Borderlands 2 Hands-on Preview: Taking Loot Hoarding & Visual Design to the Nth Level

by Bags Hooper on April 6, 2012 · 42 comments

in 2K Games, Sony PS3, Video Game Previews, Xbox 360

The original Borderlands was the cooperative multiplayer experience that Brink wanted to be. It gave gamers a massive number of rewards for slick gunplay. The gameplay captured the loneliness of The Walking Dead mixed in with the offbeat sarcasm of Mad Max. Experience and upgrades seemed limitless in this shooter game with an RPG loot system. If there was one problem, it existed in its limited sharing capabilities. What’s the good of having all the loot in the world if you can’t share it? Don’t answer that.

Sean Reardon, Gearbox Software’s Senior Producer, told us that the first Borderlands game was more of a work in progress. The visual style changed throughout the course of development so that the gameplay of the end product still had relics of its original visual design. While Borderlands 2 promises more of the same great post-apocalyptic, loot hording experience, Reardon said that there was one key difference in its development cycle. “Now that we know what we’re making, now that we’re not going to debate the art style, now that we understand what the play space is supposed to feel like it, how far can we push it?”

gunzerker borderlands 2

Recently, we had the chance to get a few hours of hands-on time with Borderlands 2. And, we played the game the only way it should be played – in cooperative multiplayer. The demo featured two character classes: the Gunzerker and the Siren. The Gunzerker is your brute strength character. His special ability allows him to dual-wield any two weapons. With a near limitless supply of guns and upgrades, this character will be the best bet for an average player to sign on and play with. By upgrading the Gunzerker’s reload time, you can wreak pure havoc on enemies with a nonstop bullet barrage. Reardon stated that the weapons in Borderlands 2 “play more to the visual art style, look and geometry” of the game.

The second character class was the Siren, which offered more tactical combat. Her special ability is the Phase Lock. Although she doesn’t have the same firepower as the Gunzerker, the Siren can suspend enemies in midair, giving her the chance to take them out systematically. If you upgrade the duration of the Phase Lock, you can also set yourself up for some cool strategies. For instance, if you’re running low on health, you can Phase Lock one of your enemies while you focus on the more difficult attackers. If you drop to 0HP, you can then take out the Phase Locked enemy to recoup your energy. The “fight for your life” feature is a carry over from the original Borderlands. Instead of bleeding out or waiting for your partner to revive you, players can shoot down an enemy with their last breaths to regain health.

The demo featured two boards: Wildlife Preserve and Caustic Caverns. The Wildlife Preserve was the more bland board. However, it did have one standout difference. Transformers. That’s right. The Wildlife Preserve focuses on Mech enemies. One is called the Loader. This Mech is basically Scrapper from the Constructicons in the G1 Transformers series. The Mech has a loader for a shield, but then transforms into a front-end loader to mow you down. Another Mech transforms into a jet. The colors on this board were predominantly brown and drab. Reardon thanks Monster Designer Ruben Cabrera for the diverse sci-fi and anime inspired enemy concepts found in the game.

Caustic Caverns is setup similar to the look and feel of a swamp. However, instead of simply having murky waters, this wasteland is filled with lakes of acid. Although the acid lakes seem dangerous, they are filled with rewards. One of the giant acid monsters, called the Crysalisk, has legs covered in gold. Shoot the legs and you’ll get tons of loot drops. Just avoid the actual acid. Because, it’s well… you know… acid. This stage is filled with lots of crisp green colors with hints of orange. Acid bubbles will explode all around you so it’s best to move cautiously through these Caustic Caverns. During our Caustic Caverns mission we uncovered some very scandalous pictures Marcus had of Moxxi. Depending on what you do with the pictures will affect the story.

Reardon told us that Borderlands 2 isn’t based as much in the real world as was its predecessor. He stated that Borderlands 2 would be a “non-brown game,” speaking to the expanded color palette in the environments. Reardon also hinted at a snow level that should be interesting to play through. “This art style looks really beautiful in snow. It looks really beautiful in grass, more lush environments you never saw expressed in Borderlands 1. Really we put our shoulders to the grindstone to see how far we could push it in that direction. And, it comes out looking gorgeous.”

“You’re going to walk or drive some vast distances to get to the next pocket of society. You’re going to see environments that react to you — that take advantage of being an oozy slime pit. You still feel alone, but you don’t feel bored.”

Reardon cited influences of Mad Max and Tombstone in the game as well as The Walking Dead and Tron: Legacy, when it came to audio.

The sound design is of particular note in Borderlands 2. You’ll notice that most of the monsters have their own unique sounds. If you’re wearing headphones, which I was, you’ll definitely cringe at some of the loud shrieking sounds from a few of the high-pitched monsters. Based on the demo, it didn’t have the same depth and diversity between environments as Dead Space 2, but Borderlands 2 made up for it in monster personality.

Borderlands 2 features a new Trade System. You can easily swap loot with your teammates, ranging from just guns for guns to guns and cash for guns. Should your teammate turn down a trade, you can also dual them for it. The duals are very quick. It’s more like whoever lands the first two shots wins so be careful in turning down your teammates trades, however unbalanced they might be.

Another modification to Borderlands is in the vehicles. Reardon mentioned that the development team responded to player reaction to the vehicles in the original game. The two-seater vehicles didn’t give four players the chance to just be passengers and shoot. The new vehicles will have better control and seat four.

Everyone knows that Borderlands was all about the humor, both sarcastic and lowbrow. Reardon said that in the sequel, the team wanted to “double down on that.”

“We added more interesting characters that were able to say more funny things – more opportunities for humor to happen. Hired a beautiful writer, Anthony Burch. He has been an overall godsend to us in terms of dialogue… We’ll all be working for him someday.”

Right now, Borderlands 2 looks like it will be one of the top titles to debut this September. So get ready for one intense Fall release season filled with bullets and nonstop loot.

Preorder Borderlands 2 on Xbox 360

Preorder Borderlands 2 on PS3

Preorder Borderlands 2 on PC

{ 42 comments }

Joshua Swire April 7, 2012 at 12:21 am

Are you an idiot? Brink and borderlands where nothing alike. Brink was the opposite of Call of duty, a good art style, skill over 1 shot deaths, character progression over who has the better gun and genuine good design. Nowhere did it have loot, cell shading, comedy, 4 player co-op, a single player campaign or vehicles. Moron. 

Animalman1424 April 7, 2012 at 2:36 am

borderlands is way better than brink

Guest with an attitude April 10, 2012 at 4:09 am

“Idiot” ?  “Moron” ?  Thanks for perpetuating the myth that all computer gamers are uncivilized jerks with zero social skills.

Guest with an attitude April 10, 2012 at 4:09 am

“Idiot” ?  “Moron” ?  Thanks for perpetuating the myth that all computer gamers are uncivilized jerks with zero social skills.

Chris Mac April 10, 2012 at 5:17 am

Josh I don’t think you read the article properly. He said Borderlands is what Brink wanted to be which is a fair comparison. The Art style was very similar but while the gameplay in Brink fell flat Borderlands really worked. So that would imply BL is better than Brink. I’m not going to point out the real Moron but perhaps it would be worth your while using your brain to process info before firing off and looking like… well an idiot.

Chris April 11, 2012 at 2:48 am

Josh I don’t think you read the article properly. He said Borderlands is what Brink wanted to be which is a fair comparison. The Art style was very similar but while the gameplay in Brink fell flat Borderlands really worked. So that would imply BL is better than Brink. I’m not going to point out the real Moron but perhaps it would be worth your while using your brain to process info before firing off and looking like… well an idiot.

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