Developer: Gearbox Software / Publisher: 2K Games / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $9.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol]
October’s Captain Scarlett DLC effectively provided a novel addition of pirates to the world of Pandora. As Gearbox’s second DLC for its co-op shooter, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage sets novelty aside in favor of a much heavier emphasis on gunplay. It helps that this DLC is based around arena competition, but if you know anything about Gearbox, you know this isn’t your ordinary waves-of-enemies Fireflight-style fighting.
The start of Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage takes a quick rewind to the end of the original Borderlands, where the opening of one vault led to the discovery of several others. One of those vaults is the ultimate prize in this DLC; the title character has organized a deathmatch tournament where the victor earns the sole right to open the vault.
With competition come sponsors. These aren’t your typical sporting event sponsors though; they’re in it so you can do all the dirty work and then backstab you once the vault is within reach. Mr. Torgue even makes it abundantly clear that you’ll be betrayed, and such comedic bluntness is one of the reasons why Borderlands has such a large following. Whatever the case, you’d do well not to resist this unsurprising plot twist because it opens up more opportunities with (and against) other new characters as well as reunions with familiar ones.
This employs liberal placements of empty storage containers, and vehicle husks work to the players’ advantage. I used Zer0 for the majority of my playthrough and enjoyed using his sniping abilities from elevated structures. On defense, I would use those same obstacles as brief hiding places to regroup mentally and prepare a decoy stealth kill.
With Mr. Torgue being such a heavy promoter of violence and mayhem, it’s only natural that he would have his own brand of guns, sold from his own vending machines. At face value, these weapons aren’t anything special until you realize that ALL of them deal explosive damage. And if you do have less fortunate friends who are counting their pennies and aren’t planning to pick up this DLC, you can bring these exclusive weapons into the main game for sharing and trading.
As with Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty, this DLC assumes you have made considerable progress in the main game. Both are best suited for players who are at Level 15 or higher (the difficulty ramps up after that). As with any Borderlands playthrough, Mr Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage is best experienced in co-op, but it should be noted that this DLC is one of the more single-player—friendly installments in the series. That’s partly because of the free-for-all aspect of the gladiatorial battles. If you wanted, you could just stay on the outer edge of the arena and let the fighters kill themselves before you jump in and take out the last few survivors.
Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage’s best feature is in delivering a robust experience that goes well beyond the arena and into the adjacent areas. The Beatdown is the name of a nearby town that is a treasure trove of street mayhem and lethal bar brawls. Even the path from tournament registration to the arena is fraught with maniacal ‘badasses.’ The characters you encounter are the typical Borderlands mix of reskinned enemies, and foes made up of completely new character designs.
It’s of little surprise that this DLC maintains the same cel-shaded graphic novel aesthetic of the rest of the series. If anything, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage deserves credit for retaining this visual style while introducing new environments that look fittingly dilapidated and worn, especially the arena, which is a dozen empty buses away from looking like a junkyard. There’s also some subtle creativity with The Beatdown, one of the most urban looking areas of Pandora. Its inaccessible hillside skyscrapers give the environment the illusion of density.
I’m not a wrestling enthusiast but even I’m aware of the unmatched charisma of the late Macho Man Randy Savage, who Mr. Torgue was modeled after. Nearly everything coming out of his mouth is a nonsensical superlative. While his voice actor’s performance relies on yelling and extreme reactions, Torgue deserves some last minute recognition as one of the best game characters of 2012. It also helps that the screenwriters took the minimalist approach when it came to censoring his obscenities, allowing for the ‘fu’ but not the ‘ck’.
While Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage is a notably shorter experience than Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty, it’s also a more refined, concise package. Its arena setting provides a natural and stronger focus on firearms and gun battles. And by including areas and missions outside of the tournament, this Campaign of Carnage has room to breathe and deliver a narrative that retains the twisted charm of the Borderlands franchise.