What We Want To See | Borderlands 2

This week sees the release of Borderlands 2, the much anticipated sequel to the shooter-cum-RPG sleep hit of 2009. After three years in development developer Gearbox are promising a refined & no-less crazy experience right out of the box. So as the days tick away until Friday’s release, we at infinite robots set out what we want to see in this second slice of gun-porn mayhem…

Something Approaching a Story

The first Borderlands took a lot of risks by combining FPS action with RPG levelling. But whilst Gearbox were seamlessly weaving these two genres together, some parts of the game like the narrative were left a little underdone. Despite a cast of cannibals, claptraps, bandits & aliens the story boiled down to some ghostly voice overs and numerous monsters with vaginas for faces. Freudian analysis aside, lead developer Randy Pitchford has promised that building a coherent narrative that develops throughout the game is a key focus this time around.

Can Borderlands 2 overcome the problems of the first game?

Revamped Hit Detection

Borderlands had a lot of guns. And we mean a lot of guns. But for all the shotguns with 4x damage or sniper rifles with a corrosive element there was a ton if issues with hit detection. Single shot weapons like sniper rifles & revolvers weren’t so bad but anything like assault rifles or shotguns felt more like a game of Pandoran roulette Compared to the intricate bullet physics of Halo 3: ODST (released the same year), Borderlands felt in dire need of a physics overhaul. During our hands on preview earlier this year the weapons all felt deadly, precise & more importantly different in Borderlands 2 so the signs are definitely good.

A Little Environmental Variety

To complete the main campaign & most of the side missions Borderlands will usually take around thirty hours to complete (excluding the four DLC packs). And for most of that thirty hours you’ll find yourself gunning around the same kind of environments & dungeons over & over again. If you like junkyards & sand-blasted plains then Borderlands will definitely get your boat swaying, but the for the rest of us it smacked of lazy designs. When we play-tested the game at Rezzed 2012 we shot our way through futuristic cityscapes, dockyards & rolling tundra so expect a greater focus on shifting design styles.

Expect a lot more variety to the foes of Pandora mark 2

A Balanced Mix of Enemy Types

Like bandits? Like midget bandits? Like dog-like lizard things? Like fighting a ton of these things? Well the first Borderlands is definitely for you. Go buy it now? If you like a little more variety to your enemy types then here’s hoping Borderlands 2 steps up to the plate. Whilst something like Halo or Call of Duty use similar enemy types across their campaigns, these missions tend to be linear and timed to keep the action focused & fast-paced. By stripping away that safety net of linearity Borderlands became a huge set of maps littered with various mixes of the same enemy types. It’s a tough problem to overcome but after three years in development here’s hoping Gearbox have found a way to spice things up a bit.

We can’t wait to unleash hell in Pandora once more time…

More of the Same!

Ultimately, for all its niggling flaws Borderlands is still a unique FPS experience. No other shooter combines RPG & shooter elements in a way that transcends the single-player & multiplayer divide. Brink valiantly tried to do the same thing, but even all these years later Borderlands is still an addictive experience solo & with friends. If Borderlands 2 can retain that character & design style we all know from the first game & revitalise it with some new ideas & concepts then we could have a contender for game of the year.

Borderlands 2 is released in Europe for PC, Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3 this Friday. So is Borderlands 2 on your to-do list for 2012? Or is it just not for you? Let us know in the comments below. Keep it infinite!

Furian Fridays | Is Co-Op Really the Future of Multiplayer?

FOR SOMEONE that once swore by a single-player only way of life, I practically fornicate with the many multiplayer modes of my favourite games. Whether I’m playing Halo 3, Modern Warfare 3 or Assassin’s Creed Revelations (to name a few) I can’t help sinking countless hours into death matches, rounds of capture the flag & domination. I’m unashamedly a sheep in the herd when it comes to multiplayer, and it really doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

But of late an odd mix of developers, PR reps & games journalists are hailing the co-operative mode as the truest next transition for multiplayer gaming. But are these modes really the natural next stage for playing with friends/strangers/weirdos online or are they just another fadesque add-on that’s clogging up disk space?

As the quiet summer of 2012 draws to a close & the AAA-heavy Q4 rides ever nearer, myself & a few friends decided to do the usual ‘clear-out-the-to-do-pile’ & ‘catch-up-on-past-games-before-the-next-bad-ass-looking-sequel-comes-out’ frenzy. One game that crept its way into our disk drives during this proverbial clear-out was Gearbox’s 2009 schizophrenic shooter Borderlands. Borderlands can be taken on completely solo, with every boss beaten & level achieved without the assistance of another living soul (if you’re willing to grind like a madman that is). But in a group – more specifically in a group of friends – Borderlands is a completely different experience.

Borderlands has reimagined the co-op experience

The hub world of Pandora becomes less of a threat filled wasteland and more of a mayhem-filled playground as you and your friends barrel around each other’s playthrough carving a path of wanton destruction. The game is also unique in the fact that it escalates difficulty depending on how many players are playing and what level they’re at. It’s a great feature that balances the experience but is it really the be all and end all of online gaming? Whilst I love the oppurtinity to experience online gaming in a different way I’m still going to want to have a game of Team Slayer in Halo 3 or an online fight on Soul Calibur V. The joy of gaming is it’s such a vast playing field that almost every avenue of taste is covered should the mood take you.

It’s also odd that co-operative play has been hailed as something of an inevitable end-state of multiplayer gaming when in fact co-operative play, in its most basic terms, has been part of multiplayer since its inception. Sure, modes like Horde from Gears of War & Firefight from Halo ODST/Halo Reach have created scenarios where human-controlled players take on waves of AI opponent but haven’t anyone played a round of TDM or Capture the Flag? Quake 2, Counter Strike Source, Unreal Tournament; all these titles & more were built on the popularity of working as a team to co-operatively reach a goal. Even Halo is known around the world for its classic ‘Red Vs Blue’ imagery (or perhaps we should thank Rooster Teeth for that?).

To me it seems like a bit of moot point. Team-based multiplayer is as much a part of the multiplayer legacy as any other ingredient, so I hardly think specifically co-operative modes are the future. Developers have noted that these modes are more in vogue as of late & many have created some amazing experiences such as Syndicate & the addictive Borderlands. But the strength of Xbox Live, PSN & PC based online gaming has been built on the popularity of classic multiplayer set ups so don’t expect death matches to expire quite yet.

Dom Reseigh-Lincoln is the Content Editor for infiniterobots.co.uk and can usually be found grumbling behind a laptop or swooping over rooftops with a white hood & a wrist-blade. You can find him keeping the Creed on Twitter @furianreseigh.

Top Five Shooters That Broke the Mould

Top Five Shooters That Broke the Mould

Next month Gearbox’s genre-defying Borderlands franchise returns PC and consoles with Borderlands 2, so to celebrate the second coming of Randy Pitchford’s ‘role-playing shooter’ infinite robots takes a look back at five shooters that pushed the boundaries and rewrote the rules on what it means to be an FPS…

Mirrors Edge

For all its attempts at innovation the first-person-shooter has always had a few limitations that have held it behind whilst other genres have gone mad with innovation and new ideas. In 2008, the Swedish developer of the Battlefield series DICE released a new IP which used gameplay mechanics unheard of for an FPS. Mirrors Edge presented a crisp, bright vision of a future Earth that was a world away from the dark futures of Fallout or Killzone.

And whilst guns were present on the many levels of the game, Mirrors Edge was all about speed, agility and more importantly, platforming. As a courier for rebellious communications in a dystopian society (aren’t they always?), protagonist Faith Connors could leap, slide and sprint her way across rooftops and plazas like a first-person Assassins Creed. By using the shoulder buttons of the 360 & PS3 controllers, DICE threw away you usual ‘aim/fire/grenade/etc’ button layout and instead gave the player full control with sprint, crouch and jump options. Whether traversing a rooftop in search of an elusive way in or escaping the clutches of enemy agents, Faith could slide under pipes, leap over gates and wall jump her way to parkour heaven.

Thief: The Dark Project

In 1998, stealth was all the rage. A year before, Goldeneye 007 had become one of Nintendo’s best-selling and most cherished titles with its mix of intense shoot outs and stealth gameplay whilst in 1998 Hideo Kojima brought the 16-bit franchise Metal Gear to 32-bit life with Metal Gear Solid: Tactical Espionage Action. With Thief: The Dark Project developer Looking Glass Studios looked to take the stealth elements of Rare’s award winning shooter and utilise the greater advances available to PC-based gaming.

Commonly known as a ‘first-person-sneaker’ or ‘sneak-em-up the first Thief game allowed players, through the eyes of protagonist Garrett, to utilise shadows, distractions, poisons and silent kills to traverse the steampunk/Victorian era locales. With the deadly and creative arsenal at his disposal, Garrett was as deadly as the heroes of Wolfenstein 3D or Doom. Thief did a fantastic job of making a first-person action game more of a living, breathing puzzle filled with shadows, enemies and weapons waiting for your mind to link them together. With some of the creative forces behind the Thief series involved, October’s Dishonored is set to become the spiritual comrade to a franchise that has inspired so many titles since it first stalked PCs the world over.

Borderlands

With DICE combining the first-person shooter with platforming mechanics, Gearbox had far grander plans for their own identity crisis shooter Borderlands. For years the RPG was a vast endeavour entrenched in the fantasy of The Elder Scrolls &                 Final Fantasy, a wide world away from the pick-up-and-play foundations of a shooter.  But with Borderlands, Randy Pitchford & co managed to take the traditional levelling system of the RPG and combine it with an open-world filled with a ton of guns, ammo and enemies waiting for a bullet-ridden dust off.

Borderlands was and remains one of the most unique games available on a video game console or PC. It’s a true multiplayer experience that adapts to the strength & number of players, ramping up or dialling down the difficulty to suit your party. And though it may have suffered a little from a lack of variety in its locales it still created an exciting open world that let players decided their own path to first-person-based glory.

Goldeneye 007

If you’re talking about shooters that literally redefined the boundaries of an FPS, most conversations won’t go long without mentioning Rare’s 1997 mega-hit for the N64. Despite being a licensed tie-in released almost two years later than the film it was based on, Goldeneye 64 became another watermark of quality on Nintendo’s 64-bit home console.

Rare embraced the espionage adventures of Agent 007 and introduced the mind-blowing element of stealth in the first-person. The tactics of Doom & Quake to blaze a trail of thunderous death with the Biggest ‘Effin Gun available we’re truly challenged for the first time as Rare introduced the power of sneaking around enemies and the use of silenced weapons. Behold, the silenced PP7!

Mixed together with some of gaming most iconic sound tracks (Facility & Cradle anyone?) and the simple but addictive local multiplayer modes made split-screen ‘pistols-no-oddjob-or-proximity-mines’ a part of our childhood lexicon.

Deus Ex

Few games have as much of a lasting legacy as Deus Ex. Deus Ex wasn’t just a shooter, it was a futuristic canvas that any player could paint a journey through a conspiracy-inspired future world. It’s an almost perfectly balanced mix of the deep narrative associated with RPGs, the violent ballistics of a first-person shooter and the hunteresque importance of stealth. Coming from some of the creative forces behind the Thief series, Deus Ex was unashamedly adult in its violence and is still practically impossible to categorise into one genre.

Deus Ex, like so many games that have copied it since, gave players the option to experience its immersive world any way they wanted. You could play the entire story completely passively without firing a single shot, whilst other players could slay NPCs and enemies alike as long as they were willing to deal with the sheer number of enemies that would swarm on you if you did. With its rich story, consequence based decisions and divisive pathways Deus Ex remains a watermark for gaming excellence.

So what are your favourite shooters with a twist? Whether it’s Bioshock, Fallout 3 or Black let us know in the comments below. Keep it infinite!