[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, the writer of Borderlands 2, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.]
After one of the longest tails for a game on the last-generation consoles, Borderlands 2's DLC has finally come to an end. The fifth and final Headhunter pack is out, and it sends the Vault Hunters on vacation to the tropical Wam Bam Island.
This release was a bit overshadowed by the recent announcement of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which focused attention away from Borderlands 2 and onto the next entry. However, it does not seem like Gearbox was intentionally downplaying Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax. For better or worse, it hits about the same level of quality as the other four Headhunter packs, though it does take some of the better elements from them.
Borderlands 2 Headerhunter 5: Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax (Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: April 15, 2014
This being Borderlands, the relaxing vacation planned quickly goes awry, as Lilith, Mordecai, and Brick do not show up, and Sir Hammerlock is abducted by crabworms and taken to be sacrificed to the Son of Crawmerax, the enormous offspring of the series' first raid boss in The Secret Armory of General Knoxx.
That is not the only callback in Son of Crawmerax; the trip across Wam Bam Island brings about meetings characters like Crazy Earl and references over the ECHO recorders to the original four Vault Hunters' encounters at T-Bone Junction. Lilith mentions killing Crawmerax "so many times," and pokes fun at "the ledge" that players would exploit in that battle. They are nice bits of fan service for those who have been following the series from the beginning.
As is typical in the Headhunter packs, an optional mission unlocks after the main mission is completed, and the optional mission here benefits fans of the lore more than anybody else. It features very little mandatory combat, but it provides a small peek into the lives of the six current Vault Hunters before their arrival on Pandora. Fans of the back story behind the characters will enjoy it, but those craving action will be bored.
Not all of the writing in Son of Crawmerax is focused on the past. As the last piece of content for Borderlands 2, it also begins to resolve some story elements to set up for the future. Specifically, Mordecai has begun to heal from the loss he experienced, and he begins to grow as a character, to potentially be explored in a future installment.
Combat-wise, players know what to expect here. Crabworms are the featured enemy, and although they are new to Borderlands 2, they act much like they did in the original Borderlands. Additionally, pirates from Captain Scarlett and her Pirate Booty and savages from Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt appear as enemies across the island.
For those not following along with every piece of content, it may feel like the Son of Crawmerax has the most unique set of enemies, since all but the varkids come from outside the main game. For those who are already familiar with the pirates and savages, it still ends up being a good mix, since those require more tactical combat than most Borderlands enemies. Running through as a Gunzerker, the Coxswains were a particular nuisance for me when they would reflect my own bullets back at me. Witch Doctors are just as interesting as they were in Big Game Hunt, where they strengthen their allies in the middle of battle.
The Son of Crawmerax himself is easily the most difficult of the Headhunter bosses. He is not quite on the level of some of the other raid bosses in the series, but he definitely demands to be fought by a team rather than by solo players. The battle is not as complex as the original Crawmerax battle, or as the raid bosses from the larger DLCs, but the Son of Crawmerax can soak up a ton of damage before being defeated.
Another strength of Son of Crawmerax is that it provides a relatively simple way to gain high rarity loot. Around the island are special varkid pods, and for ten Eridium, players can spawn a varkid that flies a short distance and drops a chest full of blue, purple, and sometimes orange rarity weapons and items. It seems like a decent alternative to using golden keys, though newer players might not be able to spare the Eridium to do it.
Aesthetically, Wam Bam Island looks like a cross between Pirate Booty's Oasis and Big Game Hunt's Grotto, with a lot of bright colors used and large areas of beautiful water to wade through. It might not feel particularly original, but the environment is one of the prettiest places on Pandora.
One of the best additions from Wedding Day Massacre makes a comeback here: the Vault Hunters have individual lines in response to certain events. Although the situations and resulting dialogue are not quite as funny as they were in the previous entry, it provides some incentive to play through the short missions multiple times. Playing through with a different character provides different dialogue, and helps to expand the lore just a little more.
As with the other entries in the Headhunter series, Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax is a short experience with a relatively low price tag. Although it does not complete Borderlands 2 with a bang, it does a decent job of rounding out the series and setting up for the next one. Those particularly interested in the path of the characters moving forward will enjoy what this DLC does toward that end, but most other Borderlands fans would be just as well waiting for the release of the Pre-Sequel this fall.
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