Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
As a general rule, I hate arena DLC.
It's incredibly difficult for developers to add meaningful story content to an existing game, but it's oh so very easy to slap together some non-canonical arenas and recycle some enemies to create a pointless and poxy couple of hours of content. Mass Effect's Pinnacle Station, BioShock 2's Protector Trials and Painkiller: Redemption all bear witness to this cheap and nasty cash grab, as did Mad Moxxi's Underdome DLC for the original Borderlands. After it became clear that the awesomely macho Mr. Torgue wanted us to travel to the BADASS CRATER OF BADASSITUDE to become the most BADASS BADASS of them all in a series of BADASS coliseum battles (did I mention that it's badass?), I must admit to feeling rather worried.
Thankfully, Gearbox learned their lesson from Underdome's lacklustre reception. Mr Torgue's Campaign Of Carnage uses its arena as a setting rather than an anchor, and an excuse to throw players into an six hours of ASSASSINATIONS and EXPLOSIONS.
Beware: this review may contain excessive amounts of capitalisation. Perhaps it already does.
Upon reaching the aforementioned amusingly-named crater, Mr. Torgue's Campaign Of Carnage wastes no time in introducing players to the titular head of the Torgue corporation. Channelling every WWE referee ever and Macho Man Randy Savage, the musclebound tycoon proceeds to steal the show before hurling you straight into battle with some motorbike gangs. The premise is simple: compete in a brutal series of deathmatches, become the number one badass and gain the honour of opening a newly-discovered vault. Teeth clenched, I entered the arena and prepared myself for the worst.
However, upon being betrayed and unfairly branded a coward, Mr. Torgue's Campaign Of Carnage opens out and shows its true colours. The Torgue arena becomes a hub surrounded with satellite areas, each of which contains one of the bosses you'll need to kill to work your way up the leaderboards. Throughout some short action-packed missions, you'll lure them out of hiding, track them down and wipe them off off your hitlist, all the while battling hordes of crazed bikers and underpaid Torgue personnel.
Though each new area offers a handful of subquests (typically of the 'kill enemy X' variety, with a couple of smaller surprises along the way), they're incredibly focused shooting galleries; much smaller than you'd usually expect from Borderlands 2 environments. You'll spend most of your time going from A to B in the most explosively violent way possible rather than stopping or deviating to enjoy the scenery, but that's rather the point. Whereas Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty honed in on the expansive exploration and sweeping storytelling aspect of Gearbox' shooter, Mr Torgue's Campaign Of Carnage condenses the combat down to a brutal, blood-soaked, all-out, knock-down brawl.
Mr. Torgue is officially now our favourite character in Borderlands 2 thanks to exceptional scripting and fourth wall-breaking asides, but Tiny Tina and Mad Moxxi also make a welcome return. Though Gearbox' sense of humour will be an acquired taste for some players, this is probably the most hilarious Borderlands 2 has ever been, gleefully poking fun at everything from raisin cookies to the flak surrounding controversial game reviews.
These wonderfully damaged reprobates help to inject a massive dose of personality into what's otherwise a slightly unambitious campaign. Mr. Torgue's new locales tend to be fairly small and rather drab in terms of art design (with the exception of labyrinthine lava-strewn environment), while most of the 'new' enemies are effectively reskinned bandits, Goliaths, engineers and Rats (palette-swapped Torgue loaders also manage to disappoint - perhaps they contracted Hyperion to build their robot army?). Bandit motorbikes rarely move fast enough to act as interesting competitors, and worse, constantly taunt us with the fact that we can't ride one ourselves. On the other hand, the bosses are brilliant and the combat is still as frantically fun as ever - so basically be prepared for more of the same rather than anything particularly revolutionary.
You will still have to throw down in some timed arenas or races as part of the storyline, but they're much more enjoyable than typical arena DLC fare or the Circles Of Slaughter. Enemies delight in fighting each other as well as you, meaning that canny players can pick and choose their targets. A range of different locales, the most enjoyable of which is an intimate two-level bar brawl, all offer unique engagement ranges and challenges - and in stark contrast to Mad Moxxi's Underdome, you'll get experience and loot from each kill.
Upon completing the first wave of each compulsory battle, you're then free to continue with the storyline or replay the arena with harder enemies and tighter time limits at your own discretion. Doing so will grant you Torgue Tokens, a new currency, that can be spent in special vending machines for a range of outrageously powerful Torgue armaments. Some of the most expensive ultra-rare and unique weapons are by far the most powerful guns in the entire game in terms of raw damage output, and will be perfect for taking back into the main campaign or providing an extra boost against Terramorphous and Captain Scarlett's raid bosses. Standard loot drops have also been notably shifted towards the Torgue end of the spectrum; though you'll sometimes find gear from other manufacturers, the explosive ridiculousness of the new assault rifles, sniper rifles and grenades tends to vastly outweigh their competitors.
The biggest problem with Mr. Torgue's Campaign Of Carnage is that it doesn't make the most of its setting. The idea of actually participating in a tournament was interesting but underused. Motorbikes plague your every step... but why can't we drive one? As mentioned, the amount of genuinely new content is fairly small and the uninspired environments usually fail to impress. Captain Scarlett And Her Pirate's Booty arguably spoiled us with its sense of adventure, grand scale, new enemies and hovercraft, making the latest DLC pack feel just a little bit limp.
But it's still fantastic fun, indeed, I completed the entire ridiculous thing in a single sitting. Mr. Torgue's Campaign Of Carnage is still six hours well spent, and a worthwhile addition to the Season Pass, but perhaps doesn't live up to its predecessor's lofty standard.
- Fun, intense and muscular campaign
- Mr Torgue, Tiny Tina and others on top form and good for plenty of belly laughs
- Incredibly powerful new guns and gear up for grabs
- Some drab and constrained environments remove the feeling of exploration and adventure
- Lots of repeated/reskinned/palette-swapped foes overshadow the new additions
- Wot no drivable motorbikes?
The Short Version: Mr. Torgue's Campaign Of Carnage manages to be a fun and worthwhile addition to Borderlands 2 despite leaving plenty of potential untapped. If you have a season pass or desperately want more carnage in your life, prepare yourself for six hours of brutal balls-to-the-wall action, but it's not necessarily an essential purchase otherwise.