This is another year of AAA video game sequels, with Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Halo 4 on the horizon for stocking stuffers. But this season has already seen two blockbusters — Borderlands 2 and Resident Evil 6 (!) — and the direction they've taken may foreshadow the tack every studio has adopted for the latest round of titles: Keep meting out the same experience, whether it's stale or not.
Both of these franchises, which are favorites of mine, are suffering from a severe case of the reruns. For Borderlands 2, that's forgivable; Capcom's latest zombie-hunting escapade gets less of a pass.
That seems like a cop-out, but let me explain. Sequels are tricky business: Change too much, and the fans complain there's no connection to the original. Don't change enough, and the fans whine you're just churning out carbon copies. This was certainly my reaction to Halo: Reach, which was a great game, but far too similar to other Halo titles to really warrant the money. Thank goodness for the multiplayer.
In the case of 2K Games' Borderlands franchise, carbon copying is more than acceptable for the first sequel, released back on Sept. 14. Part of the fun of the original was the hard-charging shoot-and-loot adventures you could share with three friends. The expansion packs were great (The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was a high-water mark for 2009's DLC offerings) and there was just enough of a story to keep you blasting away without making you bored with watching cutscenes.
What we have in Part 2 is, quite literally, more of the same. In fact, the game and its characters feel so similar in so many ways, it could be marketed as $60 DLC. I'm fine with that, to tell the truth. There was so much to like about the simplicity of the first installment's cel-shaded graphics and in-your-face, adolescent attytood, another trip through Pandora is worth taking without going through too much of an overhaul. Next time, though, 2K had better come up with better changes than swappable character skins.
Resident Evil 6, meanwhile, has more to answer for. In keeping with Capcom's aim to make the series more action-oriented, there are barely any puzzles and the third-person shooting action the saga pioneered is a given. The Oct. 2 release does have an improved partner AI and a broad, engaging story presentation, featuring crossover points where the lengthy campaigns intersect with each other.
But as I sat through each of the four, six-hour stories, I couldn't help but feel it was maddening to keep slogging through level after level of popup shooting and quick-time events. As a longtime fan of the series, I appreciate the title tries to emulate the best parts of Resident Evil 2's multifaceted story and Resident Evil 4's gunslinging (and now you can move while firing! Mercy be!), but the salient points of this game aren't positive: Few scares, lots of button-mashing, having to replay the same boss fights across campaigns, and a story so nonsensical, the wonderfully earnest voice-acting almost ruins it by removing the cheesiness of it all.
Ironically, only Leon's story, a throwback to the series' roots that uses the power of the current gen machines to depict a zombie infection with the gravity the original Playstation's Part 2 could only hint at, feels like a Resident Evil worth playing again. The rest, as spectacular as it is, is just the same old story.
— Joshua Gillin writes about video games and entertainment news for tbt*. Feel free to challenge his opinions at firstname.lastname@example.org.