Borderlands 2: Sir Hammerlock DLC Review
You may not know this, but Gearbox Software has been quietly outsourcing at least part of the development of their Borderlands 2 DLC packs to various developers. Plano, TX developer Triptych made Captain Scarlett and her Pirate's Booty while California-based The Workshop made my favorite BL2 DLC so far, Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage, and then we're back to Triptych again for this third pack, Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt. In this DLC, we're headed off to a new continent called Aegrus with the dapper gentleman Sir Hammerlock to find some big, nasty creatures to fight and bag, but we also uncover a dastardly plot to resurrect the main game's villain, Handsome Jack.
I mention all this about the developers Gearbox is contracting to help with this DLC because I don't feel like these DLC packs so far are really living up to the potential that the creators of Borderlands have - especially considering how good at least two of the four DLCs from the first game were. (Seriously, General Knoxx goes down in my history book as one of the best paid DLC packs ever made.) Is it fair to compare these DLCs to what I consider the best of all time? Well, yeah, especially since the unwritten rule book of reviewing games says you have to give a game a final score, and anytime you're scoring a game, you're comparing it to other games - including the really good ones.
The Sir Hammerlock DLC starts off a little dreary, in a marshy area that reminded me of the first DLC for Borderlands 1, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned - but this pack lacks the specific horror theme. Still, things open up a bit and get a little sunnier after the first zone, and the developers made sure to keep the super-annoying wildlife creatures from BL2 out of this pack. We get new ones, revisits of a couple of fauna from the first game, and some old favorites like Skags. Most importantly, you won't find stalkers lurking about, and those annoying Rakks aren't popping up throughout the main story missions, either. A new airboat vehicle type (along with skins to collect and heads for each character) has been thrown in as well, although functionally it's pretty much the same as the hovering skiffs from the Scarlett DLC.
The relatively new thing Triptych did with this DLC is that they made a short campaign about saving the world, albeit with an amusing villain that qualifies as pretty much the most inept evil genius in video games, and then made half or more of the remainder of the content into optional quests. The point of you showing up - the hunt - is in those optional quests, and the sidetrack becomes the "main" quest. Sure, you could blow through just the central storyline, even at Playthrough 2.5 difficulty, in a few hours at most, but I think it's unfair to only go through those and then proclaim that this third DLC is too short. Sure, the Torgue and Scarlett DLCs both had their fair share of optional quests, but here there's over a dozen just in the first few areas you explore, with I believe two Invincible secret bosses to fight as well.
What Triptych failed to do in their first DLC was to properly tie in the franchise's more beloved characters; the Scarlett quests involved pretty much entirely new characters, only some of whom were actually fun. Here (and in the Torgue DLC, for that matter), they've learned their lesson so you'll get healthy doses of banter from both Sir Hammerlock and Claptrap. The enemies you'll fight during the campaign, along with a diverse but mostly-not-annoying array of creatures, are a bunch of tribal warriors with crazy magic powers, powerful melee attacks, and super-accurate spear throws, and this can create some serious trouble for those who aren't properly equipped. (You'll need to be around level 30 to even start this DLC, but there's a good story reason for that.) If you've only just made 30 or just made 50 for Playthrough 2.5, farming up a few legendary guns might be a good idea first, because there's a lot of pain coming your way otherwise.
One of the most vital parts of Borderlands for me is the humor. Sure, there's the appeal of randomly-built guns, a ton of loot to play with, and solid FPS action, but what glues it all together and keeps me motivated to come back and play some more is the inventiveness and creativity that have been poured into the characters and humor. And I'm sure that Gearbox had a significant amount of input, writing, and access to the same actors and such, because their trademark humor is alive and well in this Triptych-developed DLC pack. Just, it should be pointed out that it could be considered be a little watered down, too.
Still, this DLC is on the better end of value for your money, especially if you got the Season Pass which brings the price of this $10 DLC effectively down to $7.50 (even cheaper if you got it on PC with GreenManGaming coupon codes) - consider we're still seeing DLC offering much less for just as much money or more, I'm still happy with the adventures you get with Sir Hammerlock, even if they sometimes fail to capture the magic that Gearbox did in Borderlands 2 itself. Hammerlock is a decent DLC pack, but with Gearbox farming out some of this work, I'm hoping that means they've got something bigger and even more interesting in the works for post-releaseBL2 support.
Disclaimer: This review is based off of a bought download code for the Season Pass DLC.