30VGC: Day 10 – Best Gameplay

To know me is to know that I love my yearly series, and here’s a new a one! This year I’m taking on the 30-Day Video Game Challenge (30VGC). Though, actually, it’s going to be more like the 26-Week Video Game Challenge, since I’ll only be covering two or three topics from the challenge each month. You can check out my intended schedule in this post. With that, it’s game on!

My pick for the game with the best gameplay is Borderlands 2.

Since I can’t pick Super Metroid for ALL these things (well…could I?), this turned out to be a very tough choice to make. I like to think that I’ve played some pretty solid games in my time. (And to be honest, even as I type, dozens of other potential games are coming to mind, making me second-guess my choice here.) But really, really, really good gameplay is an elusive beast. And so much of making a single choice here comes down to personal preference. For instance, as much as I enjoy games like Red Dead Redemption and the GTA series, I actually don’t like gun battles in these games because of their aiming systems. I always end up choose “easy” modes of aiming just so I can make it through without bashing my controller into my forehead. Also for instance, Mario games have improved immensely over the years, and my all-time favorite, New Super Mario Bros. DS, coulda been a contender, for sure. But still, its platforming mechanics remain only good. And finally for instance, Uncharted 2 is one of my most favorite action-adventure games. And yet it’s unbalanced, with phenomenal puzzling on one side, and lackluster combat on the other.

In the end, I whittled my way down to the three Bs: Batman: Arkham City, Bioshock, and Borderlands 2. The last one of the group only eked out by a hair thanks to one gameplay component:


Bioshock has the killer story. Batman: Arkham City has its lore down pat. But Borderlands 2 wins by a nose because it doesn’t just settle into its FPS trappings, its exceeds them with glorious panache. In Borderlands 2, you’re defined by the character you choose, and yet, you’re never judged for it. I chose to play as the assassin Zer0, and yet, I can’t say that I was very assassin-like all the time. Sometime I was pretty good at being sneaky, but sometimes, I wanted to melee the shit outta of a bunch of enemies. Other times, I wanted to stay hidden and snipe out a bandit camp. In fact, I didn’t much rely on Zer0’s special skill, as awesome as it was, simply because I had so many other options at my disposal. For someone who self-perceives as being terrible at modern FPSs, Borderlands 2 was welcoming, happily frenetic, and just a whole lot of fuckin’ fun.

And Borderlands 2 doesn’t stop at being a solid FPS. Oh no no no….it throws in a buncha RPG and exploration elements into the mix. I mean, I’ll readily admit that the incredible array of weapons and loot are where it’s at in the game, and sure, they coulda stopped there. But they didn’t. They allowed players the chance to bond with their characters. So by the end of the game, Zer0 wasn’t just some figment of the game. He was an extension of my own psyche, in much the same way as other RPG characters become, like Commander Shepard or the hero of Fereldan. Only, with less general baggage and more shooty-stealthy action. Combine that with a game world that brimming with personality, humor, charm, and a shitload of bad guys to take down, and you’ve got yourself a pretty goddamn awesome game.

Damn… I think I want to play it again now…

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