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Borderlands 2: Double the budget but devoted to its roots

Hands-on Preview of Gearbox's next blockbuster. Plus, an interview with studio boss Randy Pitchford

Randy Pitchford appears conflicted. When it comes to promoting his studio's projects, he's usually a force of nature; a smiley self-made man whose rhetoric lands comfortably between a hard and soft sell. Yet today at the final stretch of a comprehensive Borderlands 2 promotional tour, I get the impression he doesn't want to exercise such talents by taking part in an interview with CVG.

He doesn't say so in definitive terms, but one doesn't have to be a clairvoyant to get a sense that he was disappointed by something we published (this could, of course, be us at fault). In my attempt to chat with him before the interview, and in fact the first five minutes of our discussion, he's standoffish and a tad spiky.

One suspects he'd rather I'd just play the game and write it up. That's not completely unfeasible; Borderlands 2 is a funny and eye-catching oddity that can do all the talking for itself.

To describe the sequel as a check-list of enhancements over the original would be both accurate yet slightly unfair. The nucleus of the first Borderlands has not been tampered; it is still an open(ish)-world FPS with an immense capacity for character customisation. It still appears to work with a slow-burning, almost novel-length reward structure, where a sense of accomplishment is still gradually reinforced late into the campaign.

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Borderlands 2's selling-point isn't the improvements to all its parts, but in fact how these enhanced elements mix together to create an effective overall package. The enemy path-finding and AI is particularly sophisticated for a game where combat is not pushed into corridors but spills across localised zones. Tricky and tactical battles punctuate the serene (and at times visually interesting) journeys across the landscape.
It's not perfect. Pitchford says he's proud of the game's animations, but in the interview over the page I explain my reservations. Face and body motions - at least in this build - are slightly jarring when set against the polish of the overall package. Time will tell whether this is improved upon.

Fortunately by the time I suggest to Mr Pitchford that the game's animation isn't exactly perfect, the tension between us appeared to have passed away, almost as though a subtle, unmentioned truce had taken place between questions. What shines through in the end, true to form, is his passion and unshakable pride for the Borderlands team.

You can read the Q&A for yourself on the next page.

Borderlands 2 is due for release September 18th in the US; September 21st across Europe; on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Developed by Gearbox in Texas. Published by Take-Two label 2K Games.

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