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Shoot-everything style meets stronger story in 'Borderlands 2'

"Borderlands 2" adds great storyline and characters to the original's "shoot everything" play style.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 'Borderlands 2' improves on original with better story, characters
  • Game picks up five years after original on a Wild West planet
  • Choices of character, weapon can change how game plays
  • Moments of humor soften the carnage

(CNN) -- "Borderlands 2" weaves together a rich, deep storyline with its "shoot everything" mentality to produce an adventure that will immerse you for many, many hours.

The game opens back on Pandora, a planet with a Wild West mentality and penchant for outlaw justice. It begins five years after the ending of "Borderlands" and the opening of the Vault, a location of rumored riches that actually contained a huge alien beast with massive jaws and multiple tentacles.

This time, Pandora is under the control of a man named Handsome Jack, who is mining the planet for a valuable resource in order to open yet another Vault. It's not hard to figure out Jack is the villain -- you begin the game left for dead after being attacked by his henchmen.

One of the main things "Borderlands" may have lacked, "Borderlands 2" has in spades -- a great narrative with interesting characters.

The writing team at Gearbox Software really delved deep into each character, making them unique and giving them purpose. Players can connect with them and that sense of immersion raises the level of "Borderlands 2" from just a simple shooter to something more.

Dialog from the characters helps cement that attachment, as well as providing some comedic moments.

Some of the death screams of enemies are almost "Monty Python-esque" and the humor helps take the edge off all the dying and suffering that goes on around you.

Banter between characters is laugh-out-loud funny. Serious soldiers have lighthearted moments and comedic foils are portrayed in serious moments. The range is what you'd expect from real people, not typical one-dimensional game characters.

Even Handsome Jack, bad guy though he may be, evolves and changes throughout the game. Starting out as a sarcastic, taunting, self-centered jerk, he changes and starts to exhibit other, more caring emotions. But as with most people, you find out what he's really all about in the end. You really are going to hate this guy.

The story progresses through a mission/quest based system. There is the main quest (beat Jack, save the day), but there are numerous side missions that help raise your experience while helping you understand what's going on with Pandora. Interaction with other characters is a must.

Take your time through the missions. See everything there is to see. Talk to anyone you can. It makes the game more enjoyable and you'll discover even more missions. Finishing the game will take hours, so there's no rush to get to the story's climax.

"Borderlands 2," like its predecessor, is all about the loot -- specifically weapons. There are hundreds of different weapon configurations to be found or bought.

Do you keep a pistol because it does acid damage or opt for the shotgun with more power? The choices can be exhausting, but can really be tailored to fit your style of play.

There are boxes containing loot at nearly every turn. Unless you are in open terrain, it's hard not to find one of these boxes around. Players will get overwhelmed by the amount of treasure they find and will, at times, have to leave some behind because they can't carry it all. You'll sell off a lot, but end up spending that money on more ammo or better shields.

And nearly every enemy you kill will drop something. Makes you wonder where that spider-ant is hiding that sniper rifle, but hey, he obviously doesn't need it anymore.

Oh, and outhouses scattered throughout Pandora are real treasure chests. I guess people didn't notice they were dropping their weapons as they were taking care of business.

The customization extends from the armory into the player characters themselves. There are four characters to choose from.

More of an assassin? Zero is your guy. Axton is a commando soldier while Salvador is a "gunzerker" (think crazy guy with two guns). Maya is a Siren, with telepathic/mystical powers. Each playthrough will be unique depending on which skills you choose.

Characters can also be visually customized. Change your character's head or clothes and you can still stand out in a crowd of Zeros.

Graphically, the game looks and plays like "Borderlands." Controls are basically the same with only a few changes. Environments are noticeably different, though, looking sharper and more vibrant than before. There are also barrels full of acid, electricity, explosives and the like on battlefields, so make use of them to take care of large groups of enemies.

For a game as large and deep as "Borderlands 2," there were only a few visual glitches. (Helicopter pilots would remain in mid-air after their choppers were blown to bits. Creatures would get blown into solid rock faces from grenades, not allowing them to be killed but still allowing them to fire at you.)

Want to up the challenge? Add up to three friends and the enemies (and loot) ramp up appropriately. Choose between up to four-player online co-op or (if you want to have your partner next to you) two-player split screen co-op. The game will also support two split-screen co-ops if that's how you want to roll.

It really works best when four people play different classes because each complements the other with their particular skills. Having four assassins would be a bit silly.

"Borderlands 2" took what was fun from "Borderlands" and added interesting characters with a range of emotions, and a deep, telling storyline worth following. You'll laugh, you'll get angry and you are likely to grip your controller a bit tighter as the tension mounts.

All those accolades "Borderlands 2" has received are deserved and well-earned. If you liked "Borderlands," you are going to love "Borderlands 2."

"Borderlands 2" is available now for PCs, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

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