Preview: Borderlands 2
The sequel to Gearbox Software's hugely popular first-person shooter, Borderlands, is due to come out in September. PC World got a chance to have some hands-on time with the game's campaign, and we have to say it's looking pretty sweet.
Siobhan Keogh | Wednesday, May 09 2012
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Test Platform: PC
Developer: Gearbox Software; Publisher: 2K Games
Bigger, better, and more badass.
There's a special kind of glee you get from playing a first-person shooter and playing it well – a certain smile that creeps across your face as you blast away enemy after enemy while dodging their attacks. It's even better when you have to think about what to do: what a creature that shoots fire might be weak against, how to break through an energy shield, or what skills you'll need to use if you need to run like hell.
2K Games showed off two levels of Borderlands 2; both were almost entirely combat-based, with a hint of exploration and a whole lot of looting. And despite the fact that I knew little of the story, or my character, or what to do, I was extremely reluctant to put the controller down. I couldn't even complete a quest, as the preview ended before I had the chance, but I still wanted to keep going. The combat is just so very, very fun.
While there was little to no story in the preview segment of the game, Borderlands 2 is set five years after our four heroes from the previous game unlocked the vault on Pandora. Your character – there are four new playable characters to choose from – starts the game fighting in a gladiator-style tournament. As the game goes on, you learn that you have to dispose of the man who runs these tournaments. You shouldn't feel too bad about it; the jerk withholds your prize when you win.
When I played through the first of the two levels, Wildlife Preserve, I was using the character on the cover art, the Gunzerker. He's a big dude, and he's good an inflicting heavy damage with guns. He can also dual-wield any combination of guns, although I didn't get to try it out in this preview.
The Gunzerker, named Salvador, had to take a lot of damage before he'd go down, and even then I'd usually be able to kill another enemy to revive him, as long as I had a decent gun in-hand.
After I was done with the Gunzerker, I got the chance to try out the Siren, Maya, in a second level called Caustic Caverns. Someone had previously built up a number of skill points for Maya but not spent them, so I set about creating a skillset for her. She was primarily a healer, but also had a greater chance of inflicting caustic, electric and fire damage. Maya also has a 'phaselock' ability that allows her to hold enemies in the air so they can't move during an assault. Like most of her abilities, this skill is clearly best used when playing co-op.
Caustic Caverns was full of deadly acid pits and extremely powerful enemies – strong, but slow. Many of them I just sprinted past as fast as I could. This was made easier by the fact that two different species would often occupy the same area of the map, and they could be easily lured into fighting one another. At the end of the level was the only boss encountered during the preview, a giant spidery creature called Blue. The boss was fun, but nothing new – the fight employed the classic shooter tactic of marking out the creature's weak points in an extremely obvious way.
While I primarily used machine guns in my last playthrough of the original game, this time I found myself favouring the shotguns and sniper rifles. Some of the sniper rifles are fairly decent even at short range, and some of the shotguns are pretty good at long range, too. The shotgun I was using was drool-worthy: it did massive damage, fired rapidly, and was my go-to gun if I thought I was going to have to fight for my life.
The number of creatures you'll fight at once can be surprising – if you're playing single-player, you can almost be overwhelmed sometimes. The PR rep said the game wasn't balanced properly for single-player yet, as the missions were designed for co-op play. However, despite being hoarded by skags and killed several times, I never felt frustrated, or like a certain task was insurmountable.
I played Borderlands 2 on a beast of an Alienware PC, with a big ol' monitor and a wired Xbox 360 controller. The graphics were stunning, and the art style that was so beloved in the last game looks even better now.
A lot about Borderlands 2 is familiar, virtually unchanged from the original game. The unique art style carries through into this sequel, as does the tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. At one point, after Salvador died, the machine that rebuilt and respawned him began to mock him for having to use it.
If you didn't like the original game, then you're not going to like Borderlands 2. If you did, then you'll be happy to know that its sequel is so far looking bigger, better, and more badass. It may be called Borderlands, but Gearbox Software is stripping down the borders so you can revel in the chaos.
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