The Borderlands 2 hands-on was a perfect example of our E3 experiences. I thought I was booked for a specific time to check out the game (they hadn’t even heard of me), I managed to talk my way into an appointment anyway for an earlier time slot (as all South Africans seem able to do), as well as for XCOM: Enemy Unknown which we hadn’t had an appointment for and then wandered around filching pretzels when no-one was looking. The important thing is that I got the hands-on, which featured a game-show type of level from Borderlands 2 on the Xbox 360, played in co-op with a random British journalist.
Set in a fairly large arena, the wave-based level on show tasked players with defending a hacked robotic unit that was attempting to destroy statues of Handsome Jack, Borderlands 2‘s main villain. Jack himself was providing some of the voice-over, usually chiming in when players were killed or managed to topple one of the statues, and a Claptrap unit offered tips during play. All four classes were playable but we opted for the long-range/melee Hunter for some robotic carnage.
The first thing that was apparent is the ease of play. First-person shooters on the console aren’t known for being as easy to play as their PC counterparts but Borderlands 2 manages to make the transition relatively easy. We were dumped into the game some way in, with a character level of around 25, so it took some time to get to grips with the system. Human and robotic opponents made life difficult but they also pointed towards how gameplay will work.
Simply running and gunning will get players nowhere. Several enemy characters act as boosters for others, so you may have robots repairing or reloading other robots or human engineers keeping mechanical foes in working condition. This will add a tactical element to the game that is hugely helpful in co-op mode should everyone be pulling their weight but the flip-side is that if you ignore the ‘kill me first’ enemies everyone is going to have a bad time.
Co-op play is largely intuitive and even having two Hunters on the field of play allowed for effective backing up of players, especially is one has specced for melee and the other for ranged damage. Multiple classes would probably be more helpful when fulfilling objectives though. Some of the enemy units are massive, requiring sustained, co-ordinated attacks to bring down and those are only possible when there are no enemy support units left to reload the six rocket launchers that gib players with ease. As good as Borderlands 2 looks for the single player mode, co-op promises to be the highlight of the experience if the quality of the game remains constant. Unlike the quality of my playing which leaves a lot of room for improvement.