Borderlands took a lot of people by surprise in 2009. Combining a
first-person shooter and an RPG was a novel idea, but Gearbox Software pulled it
off. The story was a bit lackluster and the game progression didnít always feel
right at times, so there was plenty of room for improvement when the inevitable
sequel eventually came to pass.
Fast-forwarding to 2012, after spending time with Borderlands 2
in a closed-door session, Gearbox seems to have another hit on its hands. While
the general core shooter/RPG idea is still very much intact, the demo I played
incorporated an interesting mission design that was pleasantly challenging and
engaging. If this is a sign of what to expect come in September, then
Borderlands 2 could potentially be an even bigger success.
The demo takes place in Hyperion City, under the command of Handsome Jack, a
not-so-nice guy. After distributing the 20 skill points available, similar to
skill progression in the first Borderlands game, two-person teams set out on a
mission to destroy statues of Handsome Jack in certain parts of the city. The
only way to accomplish this mission is to hack into and then escort a
Constructor bot to each statue spot, and then defend it while it does the dirty
This mission is a lot easier said than done, however. Handsome Jack has an
army of human and robotic soldiers out to stop your rampage of vandalism, and
they mean business. As Borderlands fans would expect, the sequel will provide a
plethora of weapons for players to find, use, and sell for funds. Scope aiming
is a bit more realistic, so targeting that distant enemy for too long will
deteriorate aim. In addition, elemental attacks and weak points for critical
hits return, adding some strategy to the gunplay. My partner and I failed the
mission repeatedly, but it was never frustrating enough where I got angry.
Instead, I happily started again and continued to leave a trail of blood and
broken machinery in my wake. I do wonder if this difficulty will remain in the
final game, however; I can imagine that other players may tire of getting stuck
in the story progression if missions are too hard.
The version of Borderlands 2 played was on PC. The framerate was locked solid
at 60 frames per second, and the visuals looked cleaner while maintaining their
cel-shaded inspiration. Although I had not played the original game in some
time, picking up the controller (yes, a controller) again was very natural and
the controls were responsive. There was a lot more chatter in this demo than I
thought there would be, as Handsome Jack goaded and gradually got angry at you
as you progressed.
With promises of a deeper story, more character classes, and a longer
campaign to go along with the features that made the original game so popular, Borderlands 2 is positioning itself to be one of the this
yearís elite games. Handsome Jack may have won this round, but Iíll be back in
September to even the score.