Borderlands 2 Exclusive Hands-On: Returning to Pandora Never Looked So Good

April 4, 2012


Let me just start by saying, Borderlands was one of my favorite games this generation. The game oozed with character thanks to it’s unique and fresh art style, bazillions of guns, interesting characters and insanely addictive coop. On March 23rd, we were invited to an exclusive hands-on event to test out a pre-alpha build for Borderlands 2. After clocking in a solid amount of time with the sequel’s early build, we don’t just walk out satisfied, but incredibly impressed.

Upon starting up the game, R17 and myself were able to choose from two of the available classes, the new Gunzerker and returning Siren. Being a fan of the Siren class from the original Borderlands, I focused more of my time on that, while R17 focused more of his time as a Gunzerker. From here, we were able to coop two different areas: Wildlife Preserve and Caustic Caverns.

When starting up Wildlife Preserve, we were given an objective to meet up with Mordecai, the Hunter from the first Borderlands title. He was in hiding from the Hyperion Corporation which is being run by Handsome Jack, the game’s main antagonist. The Hyperion Corporation got their hands on Bloodwing, Mordecai’s trusty hawk sidekick and asks if you could infiltrate their base and retrieve him. As you progress through the intricately detailed environments, you’ll reach one of Hyperion’s facilities and notice the main gate is locked shut. Sentry bots known as Loaders are then requested to take care of you, and not in a friendly homecoming way. Mordecai gives you a heads-up that you can’t kill the Loaders and must cripple three of them for reinforcements to come outside the gate, leaving your entrance wide open. It’s interesting because for the first time in the series, there’s a dismemberment system incorporated here. While dismemberment is always a neat addition, there’s a strategic element here. Loaders will utilize multiple resources to try and attack you, even if they’re missing legs and arms. Also, scout bots known as Scavengers will scour the area and reassemble dismembered bots if you don’t take care of them. The Loaders all have certain attack types as well. One in particular had propellers on his arms to deflect any bullets right back at you. Another was essentially a “bulldozer” Loader that had a wicked ram attack that would bring you down in no time. Speaking of going “down”, the “Fight for Your Life” feature is back and brings a much appreciated enhancement. You can now crawl while fighting for your life so if a friend is pinned down and can’t make it to you, you can slowly make your way to them. As we progressed through the level, we came across a familiar enemy, skags. These enemies can still prove to be a challenge if you’re character isn’t up to snuff, especially going against packs or elemental ones.

Look at that sunrise, thanks to the new Day/Night cycle

After spending some time on the Wildlife Preserve, we tackled the dangerous Caustic Caverns. These aren’t just your typical caverns, as we had to worry about tentacle creatures popping out of the ground and traversing through an acidic swamp. As we started, Handsome Jack pops up on the radio, stating how he’s going to ensure we won’t survive. Pushing his banter aside, we were assigned to explore unknown readings at a certain part of the cavern. As we reached that point, a massive organic rock creature simply known as “Blue” pops out of the ground. This was essentially a mini-boss fight in which we had to shoot the crystal rocks on its legs to expose the weak spot. It actually provided for some teamwork in which your partner can distract the creature while you flank it and shoot the back of its legs. It was a pretty clever fight and it’s great to see Gearbox incorporating more strategic fights against enemies. After taking down the behemoth, a massive treasure box that was attached to its back is now reachable. Upon opening it, you weren’t treated to weapons, money or ammo…but rather, risqué photos of Moxxi. Moxxi appears on your headset asking if you could return them to her. However, Marcus then pops on stating how if you give him the photos, he can make a huge profit off of them and you’ll receive a cut. From here, you have to make a decision on who to give the photos to. Unfortunately, the demo ended here and couldn’t let us make a choice. It certainly peaked our curiosity on the decision making moments Borderlands 2 will contain and whether or not it will affect the story in any way.

Dual-Wielding Weapons, meet Blue...Blue, meet Dual-Wielding Weapons

Now, lets talk about the new features the game holds. First off, there is now a secure trading system incorporated into Borderlands 2. If there’s a weapon one of your buddies has that you want and vice versa, you can initiate a secure trade. If you want one of their weapons and they’re not as willing to give it up, you can “duel” for it and the winner will net their reward. It’s a sweet addition and provides some competitive fun against your buddies. The next addition is the fact that you can now actually see your partner accessing their menu, whether they’re upgrading their skills, swapping through their weapons or sorting through their items. In the first Borderlands, you would just see your partner stand there, staring at whatever is in plain sight. Gearbox decided to add a little extra immersion by showcasing this neat element. Skill Trees have also received many more abilities within their three subclasses. In the first game, you had roughly 15 skills that were upgradable. Now, you have more than 30+ skills to upgrade for each class. To make your character even more powerful, there is another ability in the middle of each subclass that then further branches your upgrades. If you spent a great deal of time fully upgrading your character in the first game, you’ll have even more to look forward to in the sequel.

The Siren (known as Maya) will not have the same phasewalking abilities that Lilith had in the first game. Instead, she will have a phaselocking ability in which she can encase enemies in a sphere, paralyzing them in suspended air. This will give players the chance to score some major damage on your enemies. If you gear toward Maya’s “Harmony” skill tree, she’ll act as more of a medic on the team. At one point, she can even shoot “healing bullets” at her allies to get them back up, as opposed to running to revive them. Salvador, the Gunzerker, plays very similar to Brick from the original title in which he’s a complete brute. However, the sweet action that Salvador can utilize is the fact that he can dual-wield any two weapons when using his special ability. Hence “Gunzerker”, Salvador will go nuts dual-wielding guns and you can even take this opportunity to reload all you weapons (including the ones that are out of ammo).

Visually, Borderlands 2 looks astonishing and the crazy part was, the game was only in pre-alpha. This means that these aren’t the final visuals and evidently not the final gameplay mechanics. As I played through the demo, I really looked around to explore the environment. The art direction was simply beautiful and has increased quite a lot from the original. When you see the large moon out in the sky in the Wildlife Preserve, you can’t help but wonder if you’ll go there at some point of the game. It wasn’t just a simple background design. It really seems like an area you’d be able to go to later on in the game. In Caustic Caverns, seeing the light peering through the ceiling was simply breathtaking. It gives you this feeling that regardless of you being in these massive, wide-open caverns that look like an outdoor environment, there’s an outside to where you are. Another amazing addition is the fact that the game has a realtime day and night cycle. This adds even more depth and immersion to the game and certain missions can only be tackled depending on the time of day. The day and night cycle just looks stunning to say in the least. Borderlands had a unique art style and the sequel looks to take it a step further.

Simply put, Borderlands 2 looks and plays astonishingly…and it was only a pre-alpha build. The team told us prior to starting the game that it was still in a very early state and that we’d come across glitches. The funny part was, despite the game only crashing on us once throughout our entire lengthy playthrough, Borderlands 2 already has more polish than games released at launch! Borderlands 2 releases on September 18, 2012 for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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About Glacier928

Marcello is the founder, creator and editor-in-chief of GamersXtreme. His dedication and passion shows as he keeps gamers informed with daily news articles and provides truthful, honest opinions on all gaming related news. Having experience with video game design, as well as over 20 years of gaming under his belt, Marcello has always had a massive interest in the gaming society. Originally, he created GamersXtreme in the style of a magazine back in middle school. Today, he has taken what was created as a basic premise and has evolved it into the site it is today.

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  1. Borderlands 2 Collector’s Editions and Pre-Order Bonus Announced | Gamers XTREME - May 17, 2012

    […] month, we covered an exclusive hands-on for Borderlands 2, as well as an exclusive interview with design producer Randy Varnell. While […]

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