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Watch here on E3 week and see how much exercise I do.
Borderlands was almost definitely the sleeper hit of 2009, and its innovative combination of multiplayer FPS and RPG elements has made it the only game (apart from Diablo 2) to justify three full playthroughs for me. Given its success, a sequel certainly was “a no-brainer”. While it does introduce some new elements it looks a bit like more of the same, but when that same is so great, there can be no complaints. Borderlands 2 was front and centre of the booth at E3, showing that it is 2K’s big ticket item, and it doesn’t fail to impress.
We were lucky enough to get an interview with Jeramy Cooke, Art Director at Gearbox, to chat about what's in store (including a few secret surprises), before having the chance to spend some hands-on time with the game.
The story of Borderlands 2 is, well, I’m not sure, and I don’t really care. The first game had our protagonists on a generic quest for The Vault led by a generic guardian angel, and I have no problems that the plot was just a loose justification for the core action and looting gameplay. It seems that the generic object quest narrative may be followed by a generic revenge quest narrative, but trailers indicate that storyline is not a huge priority for Gearbox.
What we’ll get from Borderlands 2 is a redux version of the core gameplay of the original, and that’s just fine. We can expect the same attention to cooperative multiplayer (thankfully with horizontal splitscreen this time, what a concept), including enhancements to driving mechanics (it’s drift time) and space for all four players in a vehicle now. The post-apocalyptic cell-shaded aesthetic remains, and if this turned you off the first game, just give it a try this time round – you won’t regret it.
The class system seems combine the best of the old with some of the new, and basically a bit of swapping elements between the classes that we know and love. Brick fans will probably be drawn to Salvador, the Gunzerker: yes, his name is an example of the questionable neologisms that Borderlands 2 marketing is prone to. The Siren returns in the form of Maya (who was modelled on a competition winner), and has exchanged a phasewalking ability for Phaselock, which traps enemies and allows extra damage and other vulnerabilities. Axton returns as the stock soldier with turrets, and perhaps the newest class is Zer0 a stealth/assassin class who relies on a holographic decoy, invisibility, and melee combined with close-quarters gunning. We are promised a new class, the “Mechromancer”, as DLC after the game’s release – this is one to keep an eye out for.
One of the improvements we have been promised in an enhancement to the driving system, which in the original was just a way to get around the expansive world with a bit of mobile combat along the way. Not much was revealed in the E3 hands-on demo, but we’re hoping that vehicle-based missions will be more than “kill 10 cars, jumps through hoops” (literally!).
One of the most popular aspects of Borderlands was the weapons system, and we have been told that the 87 bazillion guns just got bazilliondier (we guess that’s good). Fans of run ‘n’ gunning will enjoy Salvador, the Gunzerker who can use his special class to dual-wield any two weapons of his choosing. There is nothing like letting loose with two rocket launchers at once, and other skills around health increase and damage/ammo use reduction mean that he is formidable in face-to-face combat. The other classes promise unique specialisations around weapon types that will complement each other nicely. Thankfully, the “second wind” mechanic when downed now allows players to move (albeit slowly) in order to get a line-of-sight to kill an enemy in order to revive, which is welcome relief for those foiled by the corner of a wall.
The E3 hands-on demo clearly aimed to cater for fans of the franchise and fans of loot (which is basically the same thing). For completing the demo mission given to us we could select a weapon from our inventory and receive a code to redeem on the PC version upon release, whereby we would actually have that weapon in our inventories. This was a nice touch.
Apart from that we were treated to a demonstration level in a commercial/residential urban environment, which was a pleasant change from the desert tundra and ramshackle settlements of the first game. The enemies were mostly comprised of large robots with some human assistants (another development), and although the mission structure seemed to follow the same “collect object, apply key to lock”-type mechanic, again this was not a major issue.
All up, there was enough polishing up of the visuals and animations to suggest that Borderlands 2 will present welcome refinements to a formula that has worked well for millions of players. With the strong following this franchise has garnered, the limited editions are likely to be popular.
Chad Habel likes long walks on an irradiated beach, and surviving deadly test chambers. His favourite dish is hadouken stirfry, and his Achilles Heel is gibbing headshots. In an alternate reality he works at a University.
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