Borderlands 2 Campaign of Carnage piles on the boss fights

By Steve Watts, Nov 20, 2012 5:00am PST

The original Borderlands was lauded for its diverse and well-designed downloadable content packs. It's easy to forget about the one notable exception. Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot was generally panned by critics and fans, who found the wave-based combat redundant, unsatisfying, and in certain cases, just absurdly hard. The DLC, in which a minor character hosted a fighting tournament, did not sound appealing to me. It was the one pack I skipped.

So when I stepped into Borderlands 2's "Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage," and a minor character almost immediately started inviting me to a fighting tournament, I had some reservations.

Fortunately, it was a ruse. While "Carnage" sounds similar to Mad Moxxi in its premise, those similarities were planted to subvert expectations. Mr. Torgue is actually very light on arena battles, and instead provides vast open vistas to explore, lots of original writing and characters, and several memorable boss fights.

This is all delivered with the sensibilities of a professional wrestling match. Children of the 80s will instantly recognize Mr. Torgue as a clear reference to "Macho Man" Randy Savage, and the plot twists are narrated with the breathless, feigned surprise you'd hear from WWF announcers. It was a decent parody, though I admit that I may have missed a gag or two that relies on more knowledge of the wrestling world.

But like a good pay-per-view event, the spectacle requires heroes and villains. The hero, the Vault Hunter(s), is thrown into the middle of the action without much agency. The villains are grotesque in appearance and personality. They're described as doing awful things to make them more worthy of our contempt. They cheat as a matter of course, and every match has the underdog severely outgunned by his or her opponent.

The plot centers around becoming the #1 ranked badass on Pandora. Mr. Torgue has his own list of who counts as a badass, and whether you've completed the game or not your name to him is mud. To rise the ranks, you'll have to take out the others who are ahead of you: countless standard enemies, and a bevy of bosses.

That's not to say that the DLC is just a series of boss fights. This is actually a proper campaign from start to finish, consisting of several quests, new enemies, appearances from familiar characters like Moxxi and Tiny Tina, and a handful of large environments. The critical path can last around three hours, but several side quests dot the landscape.

The DLC also includes a new form of currency. Finishing quests or beating the bosses gives you Torgue tokens, which can be used to cash in for weapons (of Torgue manufacture, of course) at special vending machines. This would have been a nice idea if the weapons in those machines were kept significantly more powerful than whatever the player has equipped. Instead, I kept looking in the machines, finding red-downward arrows across the board signifying less powerful equipment, and moving on. As a result, I was usually disappointed when a mission or boss resulted in the tokens instead of something more useful, like actual money or eridium.

I enjoyed (and profited from) the Captain Scarlett DLC a bit more than Mr. Torgue's content. The writing wasn't quite as snappy and the areas weren't as unique. But even if this pack wasn't great, it certainly qualified as good. It achieved that by showing great self-awareness of the complaints against Mad Moxxi, to the point of being self-deprecating. A subversive twist wrapped in some over-the-top boss fights should be enough to satisfy.


PC version note: The DLC is identical, but with a few more technical glitches. There were issues of clipping where bad guys would get stuck in boxes or buildings. They were able to shoot at me, but only a rocket launcher or lucky hit from an SMG burst seemed to damage them. Also, sniper shots to the heads of midgets appeared to pass right through them. Only aiming at the neck did I get the critical hits.

While the experience was still enjoyable, it seems the technical side of this DLC suffered on the PC, something that had not been an issue in the main game or in Captain Scarlett.

--John Keefer

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