down. I got majorly stuck at one late boss—the mission difficulty reads "normal," but I'm convinced it's impossible without co-op partners helping out. A ridiculously long first form gives way to endless waves of robotic loaders, and…well, it's frustrating. It's a good thing there's nothing to actually spend money on in-game, because I rarely have any left after losing it all to Hyperion re-spawn machines.
So like I said, if you're looking for a challenge, particularly one to take on with some friends, "Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt" should not be passed up. It's the funniest and most well-designed of the expansions so far, and I can't complain about all the new content—the vehicle, a huge number of side quests, the enormous, sprawling environments, and tons of new enemies that force you to change up your standard tactics—it's well worth the $10. There are even some new ultra-difficult raid bosses for the masochistic fans out there. Just don't say I didn't warn you.