Preview: Borderlands 2

Preview: Borderlands 2

by 24 August 2012

It was an exciting time in the Sydney CBD a few days ago. For most people, excitement meant flocking to the city to be a part of the ticker-tape parade welcoming home our Australian Olympic athletes. For me, it was something entirely different: the privilege of meeting CEO and President of Gearbox Software, Randy Pitchford, and getting the chance to preview Borderlands 2.

Shortly after arriving at the Justice & Police Museum, we were greeted by Mr Pitchford and a Borderlands 2 developer named Brent, who had come over with Randy for the preview. Things started with Randy talking about the initial concept behind the original Borderlands, the unexpected success of the first game and what sort of things they wanted to go for with the soon-to-be-released sequel.

He began by discussing the FPS and RPG genres, explaining how the former was all about the “in the moment” rush (but ultimately lacked longevity), and that RPG games were all about developing a character, collecting loot and in-game decision-making. The idea behind Borderlands was to combine the two genres together, creating an FPS shooter that provided gamers with that moment-to-moment adrenaline rush while at the same time allowing them to develop their character, collect loot and make decisions about which skills and abilities to improve along the way.  With Borderlands receiving such positive reception from the international gaming community, he mentioned that with Borderlands 2, they wanted to take what made the first game great and improve upon it all for the sequel. It was then that Randy and Brett began to showcase some of the gameplay and elements of Borderlands 2 itself.

The first part of the presentation involved going through the various characters that people will get to see and play in the game, along with discussing their characteristics and special abilities. For example, we were shown the character of Salvador – whom Randy described as the tank of the group. With a unique skill called “Come At Me Bro,” the player gave the bird to enemies on the battlefield and forced them to focus their attacks on him. Useful when playing in groups, it’s a handy feature that can be used quite tactfully to divert attention away while your partners jump on the offense. Another character we were shown was Zero, an assassin-like individual who’s special ability is the option to create a hologram of himself and go invisible momentarily to surprise your opponent. With each of the four characters having their own unique style of combat along with specific skills you can upgrade as you play, I really began to understand that decision-making process Randy had emphasised earlier.

In addition to the four main characters, Randy also showcased the Mecromancer character (well-known for the “girlfriend mode” controversy that surrounds it) – but what made this particularly interesting was the fact that the character wasn’t finished. Without her body being completely painted or her skill-trees not being populated, it was great to see an example of how DLC and characters are actually created – not just being shown as the final product once it’s all been done.

Another thing we were shown was the range of weaponry available for Borderlands 2 – humorously displayed when Brent was able to make what looked like hundreds of guns simply spawn on the screen with the click of a button! With the original Borderlands featuring over 17 million guns, Randy advised that the sequel would have even more.

We were able to go hands-on near the end of the event thanks to a round or two of Horde-like co-op where we had four players working together to kill waves of enemies. I like the continuation of the cell-shaded graphical style from the original Borderlands, and there’s a lot of fun to be had working with each characters strengths (and the gazillion weapons on offer). I was told before the event that Randy Pitchford was a nice guy, but I’ve honestly never met someone in the industry that was so down-to-earth and passionate about the game he was working on. Many thanks to 2K Games and both Randy and Brent for the presentation of the game and the chance to get some time playing it as well!