Borderlands 2
E3 2012 Hands-on Preview
"Gearbox added all kinds of new weapons and other ways to shoot, blow up, electrocute, corrode and otherwise kill your foes."

2K Games and Gearbox Software's Borderlands was a popular title that managed to blend RPG and first-person shooter elements well. Its follow-up, Borderlands 2, looks to improve upon that in a number of ways. The colourful graphics and art style remain eye catching but not too cartoony, and the title still doesn't take itself too seriously, what with the outlandish but fun character class designs and the dialogue's humour.

Borderlands 2 takes existing classes from the first like the siren and tweaks them a little while adding four new classes, including the Gunzerker. The Gunzerker is just as he sounds – a gruff type armed to the teeth who can dual-wield any two guns in any combination as his special action skill. He is something like a Heavy class, and was of course the one I chose after standing in line for an hour and a half (Siren being the other available option). During the demo, I had about four or five different types of guns in the Gunzerker's inventory at my disposal.

I was dropped into a co-op demo with another player who took on the Siren (co-op can support up to four players normally), and we proceeded to explore the area and loot a number of chests in true RPG fashion for ammo and money before the bad guys could even show up. Once the enemies came around, they mainly consisted of large insects, various threshers and a couple of huge, four-legged creatures whose weaknesses were their crystalline legs. We managed to defeat the especially large blue foe just as the demo ended, but not before I had to respawn some three times. Experience points are doled out as each enemy falls, and divided up between you and your partner so long as you both dealt damage to them. They, too, drop cash and items for the taking, and most of the demo consisted of killing and looting.

It would have been fun to have a look at other new classes, including the Mechromancer, a DLC class (free if you pre-order) who can revive fallen enemies with gears and other mechanical parts. Another new addition is the Assassin, whose special action is both a stealth mode and a decoy for distractions. A Siren's Phaselock ability can lock a foe into place, kind of like a stasis, and can be used to heal allies, deal massive damage to the enemy, or simply keep a few enemies at bay if you've got too many on your hands at any given moment. Soldiers build turrets, but they're not your ordinary turrets – these ones are customizable and allow for fun results like nuclear blasts or teleportation.

There was little of the characters or story to go on beyond a bit of banter during the endless fighting, but the series' sense of humor clearly remains intact. What we do know is the game takes us back to Pandora, the frozen tundra where players start their revenge against the Hyperion Corporation, and that with the new classes come new characters. Our Gunzerker, Salvador, for example, is a native of the icy planet, and the cast blends old (Mordecai returns as an NPC) and new (Handsome Jack isn't getting much love in the most recent trailer). Given that the series is more gameplay focused, however, Gearbox also added all kinds of new weapons and other ways to shoot, blow up, electrocute, corrode and otherwise kill your foes. You'll get acid, shields, class mods, grenades and more – a million possible weapons in all, or so says the developer.

Will Borderlands 2 live up to the reputation of its well-loved predecessor? So far, the answer is a most definite yes. If you want a fun, light, gameplay-driven RPG/FPS hybrid with a sense of humour, you may want to seek one of three editions of this title out in mid-September. Preferably with a few friends.

© 2012 2K Games, Gearbox Software. All rights reserved.

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