Gearbox Software has become a major hitter on the development side this generation. Under the umbrella of 2K games and other publishers the studio has some exciting games coming to consoles in the form of Aliens: Colonial Marines and the next iteration of the Brothers in Arms series. But it was a game that Gearbox released in 2009 that garnered a lot of attention and had the cult waiting and craving for more. Borderlands released to mostly positive applause with the game surprising many with its slick cel-shaded visuals and loot driven adventure. Many expected a sequel and Gearbox are soon to deliver. Borderlands 2 is expected to release this September and bringing with it a whole host of revamped itinerary and more of that Borderlands magic.
Borderlands 2 takes a sophisticated turn for the better this time around. When you start the game you’re introduced to four new characters in the frame with only the siren class remaining from the first. Each character comes with a special skill and proficiencies that make them stand out from each other. This mechanic makes your ultimate decision of which character to pick all the more important, unless you plan to play the game four times over with a new character. From there everything else seems more Borderlands-ish, with features from the previous game, such skill tree and class mods, making a return. Speaking of the skill tree in particular, each character will have skills specifically tailored to them making for a more far better experience when spending points. What you spend points on can make a difference against certain enemies or a group of enemies.
The essence of the game however has stayed the same. Pick one of four character classes, take a gun, kill a whole bunch of enemies and reap the rewards. Gearbox have certainly upped the ante in Borderlands 2, meaning faster paced action and a focus on juicing up your character. The four character classes this time around come in the form of the Gunzerker who can dual wield weapons, the Assassin who can turn invisible, the Commando who can lay down a turret and the Siren who can trap enemies in mid-air with her phaselock.
The AI in Borderlands 2 has been reworked also to make for a more sweaty and action packed experience. Enemies are smarter and can now team up, rather than leave themselves exposed to being picked off. In addition to that, enemies can now take cover when being plastered with bullets and can also use their knowledge to flank you, smart indeed. Enemies will also be aware of allies around them and can heal them if you haven’t finished the job. It makes for a harder game in general but most will agree this makes for a better experience. On top of all of this, even more dangerous enemies enter the frame.
The wacky people at Gearbox have notched up the creativity on the enemy design to a new level in Borderlands 2. Human enemies consist of traditional bandits and gang members but to mix things up Gearbox have introduced new foes on a size and elemental scale. In Borderlands players were given guns that when fired can cause fire damage or shock an enemy, in Borderlands 2 Gearbox has given this power to the other side to shake things up. In addition, enemies will also come out with shields to protect themselves better. All the improvements make for a far more sweetened experience when you dispatch a small cul de sac of enemies or run away with your tail between your legs because you got walloped. Borderlands 2 does have its laugh out loud moments with the likes of enemies running toward you screaming, “When I kill you I’m going to use your face as a condom”. This example is one of dozens, ensuring that you’ll be kept entertained.
With all the above being said, the name of the game is adaptability. Borderlands 2 will throw all different kinds of scenarios and objectives in your way, although most of your time spent exploring and doing quests for people in the game world. Much like the first, these can range from the somewhat sane people to little crazy girls in Borderlands 2 that want to have a tea party. The experience this time around has a somewhat new uniqueness to it and you just want to play more. Missions as varied as ever, giving you scenarios such as defeating X amount of enemies, luring a Psycho into a trap for someone, defeating an enemy and retrieving something stolen, to name a few.
The best experience could be found in the co-op feature. If players can find up to four competent partners to play with then the game really comes into its own. Like the first game, players can go through the whole story with one another and share weapons and items to use in that co-op showcase or your own single player adventure.
Thankfully the game also maintains the cel-shaded graphical style of the first and with good reason. The world of Pandora looks as lush as ever with everything else taking centre stage amongst it. We still encountered some texture pop-in in the version we played, but far less than the first game.
All in all, Borderlands 2 is shaping up to be a great game. From what we’ve seen players will no doubt love upgrading and beefing up their character and collecting guns in Pokemon-esque style, as well as having fun with the co-op functionality. The game may be defined by the narrative this time around as many found the story in previous titles underwhelming, but so far everything in Borderlands 2’s arsenal ticks the right boxes.
Borderlands 2 launches September 21 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. You can pre-order your copy here (PS3|360|PC).