This title, a first-person shooter with role-playing elements, would not normally be at the top of my list of games to buy. However, it was on sale at K-Mart for $15, and I desperately needed something to justify my Vita's existence. A teetering pile of versus fighters and a backlog of games for the ancient PSOne just wasn't cutting it anymore. So I took a chance on Borderlands 2, the current Vita pack-in and Sony's last bold grasp at relevance in the handheld wars.
They really should have pinned their hopes for a Vita comeback on a different game.
|Almost as cold as the reviews this game got.|
Personally, I'm not all that bothered by the game's performance issues. First of all, I've played handhelds long enough to temper my expectations of the hardware. Sonic never looked quite as good on the Game Gear as he did the Genesis, and nobody was expecting tournament-caliber gameplay from the button-deficient GameBoy Advance port of Street Fighter Alpha 3. Sony has spent millions trying to convince people otherwise, but the truth is that portable gaming is by its very nature a compromised experience. Pocket-sized systems with limited power consumption will always be at least one generation behind their console counterparts.
Secondly, I've always been fascinated by games for machines that shouldn't be able to handle them. They're typically doomed efforts, but they're also ballsy risks that are impressive simply because they exist. Just look at Dragon's Lair for the GameBoy Color, or Red Zone for the Sega Genesis (shown here), or Secret Quest, the closest thing the Atari 2600 had to The Legend of Zelda. None of these are objectively great games, but they push their respective systems harder than you may have thought possible, which is impressive in its own right. Borderlands 2 on the Vita is one such game... maybe it's not that great in direct comparison to the PC version, but that's hard to complain about when it's as complete as it is on a system dwarfed by your desktop.
The problem with Borderlands 2 isn't that it's a poor fit for the Vita specifically, but that this type of game isn't well suited to any handheld. It's the farthest thing from a pick up and play experience, with a high learning curve and lengthy load times. It takes fifty-eight agonizing seconds just to go from the Vita home menu to the Borderlands 2 title screen. You could be playing Super Mario 3D Land in half the time, and not struggling with a half dozen menus and way too many buttons.
It mirrors one of my first experiences with the PSP, waiting an eternity for Tony Hawk's Underground 2 to load while my friend was having the time of his life with Wario Ware: Touched! on the Nintendo DS. Sony had ten years to learn from their mistakes with the PSP, but with the Vita limping toward the end of its life cycle and no apparent plans for a successor, it doesn't look like they'll get any more chances to do things right.