Borderlands was very much a surprise hit upon its launch in 2009 and to date has managed the impressive feat of selling over 4.5 million copies to date, as well as featuring on many a ‘Best of 2009’ list. Back in August 2011 Borderlands 2 was announced but given the breakout success of the first game, can the sequel possibly live up to its predecessor?
Well, GamingBolt had the privilege of being invited to see for ourselves in the first ever Borderlands 2 hands-on session as well as some brand new screenshots. We were treated some pre-Alpha gameplay, in a level called ‘Wildlife Preserve’, a somewhat misleading name that sounds far more inviting than it proves to be, as well as 2 player co-op.
This time around the character classes have been changed and albeit similar to their predecessors, returning as NPCs, they do provide something different to the series. Gone is Brick, replaced with a ‘Gunzerker’ named Salvador who possesses the ability to dual wield any combination of guns. Naturally, he was our character of choice for the preview as the only thing better than shooting something in the face with one gun, is shooting them in the face with two guns.
Never has a character class ever had a more apt name than this, Salvador makes Tony Montana look like Snufkin, unleashing a fiery lead-storm upon everything in his sight and my word is it delightful to be part of. Much improved is the shooting as the entire process just feels far crisper than the original, a system whose looseness was occasionally a pitfall, this time around a far sturdier system is in place. That isn’t to say that Borderlands’ previous system wasn’t a good one and it’s only with the gift of hindsight I can say this, just the new game feels much cleaner.
The first game was highly praised for its highly stylised -not cel-shaded- look of both the environments and those who inhabit them and the sequel appears to follow this notion to the tee, to say it looks excellent is probably not doing the game justice. The textures all look marvellous to such an extent that one struggles to think where this look can go from here and not a pop-in or a lazy texture in sight.
Another addition to the game’s visual facade is the use of lighting, at one point I found myself being blinded by the glare of the sun, over a hillside and it looked utterly glorious, a welcome change to the all too familiar use of lens flare, even your own gun/s casts a shadow onto themselves.
The user interface has again been upgraded and is now more integrated to the environment, replacing what was essentially a stock pause menu for a Minority Report inspired menu which is viewed by both yourself and your character.
NPC interaction has, like every other feature, again been tweaked and now when moving either into or out of vocal range, NPCs will switch to or from their radio into speech, or vice versa. NPC animation has also seen a change, skags and other nasties appear to strafe more when attacking, rather than charging headlong into a stream of hot metal death, now take evasive action en route to chewing your face off.
Borderlands 2 really feels like it could provide a welcome injection for the franchise and even in its current state, it looks and feels like a rather polished sequel that builds upon the solid foundations of the original to create an even better experience than before.