There’s been a common thread running through all the Borderlands 2 content released by Gearbox Software: larger-than-life characters. In the main game it’s Handsome Jack, voted Villain of the Year by just about everyone (us included). Then it was the new playable character Gaige, followed by Captain Scarlett and her pirate’s booty, and the bombastic Mr. Torgue in his Badass Arena of Badassitude. Some have been received better than others, and none have held a candle to Jack himself.
With Gearbox’s new DLC, “Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt,” we get another central figure: Doctor Nakayama, a Hyperion scientist whose fascination with Handsome Jack engenders terms like “creepy,” “bizarre” and “medication.” His fawning and clumsy attempts to clone Jack are supposed to be the central plot to the DLC, alongside Hammerlock’s hunt for the biggest and baddest creatures on Pandora, but they suffer some of the same troubles Nakayama himself suffers as an antagonist.
They’re just… annoying.
The addition of Aegrus provides a lot of real estate to the Borderlands, adding swamps, cliffs and other environs to muck around in as you hunt the savage land’s creatures and Doctor Nakayama’s minions. Besides Hammerlock, you also wind up taking missions for a documentary filmmaker, a bandit who wants to convince you to consider stop killing other bandits, and yes… even Claptrap. In the middle of all this hunting Nakayama keeps butting in to ominously threaten you with… something, he’s not really good at the whole “archenemy” schtick.
Which is apparently Gearbox’s entire point with Nakayama, to create a villain who’s the most ineffective villain you can imagine. He whines until you agree to become his nemesis, nearly craps his pants when you actually pay attention and start bringing the hurt to his minions, and by the time you finally reach him and get ready to throw down with the man behind it all…
Well, let’s just say if you didn’t like how Handsome Jack was ultimately dispatched, you’ll be even less thrilled to see Nakayama come to his ignominious end. It’s kind of embarrassing.
It’s also a bit of a let-down, considering we’ve seen what Gearbox’s writers are capable of doing. Handsome Jack achieved the goal of being so annoyingly evil (and also amazingly psychotic) that we were desperate to hunt him down and apply bullets to his mask-face. Mr. Torgue was an incredibly strong character, and sold the over-the-top wrestling theme in “Campaign of Carnage” perfectly. Captain Scarlett was alright, but nothing special, and Nakayama falls about on the same level. It’s almost as if Borderlands 2‘s antagonists have reached a point where they’re like editions of the Windows OS: every other one is great, while the ones in between really aren’t.
As for the actual big game you’re sent to hunt, they’re much more competent at killing you than Nakayama is. Gearbox has stepped up the difficulty (or at the very least the tenacity) of the enemies which inhabit Aegrus, so if you’re returning to Borderlands 2 after some time away from the game don’t be surprised if you wind up losing a big chunk of change to respawns. The savages who rush you have shields, a lot more health than psychos from the main game, and do a tuck-and-roll right as they’re entering shotgun range and you’re JUST about to pull the trigger, causing you to waste a shot and precious seconds finding out where they hell they went.
Not that I’ve done that. Or anything. A lot.
There’s also several new wild creatures which take a little consideration in bringing down. Tall water striders have one large vulnerable point, but it’s only good for a single hit: it’s better to bring them down below half health, then finish them off in a single shot before they stomp you to death. The giant armored scorpions can be picked off at range, if you’re a good enough shot to hit the vulnerable tip of their tail. Otherwise, you’ll have to strafe them and hit them in their vulnerable side. If you’re used to plowing over enemies without consideration for tactics, this may cause a bit of frustration, but before long you’ll be back in the swing of things and mowing down indigenous wildlife and natives by the dozens.
The addition of the fanboat vehicle makes hunting a little easier, since you’re far less vulnerable in it than you are on foot, but it’s nothing spectacular in the gun department. It’s still not the disappointment that the skiff was, since its maneuverability is a little tighter and its guns have a slightly better variety, but not by much.
There’s also a decent amount of content for high-level and group players here, which can make the rest of the DLC feel a bit short for other players who don’t know the content is out there. There are two raid bosses, one which you unlock after completing the story and another you can unlock by spending almost 100 Eridium at several totems on the map, as well as a hidden boss which can be unlocked by letting savage shamans upgrade more powerful savages to their max level. They drop unique weapons, as well as Seraph crystals for those who’ve hit the cap and are out collecting pinks.
The Bottom Line
While the main story feels almost anemically short as compared to the other DLCs, the extra content helps ensure there’s something to do for everyone willing to hunt a bit to get the most they can out of Borderlands 2. For me personally, the lackluster threat of Nakayama’s machinations were so disappointing they’ve turned me off to the rest of Aegrus. If you’re the kind who wants to go after the rarest guns and the most dangerous game, though, there are several opportunities to do just that. Tally-ho, Vault Hunter!
- Release date: January 15, 2013
- Genre: Action, RPG
- Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Gearbox Software
- Publisher: 2K Games
- ESRB Rating: M
- MSRP: $9.99 or 800 Microsoft Points
Our Score: 3.5 / 5
Reviewer’s note: A Season Pass was provided to VGW by the publisher for purposes of this review.