Borderlands 2 – Preview
by Mark R
Our updated FULL Borderlands 2 preview, including an interview with concept artist Scott Kester can be found here.
This could have gone one of two ways. Maybe three ways, actually. When a game that captured your imagination out of the blue, took hold of your gamer instinct and squeezed so hard that it suffocated all other current titles, suddenly has a sequel announced only weeks before Gamescom… the first instinct is to be overjoyed at the fact you’re going to be there when it debuts. A surreal sense of excitement and first-love-tingles begins to swell in the gut and, almost immediately, all other upcoming titles once again blur into near-insignificance. Then it hits you. The thought that it may not actually be any good. It may be nothing more than the predecessor with a load of new quests thrown in under the guise of a follow up title, with the only semblance of a sequel being that it wasn’t out at the same time as the previous release. This is, of course, the potential emo trip that any franchise lover dreads, but hopes will bypass them until the all-important digit emblazoned on the teaser artwork increases several times over.
There is, of course, one more scenario. The one where the original release is so damned good, and has so many timeless memories that, deep down, it doesn’t actually matter if the sequel turns out to be a bit of a lemon, as you’ll always have that first game to come home to. I had this experience with the X-Com franchise when everything beyond UFO: Enemy Unknown was a twisted ugly sibling that appeared to have clawed its way from the abortion bucket.
Thankfully, Borderlands 2 kicks fucking ass.
As the door opened and I took my first tentative steps into the presentation room, my eyes fell upon that oh-so-familiar HUD which was, to all intents and purposes, identical to that of Borderlands. Except sexier. It was somehow more polished and modern, with light texturing over the health and shield bars and, to the top right hand corner, we had a circular map. Now, I have to admit a fleeting moment of ignorance here as I thought nothing of it until it was brought to our attention that, as we were experiencing an open world, it made sense to have a mini map on screen at all times. Having completed Borderlands more times than I can possibly recall at this moment, I honestly never noticed this colossal alteration to the HUD and had paid more attention to the finer details than to the overall aesthetics. It works though. Very unobtrosive and easy to follow, and ticks that all important box of “don’t notice it until you need it”, thankfully.
Our Gunzerker character is much more interesting than I’d expected, and the dual wield system is something that I’d been crying out for in the previous game, especially as the weapon whoring seemed to take up most of my more recent expeditions into Pandora. What I wasn’t expecting when the dual wield was first announced, however, is that you can combine any weapon class. I assumed that a Tediore in one hand would mean Tediore in the other, but an S&S pistol can be combined with a Hyperion rocket launcher if so desired. Shooting the shit out of enemies with twice as many guns has somehow managed to ramp the fun up ten fold, and it’s something I can’t wait to get my stubby little Gunzerker hands on.
The Siren, ah yes, the Siren. As deadly as she is beautiful, and she’s back with a new hairdo and a tighter derriere than ever before. There’s no phase walk this time around, however, and we weren’t blessed with that particular spoiler this time around. The explanation was that Sirens are all connected but are still very different from one another, so I imagine the revelation of this new Siren, called Maya on-screen, although this may have been a custom name, will follow in good time.
If you’ve played through the original Borderlands and paid attention to NPC dialogue and incidental audio, then you’ll no doubt be aware of how much humour there is in the game, and the sequel is no different. From Hyperion enemies called “EXP Loaders” through to “Torturers” who stomp around with midgets strapped to their shields to add a little more protection, the humour thus far appears to have been ramped up. Another severe ramping is the introduction of mobile quest objectives where your mission goal may be in one place at one time, and move to another as time goes on.
This was demonstrated by the introduction of an old friend in Roland who, when we happen upon him, is held captive in a hovering one-man prison called a “W4RD3N”. This guy takes some heavy gunfire to reduce health, and as more enemies appear to thwart our attempts at progression, the W4RD3N continues on his journey, appearing to regain health, albeit very slowly… unless he’s being aided. The AI in Borderlands 2 has, as with almost everything else that we saw today, been rewritten from the ground up. No longer will enemies stand by smacking their heads while you shoot the crap out of their mates; they’ll now take in their environment and go to any lengths to take you out or protect one another. This could mean running away to cower behind cover, tearing away towards where they know a cluster of friends lies in wait to join him in overthrowing you or, in the case of these annoying little Hoverfucks (my name for them, as I was too busy smiling to take notes) healing enemies from the sky so that no matter how many rounds you fire into them, you won’t do any damage. Gone are the days when standing in one spot and emptying an entire Cold Thanatos clip will take down your enemy before moving on to the next – now you have to think tactically, take in your surroundings and decide on which position will give you the advantage, whether it’s taking out the big guys or concentrating on the Hoverfucks to end a potential exercise in futility.
After only thirty minutes of Borderlands 2, I already know that this will do as its predecessor did: to swallow my life whole and spit it back out at me in 87 bajillion little pieces. I don’t care though. Everything about this game so far screams brilliance. From the four player transport to the handmade Bandit weapon class, the new characters through to a whole host of hilariously named enemies. This is going to be my game of 2012. This is Borderlands, on acid.
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