I may have played “Borderlands 2” more than any other non-sports game (my obsession with playing full seasons of athletic simulations like “Madden,” “MLB The Show” and “NBA 2K” makes them the record-holding time-sucks in my personal hall of fame). I’ve certainly played it for a longer stretch of time as we’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of the release of my 2012 Game of the Year. Since then, 2K Games and Gearbox Software have kept the party going with a series of lengthy add-ons that played as creatively vital as most of the on-disc games released in the last 18 months. And then, when those ended on a beautifully poignant note, 2K Games kept the aftershocks going by releasing a series of cheap, small “Headhunter” DLC adventures, designed to give the gamer a couple hours of enjoyment, a cool prize at the end of a major boss fight. They’ve maintained the quality of the full meal while admittedly being more snack-sized in theory and execution. The latest, released this week, is “Borderlands 2: Headhunter 5: Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax,” bringing back beloved characters for one final go-around before the door actually closes on arguably the best game of the ‘10s and we get ready for the next adventure in the recently-announced “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel”.
So, after all of this time, does “Borderlands 2” end with a bang or a whimper? In between. I still like to think that the actual end of “Borderlands 2”’s remarkable array of DLC came with the poignant finale of “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep”. What’s come since then has kind of been like deleted scenes for a great movie, they’ve all been pretty interesting but not essential to the canon or overall experience of “Borderlands 2”. If you enjoy this game and the vivid, remarkable world that it transports players to, then they’re clearly worth $3 a piece. Where else are you going to get rock-solid entertainment for $3? A movie is four times as much. So, while “Sir Hammerlock vs. the Son of Crawmerax” is far from the first DLC I’d advise those just completing the full game to buy, it’s a success on its own terms. It’s fun, it’s clever, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from the world of “Borderlands 2”. A world I know remarkably well. Maybe too well for my own sanity.
The final Headhunter pack transports you, like all of the DLC, to a new world. This time, it’s the cleverly constructed Wam Bam Island, which looks like a tropical resort overrun by crazy pirates and crab-like creatures who want to end your days. Before you can check your map for an objective marker, the legendary Sir Hammerlock has been kidnapped and you’re injecting creatures with whiskey to find him. Yes, this Headhunter mission is a little more bizarre than most, which is saying something in the world of “Borderlands”. It’s a lot of fetch-mission structure—go here, find that, come back—but the return of great characters, witty dialogue, and the pissed-offspring of the big bad from “The Secret Armory of General Knoxx” for “Borderlands” feels like it neatly ties a few things together for a final act. Consider it an epi-epi-epilogue, like those extra stories or appendices in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien or J.K. Rowling.
Like most of the Headhunter packs, “Crawmerax” is a bit slight. You’re unlikely to revisit Wam Bam Island the way that you may have other environments in the game. But it’s also, like the other Headhunter packs, transparent in its intent—three bucks, get in, have some fun, get a prize, and get out. Who can argue with that? I wish more games took the same route to greatness. Then maybe I wouldn’t play “Borderlands 2” so much.