PAX: Borderlands 2 Preview

Gearbox is rebuilding Pandora better than ever.

Erik Norrisby Erik Norris


Getting the chance to sit in on a Borderlands 2 demo was the highlight of my Saturday. I actually never got to play the original Borderlands, which I’ve come to realize was a critical life failure. I plan to remedy that mistake with Gearbox’s second outing.

The first thing the Gearbox rep told everyone sitting in on the demo was that Gearbox hates when companies simply throw a few new levels on top of the original formula, add a “2” to the end of the title and call it a day. That’s exactly what Gearbox is trying to avoid with Borderlands 2. Everything in the game has been completely rebuilt from the ground up. For starters, Borderlands 2 sports a new user interface, new AI, refined animations, new classes and a new weapons system. We were shown a little bit of everything during our PAX demo. But Gearbox assured us there’s more under the hood that’s remaining a secret for the time being.

The demo picked up about a third of the way through the game’s campaign with the Gearbox employee piloting the experience playing as the new Gunzerker class. This is the same class that we were shown in the game’s debut trailer. The character is a massive, brute dwarf named Salvador who has the ability to duel wield any weapon in the entire game. He also loves fauxhawks.

Apparently, Salvador has been stranded in the middle of a icy tundra by a man named Handsome Jack. Luckily for Salvador, he has a buddy out in the wilderness that he plans to reunite with to help him get his revenge on Jack. The man in question is none other than Roland from the original Borderlands. This actually led the Gearbox rep to announce that all the original characters from the first Borderlands return for Borderlands 2. However, none of them are playable. They are all NPCs in the world environment. The mission at hand was a perfect example of this, as Salvador blew his way through bullymongs, robots, skags, psychos, nomads and one angry midget to free Roland from capture in the hopes that he would return the favor later down the road. Borderlands 2 will also explain what happened to all the original Borderlands characters in the five years between the original game and this sequel.

We also got a sneak peek at another new class to Borderlands 2 — the Siren. The Siren is a female character and her name is Maya. That’s unfortunately all Gearbox would give us. They were keeping very quite about her abilities. Gearbox said she was powerful and left it there for speculation to run wild. Talk about a major cock tease.

Finally, Gearbox showed off a little bit of Borderlands 2’s refined co-op play. One of the biggest complaints logged against the original game was that if your buddy stopped playing for a period of time and you completed a few missions ahead of him, it was really hard to sync your games back up to a point where you were both on the same page again. That’s being fixed for Borderlands 2. How exactly is still a mystery (magic, maybe?), but Gearbox assured us that grouping up with four friends and looting the hell out of Pandora will be a simple process in Borderlands 2 that factors in players coming from different progression points.

And that about wraps up the demo I saw at PAX Prime for Borderlands 2. In a nutshell, I walked away from the experience very impressed. The game looked gorgeous and played smoothly. It also seems as though Gearbox is doing everything in their power to make this sequel more than just the original game with a number added to the title. I can toast to that.

Read more of our PAX Prime 2011 coverage.