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Borderlands 2: The First 20 Hours

Our thoughts after playing a sizable chunk of the game. 

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Easily one of the most anticipated new releases of the year, Borderlands 2 is an expansive follow-up to the surprise hit of the same name. Despite being delayed several times, Borderlands 2 has plenty of hype behind it. We’re still working on our final review of the game. However, with nearly 20 hours logged in, here are our strongest impressions so far.
 

This game is beautiful!

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Continuing with the cell-shaded goodness of the first game, Borderlands 2 makes that first title look like a tech demo. Every aspect of the graphics engine has been improved. The enemies are more detailed, the settings are more expansive, the cities are more varied, and the NPCs are more accessorized. This game should be listed alongside Mass Effect 3 and Uncharted 3 as one of the best looking games of this generation.
 

The levels are bigger than before!

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Surprise, surprise. A sequel to an open-world shooter has a bigger level this time. Borderlands 2 not only delivers more real estate; it delivers much more varied stages to explore. It’s not just desert and dystopia this time through. Alien animal refuges, robot factories, and snow-covered mountain-tops are just the beginning. The best part about these gigantic new levels is that they’re not so big that the console struggles to render them or that they are hard to memorize. My Xbox kept pace incredibly well and I never had to hand-draw a map to keep organized. Well done!
 

Laughs abound.

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One of the hallmarks of the first game was a story that revelled in silliness. Characters like Ned and Claptrap made for hilarious NPCs that separated Borderlands from the regular run-of-the-mill shooter. Both of these characters are back and better than ever. Claptrap especially kicks off the game in style, delivering one of the most entertaining missions I’ve ever played. The writing has progressed nicely from the last game, and for the gamers that pay attention to the story, the experience has been ratcheted up a notch! (Spoiler alert: for fans of good narrative, make sure you do not skip the Tiny Tina side quest.)
 

The menus are clearer and smarter.

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The Borderlands series provides a lot of details for the player to process and evaluate. Having to compare each and every weapon to the last one requires plenty of patience, analysis, and clarity. The menu design in Borderlands 2 has made this comparison shopping clearer than before, allowing players less time to have to worry about their weaponry. The true accomplishment here is that the developers haven’t sacrificed the rich data of the previous game. All of the detailed plusses and minuses of each weapon are there. However, the menus have been smartly reformatted to allow quicker access and more clarity while picking weaponry.
 

More complex enemies.

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One of the negatives from the last game was repetitious enemies. There were a select group of enemies to battle, with different weapons and attack types adding some variety to the mix. While Borderlands 2 doesn’t completely change how it presents enemies, the developers have increased the intelligence of the enemies and varied their weak points. For example, the easy second winds of the last game are not so easy this time around. Last time enemies would stay in line with your weapons and earning a second wind wouldn’t be too difficult. Now players have to adjust their aim, following moving targets and really bear down when trying to stay alive. Second winds aren’t impossible to earn, they’re just more rewarding this time around.


So far, these are our first impressions of Borderlands 2. With another 25 hours left to play, there’s much more to explore and experience on Pandora. Look for more coverage and commentary in the days to come!