Friday, June 20, 2014

Borderlands 2: Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt review

    To put Gearbox's sense of humor into perspective, I shall summarize this campaign in a sentence: A black gay "Great White Hunter" takes you against a bunch of savage Caucasian tribal stereotypes who worship a Japanese scientist, a dead corporate CEO, and a robot as gods. The "Darkest Africa" tropes from the 19th century are some of the most discredited in fiction, for good reason, but Borderlands 2 manages to get around them by portraying them so ridiculous and inverted I think they get away with it.

    The very fact the "savage tribesmen" are undoubtedly the same colonists abandoned by the Dahl corporation which populate most of Pandora only adds to the irony. While I can't say I would have done this, I've got to say the developers have got their bases covered if they want to defend this peculiar work. They want to tell a science-fiction version of Heart of Darkness with safari motifs and, for the most part, they succeed.

Racist of not. You be the judge.

    The premise of Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt is the titular English cyborg invites our player character on a hunting expedition on the Pandoran continent of Aegrus. While they, they find themselves ambushed by Handsome Jack-worshiping "natives" (later revealed to be just another gang of bandits) who are controlled by a surviving Hyperion scientist out to avenge Handsome Jack.

    Ironically, for a game series which has extensive subtext about riches being strip-mined from planets for corrupt foreign interests, Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt has no subtext about imperialism.

    The Vault Hunter is hired to kill a bunch of exotic animals for sport, film a nature documentary, collect stool samples, and stop Nakayama's plan to avenge Handsome Jack. The natives are trying to kill the Vault Hunter but, otherwise, are just featureless masked enemies in grass-skirts chucking spears.
Professor Nakayama is HILARIOUS.
    I won't lie, even with the ridiculousness of being a bunch of white guys doing this, I was uncomfortable with the imagery. It didn't get any better with the bestowing of their Witch Doctors and Medicine Men with magical powers. Fair warning for purchasers who might feel the same--and that's the last I'll speak of it.

    The continent of Aegrus is a beautiful and well-developed contrast to the majority of Pandora we explore in Borderlands 2 or other DLC. It's not as imaginative as Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep but that's a high bar to set. There's marshes, jungles, and even a series of cliff-side villages I enjoyed exploring.

The final Boss is, sadly, a "trick" boss.
    The tribals are definitely different from your regular bandit and the Witch Doctors' magic is surprising until you become used to it. They can put curses on you, heal themselves, and even mutate their fellows into stronger enemy types. When you see them, it's advisable to kill them quickly. I also liked the Catch-A-Boat enemies as well as the giant spiders who provide yet more contrast from the vanilla game.

    Professor Nakayama is a villain I enjoyed because he's more or less a Venture Brothers character. He's so ridiculously earnest and determined to be your archenemy, he completely overestimates how powerful his forces are compared to the Vault Hunter. The fact he's outclassed in-universe is a nice contrast to all the various enemies who think you're going to be a pushover. His "end" was also one of the funnier moments in the series and so fitting.

    Loot fans will note there's no real major additions to your weapons. It's hard to top Mister Torgue's shotgun which shoots swords which explode (which I lost during this DLC by accident) and probably an exercise in futility to try. Sir Hammerlock's Hunting Lodge is an awesome pad and I think it was a missed opportunity not to place a second vault for player characters to store their loot there. Likewise, it's a persistent problem that getting up to the Lodge is a ginormous pain in the ass requiring a circular trip up a gigantic staircase. A ladder you'd be able to lower to get there would have been great too.

    In conclusion, Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt is probably my least favorite of the four DLC. It's not bad, though, questionable content aside and is only slightly behind Mister Torgue's Campaign of Carnage. I just happened to like the characters more in the Campaign of Carnage. Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt is what I'd play last out of the four DLC but worth the play.



  1. This one wasn't my favorite. I will leave this here though:

    1. I've got it pre-Ordered. I may do the other DLC for Borderlands. In the meantime, I'll be playing "The Walking Dead" by Telltale.