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Is Throwing Guns Better Than Shooting Guns? Borderlands 2 Lets You Decide

After spending some time playing Borderlands 2, we noticed a few things that you might be interested in knowing about.

One part of Salvador's skill tree lets him regenerate health and reduce damage, making him more resilient and ready to get close.
One part of Salvador's skill tree lets him regenerate health and reduce damage, making him more resilient and ready to get close.

Sometimes you don't really need to know much about a game to know that you're going to play it. Take Borderlands 2, for example. After dumping somewhere between three and four days of time into playing one character in Borderlands and obsessively completing the game multiple times, I'm pretty much guaranteed to be interested in seeing more. Along those lines, Borderlands 2 would have to be a dramatic mess of a game to put me off at this point. And I'm going to just say it right here, now that I've played a little bit of it: Borderlands 2 doesn't appear to be a dramatic mess of a game.

It... actually seems pretty similar to the previous game. It's not a tower defense game now. Or a dating simulator. Actually, there might be some dating sim in there somewhere, I shouldn't make assumptions. We were given the opportunity to play a brief part of the game, which had me playing as Salvador, the "Gunzerker" class while Patrick used Maya, the game's new Siren. And there was no simulation of dating in any of the stuff we played. Oh man, I shouldn't even italicize that, you're just going to think that I'm attempting to insinuate that there's some sort of unannounced dating sim in Borderlands 2. There is no Borderlands 2 dating sim, as far as I know. I wouldn't even want to date any of the characters in the Borderlands universe, since most of them seem to be incredibly unstable. And I've never been one to date cartoon people, to be honest. Does that make me a racist? Crap, OK, maybe I should get back to the matter at hand.

So the characters usable in the Borderlands 2 demo appear to be too busy shooting things in the face to do any serious dating, and their apparent career-mindedness kept them focused on the quest at hand: shooting their way through a menagerie of new creatures and robots while trying to rescue Mordecai's pet, Bloodwing, who has apparently been captured by the game's heavy, Handsome Jack. But I wasn't really there to focus on the story, since it's a pretty brief demo. I was more interested in the shotgun that Salvador was equipped with for the demo, which seemed to fire larger projectiles that seemed like they homed in on targets a little bit. It also ripped just about everything apart, even at a decent distance, making it more fun than even the Tediore-brand weapons, which get tossed out into the field like grenades when you "reload" them. A new version of the same gun quickly appears in your hand after the toss, giving you an explosive reload option that's faster than most other weapons, though tossing guns before their magazine is empty felt like a waste of bullets. More bullets in a magazine makes the explosive effect of the thrown gun more powerful, but it didn't feel like a dramatic difference while I was playing.

The Siren has a new action skill that immobilizes enemies for a bit. Handy.
The Siren has a new action skill that immobilizes enemies for a bit. Handy.

The game will have more of just about everything, though, not just guns. Around eight different types of shields will appear, giving you new effects to play with. A "spiked" shield reciprocates damage to enemies that get close enough to melee attack you, and when that's equipped, your shield meter grows little spikes to give you a constant reminder of how you're currently equipped. There's also at least one new status effect, "slagged," which increases the damage an enemy takes when it activates while also lowering an enemy's resistance to other types of damage. When playing alone, this means you'll need to slag someone then swap to a different weapon to get the most out of it (unless you're dual-wielding with Salvador's action skill), so it's really handy in co-op games.

Relics and class mods will also return, with more types of relics in place that tweak a variety of numbers. The one I found was focused on melee damage, giving me a 5 percent bonus to my melee ability. Class mods sound like they'll behave in a similar fashion as they did in the first game, giving you bonuses to some of the powers that appear on the skill tree.

To deal with all those items (and, potentially, to have a shot at buying more esoteric gear), the developers have implemented a second form of currency. This was the part of the demo where I started hyperventilating a bit, as the past year of games getting all businessrd up made me worry that the next words I would hear would be that this new black market currency was available via microtransactions. But I heard no such thing. The currency used for this secondary market will be found in the game, but it'll be rare.

Didn't see him in the demo, but this Commando's turret looks kind of rad.
Didn't see him in the demo, but this Commando's turret looks kind of rad.

Lastly, the game's challenge system has been revamped, but to what end? Gearbox isn't talking about that right now. But it does have a new look with indicators that pop-up on-screen when you complete challenges. Also, when you finish something up, you earn "badass points." No idea what that gets you. It sounds like they have some additional customization options in the works, too, but again, no details at this time. Maybe you'll use badass points to buy cosmetic items for your guys to differentiate yourself in multiplayer games? No idea.

We were playing the PC version of Borderlands 2, but we were playing with Xbox 360 controllers, so it's hard to say if the menus are better with a mouse and keyboard this time around. But the menus seem fairly similar to the previous game, with the one exception being that it now appears "in-world" as if it's beaming off of a wrist computer or some other projector, sort of like Dead Space. When in a co-op game, other players will see that you're in your menus, though it didn't look like you could actually view the menus on another player's projection.

The original Borderlands wasn't without its own share of issues, and I'm hoping that things like enemy AI--especially for bosses--and overall variety are improved in Borderlands 2. To its credit, Gearbox has said that both of those things are on their list, but it was hard to really get a feel for that during such a brief demo. Is it bad that I'd happily play through another Borderlands game even if those things weren't fixed? I probably shouldn't say that out loud. IF THOSE ISSUES AREN'T FIXED I WILL FILE A CLAIM WITH THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU SO YOU BETTER MAKE IT BETTER THIS TIME OK? There, that's more like it. Either way, I'm looking forward to September over here.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+