The throwaway guns of the original Borderlands, which numbered in the hundreds of bazillions, were nothing compared to the fire and forget disposability of the game's sequel. And Borderlands 2's "disposable razor-style" guns from fictional manufacturer Tediore, the Walmart of intergalactic gunmakers, already stand out as one of the game's better features.
Gearbox Software showed off an early version of Borderlands 2 at Gamescom, quickly getting to one of the better weapon innovations in the gun-centric role-playing shooter. Tediore brand guns, as demonstrated by Gearbox's Steve Gibson, are as disposable as clips. Rather than reload, players will simply toss the entire gun. They'll toss it like a grenade at enemies when the clip runs out. They'll do so because those guns behave like grenades, exploding when thrown.
Tediore guns explode whether they're emptied or not. They'll do more damage if players toss 'em with rounds still in the clip. And players will have a new, fully-loaded version of the same gun in their hand a moment after tossing out the old one. A replacement instantly teleports (or is instantly re-constructed) in place of the discarded one.
Guns-as-grenades may be one of the more appealing additions to Borderlands 2, but it's the game's improved user interface that is more welcome. Gearbox has thankfully added a mini-map to the game's HUD. It floats in the upper right corner of the screen, hopefully alleviating the frustration of navigating Borderlands' alien world.
Gearbox has also made other sundry UI improvements, with a cleaner, clearer menu screen that's easier to read and is redesigned with split-screen multiplayer in mind. And speaking of split-screen, players can take their split-screen co-op games online.
But our Borderlands 2 demonstration wasn't simply a PowerPoint presentation touting new UI tweaks. It was all gameplay.
It started in an arctic tundra area of Borderlands 2. We saw the world from the eyes of the Gunzerker, the dual-wielding dwarfish class. That Gunzerker's mission -- "A Dam Fine Rescue" -- tasked him with rescuing an unnamed friend and disposing of the W4R-D3N, which turned out to be a giant prison robot. Gibson explained that our Gunzerker was left for dead in this arctic wasteland by Handsome Jack and was now seeking his revenge.
In this frozen land, we saw the Gunzerker fight Bullymongs, four-armed monsters that threw rocks and ice at the player. Those attacks represent a portion of the AI improvements in Borderlands 2. Enemies now attack differently. They navigate terrain differently. They're smarter about taking cover. And they can be stunned, knocked down and suffer from injury in combat. Gearbox illustrated portions of those improved combat mechanics in another section, when we actually run into the aforementioned W4R-D3N.
We saw the Gunzerker fight the psycho bandits of the original Borderlands and new robotic enemies -- that were launched from a nearby moon, by the way! -- in a long series of gunfights. We saw the new Nomad Torturer enemy, a bad guy who uses a psycho midget bandit as a meat shield, resulting in a very amusing confrontation. We saw at least one character return from the first Borderlands—Roland, the Soldier. Lilith, Mordecai and Brick are all back for Borderlands 2 and part of the storyline, Gibson promised.
That's not all we saw. Gearbox showed new guns from new manufacturers, like Bandit-made weapons that look very DIY. Those guns are bolted together and creatively engineered, with some weapons capable of holding clips with ammo counts in the hundreds. They showed Vladof-made guns, described as "bullet hoses." These had a slow build up, then lead into a steady, mini-gun like stream of fire. (Like "Brap... brap... brap... brap brap brap brapbraprbrap brpbrpbrpbrpbrpbrpbrpbrpbrpbrp!!!")
We were promised new vehicles, trucks that power slide and transport up to four players, rides that more realistically interact with enemies. Skags don't simply burst into bloody paste when hit. And we were promised improved quests, missions that "feel more like adventures, rather than 'go here and fetch five items'," according to Gibson.
Gearbox promised all this and more, all wrapped around a very familiar looking Borderlands package of first-person shooting, tons of looting and the crude humour that endeared us to the original.
Borderlands 2 is coming to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC at some point in 2012.