PAX East: 2K Software

2K had two major games in its huge booth: “Spec Ops: The Line” and “Borderlands 2”, dominated by a burned out bus and a giant statue of the four new Vault Hunters, respectively. So, how’d the games play?

Borderlands 2

“Borderlands” was a fairly straightforward first-person shooter, and “Borderlands 2” follows in its footsteps. Well, to a degree, anyway.

I enjoyed “Borderlands”, but my big problem with it was pretty much that the RPG stuff was really extraneous in the end; sure, you could use your special powers, but it was rarely absolutely necessary, and the levelling structure was such that once you got through the first couple of missions, or get a decent gun, suddenly you’d be smearing your opponents all over the road. And the way the loot system was designed, getting a decent gun was a matter of when, not if. The power trees didn’t help: I played Mordecai, because I’m a backshooting dirtbag, and I quickly managed to level up a power that bypasses enemy shields completely.

The second game addresses this, a little bit. The feel is much more balanced, although obviously Gearbox is putting its best foot forward, and the abilities are more useful and designed to be used. When I played through, I actually had to think about what I was doing, instead of just lining up a headshot.

The controls also felt tweaked, in a good way. The original game’s controls were solid, but these feel a bit more responsive, lining up shots is slightly easier, if still a challenge. In short, looks solid, plays better, pretty much what we want from a sequel.

Spec Ops: The Line

After dying an undignified death about ten years ago, this franchise has been revived, something that seems to be 2K’s specialty lately (see also: “Duke Nukem Forever”).

Honestly, maybe it should have stayed dead.

It’s not really bad, per se, but…well…there’s nothing here, at least not in the demo they had us play. Supposedly there’s a sandstorm mechanic, and a story inspired by “Heart of Darkness”, but neither of those were really on display. It played pretty much like every other squad-based, third-person shooter on the market. It’ll be interesting to see how fans of the franchise (which hasn’t seen a game since the PlayStation One days) react to this, but something tells me it won’t exactly be greeted with enthusiasm.