On consoles or PC, you’ve scoured the planet of Pandora for eight gajillion guns, mowing down thousands of Psychos and six-legged gorilla things in the process. You’re considering picking up the Vita version, maybe for another playthrough, or simply as a fun distraction to kill time when you ride the train or are forced into attending boring family gatherings. And now you want to know if it’s any good. At its best, Borderlands 2 on Vita is just OK–but more often than not, it’s far more frustrating than fun.
It should come as no surprise that some concessions had to be made to accommodate the Vita’s hardware capabilities. Cooperative multiplayer has been reduced from four players to two, making it a lonelier experience for those looking to play with friends. Gun textures, specifically, look muddier here, making most of your firearms come off as generic-looking pistols, rifles, shotguns, and rocket launchers. That said, the environments still have a good amount of detail to them, and none of the visual changes distract from the gameplay. All said, it looks surprisingly good.
What is a distraction, however, are the framerate dips. When multiple enemies appear on-screen at once (which happens often), the Vita struggles to keep up with all the action–this, obviously, is problematic for a game that requires twitch reaction and precision shooting. Enemy counts in general have been reduced to accommodate (you’ll see only two or three Psychos where you once fought eight or more), but you’ll still run into this issue on regular basis.
Then there’s the controls. Aiming and turning feels sluggish, making it difficult to be precise. In fact, hitting enemies at all is a difficult task, as it often seems as though your shots pass right through them without registering. And because key skills–melee attacks, class abilities, grenades–are mapped to the Vita’s touch screen and rear touchpad by default, you’ll often activate them by mistake when your thumbs slip from the thumbsticks, or when you hold the Vita a certain way. These are crucial abilities that require strategic use; putting them on cooldown by accident often results in an unnecessary death. The controls can be customized to your liking, which is an excellent feature, but I never found a sweet spot that made them less frustrating.
The Vita version does have some perks, though. For instance, its cross save feature makes it super easy to play on the PS3, save your game, then pick it right back up while on the go. Plus, buying this version gives you access to tons of post-launch DLC. If you don’t mind the frustrations that come with playing on the Vita, it’s a pretty complete package.
It’s certainly impressive that a game with the scope of Borderlands 2 can run on Sony’s handheld device at all. The visuals, while lower in quality compared to the console or PC versions of the game, are adequately detailed, and there’s a great game here under the surface. Unfortunately the Vita doesn’t keep up with the fast-paced gunplay, making this port difficult to recommend.