PAX 2012: Borderlands 2 Hands-On

Within a small latched off area of the Boston Convention Center, underneath the gaze of a towering, smirking Gunzerker, I picked up a black Xbox controller to demo Borderlands 2. A winding line of hundreds of Borderlands fans peered eagerly into the preview area, patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for hours for a chance to demo the game. With my media pass, I talked to the PR rep and was, within fifteen minutes, holding a black Xbox controller.

I felt like Charlie winning the golden ticket. Sure, I’m not, say, one of the first five demoing Borderlands 2, nor am even one of the first few hundred. But hey, I was getting a chance to get a touch of Borderlands 2. I have no room to brood in angst.

The demo featured the game in two player co-op. Right away, you get either the choice of the Siren or the Gunzerker. As I spent most of my time on Pandora in Borderlands punching in Skag mugs as Brick, the natural choice for me was Salvador the bluing -haired Gunzerker.

For the playthrough, I started off at level 20, with 15 skill points to invest into the ability tree, which is really familiar to the Berserker skill tree. I immediately began pouring points into health regen and health boosts. If I was going to play as the Gunzerker, well then I was going to play the part to the fullest. Salvador was going to get his hands messy with gore.

My companion and I were dropped into a wasteland filled with acidic cesspools, forcing you to watch your step. Gearbox decided to make the simple task of navigating the map a little more difficult for you. In the original game, you’d have a few bandits and skags sprint towards you wherever you tread across the watsteland, but not to an unmanageable extent. Well, Borderlands 2 is bigger, prettier, and a lot harder. New, fly-like enemies are constantly buzzing in your face. Once you’ve swatted away one, another will immediately take its place. As you sprint abot, picking down these flying monsters, sand monsters akin to Mass Effect’s thresher maws (in miniature form, of course) will rise out of the sands, attempting to pull you in to its gaping jaws. To ramp up the challenge even further, Gearbox has done you the favor of making some of them able to electrocute you.

So in between gunning down flies, trying not to be eaten by mini-thresher maws, and picking up the ever important loot, I took a misstep and Salvador accidentally tumbled into a pool of acid. The game immediately let me know that I did a bad thing as my vision was enshrouded in green acid. I ran around, jumping and blindly shooting to avoid enemies, I could hear Salvador roaring into my ears through my headphones. Mm… t’was an unpleasant experience.

From the original to the sequel, things have only improved. The cel-shaded style of Borderlands has been ramped up. No longer is everything the drab browns and grays of the wasteland. Colors are vibrant and pop out, particularly the greens of those deadly acid pits you really want to avoid. Unfortunately, I had only 15 minutes of play time to accommodate for the ridiculous line of people whose trigger fingers were all itching, ready to start blazing away in this revisit to Pandora. However, even with such a brief moment of the game, I’m ready to invest another 100+ hours into the game.

I remember losing sleep to play 14 hours of Borderlands when I first got it and I’m slightly terrified that I’ll attempt the same blood-shot-eyes endeavor whenever I get my hands on the sequel.

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