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Borderlands 2 Finally Makes Melee Combat Matter


I initially chose the sniper Mordecai in the first Borderlands because he carried a machete-style blade and his character description promised that his special abilities would make using it worthwhile. Unfortunately, when I got into the game proper, I learned that the slow, sluggish single-attack melee was something only to be used if I wanted some variety and knew that the enemy I was fighting could be easily defeated.


The demo I played of Borderlands 2 was the first to feature its cybernetic ninja Zero, who once again had his melee capabilities touted. Naturally, I had to try him out and see how things had changed.


This time, I wasn’t disappointed. At the outset of the demo I was given 20 skill points to allocate into three skill trees, focusing on pistols, melee, or a mix of both. I allocated as many points as possible into increasing the damage of Zero’s sword and movement speed, as well as temporary buffs both as a reward for kills. I wanted Zero to be fast and sharp.


Fortunately, his class ability helped that out quite a bit. Zero creates a hologram of himself that enemies will focus on as he turns invisible for a short while. I quickly earned that invisibility does not mean invincibility: running into bullets turned out to be a very bad idea. Once I had a better handle on Zero’s ability though, I’d alternate between sneaking behind people for amplified damage on my sword strikes and escaping behind cover to recover my depleted shield as my enemies shot at my hologram.


Use of the sword itself was once again set to R3 and limited to one attack, but it’s much faster than it was in the original game. Building Zero for speed and heavy melee damage made it so I could sneak up from behind enemies and do double my typical sword damage, which was augmented even further through the melee buffs of Zero’s hologram skill. Considering that I was doing about 25% of an average enemy’s health per slice from the front, sneaking up on them became downright lethal.


Speaking of enemies, the area I was playing in was called “Opportunity City” and was run by the game’s villain “Handsome Jack,” the president of the Hyperion corporation who wears another man’s face as a mask. Because it’s run by an oppressive narcissist psychopath (littering is punishable by death, and complaining about the rules is a form of verbal littering), nobody lives there outside of the armored engineers and robotic loaders that I cut down. The engineers would occasionally drop turrets and the I thought it was a nice change of pace from the previous game’s devastated wastelands filled with bandits.


Outside of that, the game still felt like Borderlands. The demo gave me a mission revolving around protecting a robotic “overseer” through Opportunity City as it cut down four statues of Handsome Jack’s fictional accomplishments. I had a shotgun that fired grenades, a rocket launcher, a sniper rifle, an assault rifle at my disposal, but surprisingly, I never found any new loot during the mission, just health and grenades. However, as somebody who absolutely loved the first game, the little changes have me very excited to see how the new classes can develop.