It's not even out yet, and already we can't get enough of Borderlands 2. Consequently, this is no less than our fifth preview of the game, but our first look at one of the arena battles (think Mad Moxxi, but with less frustration and some XP) and the pre-order Mechromancer class. Both promise to be completely and utterly awesome, but then you probably already knew that. Now but a mere three and a bit weeks or so from release, Borderlands 2 is for all intents and purposes a finished game, but there's still a few things to talk about, as Gearbox amply demonstrates with an introductory presentation before our latest hands-on session.
Initially we're shown the character customisation once again, which enables you to switch heads and skins to make your own bespoke version of each of the game's new characters, from giving Salvador the Gunzerker a beard, to giving Maya the Siren a sexy green barnet. There are loads of options, and you'll be able to unlock more as part of the copious loot you'll hoover up throughout your vault hunting exploits.
Next up we're shown the battle with the formidable Terramorphous the Invincible, an enormous space worm thing that's native to Pandora, and one of Borderlands 2's toughest challenges. The mission title says it all really. It's called “You. Will. Die. (Seriously.)” And die you will. Seriously. Should you not die however, you'll be rewarded with loads of legendary weapons and loot, so if you can get to a high enough rank with your buddies and you're feeling brave, it's worth taking on the challenge. You'll be needing legendary weapons and at least level 50 going in to this if you want to succeed though.
Gearbox then reveals the Mechromancer character, also known as the Roboteer, who commands her faithful floating attack droid, Deathtrap. She's not quite finished yet however, so her outfit has yet to be coloured in (it's currently plain grey, texture mapped and nothing more) and Deathtrap has a tendency to clip through objects. We can still see his murderous potential nonetheless, with his claws brandished and his 'Explosive Clap' making short work of enemies while he's active. Replay incentive? You betcha.
After a briefing of each character and their abilities, we're let loose in Borderlands 2's 'Robot Slaughter Arena', where the bugged out Innuendo Robot signs us up for the action in his base above the arena itself. In this room, there's the usual vending machines where you can stock up on ammo, grenades, health vials, shields and guns, but we decide to stick with our set loadout, which consists of a decent spread of weapons. There's one of those disposable Tediore guns that becomes our weapon of choice due to its corrosive properties (perfect for dispatching robots), a shotgun with an odd scope that's not particularly effective, a chunky sci-fi pistol and a shock elemental light machine gun.
Having played as Salvador, Maya and most recently as Zer0 for our previous hands-on experiences, we opted for Axton this time around, while our co-op buddy (our very own Lee A.) decided that Zer0 was just too cool to pass up. Admittedly, we weren't particularly fond of Roland, the soldier class in the first Borderlands, but Axton is something of a badass, with an upgradable deployable turret that can be transformed into a portable mini-nuke whenever he throws it out onto the battlefield (with enough XP, of course).
Firing up the first round, warning us of “STIFF competition”, the Innuendo Robot sounds the klaxon and waves of Gun Loader robots start zipping into the arena, all guns blazing. Divide and conquer is the proposed strategy, and as the number of enemies starts to accumulate, we decide to hurl out Axton's turret, which we upgraded to double as a mini-nuke as mentioned earlier. It's a fantastic crowd control tool, but its payload of bullets is expended pretty quickly.
Zer0 does his utmost to clear out some of the stragglers using his 'Decepti0n' ability, turning invisible and generating decoy holograms while chaining together some swift katana blade kills, but ultimately, we end up overwhelmed as bandit engineers pour in from the lower levels, plaguing the walkways below. Downed, we fight for our life and manage to gain a second wind only to be immediately downed once again and put out of action.
Respawning in the Innuendo Robot's room, we're helplessly trapped and unable to take the elevator down to return to the arena until the wave is beaten, leaving poor old Zer0 alone to clear up the mess. Offering what little help we can through the gaps in the steel bridge suspended above the arena below, we manage to shoot a few robots into bits and once the wave is completed, we're free to return to the arena for round two. Blasting some more Gun Loader reinforcements into their component parts, we soon accumulate enough XP to earn a badass rank upgrade, which in turn grants a badass token to be spent on small enhancements that are applied to every one of your characters across your account.
These small upgrades include things like a 0.5% increase to your health or something else equally tiny, but these incremental rewards soon add up, building your badass rank to make your character more, well, badass. With a raft of skill tree options alongside the badass ranks, there'll be more RPG with your shooter action for Borderlands 2, and our piss-poor performance aside, we had a blast playing the game once again. And that's despite the torturous memories of Mad Moxxi and its arena battles. Arena fighting is fun again in Borderlands 2! Hooray!
Borderlands 2 will be venturing into the vast wastes of Pandora once more on September 18th in North America and September 21st in Europe.