Sneak peek of ‘Borderlands 2’ shows promise

Courtesy of Gearbox Software<br>
Courtesy of Gearbox Software

 The folks at 2K Games recently gave me a peek inside Pandora’s box, and I liked what I saw.

This fall, gamers will be able to return to the planet Pandora with the first-person shooter “Borderlands 2.” Earlier this month, I got a preview of the game’s new characters, weapons and gameplay.

The original “Borderlands” was known for four-player cooperative adventures, an immense assortment of weapons and a wild cast of characters. Each of these elements will return with a vengeance in the game developed by Gearbox Software.

Players will be able to choose among four characters: a gunzerker who can wield two weapons at once; a new style of Siren who can use her Phaselock power to temporarily subdue enemies; a blade-toting assassin; and a standard-issue commando. Gamers who were attached to the characters in the original game shouldn’t worry; they’ll pop up as non-playable characters in the story.

In the demonstration, I had the choice of playing as Salvador the squat gunzerker or Maya the lithe siren. I opted for the brute.

The gameplay was fast-paced and exciting. The mission I played offered a well-designed map packed with all sorts of fierce critters and robots. Of course I died a lot — which was OK, since one of the many tweaks involves the ability to heal teammates from a distance.

As before, a battle leaves the landscape littered with loot — primarily weapons, ammo, cash and power-ups. Once again, the weapons are the real treats, offering a wide variety of styles and bonus features. This time around, the guns seem a little more futuristic but they’re still as deadly to your digital foes.

Although I wasn’t able to test it, developers said co-op play has been improved by making it easier to sync up with other players when you join a game in progress. One of the few disappointing things about the original “Borderlands” was the fact that playing with a friend often left someone on the short end of the stick — gaining little experience or being shut out of an objective. If developers have fixed this issue, the game should be even more enjoyable for all.

The game uses the same graphic style as the original, a sort of cell-shaded effect that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into an edgy graphic novel.

“Borderlands 2” is scheduled for a September release on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Online: borderlands2.com

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About the Authors

Brian Bowers is Stars and Stripes’ Assistant Managing Editor for Europe and Mideast and one of its video game reviewers. He joined the newspaper in 1992 in Germany, where he worked on the news desk and the city desk. He has a wife and three children, who are always eager to help him test games.

Sam Laney joined Stars and Stripes in 2007 as a copy/layout editor and slowly convinced upper management to support his video game habit. Since then, he’s added game reviews and previews to his list of duties and moved on to the iPad. When he’s not rocking newbies in “Left4Dead2,” he covers PC and Nintendo systems.

Michael S. Darnell joined Stars and Stripes in 2013 as a reporter and quickly annoyed his bosses into allowing him to write about video games in his spare time. He's a PC gamer at heart whose life goals include building the first gaming PC on Mars.