Borderlands 2 Preview: New Guns, New Characters, Same Action
In October of 2009, Gearbox rolled out a brand-new game that had a lot of people talking: Borderlands. It was a smashing success, and has sold over 4 million copies worldwide since release. Ever since the sequel was announced, all of us here at Game Front have been itching to get our hands on it. At PAX East this weekend, we finally got our chance.
Walking up to the Borderlands 2 booth was an exercise in anticipation. Behind a massive group of statues depicting the new characters waited a wall of gaming stations, all of which were running Gearbox’s new shooter. AS quickly as possible, we dove in and starting playing.
The first thing that you’ll notice is that the feel hasn’t changed a bit from Borderlands. Oh, there are a litany of new features and changes (we’ll get to those in a bit), but the game still feels just like the first one, and that’s a great thing. There’s basically no learning curve if you played the first game. If the characters weren’t different, you might not even notice any changes. Well, except the new characters and all those guns.
The first Borderlands had a lot of guns. 17,750,000 to be exact – enough to earn a listing in the Gamer’s Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records 2012 for Most Guns in a Videogame. That record has stood ever since, but it’s about to go down. Borderlands 2 has even more guns than the original, and it’s making them easier for players to identify. Each gun manufacturer’s weapons have a unique look to them – so much so that you can usually identify the manufacturer of a weapon simply by looking at it. Visual cues make distinguishing guns with electrical effects from guns with fire effects a simple task.
Gearbox has also made a number of welcome changes to Borderlands 2′s interface. In addition to the appearance of the weapons, they’ve made your inventory separate your arsenal into classes, so it’s much easier to quickly find the guns you’re looking for among all the ones you plan to sell to fund your reign of terror. There’s also an indicator that your co-op teammates can see that shows that you’re viewing your inventory, so at least they won’t think you dropped when you’re just standing there.
Both of those are great changes, but my favorite new addition is the minimap. No longer will you need to open the full screen map to figure out where the hell you are – now you can just look up at the corner of the screen. Also exciting is a small co-op change: All ammo and money pickups are now shared with the entire party. That means you don’t have to make sure that no one else needs that ammo before you snatch it up. If you ever tried to stockpile ammo during a co-op game, you can appreciate just how awesome this change is.
While the action in Borderlands 2 really doesn’t feel substantially different than in the first game, the enemies definitely seem tougher. The AI is more aggressive, and Gearbox has given them abilities that allow some enemies to buff others. Instead of having one Fire Skag, a whole pack of them could start tossing fire your way. In the demo we played, we fought crystal beasts with large amounts of health, and Fire Threshers that burst through the ground, setting us alight whenever we were nearby.
To help deal with all these new challenges, a few tweaks to player abilities are included as well. Most important among these is the ability to move while incapacitated. This is huge, since it means you might be able to drag yourself to cover and get revived instead of being left to die out in the open. Grenades have been tweaked to have more power and utility, and shields have been given some new powers as well. Still, Pandora is a dangerous place to be wandering around.
I was sufficiently excited about Borderlands 2 before my hands-on time, and now I’m really excited. In the limited time I had with the game, I got the impression that Gearbox has made some very positive changes without messing up the great feel the first game had. Of course, if you didn’t like the feel of the first game, that’s not going to be something you want to hear. Still, if you were a Borderlands fan, you’re likely going to have very little to complain about when Borderlands 2 is released. The only complaint I have at this point is that September 18 is so damn far away.