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IGN today reported that Borderlands 2's level cap, currently at 50, will rise sometime in the first three months of next year.
It's not going to come with Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, announced and previewed today. 2K Games told IGN that Gearbox Software still is considering whether to do it as part of a DLC extension or as a separate download.
The studio did both in the original Borderlands in 2010, raising the cap from 50 to 61 with The Secret Armory of General Knoxx and then raising it to 69 with a free update.
Additionally, 2K is said to be thrilled with Borderlands 2's sales performance, and is envisioning a second "season" of DLC after this one concludes. Big Game Hunt will be the third of four promised extensions.
[Editor's note: Below follows our impressions of Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, which releases today. I played the add-on content roughly a month ago, finishing all the main quests and a handful of side quests. This article has also been updated with the new launch trailer.]
We're up to our third campaign add-on for September's wonderfully colorful and gun-filled Borderlands 2. Like the previous two DLCs that focused on one personality—Captain Scarlett followed by Mr. Torgue—Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt leads you into various dangers thanks to one well-articulated individual: Sir Hammerlock.
What was meant to be your weekend shootout expedition with Hammerlock gets sidetracked by Hyperion's Professor Nakayama. See, he was a huge Handsome Jack supporter, and not too keen on the vault hunter(s) who defeated him. So before you can go hunt this new continent's biggest game, you'll have to stop the latest psycho Borderlands has introduced you to.
I've played a good chunk of Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, so I thought I'd share a few details before the newest content releases to the public. Here are some noteworthy highlights.
If you've already completed Borderlands 2's main game, the last two campaign DLCs might have felt like a breeze. They certainly did for me. But Gearbox took notice, and made Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt a hell of a lot tougher. It'll be an actual challenge to fight through mobs of enemies. In fact, you'll have to be at least level 30 just to tackle the thing.
The more appropriate difficulty scale is partly to do with new enemies, specifically one new enemy type. In Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, you'll be exploring a new continent—called Aegrus—full of mountains and swamps. But Aegrus doesn't just bring a new aesthetic appeal; it's riddled with new enemies, too.
The swampy greens and mountainous browns are overrun by savages. Savages are basically like bandits. They look like headdressed, tattooed, spear-and-shield-equipped bandits. They even evolve like bandits do when you don't kill them fast enough. Midgets still jump up behind you while squealing in that adorably terrifying way. You know the one.
But these tribes of savages doesn't behave exactly like bandits do. Because they've got a chief. Chiefs can heal their friends, themselves, and send out powerful attacks (fire or slag, for instance) to slash at your health bar.
Giving one enemy type this much power means one important difference for you: you'll have to focus all of your gunfire on this target first, unless you want to unload your clip into a bandit-style savage only to see his health bar reset thanks to these pesky witchdoctor-types. They'll buff their friends while debuffing you, which results in nasty effects like slowing you down.
Then there are big, flying things called Spores. They hover above you, dropping mini, kamikaze versions of themselves onto your head. Scaylions are Varkid-like, bug creatures. Together these new enemies make up what feels like a fresh Borderlands experience.
I really wish I could tell you the new vehicle is the two-seater motorbike we saw in Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage. And I really wish I didn't have to tell you that the actual new vehicle is a fanboat. The fanboat is all too similar to the sand skiff we saw in Captain Scarlett and Pirate's Booty. Sure, it maneuvers seamlessly between all possible directions within the 360 degree span quite a bit smoother than the sand skiff. And sure, its got a flamethrower and a corrosive acid launcher. But it still controls quite a bit like the sand skiff.
Oh, and there are lots of customization skins for the fanboat that enemies will drop.
Voracidous is the name of the seraph guardian raid boss that will be the cause of your furrowed eyebrows when you get your hands on Big Game Hunt next month. He's a Stalker, but, fitting with the theme, you'll have to fend off against the Chief that controls him, too. Which, as you can imagine, means there will be other groups of enemies you'll have to deal with.
Then there's Dexidous who will be the cause of one very long, sleepless night fighting through wave after wave of enemies. This "rare" creature will only be summoned after you supply various totems across Aegrus with a hefty ton of precious Eridium. Kill this Drifter and you can pick up Hammerlock-themed (aka hunting-themed) weapons.
Hammerlock/hunting-themed weaponry aside, I found a ton of new weapons to replace my previous favorites. I get attached to my guns, even in a game like Borderlands that encourages you to constantly swap them out for new, shiny ones. But it's hard to argue with the insanely powerful pistols and assault rifles this new DLC throws at you. Did I mention these insanely powerful weapons are also insanely plentiful? By the end of Big Game Hunt, you'll have opened many, many loot chests. More than your feeble little backpack can handle.
Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt releases on January 15. It's covered in the Season Pass, or will be available individually for $9.99.
Borderlands 2 is funny, smart, and gorgeous. The controls are tight, hooking up with other players is a dream, and the PC port is one of the best I've ever seen. The Torgue campaign is hilarious and memorable, just like previous campaigns. It seems like the game's hitting all the right buttons.
My cursor hovers over the Borderlands 2 launcher, the word "Play" enticing me, but, for some reason, I glance at my desktop computer, wishing the hard drive hadn't started death-clicking on me. My Xbox 360, sitting on the shelf above, stares at me forlornly, begging me to return to Assassin's Creed's Constantinople.
I've got to play this, right? Most of my games are sitting on a hard drive I can't afford to replace, and I'm always in the mood for a shooter, so what's stopping me? Why do I feel like I'm obligated to play Gearbox's latest endeavor when I should be looking forward to the experience?
I've been struggling with Borderlands 2 for weeks.
At first, I thought that I might be in some sort of gaming funk. The past few weeks have been extraordinarily stressful for numerous reasons, and I haven't been able to take a break to deal with outstanding health concerns, which is generally the recipe for this kind of malaise. However, if that were true, and this was a funk, I wouldn't have spent two hours the other day playing Assassin's Creed Revelations, nor a few hours earlier in the week playing FTL. I'm enjoying games just fine—it's Borderlands 2 that seems to be the issue.
Humor isn't doing it for me today, and it hasn't been for a few weeks now, though the jokes themselves are often hilarious. Even a month ago, when I was nearing the end of Borderlands 2's Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty DLC, the humor wasn't doing it for me. I'd sigh at yet another hilarious quest prompt, roll my eyes at the latest joke, no matter how funny, and dutifully head off to shoot more pirates.
Actually, I think that might be where the problem lies.
Ask anyone what a Borderlands game is about, and they'll tell you "guns." They'd be wrong. A Borderlands game is no more about the weapons it uses than any other game in its genre. See, while the two main games in the series are played in a first-person perspective, they borrow as much, if not more, from games like Diablo and Torchlight.
Borderlands isn't about guns, it's about loot. And that's a big problem. As I expressed earlier, in Stephen Totilo's wonderful piece on why we like to shoot, the first person perspective can be an incredible one if the game uses it to its strengths. If a shooter treats the game space like as if it's real, players are in for a diverse, intelligent experience.
Borderlands doesn't really do that.
If anything, the game's quite simplistic. The enemy will see you, enter a combat state, and shoot or melee the user. Sometimes, they will take cover, but that's about as far as their intelligence goes. With Borderlands, you don't do much more than point at guys and make the red bars get smaller, which means, to paraphrase the classic GamePro advice, shooting them until they die. Most good shooters go beyond that. In FEAR, they call in reinforcements, flip over tables to create cover, distract you to allow their friends to flank, and it all feels right. In Halo, an Elite will make use of his grunts, turning them into meat shields when his shields pop. In Far Cry 2, putting a sniper round through a mercenary's kneecap will inevitably result in his allies coming to check on him.
These games treat their world as real and their inhabitants more so. They make use of the first-person perspective, of that idea of immersing the player within a world, and they take it as far as they can. Borderlands 2, on the other hand, treats its enemies in distinctly different terms. Its enemies are mobs to be aggroed while you blast them with AOE attacks and whatnot. They're not treated like people inhabiting a space; they're treated like concepts with legs, bipedal ideas given malicious form.
Shoot shoot, bang bang, visual effects. On to the next guy.
A good shooter should feel like a stew of sensory data, feedback, use of space, and artificial intelligence. Everything should fit together in a way that feels right—in a way that somewhat emulates actually being in a space, because that's really what first-person games are all about. It's not just a camera perspective, it's a way of creating a mindset. When a game's too gamified to matter, players feel a disconnect between purpose and place.
Of course, Gearbox could improve the AI, feedback, and level design, but that might not fix everything. The guns, for instance, are random. With any melee game, particularly an isometric title, like Diablo III, varying stats don't really matter all that much. They tend to determine how many numbers pop up when you click on a guy, and little more. With shooters, things are a bit more complex.
The best shooters not only treat space like it's real, but encourage players to explore that game space, thinking about where cover is, where enemies are, where gunfire is going, where their gunfire is going, how to game enemies into different space, and so on and so forth. Any first-person game is at its best when its focusing on movement just as much, if not more so, than combat. That games like Halo, Dishonored, and Mirror's Edge have an appeal is ample evidence of the importance of motion.
In a shooter, one of the best ways to facilitate and vary player movement is to arm the player in different ways. A combination of Halo's Needler and Shotgun will facilitate a distinctly different kind of movement through the game space than a loadout with the DMR and plasma rifle. With a Needler, players can utilize the age-old tactic of "spray and pray," focusing more on movement rather than accuracy, allowing the player to dodge enemy fire and get up close, finishing off stragglers with the shotgun. A player carrying a DMR and plasma rifle might use the latter to pop an Elite's shields, then swap to the DMR and finish it off with a headshot. Other factors, like AI, use of grenades, and line of sight will affect motion as well, but the guns, above everything else, affects the way the player navigates the game's space.
Borderlands doesn't really pay much attention to its guns, because of its devotion to a Diablo-esque combat system. It's too busy thinking about crits and elemental damage to focus on gunplay, so generally, there's very little intelligence required of the player. Just pick the right "build" of weapons (use acid weapons on just about everything), get into cover when your health bar is low, and just point at guys and click on them.
Nothing to it.
And that, I think, is the problem.
I want more out of a shooter, whether it's to toy with the AI and maps, as in Dishonored or Crysis, or to focus on the right weapon combinations and moment-to-moment movements, like Halo or FEAR. I want to have fun playing a shooter, and honestly, I think Borderlands is missing all the core details that make shooters good. The game's at its best when I'm playing with my friends, and given how hectic my schedule has been the past few weeks, that's been next to impossible.
So, here I am, sitting at my computer, finger ready, yet somehow restrained. Borderlands 2, as gorgeous, outrageously funny, and beautifully made as it is, just isn't doing it for me. I sigh, again, ready to click... when I realize I don't have to play it if I don't really want to. I'm not entirely out of love with Borderlands 2. It's pretty much the perfect online co-op game, after all. But for now, I think I'm done riding solo. So, instead, I grin, clicking FTL: Faster Than Light, and prepare to get killed by space pirates.
Rick Burford's childhood discovery that he could modify Microsoft Flight Simulator to allow behaviors the programmers hadn't intended spawned a life-long fascination with video games and their development. Now, he writes about video games and occasionally dabbles with making his own. His Twitter handle is @ForgetAmnesia.
The folks at Gearbox are rarely slackers when it comes to downloadable content, and so far Borderlands 2 has mostly borne that out. We've known for a little bit that the next batch of DLC will be called "Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt" but beyond that, details have been scarce.
Reddit user MikeTheInfidel has dug deep into the latest update to Borderlands 2 to uncover what looks like a list of features from the "Hammerlock" DLC, including a whole new continent, new vehicle, and of course, new loot.
From the DLC description he uncovered:
Danger! Excitement! Mustaches! It's time for another episode of Vault Hunter Adventures, featuring Sir Hammerlock! In this week's tale, our hard-boiled heroes travel to the savage continent of Aegrus! Their goal? To uncover the most exotic creatures Pandora has to offer, and give 'em the old one-two!
That's a lot! Of exclamation! Marks!
MikeTheInfidel describes Aegrus as a "swamp/jungle continent," which sounds cool (I did enjoy the more tropical feel of some of the areas in the Captain Scarlett DLC), and says it will consist of 5 main story missions and 12 side missions, many of which doled out by Hammerlock himself.
Sounds good. I haven't had a chance to play any Borderlands 2 for a good while now, but it just might be time to head back in. For more info, check out MikeTheInfidel's full Reddit post.
Remember back in September when Borderlands 2 players were experiencing a reset in their Badass ranks?
Well Gearbox finally released a chunky 360 patch to fix that, and many, many other issues. Your Badass tokens will be reissued to be spent as you choose.
A notable addition that comes with this patch is the ability to reset challenges (not tokens). Tokens earned from those challenges will still be retained, but you can get extras for a higher badass rank. The specifics:
Players can now reset all challenge progress for a character once they've completed 85% of all non-DLC, non-area-specific challenge levels. This will keep the player's current challenge bonuses and rank, but reset all challenge progress to 0 and allow challenges to be re-completed for additional ranks and bonuses. This option will appear as a tooltip at the bottom of the "challenges" screen within the status menu if the player has met the criteria.
G4 is also reporting that the patch landed them 10 shiny Golden Keys. This could be a gift in return for the glitch's hassles, or it could just be a coincidence. Let us know what you're experiencing.