Borderlands 2 Preview
Whether the dripfeed of fetch quests feels worth it depends on the reward as much as the escapade, of course - the destination should be worth as much as the journey. Here Borderlands 2 falls over on familiar mistakes however, as the only rewards it seems prepared to offer are dynamically levelled, mostly randomised guns.
That's not unexpected, but the transparency of it disappointing nonetheless.
Now, I'm not saying that this flagrant gun-porn isn't weirdly more-ish and fun on some base level. There are some really fascinating weapons and combinations to uncover. One SMG I found, for example, was discarded like a live grenade when you reloaded - after which an undamaged version would re-materialise in your hand.
What I am saying though is that the idea of collecting these weapons quickly starts to feel banal and boring, even though specific examples might be individually exciting.
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When you first find a rocket launcher which will itself fly off like a rocket
once the last round is spent, that's enough to summon a 'Ha!' of excitement. When you find one ten minutes later that does the exact same thing but has +10 damage? That's not cool; that won't even make you stop and think.
Borderlands 2 feels full of these moments; feels thoughtless and on close examination it can feel like much of Borderlands' content and style exists only to disguise this.
If that's true though, then it's a disguise which works excellently at times. Just when you're starting to flag of constantly picking up slightly
better weapons, there's always an intrusion to break the line of thought before it completes. Tina's petulance titters out of the speakers laden with more deliciously crude anachronisms or you find something you haven't seen before (homing grenades, corrosive bullets, it's all here) and for a while you forget to think how flavourless the underlying system are.
Even in the times when the pacing fails or when you're wondering off the track, there are plenty of distractions. Levelling is now complemented by an secondary uncapped, persistent ranking system called the Bad-Ass Level, while characters can now be more extensively customised too. Moustaches! Hair dye!
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Then, of course, there's the co-operative game too and the split-screen functionality, neither of which we had a chance to experiment with unfortunately but which will doubtlessly extend the long-game.
In fact, it's only when you step away from the game and force yourself to critically assess the experience that you have to face how cynically and flavourless manufactured the world might be underneath all the camouflage. Though at that point it's too late to step away from the game entirely - you've got to have at least one more go, right...
Does Borderlands 2 feel fun? Does it feel worthwhile? The answers to these questions aren't as straightforward as we want them to be and explaining/reconciling that will make it mighty difficult to review the full game, when the time comes. Until then, we'll wait patiently for a chance to get more information.
Borderlands 2 is being developed by Gearbox Interactive and will be published on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 by 2K Games this September.