Borderlands 2 On Vita Is The Worst Version Of A Good Game

Borderlands 2 On Vita Is The Worst Version Of A Good Game

Remember Borderlands 2? It came out a couple of years ago, everyone played it a lot and generally really liked it? Of course you do. Well, it's back.

The 2012 first-person shooter, which was hefty on its own and grew even heftier thanks to a whole bunch of post-release downloadable expansions, has come to the PlayStation Vita handheld. It arrived bundled as a download code for anyone who bought the new Vita slim last week, and it will be widely available on the PlayStation Store tomorrow, May 13.

In addition to the main game, the Vita version includes the mechromancer and psycho character classes, as well as the Mr Torgue's Campaign of Carnage and Captain Scarlett and her Pirate's Booty add-on campaigns. How impressive, you might be thinking, that such a large game, with a huge open world, six playable character classes, seamless multiplayer and hundreds of sidequests, could all be made to fit on a handheld gaming system. But all that scope and scale comes at a cost, and in the end the handheld version of Borderlands just doesn't feel worth your time.

If you'd rather just watch me play and talk about the game, I made a video:

But if you'd rather read about it, carry on:

The Framerate Is A Drag

It's become clearer than ever over the past several months that a game needs to run smoothly in order to be enjoyable, and the majority of our readers have gone on record to say that they care more about frame rate than they do about screen resolution. Unfortunately, Borderlands 2's frame rate on Vita isn't very good.

I can't say for certain what frame rate the game hits, but to my eye it seems to frequently dip significantly under 30fps. During most firefights I felt disoriented and unable to properly aim my weapon, which made the game generally unpleasant to play. I'd be shooting enemies but unable to see their death animation, and their bodies would instantly vanish in a sploosh of blood, which made it even more difficult to tell what was going on. That's partly because…

It's Gotten A Big Graphical Downgrade

It makes sense that in order to get Borderlands 2 running on Vita, it'd need to lose some of the visual bells and whistles that make it so appealing on consoles and PC. And so it has come to pass - lots of visual effects, smoke, and bouncy physics effects have been stripped out, and the result is a game that looks and even moves flat. It's all just fairly ugly, and like I mentioned before, enemies all vanish immediately after you kill them, which ends each firefight with a vaguely unsatisfying, empty battlefield.

A frantic attack into a raider camp is all the more tough to manage because the combination of stripped down visuals, jumpy frame-rate and weird controls leave everything feeling discombobulated and strange. Voice cues feel harder to keep track of, subtitles are difficult to read, and the low frame rate barely holds everything together.

Everything's Laggy

The Vita's processor doesn't appear to be up to the task of keeping Borderlands 2's many spinning gears going at the same time. There's a noticeable lag to everything, particularly menus. That's too bad, given how much time I tend to spend in Borderlands 2's menus comparing guns, swapping out inventory, dropping unnecessary items and assigning bonuses. The game's loading screens between areas are notably lengthy as well.

The Controls Are A Bummer

I don't like playing first-person shooters on the Vita. The two most important FPS control-surfaces -- the thumbsticks and the triggers -- both don't give me what I need to feel precise and in control. The Vita's shoulder buttons are perched atop the screen, and the thumbsticks are too wiggly and don't offer enough resistance, so I feel like I'm flicking them around, rather than guiding them.

So it was perhaps a given that Borderlands 2 on Vita wouldn't feel as good as it did on, say, PC. But as Killzone Mercenary demonstrated, it is possible to have better/decent first-person shooter controls on the Vita. While some of Borderlands 2's custom control schemes are better than others, none are as good as the default scheme in Mercenary, and the game's laggy performance and general unresponsiveness further complicate the issue.

Multiplayer Is Half The Fun

Borderlands 2 is at its best when four players are engaged in a pitched multiplayer fight against a massive boss. Unfortunately, the Vita version of the game only allows for two-player multiplayer, which is mathematically half as fun. Well… actually, I've had plenty of fun playing two-player Borderlands over the last couple years, but it's still a shame that one of the game's biggest selling points -- super fun four-player co-op! -- is cut in half. While I haven't played nearly enough of the Vita version to get to any of the tough post-game raid bosses, I have to wonder how it'd be to take on Hyperius the Invincible with only one other player.

It Made Me Want To Play Borderlands 2 Again… On PC

After spending a while playing the Vita version, I decided to fire up the PC version for the sake of comparison. I found myself hooked on the game again, spending quite a bit of the weekend digging into some of the (many) parts that I never played, including Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, which, as our own Tina already said, is good stuff.

It brought me to one of my biggest issues with Borderlands 2 on Vita: I don't want to start Borderlands 2 all over again, and I certainly don't want to start an inferior version of Borderlands 2 all over again. I have one level 30 commando that I've sunk a good 50 hours into on PC. I made a second mechromancer character and sank another 5 or so hours into her. Why on earth would I want to start yet another character on Vita when I've still got so much left to see on the PC?

PS3 players can port their save between the Vita and their console -- or at least, they will allegedly be able to once the game's May 13th patch hits -- but that doesn't do much for those of us who played on PC and Xbox 360. Considering how superior the PC version of Borderlands 2 is, it's a real shame that players on other systems can't port their characters over. If we could, it would make the Vita version significantly more appealing.

Portability's Not Enough

I really like the Vita, but the more I use it, the less interested I am in this sort of "It's a console game in your hand!" kind of thing. I already have Borderlands 2 installed on my PC, and if I want to start a whole new game, I'll do it there. My Vita's memory card is small enough as it is; I'd rather make room for other games.

Borderlands 2 on Vita is the worst version of a good game. And I really mean that -- the core game is still good, funny, fun. No matter how clunky the controls and watered down the visuals, it's still Borderlands 2 in a lot of respects. But without the smooth bounce of the console/PC version, and without those versions' four-player co-op, the Vita version sacrifices too much. Despite the fact that I was playing it for work, it left me routinely questioning why I was spending time on it when I could just play the game on PC. In this case, portability's not enough.


    damn! i wanted this! now not so much anymore....

    Back to Conception 2 then....

      Conception is eating up all my time also. Maybe we could do some classmanting sometime ;)

        I'm really trying to figure out what happens there. so do the kids actually get it on?

        or do they just get naked and hold hands?

          Blindmating you get to pick a heroine of the other player to create a star child. You get a nice stat boost for this. Classmanting you get a low level star child with stat boosts. That one is created between the protagonists of the two players. Man on man action!

    This makes me sad. Was genuinely looking forward to mobile Borderlands!

    Yes, let us compare a $200 2-year-old handheld to a PC build. Yes.

    While some points are valid (controls take some getting used to; it dips below 30fps frequently) the rest is meh. It's Borderlands 2 on VITA, what do you expect.

      When they convert the game over why not? It's a fair thing to do. What do you expect, a free pass?

    I totally understand that Borderlands 2 Vita will not be on the same level as its now older brother, but I'm totally fine with that lot like vita has many AAA games lined up on it and I find borderlands 2 fun with loads of replay, the fact its packed into the vita to play the go is perfect for me.
    I dont want to launch into another full pc run of it again but im more then happy to play it here and there while traveling

    I dont think i will be disappointed because im not expecting the world out of it

    Last edited 13/05/14 11:57 am

    Textbook PSP/ Vita game.

    You’re right. “It’s a console game in your hand!” has been Sony’s aim since they entered the portable market and it just doesn’t work 90% of the time and as a result the vast majority of their AAA titles are underwhelming.

    RPG’s work well, but trying to shoe horn a half-assed mobile version of a Killzone/ Gran Turismo/ God of War/ Little Big Planet/ Metal Gear Solid/ Uncharted/ Assassins Creed/ every other major Playstation franchise has yielded underwhelming results every single time.

    At least they’ve gotten onboard with the whole indie game thing this time around.

    Nintendo gets it. They know that the handheld market is different and create their games accordingly, it’s why their library of top-notch AAA exclusives is as good as it is.

      How can you call Killzone, Uncharted and little big planet "half assed"
      Those three are really good vita games LBP is perfect for vita and works well, Killzone mercenary is the best FPS on vita and is a solid game on it's own, little shorter then what I wanted but was well done with solid controls, gameplay and multiplayer (shady story but)

      The others there I will agree aren't great

        They're mostly either feature or content short of their console counterparts, so I suppose in that way you could call them half-assed.
        I would agree with you that LBP is a very good match for a handheld and I shouldn’t have included it in my list.

        What I was more getting at is that Sony is always looking to move their big action franchises over to their handhelds and in my opinion fast moving, high action, high detail games are the ones that lose the most when you move to a handheld. Even if you make a really good looking FPS, even if you can get it to control well and sound great – it’s not necessarily the kind of thing that I (or a lot of people judging by sales) want to be playing while I’m crammed into a train, in the car or anywhere else where I don’t have an optimum setup.

        The huge success of indie titles on the Vita suggests that even the Vita hardcore tend to agree. Games which are designed from the ground up to be a portable experience, which have graphics designed to work in less-than-optimum conditions and which have gameplay that doesn’t require ultra high fidelity movements are always going to be the best handheld games.

        I think Nintendo generally gets far more of those styles of games onto their consoles. While the PSP and Vita both get good games it’s not those games that Sony ever leads with when they market the thing, primarily because the price point has required them to sell it as a high-def graphical powerhouse, but aside from some RPGs most of it’s best games are cross platform indie titles.

        Gran Turismo is the best example. When the PSP was announced that game was front and centre. It looked AMAZING, it was going to be full featured. It was Gran Turismo in your (enormous) pocket!!!
        When it did finally come out, it was a very close to full featured GT game in your pocket, and it still looked very good. The problem is do people REALLY want GT in their pocket? Are you going to be methodically carving 0.10 of a second off your best lap time using that control stick on the train? Do you miss the rumble? The 5.1 surround? The reliable multiplayer races?

        Not as far as I’m concerned, I want to play something simple, bright and colourful (like Mario Kart). Sony keeps on persisting with the console game in your hand thing and it’s not doing them any favours.

          Have to agree with everything you have said here. It even goes further than this with the design of the Vita in general. It doesn't fold nicely like the 3DS / DS, meaning a case is essential if you don't want the thumb sticks getting damaged in your bag or the screen getting scratched.
          This makes it less user friendly on public transport when you want to quickly hop off the bus or train and have to pack the thing away. It's also not very ergonomic to hold and the back touch screen just gets in the way as well.
          Sony need to spend more time at looking at what makes practical sense with a mobile device and not just picture a Playstation in a portable format. The screen is another example. Looks great indoors, but take it outside and the sun glare makes it incredibly hard to see. Battery Life the same thing, too short for a mobile device that you want to keep in your bag and not charge every second night.

      There are some great games out on the vita YS Trigger happy havok Soul sacrifice Toukiden. The vita caters to the more hardcore audience where 3DS is mainly casual with a hand full of hardcore, I use my vita all the time, there are weekly games great ones, where my 3DS is just sitting gathering dust waiting for the next pokemon

      Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta were actually decent games and damn impressive given they were on the PSP and it's severe limitations.

    well shit. since i heard about the Vita version i have been deliberately avoiding on console and i havent played the game at all... not sure i want it now.

      Wait 2 weeks for the community review and then work out what you want to do.

      Also the Game of the Year pack for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 are still at $70-99 at leading retailers (steam included) the Vita game is $40

    I remember the first time I played Borderlands 1 was on my lousy laptop and I had to put everything to low settings and drop the resolution to lower than 720p to play the game. Was still laggy but the best game I've ever played.

    Wow... this review is really out to slam the game and the Vita at the same time.

    ""It Made Me Want To Play Borderlands 2 Again…""

    So the Vita version if good enough to make you want to play the game again, so this version despite being "the worst" is still good enough to care about the game.

    "Despite the fact that I was playing it for work, it left me routinely questioning why I was spending time on it when I could just play the game on PC. In this case, portability’s not enough."

    So you played it because you were given the game AND being paid to do it... As a consumer, I will pay for it and I will play it, because when I am not at home I will be able to continue my progress on the go to and from work. (now before anyone jumps in, supposedly there are hacks available to get the XBOX (and PC?) save at least onto the Vita, still need a PS3 version of the game or something, but overall, how dare Sony choose not to support PC and XBOX owners of the game).

    The game is available in the US at the moment as part of the Vita 2000 bundle, I've read many consumer reviews that are really positive of the game. The fact is, Borderlands 2 is a huge game, the fact that it is running on portable hardware is a damn fine job to begin with, anyone going into this game thinking that it would match pixel for pixel the console or PC versions are delusional.

      Wow. Upset much?

      I’ve only read two reviews (the IGN one and this one) and both of them have said it’s difficult to play because the controls and framerate are sub-par.

      Nobody expects it to be as good as the PC version, but at a bare minimum it needs to run and control competently. If it doesn’t do that then it doesn’t matter how accurate it is as a port of a very good game (which Borderlands is), people are going to complain.

        I guess my issue is that when the game first came out, the console versions obviously are theoretically inferior to the PC also, the PS3 has frame drops and it wouldn't have that "smooth/bounce" either, but the comparisons back then are a passing comment or something and everything gets the same score.

        Sure it's a two yer old port and you should be able to make some comparisons, but review the game on its merits on the hardware it's been designed around.. How does it compare to other FPS games on the Vita, that is the more important compassion to make.

        Otherwise, what is the point of multiplatform games, when the answer will always be "you should get a PC"

          He used other Vita games as a reference point several times.

          Ultimately you need to judge the game on its merits as an experience.
          No point in saying “Wow, this is the best possible version of Crysis 3 that you could imagine on the N64! It’s utterly unplayable, but it’s a really good effort given the hardware limitations!”.

          It doesn’t matter if they did a really good job of getting Borderlands onto the Vita, if it doesn’t play well then it’s not a good game. They should have trimmed it down or redesigned it as its own separate PS Vita campaign so that it ran better. A Vita exclusive story line and setting (think expansion pack) that was designed around the Vita’s limitations but which allowed players to import and expand on their console characters would have been a much better idea than jamming a console game onto the Vita if it just isn’t cut out for it.

        I don't think anyone is questioning the findings of the review, more how he chose to highlight them.
        Your right, nobody expects it to run like the PC and downgrades are clearly expected. Comparisons will be drawn no matter how you view it, but there are some aspects that don't require it and end up feeling like a review is being used to speak about another subject all together.

    this is the problem I have with the vita, right now I kind of want one to play psone classics and the ps2 collection packs but almost all of the actual vita games feel like either a dodgy version of a console game or are a little known to the western world jrpg series. I really wish there were some more actual vita games I wanted because I'm finding it hard to justify buying it only for the psone games. Nintendo have a better idea by having games that cater more to a handheld device rather than trying to just put console games on a portable.

    I use my PS VITA daily. If not watching movies, then playing some awesome games. Granted, I use a nyko ps vita power grip because I got big ol' hands, but now that I have them I can hold and maneuver the PS VITA without any issues.

    I don't have anything against scaled down graphics for portability. I've been bugged by that eversince I got rid of my desktop and stuck with a laptop.

    I'll probably buy BL2 for my VITA because Borderlands is awesome.

    I've not played any Borderlands games......I'll get this I'm sure.

    I'm not sure the assumption this review makes about people already having this game on another platform is valid.

    I loved the first game on PC, and was disappointed to play the sequel on Mac. It felt very "consolised" and like SimCity and Diablo 3 had a very "hey, we're an mmo now!" feel. I hoped this version would correct that and be a big boost to the vita.

    I think the review is largely over exaggerated. I love this game on my vita, and it has really breathed new life into my Vita. I enjoy gameplay waaaay more than Killzone by far. Frame rate only minimally lags for me on slight occasion... But no worse than it does on my 360 version.
    If you love Borderlands 2 like I do, and your Vita is collecting dust due to boring and lackluster games, then pick this up and start playing on the Vita again! Excellent job by Iron Galaxy on the port... Now if only more awesome console games get ported like this, might make Vita a viable system finally!

    Dude seriously, none of your points are valid. You're comparing it to pc. Let me guess, the controls are aekward to you because you're a pc elitist that plays with a keyboard and mouse. The controls took me an hour to get use to. It's not the vitas fault. In fact, it's iron galaxy gor doing a shitty port. It's the exact game that's on the ps3 which is the worst version anyway. Gearbox hired them to do the port, they're a small out of house company that do indie games. And the reason why uncharted and other games you stated better is because they were designed on and for the vita. Bl2's coding is the same as the ps3 version but missing stuff to help it run better. The fact that the game even runs on the vita is astonishing. I bought it and love it. I'm a borderlands junky, I play just for the shear amount of loot alone. Your review is opinionated and biased. Learn some real facts, then come back and makd a real review. Anyone thst reads this, if you love bl2 like I do, get it. The game is awesome. Don't listen to this guy, he hasn't a clue as to what he's talking about. As soon as he compared it to the pc version and games designed in and for the vita I laughed. So please, try it out, if you love bl2 and all of the loot, get it. I mean come on, it's borderlands on the go, how could you not like it? BTW, there will be a patch out today to fix the issues, I mean after all, it just released, look at what BF4 was like on release, and that was on every platform. Give bl2 vita a break and try it out.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now