Borderlands 2 on Vita: Mostly Handsome, Jack

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Borderlands 2 on Vita: Mostly Handsome, Jack
It is complete. With today's launch of cross-save support for Borderlands 2 on Vita, the game is fully fleshed-out and filled with finger-flicking delight. That isn't a euphemism – since it's on Vita, there's plenty of touchscreen and rear touchpad action in this latest version of Borderlands 2. Some of it works, and some of it feels designed in the bowels of frustration hell.

Borderlands 2 wasn't conceived as a Vita game, and at times that fact is obvious – when it runs into framerate issues or the graphics pop in (usually leaving my character's irises and pupils for last on the home screen), it feels like a big game ported onto a tiny device. These issues are mostly ignorable, but they contribute to a few annoying gameplay problems.Traditional aiming is tough in Vita's Borderlands 2. It's not so much the size of the screen or mobility of the analog sticks at fault, but rather a slight delay at some points – an extra half-second between pressing the right bumper your gun actually firing. This doesn't happen every time, but it's a regular phenomenon, especially in busy fights.

One perk of the Vita version is the ability to aim with the device's gyroscope. Press the left bumper to center your weapon and then move the Vita where you want to shoot, turning and tilting to get a perfect headshot. It's a lovely effect and I recommend using it over the analog method, even if you'll knock elbows with the person sitting next to you while you try to line up your shot. This doesn't get rid of the intermittent delay problem, but when that issue doesn't manifest, it sure does feel nice.

The default button layout places melee attacks and sprinting on the right and left of the rear touchpad, respectively. All of the available button layouts have two attack options each on the rear and front touchpads. This means you have to be constantly aware of where your fingers are on the back of the Vita, perhaps cramping your hand so you don't accidentally brush a melee attack when you actually want to throw a grenade.

Picture this: You're in a firefight, blasting away at some bullymongs with a Jakobs shotgun, when one of the big beasts starts to rush right at you. You tense up and pull at the trigger, aiming straight for his face – and your arm appears, flailing at nothing, right before the bullymong catches up to you and smacks you down. It's not fun.

The game itself, however, is still fun. The port is successful in transferring a console experience to a handheld: The cel-shaded environments and characters are pretty on the Vita screen, though some of the text is small. That ties into another minor gripe: Using the touch screen to make menu selections. It seems natural to simply tap on menus and skill trees, but you quickly learn to avoid it – I picked the wrong string of text two times in my first 15 minutes. Stick with the D-pad.

Even with the points of annoyance, this is still Borderlands 2. It's a great game on a wonderful handheld device. The humor, snark and storyline are all intact, as is the range of ridiculous guns. For an in-depth look at the game itself and all of its lovely loot, check out our full review. For the Vita version, just remember to keep your fingers away from the rear touchpad, at least until you actually want to bash an enemy over the head.
[Images: Sony]
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