by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on X360
Immortality times two
There are few games in this world that achieve immortality, but there are ways of doing so. Some achieve it by being absolutely open and unpredictable, by making every minute choice result in a completely different game. Others achieve it through the community they form around them or simply by being constantly played and replayed, alone or with friends by your side. Borderlands is one of the games that achieved immortality that way and while Gearbox are not quite done with Borderlands 2, our hands-on time with the game tells us that it will surpass the original.
Characters, strings attached
Before Gearbox handed us the controller, they sat us down to learn about the characters of Borderlands 2. Salvatore, the Gunzerker, can dual-wield any combination of guns from his inventory for a massive output of damage. Maya, the siren, has an ability called “phaselock”. This ability allows her to use the same phase energy as Lilith from the original Borderlands to trap her enemies in a bubble and lift them out of combat. This should be great for targeting a specific enemy or taking a particularly troublesome one out of play for a while. Chaining some of her more advanced abilities together will make her a effective combatant, despite her somewhat healer-esque base. Zer0 is an assassin who can make a decoy copy of himself to distract his enemies and instantly become invisible himself for a few seconds. He is fantastic at position dependant attacks such as perfectly aligned sniper shots or quick melee attacks from behind. Axton, the commander, has a turret he can throw down, after which it will auto-deploy. At higher levels, he'll be able to deploy two of them, or create a nuclear explosion when it hits. This, coupled with his ability to reclaim the turrets, will allow Axton to chain together nuclear attacks, undoubtedly pissing off the local environmental agencies to no end.
The last of the bunch, the recently announced Mechromancer, will not be available upon release but will appear in a DLC package for pre-order buyers. This class is still being developed, but will be somewhat of a noob class. The Mechromancer will have the ability to summon a melee-fighting robot called Deathtrap, as well an ability to damage enemies through ricochet, effectively allowing her to spray everywhere around her target and still see the damage counter going. A handy ability when charging a group of enemies with a shotgun. If you have a significant other who is not what you would call a “Gamer” but will occasionally join in should be sure to buy this pack as this class appears designed to be easily playable by anyone.
With the presentation out of the way, we were lead into a darkened room where we teamed up with others to become co-op partners. I ended up playing with a French journalist, who, as we couldn't communicate with one another, chose the exact same character as me; Salvatore.
I was delighted to see how little Gearbox have really changed. The game plays and feels pretty much exactly as Borderlands did. It always bothers me, though, that developers insist on showing their games on consoles. Games always look better on a PC. It may have been for that reason that the game looked a bit more cel-shaded than its predecessor, but as I played that on PC, the comparison may be skewed.
As we made our way into the robot arena – something of a survival arena - the humour of the game struck me. I was going into an arena to fight robots in order to be able to fix a robot whose malfunction made him constantly blurt out sexual innuendo. When we got to fighting, however, the game was all action. If it hadn't been for my co-op partner, who managed to convince me that French people are not getting any better at the whole violence thing, we would have mopped the floor with our enemies' empty husks. Oh, well. At least my worries that Gearbox might change the game to the worse were quelled.
A winning team unchanged
Borderlands 2 looks and feels like its (now) classic predecessor. There are more guns, new and more diverse classes, and fresh enemies to kill. The staggering success of Borderlands leaves no doubt in my mind that this game will be at least as successful, but probably even more. If you liked Borderlands, or always wanted to try but never did, you'll have to get Borderlands 2. Few games out there do co-op like Borderlands does co-op.