Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt

That's right, more Borderlands!

In this downloadable content for Borderlands 2, Sir Hammerlock, the bionic Aussie/Brit (I can't tell from the accent) has invited you to his hunting cabin for a weekend of taking down the biggest game that Pandora has to offer. The events take place after you've already dispatched Handsome Jack. Sir Hammerlock assumes you need a well-deserved break from fighting pirates and bikers so he invites you to his grotto for a nice vacation. Upon arrival you learn that Professor Nakayama, another madman bent on your destruction and devotee of the late Handsome Jack, wants you dead. He controls an army of native savages that carry out his bidding and attempt to help him wipe Handsome Jack's killer from the planet. 

sounds like fun, right?

And it was fun, just not in the same league as the other two Borderlands 2 DLC offerings. The native witch doctors presented a new challenge. Some fired electric balls of energy at you while others created tornadoes that could lift you off the ground while causing damage. Sadly, they were one of the few bright spots of the game. The new animals you hunt were mostly forgettable. The floating orbs that attack you at a whopping 2mph were downright annoying. Hammerlock isn't as fun to look at as Moxxi, not to mention his lack of a sense of humor. 

It's hard to understand how something with the exact same first-person shooter mechanics and loot-based play could fall so far short of its predecessors. It's a decent enough premise, but it simply doesn't live up in the writing department. In my lowly opinion, the thing that makes the Borderlands franchise stand out is the witty writing and its ability to cause full-on belly laughs. Claptrap's delusions of grandeur, Captain Scarlett's over-the-top sexuality, Mr. Torque's caricature of the WWE's finest, all were sources of seemingly never-ending hilarity. Unfortunately, no such character exists in Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt. Without a strong cornerstone of humor on which to build, this tends to feel more like your everyday alien planet FPS and not the standout entertainment we've come to expect from Gearbox and their Borderlands franchise. 

For one thing, it was considerably shorter in duration than the previous two DLC offerings. It felt like it only took half the time to complete when compared to Captain Scarlett or Mr. Torque. For another, it lacked the memorable characters of the other two. Professor Nakayama is funny at times, but mostly just a sad, second-rate enemy barely worthy of the title of nemesis. Neither the natives nor the animals you hunt can speak English, so the writers were limited in what they could do in the way of humorous dialogue. Sadly, that also limited my enjoyment of the gaming experience. 

a small letdown

Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt has a decent setup that, at its best, made me feel like I was back in Adventureland at Disneyland taking the Jungle Cruise down the Amazon river. Unfortunately, it's rarely at its best. Although it has its moments, Sir Hammerlock is easily the weakest of the Borderlands 2 DLC. If you haven't purchased the Season Pass granting access to all downloadable content, you might consider skipping this one and getting the first two DLC packages and waiting for the last one. It will cost the same as the Season Pass but you won't have to suffer Sir Hammerlock and his short, fairly pointless campaign. I hate to dog on Borderlands since it maybe my favorite franchise of this generation, but in this particular case it deserves a bit of a ribbing.  It makes sense to release the weakest DLC third, since most people recall the beginning and the end of almost everything better than they do the middle. However, playing a mediocre game add-on doesn't make anyone happy. We pay real money for these things and expect a little bit more, especially from Borderlands. Here's hoping they were saving the best for last!

the math

Objective Score: 6/10

Bonuses: +1 for simply being more Borderlands. Even at its weakest, this is a fantastic franchise.

Penalties: -1 for being the weakest link I've seen in the Borderlands DLC (I didn't buy Moxxi's Underdome in the first one).

Nerd Coefficient: 6/10. Still enjoyable, but the flaws are hard to ignore.