Ooooh, Gearbox. Why this? I am just so… disappointed. I don’t think there’s any other way to describe my feelings upon finishing the newest DLC, ‘Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt’. It was supposed to be the brosiest hunting trip in the history of hunting trips—until it was interrupted by a mad scientist trying to destroy my character—but it just felt so rushed. So unloved in comparison to the other two DLCs that were previously released and even the DLCs for the previous game (not counting the Underdome DLC, ‘cause that shit just didn’t have a story). Spoilers below the cut.
Just to catch everyone up on the plot of this add-on: you, vault hunter extraordinaire, are invited on a hunting expedition on the savage and ruthless continent of Aegrus by your close friend and hunting enthusiast, Sir Hammerlock. Your aim: to kill everything in the most awesome and scientific way possible. However, it’s soon clear that you’ll have to put your poaching on hold as you are accosted by Professor Nakayama and his hordes of duped tribesmen. It all seems random at first, but soon it’s revealed that Nakayama was completely obsessed with Handsome Jack, so you killing the former Hyperion executive doesn’t exactly sit well with the mad scientist. Rather annoyed by the interruption, Hammerlock sends to you take care of this annoyance so you two can get back to broing around.
Now that I write it out like this, it does seem a little shortsighted in terms of plot, but then again I could summarize the Torgue DLC as “you need to fight a bunch of people to win a tournament, but oh no! You were betrayed!” It’s not exactly indicative of how much I’m going to care about the DLC as a whole, but I think the most telling moment is when Nakayama tries once again to get the vault hunter’s attention.
It’s decently suitable for setting up the personality of the foe du jour, but Sir Hammerlock responds by saying flat out that he doesn’t care. It was funny, of course, how put out Nakayama became, but it certainly sets the tone for the whole DLC: you’re not fighting for your honor or fighting for treasure, you’re fighting to get rid of an annoyance who, all in all, isn’t really that annoying. And, as weird as it sounds, I do think that’s one of the DLC’s biggest downfalls.
Nakayama, for all intents and purposes, is a wimp that has no business trying to take down the person who killed his boss/object of obsession. As such, the character really has to be big to pull this off: by that I mean the actor has to be committed to making the character fill out his role to the extreme. When Nakayama is obsessing in his ECHO logs is when he’s at his best. However, the rest of the time (aka: 95% of the DLC) the acting just falls flat. It’s as though his voice actor was holding back and it really hindered the character so much so that I didn’t really believe in Nakayama as a character. The point is that Nakayama is supposed to be a creep who quickly realizes that he’s going to die—he accosted the person who killed the strongest man on Pandora, after all—and as someone who is embodying the ‘mad scientist’ trope, even if he is somewhat normalized, Nakayama really has to go for it vocally in every line. Every feeling must be exaggerated that much more to set him apart from other characters like Dr. Zed (another mad scientist), but they weren’t so Nakayama ended up seeming very one-dimensional. At the end, I really felt bad for even pursuing him (you know that if he was able to make his Jack clone, it would just kill him) and Nakayama’s eventual fall did not feel satisfying in the least. It was literally one of the most painful things I’ve ever watched in a game. I’m not saying that understated villains never work in games, but there needs to be one thing to make them viable as a whole: time.
Coincidentally, this is the one thing this DLC didn’t have. I know Gearbox gave themselves a pretty strict schedule with the first four major DLC releases (so far there’s been about one every month), but there is no, I repeat, no excuse for having such a ridiculously short DLC and charging the same damned price for it. The two DLCs before this one were comprised of about twelve quests relating directly to its main storyline and about twenty side quests resulting in a good, solid chunk of gameplay. In an off-putting contrast, ‘Big Game Hunt’ has three story missions and about ten side quests which leaves for an unfulfilling story. There’s not enough time for the character(s) to be expanded on and, if I’m completely honest, most of the time spent playing this DLC is spent trying to find your way through the huge maps. It felt like they didn’t want to put effort into this, so they just… didn’t and the DLC clearly suffers for it.
Strangely enough, there were things I liked about this DLC—don’t get me wrong, I still loved it. First off, the maps, though huge and somewhat unruly, were gorgeous. There were several times I peered out over an outlook or walked through some flora and literally said to myself, “wow.” They’re really a joy to walk through and the time spent traversing them doesn’t feel terribly long at all. Hand-in-hand with this is the vehicle that debuted along with this DLC. As much as I really didn’t want another boat, the fanboat really improved upon the handling of the sand skiff from the Pirate DLC and, in all honesty, it was fun to drive. I found that the different elemental weapons attached to it were quite clever and easy to use.
Also, for all my complaining about the characters earlier, the dialogue was still superb. Seeing Sir Hammerlock struggle with how to deal with friendship was really cute and opened up an entirely new facet to his character. (Dude that’s been secluded from society for a while and has to keep facing the loss of his friends is unsure of how to make his feelings of platonic love known? Who woulda guessed?) And when Nakayama hits his high points, they’re really high and a pleasure to listen to. In those moments, I almost feel as though he would have been a good villain. Almost.
Where I’m conflicted is in concerns to the enemies of this game. For the most part, they’re interesting and actually take some planning to figure out how to kill. However there are many that I wish would take a long walk off a short pier. The foe that garners this sentiment the most are the stupid fucking annoying-ass spores that float around on some of the maps.
It’s not the fact that they spawn little baby clones that explode on you—it’s a spore, that kind of thing is expected—it’s that it takes so many damned shots to kill it. Sometimes I think it takes less time to kill B-NK3R than these things! Also, as interesting as I think the witch doctors are, they’re a total pain in the butt to kill. The thing I like most about them is that phaselock has a really short duration on them, so it does take a little bit of skill to kill them. I don’t like, though, how even when they’re phaselocked their attacks still attack. What? That’s not supposed to happen. Despite the annoyance I have in fighting some of these, it’s still clear that they took a lot of time molding the enemies with Aegrus’ dangerous nature in mind.
So should you buy this DLC? If you want to get it for completion purposes, yes. However, if you’re not planning on getting them all, this is the one to skip. It doesn’t add much in way of story or characters and at $9.99, you really should be getting more than what they’re giving. Hopefully the next DLC, the last ‘free’ one for the premium club members, will rise above and beyond the dashed expectations of this one.