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PAX East 2012: Borderlands 2
by Andrew Testerman

The original Borderlands was a huge surprise back when it released back in 2009, expertly combining twitchy, satisfying FPS action with stick-and-carrot loot collection à la Diablo and Torchlight.

Here in 2012, 2K Games knows that it has a hit on its hands, and gave Borderlands 2 one of the largest booths at this year's PAX East. With so many gamers frothing at the mouths for a one-way ticket back to Pandora, will Borderlands 2 be enough to satiate diehard fans of the first entry whilst still gaining new ones? I went hands-on with the game in an attempt to find out.

Borderlands 2 interview

One of the first things noticeable when firing up Borderlands 2 is how much more polished the game looks. Whilst the original Borderlands' art style was celebrated as unique and colourful, it also sometimes gave characters and items a shallow, flat appearance. I have no such complaint with Borderlands 2; guns, enemies and environmental objects appear much more detailed than before, and the game's sheer graphical prowess practically spills off-screen and onto the carpet.

Of course, more has changed than simply the presentation. Demo players at PAX East were able to choose from two character classes: the Siren, a rogue-like character prominently featured in the first game who specialises in stealth, and the new Gunzerker, an enormous brute of a character who wields two guns at once and regenerates health—I opted for the Gunzerker. Players are given three separate skill trees to fill out with points they gain from levelling up; we received fifteen to start the demo, and I poured mine into anything that would grant larger magazines and faster reload speeds.

And all the fools who lead their foolish lives may find it quite... explosive.

Once we had chosen our class and skill-set, my demo partner and I were dropped into the middle of a toxic swamp, and not so much as five seconds passed before we were swarmed by over-sized killer mosquitoes and large, stomping behemoths made of crystal. Anyone hoping to faceroll through the game with a partner will be in for a rude awakening; teamwork is paramount to avoid being overrun, as well as revive any characters who fall in battle (which happened to me more frequently than I would have liked; thanks Nick!). If you can stick together and unlearn the corridor-shooting tactics taught by games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3, you may yet survive what Borderlands 2 has to offer.

Gearbox is promising a whole slew of new weaponry for Borderlands 2, and the guns I got to try out were all pretty sweet, including a submachine gun that dealt fire damage, a Gatling Gun-style repeated blaster that fired poison rounds and a two-chambered shotgun that turned anything on its business end into a warm pile of goo. Weapon drops in the demo were plentiful, ranging from a scoped, semi-automatic rifle (not terrible helpful against swarms of killer mosquitoes) to a quadruple-barreled shotgun straight out of Bulletstorm (much more effective). Each was satisfying to use, and should be a huge draw for players who exhibit magpie-like tendencies for collecting heavy firearms.


Unfortunately, the demo ended far before I was ready for it to be over, and judging by how blink-and-miss-it my time with the game felt, Borderlands 2 should be just as enjoyable a time-sink as the previous one. Look for Borderlands 2 to strike out for more guns and more glory on 18 September in the US and 21 September in the UK.

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- Andrew Testerman

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