E3 2012: Borderlands 2 Hands-On Preview – It's a Mega Machine Mash-Up!
Written Saturday, June 09, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Guns, guns and more guns. Guns are Borderlands' calling card – and there's gajillions of them in Borderlands 2 - but during our hands-on at E3, we get to sample surprisingly very few weapons. That's not because there's less weapons in Borderlands 2. Far from it. We're just so focused on the frenetic shooty action, that we're too busy to be fiddling with weapon swapping. Armed with a loadout of four badass guns including a rocket launcher, sniper rifle, SMG and assault rifle, we're tasked with activating a robot to do our bidding in an environment guarded by lethal bipedal mechs.
Dropped into a co-op game with a pair of level 25 characters, our Borderlands 2 demo commences in Hyperion City, where we're deep in Handsome Jack's territory. Given 20 skill points to assign as we see fit, we choose Zer0 and Axton, and set to work on upgrading Zer0's melee damage, health and his scope zoom level, while our co-op buddy boosts similar skills for Axton.
More than ever, Borderlands 2's three skill trees allow you to tailor a character to your individual play style, with slicker menus and improved presentation. Flipping through the interface is quick and simple. And so too is gathering loot, as items like cash, ammo and health vials that spill from enemies can now be picked up by simply walking over them. No more painstakingly picking up cash that you obviously want.
In a district of Hyperion City called Opportunity, we find the area has been transformed into a plaza devoted to Borderlands 2 antagonist Handsome Jack, with towering bronze statues and painted murals of the egotistical despot. Borderlands' beautifully drawn, sketched art-style remains intact, but in Hyperion City, the sharp lines and bold colours really pop, making it more vibrant and interesting than the majority of Borderlands' relatively muddy environments. It's one of the most distinctive, attractive shooters we've ever seen.
With Opportunity a monument to Handsome Jack, clearly his ego is way out of control. It's high time we pissed him off a bit. Our first objective is to activate an enemy Constructor robot – a floating droid with a high-powered cutting laser – to do our bidding and cut Jack's ego down to size with the aid of Claptrap giving us directions along the way. Handsome Jack has been destroying Claptrap's fellow one-wheeled droid buddies, so he's got a score to settle with the dastardly son-of-a-bitch. We're only too happy to help.
An escort mission of sorts, we need to protect the hacked Constructor while it slices through each of the four statues to bring them toppling to the ground. All while Jack can only look on in disbelief, as he sends in attack robots from his Hyperion moon base, providing a running commentary as we carve through his statues. “I was going to do something different with that statue anyway,” he cries as the last one falls with a clang.
With a variety of different classes of robots to take on, clearly Jack didn't reckon with our shock damage assault rifle and the lethal 'fidly de derrrp', a brilliantly named corrosive rocket launcher. We take down a range of loader bots, each of which are armed to the teeth with various rocket launchers and cannons, but are susceptible to blasts to their limbs. You can quickly dispatch even a 'badass weapons loader' robot with some well-aimed shots to its weapon carrying appendages or hobble it with shots to its legs.
And with Zer0's hologram ability, we're able to summon a decoy to draw fire, turn invisible and quickly nip behind enemies to melee or blast away at their flanks. This is especially effective when Axton – the soldier class – throws out a turret to augment our firepower. However, by the time we've eliminated all four statues, our Constructor has taken some serious punishment, reduced to less than 25% of its health.
Had we kept its health above 50%, we'd have received additional rewards for completing a non-essential secondary objective. With the primary objective successfully completed, Claptrap instructs us to hit the Constructor's dance mode button, which causes it to shake, bounce and explode. “Oh, it exploded. I guess that's kinda like dancing,” Claptrap quips. Normally, you'd be able to head off and turn in your completed objective, then bathe in loads of lovely XP. But the fight's not over yet.
With Handsome Jack's image and ego bruised, he sends a hulking Saturn mech to wipe us out. It looks like Metal Gear Rex and packs some serious firepower, dispensing volleys of rockets our way as we give all we've got right back. We manage to chip its health down to the halfway point after a few second wind fights and an all-out assault, which is where our hands-on session then fades out. We're among a prestigious few to complete the demo, we're told. Nice.
Boasting all of the elements that made the first Borderlands so irresistibly compulsive, Borderlands 2 is every bit the sequel we're hoping for, based upon what we've played so far. Stunning to look at, fast and wonderfully responsive to play, and just as fantastically tongue-in-cheek and humorous as ever, Borderlands 2 is a joy. Hoovering up loot and searching for that next elusive badass weapon for your loadout remains utterly addicting, and despite a relatively short hands-on demo, we're left with a very real impression that Borderlands 2 will be getting its hooks into us all over again.
Borderlands 2 will be providing 96.5% more wub wub when it releases on September 18th in North America and September 21st in Europe.