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GameSpot has a piece on the Siren and Gunzerker classes:
Both of our characters came pre-played to level 20 and packing one of three different weapon loadouts. We were presented with a handful of skill points waiting to be spent, and doing so gave us the chance to customise our own areas of priorities for expertise. Like in the first game, three skill trees are available, but rather than spend an initial point for your class-specific special ability (Lilith's phasewalk, Brick's berserk, and so on) before drilling down further, this time your first point is spent directly in your tree of choice. The Brawn tree is all about optimising your special attack, with the "come at me bro" skill allowing you to taunt in gunzerker mode to return you to full health. Taunting attracts the current target's hate, making it useful for taking on a group tanking role, or wrestling danger away from another member of your crew. Using it doesn't spell imminent death, however, as activating it also rewards you with a buff that helps mitigate damage--presumably long enough for someone else to throw you a heal, pass on the aggro, or put down the target. Brawn isn't solely about punching things either, and the early tiers also pump up your chance at landing critical strikes, as well as increasing your effectiveness with certain weapon types, such as pistols.
The Rampage tree offers the "keep firing" (Spaceballs reference?) talent that speeds up your rate of fire in line with the speed at which you tap the triggers on the controller. Faster presses result in faster shooting, and when it's used with gunzerking double weapons, you'll chew through bullets at a rate of knots and provide enemies a free session of lead acupuncture in the process. "Inconceivable" and "5 shots of 6" were our standout abilities in the Rampage tree. The former granted a coin toss for each shot fired not to consume a round, while the latter was a maximum 25 percent chance to add an extra round of ammunition to the chamber when blasting away. Used together, they give you a chance to stand your ground and shoot with only minimal concern for running out of bullets. Gearbox devs on hand at the event even told of experiences during testing where players had fired 40-second bursts of chain gun weapons without needing to reload, simply by getting lucky with the perks.
VG247 has both a write-up and some gameplay footage:
Personal preference of weapons combined with varied skill trees allows for some flexible class-customisation, as illustrated by our multiplayer session. A foray into a very wild, wildlife reserve begins me and my co-op partner allocating 20 skill points to customise our characters and despite both choosing to play as the Siren class, it results in two very different character builds. One is more support-based, with a nifty ability that converts the typically negative effect of friendly fire into positive healing, while the other has a more a powerful phaselock – the Siren’s new, combat orientated class power – that inflicts status effects in addition to freezing the enemy in place.
What follows is an entertaining co-op experience, but one that is not without niggles; the most fundamental of which is check-pointing, which is a concept that developers should have well and truly licked by this point.
Graphically the style of the game looks a bit cleaner, more cohesive. We were playing on the PC version of Borderlands 2, so I'm sure this helped with the higher resolution. I also liked how the enemies spawn in differently, whether launched from the space base or burrowing through the ground, it always felt like we were under attack from multiple directions. On the co-op side of things it’s great to finally see a dedicated trade option, as well as the ability to duel for an item if you two players can’t agree who gets what.
I wish we could have seen some of the new vehicle play, or the more open world stuff. We basically were dropped in mission instances, though they were a lot bigger than I remember them being from the first game. The zoo was huge.
Video Game Writers:
Borderlands 2 feels incredibly familiar, and that’s not a bad thing. Weapon navigation is simplified even more and abilities are easy to use, with quick cool down times to keep the fun going. Despite that, I was disappointed to find the pace feeling a little disjointed at times. While the screen is often exploding with action, I often found myself getting bored from long trudges through the open environments, with the slow movement speed not helping. It’s a minor issue, but tight pacing will be key for keeping players invested.
An unexpected advancement from Borderlands 1 is the addition of traps. Granted in the original Borderlands we had those different barrels placed all over the stage that often exploded near me and killed me but in Borderlands 2 you have real, usable traps.
In the beginning of our second stage – a huge level half taken up with an acid lake – we had a bunch of crates to loot. But the fourth crate I opened yielded quite the surprise when one of those goddamned huge cockroaches appeared out of it instead of my expected loot.
This time around the character classes have been changed and albeit similar to their predecessors, returning as NPCs, they do provide something different to the series. Gone is Brick, replaced with a ‘Gunzerker’ named Salvador who possesses the ability to dual wield any combination of guns. Naturally, he was our character of choice for the preview as the only thing better than shooting something in the face with one gun, is shooting them in the face with two guns.
Never has a character class ever had a more apt name than this, Salvador makes Tony Montana look like Snufkin, unleashing a fiery lead-storm upon everything in his sight and my word is it delightful to be part of. Much improved is the shooting as the entire process just feels far crisper than the original, a system whose looseness was occasionally a pitfall, this time around a far sturdier system is in place. That isn’t to say that Borderlands’ previous system wasn’t a good one and it’s only with the gift of hindsight I can say this, just the new game feels much cleaner.
IGN has a write-up and a video preview:
As you quest and kill across the world of Pandora, you level up and earn skill points. Not every skill can be learned by the time you hit the level cap, but you can fill out quite a bit of a class' three skill trees. With the proper upgrades, phaselocking can create an explosion of fire, replenish your health, root other nearby enemies to the ground, give a percent chance another enemy could be phaselocked, revive friendly players, and cause enemies to switch allegiance and fight amongst themselves. One of the end tier skills even adds an extra degree of control to the phaselock, letting you slam an affected enemy into the ground like a bomb, damaging anything nearby.
At times, such as when I kept slogging through the same battles over and over because I didn't think to look across the water, I worried that Gearbox's faith in me may have been misplaced. But two heads proved to be better than one, and in any case I appreciate the opportunity to screw up. Games don't like to let players fail these days, but sometimes you just don't want to be coddled. Borderlands 2 certainly doesn't take the gentle approach; it swarms you with foes, and if you dawdle too long they eventually respawn. You're expected to team up with a friend to work together, and the reappearing monsters are part of a risk-reward balance: Do you press on before the hordes materialize again, or do you risk another fight in return for searching the nooks and crannies of each stage and potentially coming up with some amazing gear?
How does it play? Better as both a shooter and as a role-player. Gunplay in the original could occasionally grow tedious, as enemies soaked up a lot of ammunition before dying, but Borderlands 2's imaginative assortment of weapons are too much of a blast to cycle through to notice as much. Play as the Gunzerker and that cycle is even a superpower - activate Gunzerker mode and hold on to the trigger tight, as your character can unleash every bullet in every one of his weapons without a moment's pause for reloading. Every few minutes, the screen is just a flurry of deadly hands (there's dual-wielding now) and discarded guns tossed left and right.
I faced off against a wide variety of robotic enemies during my demo and their behaviors were among the most sophisticated. One type had propellers for hands and would spin them up in front of him as he advanced on you, returning conventional weapon fire back to sender. Explosives worked well, but if you had a partner, the trick was to have one player hold his attention while the other flanked him and plugged him from the side. Still another, riskier option was to rush him down and bait him into taking a swing out you, allowing you to dodge and get in some potshots while he recovered.
Many of the other robots fell into various states of disrepair as you fought them, losing limbs and weapons as I riddled them with bullets. In some cases, flying repair drones would come to their aid and heal them as they took fire or even bring them back from death once incapacitated, unless of course I vaporized them completely with corrosive damage. Perhaps the coolest moments while fighting these guys came when they're torso would get blown clean off their lower body. They would fight on from the ground, slowly crawling about until they made it back to their torso, at which point they would re-attach themselves and fight on at full capacity again. It's really neat to see such cool behaviors from what amount to the game's “run of the mill” enemies.
Like the original, Borderlands 2 runs at a very fast pace, using great cel-shaded visuals to bring its world to life and barely slowing down during combat. Granted, the version we played was using a high-end Alienware PC model, so we’re not sure how it’ll run on consoles. At the very least, expect a 30 frames per second speed and a whole lot of action. Plus, the new outdoor environments are superb, giving you way more room to run and a lot more variety than the first game. You won’t see too many dusty environments here, but rather lush grass settings (like in the sanctuary) and wicked glowing areas (like the nuclear patch).
Once in the game, we noticed a number of improved visual cues that will make playing, both solo and cooperatively, a more immersive and convenient experience. First, we were instructed to spend our skill points to level up our characters. My comrade went into his inventory and stat menu before me and I noticed a display pop up in front of his character. That’s right. You’ll never need to ask your friends if they are done picking their weapons or leveling up again. You’ll be able to just look at them and know it’s safe to fast-travel.
There’s also a nuclear ravaged valley, where huge armored monsters lurk about and create all sorts of chaos, requiring you to continuously shoot at their armored legs to even invoke any damage. These stages really give you an idea of what Gearbox is putting into the sequel. Both of these environments looked nothing short of amazing, even though they were running on some pretty spiffy Alienware PC tech. The developer assured us that the console version will look just as good, though it’s likely to run at a 30 frame per second speed compared to the smooth 60 frames per second we were treated to in the demo. Not a big deal, really. I’ll be honest, the enemy design is a little more varied this time around. Here, you’ll battle everything from robot walkers with spinning blades (the kind that deflect gunfire, so watch out) to huge worms that come lumbering out of the ground, eager to make a snack out of you if you’re not quick on the trigger finger. And it’s nice to see some old characters return, including Mordecai, who provides you with an assignment while he’s just getting out of his drunken stupor.
The Game Jar:
Starting out in a place called the Wildlife Preservation, I had the chance to try my hand at killing robot-like AI. A voice in my ear (in the game) suggested that the way to continue through a sealed door was to critically injure a set amount of these bots, so they would call for re-enforcements, therefore opening the door. This took a few attempts, as I just kept shooting for my life, but my compadre and I managed it eventually. Making our way through a compound, weird animals, and even weirder versions of said animals (electric, poisonous, fire etc) were let out of their cages, ready to attack us. It was quite a frenzy of gunfire, with people dropping in and out of the 4-person co-op when they wanted, without disrupting the rest of the game. During our stint in the wildlife preserve there were other tasks running in the background, such as collecting certain vials hidden away on desks or on the top of lockers. Eventually we made it through, and we were allowed to try another area.
NowGamer offers an interview with lead artist Kevin Duc:
The original Borderlands often relied a little too heavily on grinding - how will earning XP or levelling up change this base gameplay?
We addressed the grinding in a few different ways, we have lush and exciting enemies to fight and you’ll see a ton of unique behaviours. You shoot guys and they’ll crawl behind cover, but we also have our mission structure, which is new. In the middle of missions you’re going to get updates on how to proceed. You’ll get radio chatter on where the objectives within the objectives are. We’re also introducing different rewards for missions and branching missions.
While GameTrailers is offering two video interviews, one with the title's creative director and the other with producer Matt Charles.