Borderlands 2's 'Hammerlock' DLC can't hunt with the big boys

Hands-on impressions of Borderlands 2's "Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt" downloadable content.

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After the expectations set by the first Borderlands, the downloadable content for Borderlands 2 had big shoes to fill. The first game saw constant improvement in its iterations, as Gearbox figured out how to make the content more inventive, with clever ties to the game world and enjoyable single-serving stories. As Borderlands 2 reaches its third DLC pack, Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, I'm coming to terms with feeling let down by its progression.

In contrast to the general trend of bigger-and-better packs that followed the first game, Borderlands 2 has had just the inverse slope, becoming a little more ho-hum with each installment. I enjoyed Captain Scarlett, liked Mr. Torgue but didn't love it, and felt mostly annoyed and deflated by Sir Hammerlock. So I set about putting my finger on why.

Hammerlock was one of my favorite new characters from the game proper, so spending more time with him sounded like a blast. But the writing felt lacking, and his prim-and-proper schtick didn't last me through the whole adventure. A not-really-surprising appearance from Claptrap helped vary the tone, but Hammerlock is at his best when he's exhausted by Claptrap's antics, and the two had very little interplay. Worse yet, the villain is unmemorable and his plan barely makes sense--though to be fair, his demise did provide the best laugh of the story.

The settings of Borderlands tend to have a certain visual cohesion, and aside from the beginning of the game, it has painted itself in lush, bold colors offset by dusty tones. Sir Hammerlock's setting, a marsh land heavy with swamps, is gray and murky by comparison. It's all dusty tones, turning the striking visual style into a dull blur, in a very literal sense. It boasts a massive addition to the map, but most of that space is composed of empty plains and swamps. I have to wonder if Gearbox is running out of ways to vary its art style, but surely Pandora has more climates than desert, tundra, and swampland, right?

These are superficial complaints, of course, and as the old saying goes: the play's the thing. Lackluster writing and visuals aren't the end of the world so long as it still plays like Borderlands. But despite my fairly powerful post-game character, the game adds challenges that break its own natural flow. I really can't recommend playing this content alone, as I had to do pre-release.

The new enemies are almost always accompanied by a shaman, well-protected behind a shield and flanked by his allies. This makes him an obvious first target, but the shield can make him soak bullets like a sponge, and one of his powers is to heal his allies. I can't count the number of times I was felled and then moments away from staying in the fight with a Second Wind, only to have the nearby shaman heal and grant Badass status to the target that was just on his last sliver of life.

For a game that introduced the Second Wind concept explicitly to provide a revive mechanic for those who go it alone, this frustrating tactic completely and repeatedly undermines it. Those playing in groups may have a different experience, but I was shocked that Gearbox recreated a fundamental single-player problem it had already cleverly solved years ago.

Sir Hammerlock's big game hunt is a let down, and its problems are so varied that it's hard to identify one primary culprit. Maybe it's a combination of all these factors, any of which would be easier to overlook if the rest were better handled. The DLC offers areas to grind through, levels to gain, and chests to loot. It is still Borderlands, after all. But it failed to surprise me in the ways it should, and did manage to surprise me in botching mechanics that it should have nailed down.

I certainly hope the fourth DLC pack, the last one remaining for Season Pass holders, breaks this downward trend.

Editor-In-Chief
From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 15, 2013 6:00 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Borderlands 2's 'Hammerlock' DLC can't hunt with the big boys.

    Hands-on impressions of Borderlands 2's "Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt" downloadable content.

    • reply
      January 15, 2013 6:20 AM

      Oh man, I hope at least they raise the level cap in the next DLC (as it's the last one of the season pass, me thinks?).

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        January 15, 2013 6:39 AM

        Yea I'm really hoping for that

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        January 15, 2013 6:56 AM

        It is supposed to be a separate 'patch' from what I've read, not to be included with the next DLC, but before it.

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      January 15, 2013 6:38 AM

      To say that the first games' DLC improved on Borderlands 1 more than the DLC has improved on Borderlands 2 isn't saying much; BL1 had a lot more room to grow, while BL2 was just...amazing.

      That said, I haven't done much of the DLC for 2 (just the start of the pirates one), and while I can't argue to the quality of this one, it's just a really high bar to clear, werd?

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        January 15, 2013 7:01 AM

        I just restarted BL2 as a Mechomancer. Great, lots of fun, unashamedly playing the BFF tree and having a blast with it.

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      January 15, 2013 6:41 AM

      "Those playing in groups may have a different experience." In my opinion the jury is out until its been played co-op as originally intended. Single-player Borderlands reviews are seldom very favorable.

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      January 15, 2013 3:03 PM

      this DLC will come down to how many hidden goodies are actually in it... cuz the campaign is non-existent (like what 5 missions or something?) .. almost all the side missions have no rewards, so this feels more like a normal mode DLC instead of a TVHM one ... (less it can be farmed for goods) cuz the XP is useless to the level 50 users. i hope there are things to farm for, otherwise this one is seemingly weak compared the last 2.

      sidenote, the raid boss is awesomely difficult this time.

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      January 15, 2013 3:41 PM

      This one feels like it needs a lot more polishing. I've found numerous invisible ramps (running about 10 feet above rocky areas) and come across Vampire Witch Doctors that cannot be killed solo because of their rapid use of that lifetap beam.

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      January 15, 2013 4:12 PM

      I'd say Blands DLC goes

      Dr Ned > Secret Armory > Clap Trap ~ Badassery > Cptn. Scarlett > Mad Moxxi.

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      January 15, 2013 4:13 PM

      What's up with the frame rate?

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      January 18, 2013 11:59 AM

      As I mostly agree with most of this article... I feel bad that your post game overpowered Axton was having trouble and the second wind wasn't enough. You might want to look at your build again or change your play-style, but my 50 Maya waltzed through this campaign (doing only story missions) in 1 hour. Throw a grenade, everything dies... anything left standing, phaselock and it is dead too, keep it moving... Now my Mecromancer at level 42 had a bit more of a tough time, completing all missions except "I like my monsters rare" in just under 8 hours...
      The biggest problem with this DLC is that you didn't get the experience or loot you felt you recieved from the work being done... I barely got a bubble the whole time at 42 and all loot was stuck at 35 and didn't ramp up with you as you went from area to area, so this DLC isn't very good for farming or experience grinding... it is just fun, and maybe that is what Gearbox was trying to do...