E3 2012: Borderlands 2 Hands-On Preview
Is it only a refined texture upgrade?
by Nicholas Laborde
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
Few games have the style, character, snarky sense of humor and balls-to-the-wall outlandish craziness that Borderlands did.
To have a successful sequel, Gearbox needed to capitalized on every single aspect that made the original title great… which, in retrospect, was quite a lot of things.
I’m pleased to say that Borderlands 2 improves on everything that made the original great, while introducing a hefty amount of new features and gameplay upgrades.
At the core, though, it’s still the same game. Is it a true step up, or just a refined texture upgrade?
The lovable interplanetary ninja assassin, Claptrap, was guiding us through our objectives along the way.
While much of the story at hand wasn’t let on, we appeared to be on a vendetta against Borderlands 2‘s charismatic new bad guy representing the Hyperion Corporation, Handsome Jack.
A witty, sarcastic, lovably narcissistic guy, Jack was egging us on along the way, with the anger slowly amping up as we continued to deface the signs of his reign across the world of Pandora.
What truly matters in a game like Borderlands 2, though, is the gameplay. From the very first second that you start moving around the world of Pandora, it’s immediately discernible that the game is far more fluid and exponentially more refined.
The demo had us donning the new Gunzerker class, giving us twenty points to allocate into our skill tree before we went into the action. After that, our goal was clear: bring down Handsome Jack’s not-so-handsome statues.
Upon our initial sight of the first statue, Claptrap advised us to boot up a slow-moving machine that would take down the statues for us, and at a far quicker pace. This promptly showed off the enhanced waypoint system in the game.
No longer are we locked in to a rough compass/marker system on the bottom of our screen; now, the green diamonds that show us where to go are directly interfaced on the objects themselves that we need to interact with. You won’t be spending ten minutes looking for a gear any more.
As with everything on Pandora, though, the machine was old, clunky and not that efficient. We then faced the new foes in the game, robotic enemies that are nothing short of a love letter from the Hyperion Corporation.
Troops, walkers, and even carriers will relentlessly attack you and try to ensure your quick demise. Players who do not pay attention will be swiftly and decisively dealt with, especially with the introduction of the carrier vehicle.
It spawns more robotic troops, and until you eliminate it, you’ll continually face more enemies. Since our demo was on the third day of E3, this concept took a while to register for us.
During our prolonged firefights, though, we got to see a subtle improvement in action: the act of picking up ammo. No longer do you have to take time to look at a pile of items, discern which is ammo and hold the interact button.
Now, ammunition automatically gravitates towards the player if they are in close proximity. I didn’t really have time to test out if it works on money, but from what I saw, it currently only applies to ammo.
A third and final feature that I noticed (but didn’t get to sample) was that of a new trading system with your cooperative partners.
No longer do you have to make the magic elves in your backpack toss out everything that you want to give to your partner, eventually having to fight through the pile of weapons to find what you wanted; instead, we now have an actual system of trading weapons and items.
As if on cue, our objective told us to activate “dance subroutines” on a vehicle, which resulted in a large explosion.
Unfortunately, our robotic companion did not have the moves like Jagger.
Visually, the game looks far more stylized than the first, and it allows it to stand out much more.
The best word to describe Borderlands 2 is “refined.” Everything has been delicately improved, and it’ll inevitably suck us all back into the world of Pandora for a second round.
More wub wub!
My only disappointment with the game is that as far as I can recall, there was no dubstep constantly assaulting my ears during our demo. Much to my dismay, Nicholas Capozzoli (one of OXCGN’s other attendees) walked away from our appointment entirely too happy because of this.
I challenge you, Gearbox. Include more wub wub, but creatively. Nick C. must not be placated by any means!
Regardless of your feelings on dubstep, interplanetary ninjas, power-hungry maniacs or dancing robots, Borderlands 2 looks to be shaping up excellently.
This isn’t just a lazy refined texture upgrade that often plagues sequels. It’s a genuine, fresh game.
The year’s definitive co-op title will regain its throne on September 18th on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.
And if you’re a sucker like me, you’ll be shelling out the extra cash for the insane Ultimate Loot Chest Edition, which you’ll likely need to pre-order very soon if you wish to get your hands on one.
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
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