Once the bandits are put to rest, we come upon our first boss battle with the Nomad. Adorned in red leather, he resembles a cross between a Tusken Raider from Star Wars and one of Hostel's torturers. Holding up his shield, he reveals a terrified half-naked midget chained to it. Considering the impracticality of maneuvering such defense I'm reminded of what Gearbox creative director Mikey Neumann said when presenting the first Borderlands at E3 a couple years back; "Realism can eat s**t and die." Borderlands 2 appears to be the natural progression of that philosophy.
Shooting the chains releases the midget, who turns on his captor and repeatedly stabs him while we pump the nomad full of lead. During the fight we get to see the Gunzerker's special ability: a dual wielding barrage of bullets.
While it's nice to have variety, neither dual wielding nor extra-power boosts are innovative, but they're fun inclusions nonetheless. More promising is that the Gunzerker can dual-wield any two weapons, including rocket launchers. I almost find myself criticising that being a strong badass shouldn't have any bearing on your firearm's strength, but then I remember what Neumann said about realism and realise I'm over-thinking it.
Crossing through a lush green field, we come upon an outpost at a dam run by Hyperion Corporation. Hyperion was once a mining company but has since changed their focus to creating war machines. Their outpost's technicolour flags and bloody red rafters make this the most colourful post-apocalypse since Enslaved.
Getting to the dam's peak we see an awe-inspiring waterfall on one side and a majestic expanse of plains and a river on the other, with the futuristic metropolis of Hyperion City lingering in the background. "If it looks like you can go there, you can," Gibson emphasises, giving us a tantalising peak at what's to come.
We're now introduced to enemy robots that lack the ability to feel pain, so they behave a lot more aggressively than the organic Neanderthals and creatures we're used to. Even after getting their legs blown off they'll lunge towards you, crawling on the floor before exploding in a shower of sparks.
Eventually, we see Roland from the first game make an appearance. Only something is different about him. For one he seems to be stuck in a blue force field cage atop a giant tank like platform. His robotic base scurries away, destroying everything in its path. As we try to catch up to him we're surrounded by a swarm of robots.
If that weren't bad enough, Hyperion's base on a ghostly afternoon moon starts shooting at us and sending reinforcements. As 30 Rock's Liz Lemon once said while cursing at the moon with Buzz Aldrin, "You dumb moon! Don't you know it's day?"
Borderlands was a proof of concept combining the post-apocalyptic open world of Fallout with co-op first-person shooting of Left 4 Dead and the loot-whoring of Diablo. It simply lost the refinement of some of the shooters it wanted to emulate and its world was a one-trick pony of barren deserts.
Borderlands 2 maintains its predecessor's lowbrow spirit and Gibson himself admits, "we love dumb s**t at Gearbox." Such improvements to the environments, combat, and UI are so promising that this could be Gearbox's smartest rendition of stupid yet.