Darkest Pandora

If there’s one thing we learned in Borderlands 2, it’s that Pandora’s a sprawling planet with a bevy of different ecosystems supporting unheard of amounts of unique life-forms. This diversity looks to put itself on display once again in the game’s latest DLC: Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt.

After your glorious defeat of Handsome Jack, Sir Hammerlock feels that you and your fellow Vault Hunters need to be rewarded with a weekend of rest and relaxation—and nothing makes him feel better than shooting giant monsters in the face. Lucky for him, we feel the exact same way. So, the Vault Hunters are whisked away to the Hunter’s Grotto via Fast Travel and greeted by the smelliest, most bug-infested swamp you’ve ever seen. And to add insult to injury, the natives of this swamp aren’t too happy with you showing up and deciding to hunt their game. Oh, and a new Jack crony makes it his mission to wipe you out when he thinks you show up to mess up his plans, even though you had no idea he existed until now. Awkward. Have fun!

One of the most entertaining aspects of this add-on is the addition of hovercraft vehicles. After all, how else would you expect to get around a swampy marshland? The vehicles’ ability to transition from land to water—or vice versa—is critical in completing this DLC, as they offer a way to get around the half-submerged grotto with little effort, even if they’re a bit unwieldy. But these vehicles make up for their loose controls with a trio of new weapons that can be hardwired to the craft to crush the indigenous life found in and around the grotto. You can outfit your hovercraft with a corrosive grenade launcher, a shock grenade launcher, or a flamethrower, all of which clearly have their own advantages and disadvantages as you wage war in the swamp.

The most fun I garnered from the download, though, was discovering not just an entirely new section of the world, but the different enemy creature species that reared their heads (if they had heads to begin with, that is!). You’ll have to fight everything from exploding plant spores to giant scorpions—not to mention several new varieties of classic enemies like Skags.

The new tribal natives also prove a formidable threat, even if they’re similar to bandits in many ways—but they’re far less balanced than they needed to be. The natives are led by Witch Doctors, who typically control one of the game’s main elements (Fire, Shock, and so on). But they also wield the unique ability to heal themselves and the enemies around them—and they can even level up nearby baddies, too. This can often lead to a dozen or so Ultimate Badasses running around if you’re not careful, as even the most pitiful of tribal hunters can become a threat if you don’t remove the Witch Doctors quickly. However, because of their healing nature and the frequency with which they show up, they’re damn near impossible to take down. This often led me to just running past many of the tribal enemies I encountered on the way to my objectives. It often wasn’t worth the trouble to fight them, and this was a source of surprising frustration.

Besides these few moments, however, I really did enjoy this new side story. The new villain’s hysterical, and returning cameos by main game characters help the DLC feel like it’s really a part of the vibrant world of Pandora. And depending on how many of the sidequests you decide to do, you can expect somewhere between six to eight hours of brand-new content that flows along the same vein of the main game in terms of humor and gameplay, making it well worth the $10 asking price (800 MSP). So, if you love a plethora of blatant pop-culture references from the characters that inhabit the Borderlands universe, blowing up giant monsters with any combination of different weapons, or just need an excuse to hop online with your friends, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt is a more-than-worthwhile DLC purchase.

SUMMARY: If the bulk of Borderlands 2 had you laughing till it hurt, then this DLC will certainly continue that trend. A couple of balancing issues with the new enemies introduced, however, will cause some headaches and encourage you to race through more daunting areas.

  • THE GOOD: Maintains the same humor and game play of the main game.
  • THE BAD: Some of the new enemies are poorly balanced.
  • THE UGLY: Hammerlock’s emotional barriers that prevent him from making friends.

SCORE: 8.5

Borderlands 2: Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt is available for Xbox 360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.