Last Monday I tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, poured myself a cup of ambition and yawned and stretched to try to come to life. The coffee did not have the desired effect, so I jumped in the shower to get the blood pumping, whilst out on the streets the traffic starts jumping, as folks like me began the nine to five.
Working nine to five, what a way to make a living!
Trying to make it to the end of the day is a bit of a slog sometimes but I have a recommendation to make the day go faster, one all employers should adopt with immediate effect. I propose the following: around 4pm, down tools and spend an hour or two slaughtering beasts in Borderlands 2 whilst being fed Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Rather conveniently that is exactly what I did last Monday, and I can assure it is one of the best ways to end the working day even though I had to refuse the Krispy Kremes on account of being on a diet. I love Krispy Kreme and could quite happily write about them all day, but as I had to admire them from afar I’m going to have to tell you about Borderlands 2 instead.[drop]For my time with the game I chose one the new characters – Salvador the Gunzerker; I always play the ‘tank’ characters in these sort of games. Perhaps if I lay off the Krispy Kremes for a sufficiently long period I can play one of the more lithe participants, but for the moment if there’s a big hulking brute of a character then that is the one I will pick.
The Gunzerker’s special ability is to dual wield weapons and therefore blow stuff up twice as fast. I’m not entirely sure why holding a gun in both hands is considered a special ability though, perhaps GearBox are creating a game for Abu Qatada (little bit o’ politics there, Ben Elton would be proud).
So with my big, stomping character selected it’s time to dive in to the world of Borderlands 2, specifically a large swampy area full of green goo and and insectoid and crystalline enemies. These are the Caustic Caverns, and they certainly live up to their name.
You may have noticed from the trailers that Borderlands 2 is rather more colourful than its predecessor and, combined with the cel-shaded graphics of the original, it’s rather like playing a adult comic. It’s not just the colours that have been adjusted either, the world is far more detailed now and includes some inspired and original enemy designs.
The cave like area I was playing through is home to numerous beasts (rather than humans), all of whom seemed to be a bit miffed that I was trampling through their home. It’s not just me they got annoyed with either, the enemy A.I. has been improved considerably and the wee beasties will attack each other given half the chance.
I witnessed one such attack whilst tactically cowering in a burnt out hut (yes, that is a tactic). A big stompy thing with glowing legs (BSTWGL) wandered into the path of a buzzing fly thing (BFT) and they began to attack each other. A couple of extra BFTs joined the battle, and they had a trick up their insectoid sleeves. One BFT dropped to the ground and cocooned itself. Moments later the gooey and slightly gross cocoon began to pulse and bulge (steady!) before splitting apart to birth… a bigger buzzy fly thing (BBFT)![drop2]By the way, all the beasts have proper names in the game, but I was too busy running about and shooting them in their ugly faces to pay attention. They’re probably called Dave or Cybil though.
Further on in the game I encountered more BSTWGLS who are pretty easy to take out; in traditional gaming fashion you simply have to shoot the glowing parts. Rather more difficult to dispatch are the Little Shop Of Horrors rejects (LSOHR) who appear to be the combination of Audrey from Little Shop Of Horrors and a snake.
The LSOHRs tunnel through the ground and can appear underneath your character, flipping you high in to air. Trying to fight more than a couple of these creatures is a challenge as they have a habit of creeping up and trying to out flank you.
If buzzing, glowing or burrowing enemies aren’t your thing, the game still has something for you. As you’d expect the game will feature plenty of enemies, but there’s one that stands out for me. Although I did not see the character, I have been told there is a large human type enemy who has a small midget with a gun attached to a shield; shoot the midget off the shield and he will turn round and start laying into the big guy as revenge for nailing him up.
The gazzilion gun combinations in the game are supplied by eight different gun manufacturers and I found every single weapon I picked up behaved differently. Yes, it really does seem like there are a gazillion guns, I must have used thirty or forty during the short time I had with the game. One of the guns has a rather neat secondary feature – after emptying the clip you can throw the gun itself and it will explode like a grenade.
Sadly there appears to be no way to create your own weapons, something I felt was missing in the original game, but you will find yourself swapping between weapons very regularly rather than picking up one gun and using it all the time.
In a nice tweak to the combat system, enemies now react differently depending on where your shots land, making it possible to cripple or stun an enemy by targeting their limbs. Who, what and where you shoot can give you a real tactical advantage in a fight.
As you’d expect, the sequel features a number of improvements beyond just the combat system, most notably that ammunition and money dropped by enemies is now collected automatically rather than having to hammer a button to pick everything up.
The UI has also had an overhaul, retaining the three branch skill tree but with a brighter and more colourful interface. Once again the skills all have rather peculiar names which I’m sure are jokes but they flew over my head – Tyrannosaurus Rex Of Love?
Like its predecessor, Borderlands 2 will have a split screen option and Gearbox are also working on making the co-op more balanced. In the original Borderlands you could only play the missions that the co-op leader had available, in the sequel you will be able to play any missions you have not completed even if the host has worked their way through them.
Vehicles (again, absent from the area I played) now seat four players so all of your co-op mates can jump into one buggy. Personally I hated the vehicles in the first game as the steering mechanism was very odd, stay tuned for an forthcoming interview with GearBox to find out if the controls have been changed.
The story is set five years after the events of Borderlands and finds the team up against new character Handsome Jack. He has claimed the wealth of the Vault (which you were hunting for in Borderlands) and now runs the Hyperion Corporation. In other words, he is running Pandora and he’s not happy about you being there.
Handsome Jack wants to exterminate Pandora’s existing colonist population and rules from afar; Pandora’s moon to be exact. His ‘H’ shaped base is visible in the sky during the game, reminding you that Handsome Jack is always watching.
Many fan favourites from Borderlands will return including Roland, Lilith, Brick, and Mordecai, the protagonists of the first game who are now NPCs, but sadly I did not spot any during my play through – not even a single Claptrap.
Borderlands 2 looks like it will deliver everything you require from a sequel – more of the same, just bigger, better and faster, smarter, more colourful and louder.
The game is scheduled for release on 21st September in Europe and the lucky Yanks will get their hands on the game a few days earlier on 18th September.