Borderlands 2 Hands-On Preview – Crazier Than a Malfunctioning Claptrap
Written Friday, July 13, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Borderlands 2 is completely mental. Not just Tom Cruise mental though, no. That doesn’t do its batshit craziness the justice it deserves. Think of it more like the Frankenstein’s monster of craziness, with the downright mental bits of Gary Busey, Britney Spears and Mel Gibson all mashed into a sentient being of sorts, forced out into the world to feed on the normality and conformity of modern day life. Seriously. It’s so crazy that if it was a human being, it’d have been locked up faster than Lindsay Lohan after one of her trademark benders.
It’s easy to class anything as crazy in this day and age though, right? At the end of the day, what is normal? I can tell you with absolute certainty that Borderlands 2 is fucking mental. I mean, what other game has you kill a bandit with a slot machine on his back - a slot machine that you can play and win loot from when he’s dead - or has Tiny Tina? Don’t get us started on Tiny Tina… Well, not just yet anyway.
We’ve played so much Borderlands 2 between myself, Lee and Rich recently that we didn’t think we could really tell you anything new about it. Wrong! We’ve only just scratched the surface and after being thrust into one of the game’s rather large town hubs known as Sanctuary, it’s even clearer to see the advancements Gearbox has made in its newly-crowned behemoth of a franchise.
Opting for the level 25 Assassin, Zer0, we ventured forth into the world, starting in Sanctuary. Before we ventured forth though, we had 25 levels worth of skills to unlock. Hells. Yes.
The levelling system is very reminiscent of the first Borderlands in truth, with some skills needing multiple upgrades before you advance further down the tree. Randy Pitchford, Gearbox CEO, recommended we pile all the skills into one tree – Zer0 has three, for instance: cunning, bloodshed and sniping – and that we did. Unlike the original though, Borderlands 2 has what Gearbox calls “game changers” – skills that really make an impact on the battlefield. Zer0 for instance has Critical Ascension, allowing players to stack critical damage; Death Bl0ss0m, allowing players to throw a handful of Kunai (small ninja knives); and Many Mustfall, allowing Zer0 to deploy a holographic decoy. Plus more, maybe. It’s easy to get lost in an orgasm of excitement as you flick from skill tree to skill tree.
Before we saddle up and pony into the depths of Sanctuary, first up, the game’s customisation. Not enough has been said about this new aspect of Gearbox’s FPS action-RPG in truth. Maybe because it’s not incredibly detailed or deep, but it’s a nice addition that adds another string to Borderlands’ bow. Borderlands 2 offers players the chance to add a personal touch to their character by changing their skin – i.e. their outfit, but it seems like it’s more of a colour palette thing – and their head. You’ll be able to find new skins and heads as rare loot or buy them like we did at various vending machines, like the one in Sanctuary. Borderlands 1 players will get a special treat for playing the original as well, but you already knew that.
One of the more interesting additions in Borderlands 2 is the persistent player level system, known only as the Badass Rank. With four unique and completely different character classes to play, it’s only natural that you’re going to want to switch it up every now and then, and rather than starting from scratch, the Badass Rank thankfully gives you something to carry over and give you an edge when you start a new character. This persistent player level rank will give players boosts for things like shield capacity, shield recharge rate, maximum health, elemental effects and so on. It’s a nice incentive for players to mix it up.
Right, onto the meat and two veg of the game then: the gameplay. Our 90 minutes in Pandora was spent mostly in the world’s arctic tundra, laying the groundwork for our main mission: chasing after the “Eridian Warrior,” a powerful character that Handsome Jack seeks to control. After speaking to Lilith and Roland from BL1 in Sanctuary, our job was to seek out Tiny Tina in the arctic tundra and perform a variety of tasks in order to gain her assistance.
When out in the tundra, we’re surrounded by a whole variety of Pandora's hostile fauna and able to fully test out Zer0’s capabilities. Zer0’s power is very reminiscent of Lilith’s Phasewalk from Borderlands 1. Jumping into it, he/she/it can gain field advantage for a powerful attack from a more advantageous position. Armed with a katana sword – and with a hologram ability thanks to our levelling path – we were able to zip in and out, dealing powerful blow after powerful blow on our unsuspecting foes.
Repetition was an issue in Borderlands 1 and while the missions on hand didn’t seem all too complex, they were certainly improved – partly helped by the setting, story and characters that have been woven into the fold. Tiny Tina is the craziest 13-year old you’re ever likely to encounter, maintaining an essence of her youth with her cuddly toys and song singing, but then throwing it in a blender with her sadomasochistic and psychotic attitude. She’s a compelling character.
We spent a vast majority of our time fetching equipment for Tiny Tina, whether it’s Sir Reginald from a Varkid nest, who is actually a tiny Varkid in a jar with a hat on, for her tea party, or Princess Fluffybutt. There’s that element of juvenile and insanity-based humour here that fits in perfectly with the tone of the franchise. Taking on Buzzards – think of them like Halo’s Hornets – alone for parts of one of the missions wasn’t easy, neither was luring out one of the boss psychos – Mr Flesh-Stick – to Tina Tina’s tea party. It was a prime example of a Borderlands 2 mission that's easy to fail. The worst thing is if you fail, Tiny Tina will eat our babies… such a sweet girl!
It’s a good example of Gearbox mixing up the mission content, though it did demonstrate one thing: it’s a co-op game, that much is clear. Not that you can’t play Borderlands 2 alone and you won’t enjoy it, but situations like that call for help and teamwork. Finally, after delivering the people and parts needed for the tea-party – and getting a multi-use rocket launcher as a reward - a rocket launcher that doubles up as a rocket every time you need to reload - it was a matter of fending off three waves of foes before our hands-on was brought to a close. A hands-on that we didn’t want to end, which is always a good sign.
With so many titles slipping into 2013, it’s easy to become disillusioned with the slowly diminishing line-up for fall 2012. Screw all that though. You needn’t care because there’s only one way to really look at it: more time to play Borderlands 2! Of all the games that are out this year, we’ve consumed more Borderlands 2 than any other game, and despite all that, we still want more. More guns. More humour. More co-op. More looting. Did we mention it was crazy? No? Well it is. Seriously.
Borderlands 2 is scheduled for a September 18th and September 21st release in North America and Europe respectively.