Borderlands 2 is something every gamer, whether they focus on console or PC, should keep an eye on. Chances are, if you're a massive fan of the original, which a large number of people are, you've already sat and watched every video on YouTube, every trailer and interview, which all suggest the game looks very, very promising. But now, having spent an hour with it, we can happily confirm that: Yes, it is brilliant, yes, it does live up to the hype and yes it will take the gaming world by storm.
5th July 2012. Destination: The Carbon Bar, London. Purpose: an hour long hands-on experience with Borderlands 2 and an interview with a highly-regarded member of Gearbox Software. From the moment we entered, it was clear the amount of care, attention and love for this game was high: Posters detailed each of the games main characters hung from the ceiling, trailers played on the bars massive screens and a projector shone the games logo onto the floor. Greeted by members of 2K Games wearing white Borderlands 2 t-shirts, we stood anxiously awaiting our chance to sit and get immersed in the world of Pandora once again.
But we never expected who descended the stairs to introduce us to the game: The one, the only, Randy Pitchford. With a beaming smile, he welcomed us and thanked us all for coming, before delving into some of the games biggest features, but we'll get to that in a moment. After a few moments of staring gormlessly in wonder and amazement at what he was saying, we were unleashed upon the consoles. What an experience awaited us.
Upon starting up Borderlands, we were immediately given the choice of choosing one of the games four classes: Gunzerker, Commander, Siren and Assassin. However, we weren't given the chance of starting from scratch; we were instead given a character already at level 25 and with 20 skill points to spend on whatever we wanted. After choosing the Commander class and ramping up our damage level to full and improving our health slightly, we headed off to Pandora once again.
The first thing that hits you with Borderlands 2 is how great it looks. The cell-shaded graphics engine is back, but it just looks sharper, clearer, brighter and better. The guns, the characters and the world are more detailed. Borderlands 1 looked great but over the years games have gotten visually better. Gearbox have responded to this and have made a title that looks great and is a large step up from what came before. And the cartoony way the game is presented just adds to the overall feel. It genuinely looks incredible.
But when enemies start appearing, the shooting starts to begin and the blood starts flying, it hits you that this is Borderlands. This is the role-playing-shooter-hybrid we know and love; it's the tongue-in-cheek, sometimes vulgar humour we've found ourselves laughing our heads off at and it's as much fun now as it was way back in 2009. But on with what was played.
The mission we were given was one centered around a new character called Tiny Tina, a thirteen year old girl who lives in a cave in the middle of Pandora using bombs to fend off enemies. She needs your help to round up items for her party, namely soft toys and one particularly angry Bandit that just happened to kill her parents.
After defeating countless enemies to get a few of the items, we set to work on luring the Bandit to the cave, where Tiny Tina had a plan in place to trap him. Bodies littering the floor, our target appeared. A grenade to the face got his attention before we turned and ran, staying just a few feet ahead of him so he didn't lose sight of us. Across the bridge (where a second grenade grabbed his attention again) and we soon found ourselves at Tiny Tina's cave.
And as the Bandit ran through the mouth, he was suddenly electrocuted, caught in Tina's master plan. At the centre of the cave sat a wooden table with party balloons and the two guests already there, with a space for the now-captured Bandit, who rose from a hole in the floor strapped to a chair. Tiny Tina then began to skip and dance and sing her way around the table, electrocuting the Bandit every now and then, for nothing but her own entertainment it seemed.
Borderlands 2 was very impressive up until this point but the next five minutes stood out as the highlight of our time with the game. We were then instructed to protect the generator powering the Bandit's shocks to the body from wave after wave of enemies whilst Tina carried on with her party. Countless bad-guys, from small minions to huge shield-wielding brutes, began to come from all directions and madness ensued. We were dropping turrets left, right and centre. We soon ran out of grenades and health was beginning to deplete rapidly, forcing us to crouch near the mouth of the cave and fire concentrated shots on enemies whilst waiting for our health to replenish.
With the final wave down, bodies littering the floor and lots of loot waiting for us to collect, we returned to Tina to gain our reward. She thanked us for our help before handing us a nice new weapon to play around with and some cash to spend. We turned towards the door and just as we were about to carry on exploring a hand tapped us on the shoulder and we were informed our demo had come to an end. Headphones off, controller handed back and a new player already in the chair, we walked away our heads down in disappointment because our time with the game had ended but with enough adrenaline in our veins to keep us excited for the rest of the day.
An hour is a long time in most games but with a title that is the size of Borderlands 2, it's absolutely nothing. There was so much left to explore that we didn't get chance to: A mountain in the distance, a farmyard a few hundred metres away from where we had previously been fighting and other enticing environments just begging to be ransacked for loot and cleared of enemies. Because of precisely this, it's clear that Borderlands 2 is clearly not lacking in the addictive nature that made so many people put so many hours into its predecessor. And we have no doubts that the same will happen for the new release, with it taking up a large percentage of people's lives once it hits stores on September 21st.
Like previously mentioned, before starting the demo we were given a pep-talk by Gearbox's Randy Pitchford who gave us some exciting information regarding the new elements of the game. One thing that stood out for us was something called "Badass Points", rewards which are given to players for completing certain challenges: the harder the challenge the more points they'll receive. However, there's no level cap for "Badass Points", meaning that some players may find themselves having racked up thousands of these things by the time the game has been out a few months. These points can then be used to upgrade guns and the character themselves, but past what simply levelling-up allows them to do; this could lead to players having a character that has a significant percentage of extra health that carries over into other playthroughs. How these directly affect the game remains to be seen but from what we've heard they sound pretty awesome.
So, our overall opinion of Borderlands 2: It looks great and we're saying that from after only an hours' worth of playtime. In fact, it looks pretty darn brilliant and the sixty minutes we clocked up in our preview was a heck-of-a-lot more fun than the first game ever was. The graphics look great, with a considerable amount of more detail on everything (including guns with moving parts; the gun we had had a system of pipes on the side of it sprouting fire whenever we shot bullets from it); the gameplay is fast and addictive and the world seems huge, with a lot to do and explore. Simply put, Borderlands 2 is definitely one to pick up when it hits shelves on September 18th in the US and September 21st in the UK.