2K Games and Gearbox Software have confirmed Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It's due out autumn 2014.
The next game in Gearbox's loot-obsessed, RPG shooter series, which was revealed earlier this week via a leak, is a standalone experience set between Borderlands 1 and Borderlands 2. It takes place on the moon and the Hyperion space station that orbit the planet of Pandora, and tells the story of the rise to power of Borderlands 2 villain Handsome Jack.
You play one of four new characters who work for Handsome Jack before he becomes CEO of Hyperion. The characters are Athena The Gladiator, who was a Crimson assassin from The Secret Armory of General Knoxx expansion to Borderlands 1; Wilhelm The Enforcer, who was the first big boss encounter in Borderlands 2; Nisha The Lawbringer, known as The Sheriff of Lynchwood in Borderlands 2; and finally, you get to play as Claptrap the Fragtrap.
This is the Claptrap first encountered at the beginning of Borderlands 1 and the last surviving Claptrap unit during Borderlands 2. When playing as Claptrap the camera is set lower in a GoldenEye Oddjob kind of way, but he has upgraded abilities that make up for it, Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford told press at a recent reveal event seen by Eurogamer.
Athena's active ability is the Kinetic Aspis. This tank class can raise a giant shield to absorb damage, then throw the shield at her enemies. Her Prepare for Glory ability is a taunt. The Wrath of the Goddess ability lets her throw the Aspis shield at multiple enemies at once, Captain America style.
The Pre-Sequel adds new elemental effects and weapon types. The Cryo effect means you are, essentially, shooting ice bullets, slowing enemies down and eventually freezing them. From here you can blow enemies into ice shards, which float away in the low gravity on the moon's surface. A new weapon type is the laser, which fires everything from Star Wars-esque blaster beams to huge, constant rays that rekindle memories of the Proton Pack weapon from Ghostbusters.
The new gear type is the Oz kit. There is no atmosphere on the moon, so you need oxygen to breath. A new HUD element shows your oxygen count, which must be maintained. There's also low gravity, so you can perform floaty jumps. Oxygen also fuels your jetpack, which lets you double jump to cover large distances, but using your jetpack consumes oxygen quicker. Te replenish it, you can loot oxygen as you would ammo, or activate an oxygen generator, which creates a small breathable environment around it. You can use this strategically to enable elemental damage, such as fire, during combat.
When you're airborne, if you tap the crouch button you slam into the ground, doing damage to enemies. Your Oz kit can add elemental damage to the ground pound move, perhaps freezing enemies on impact, or generating a temporary oxygen bubble.
In the mission shown to press Handsome Jack wants you to destroy a jamming system that's blocking a communications signal from travelling from the moon's surface to the space station - all the while the space station, under enemy control, is blasting the moon to bits.
In combat you can blow enemies off of the moon because of the low gravity. Enemies also wear oxygen helmets; if you shoot them the enemy can't breath and takes damage. During the demo we got a good look at Athena as well as Wilhelm. In Borderlands 2 Wilhelm is the giant robot boss enemy who works for Handsome Jack, but in The Pre-Sequel he is a human who becomes more and more cybernetic as you fill out his skill tree.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was developed by 2K Australia, based in Canberra, in a co-production with Gearbox in Dallas, Texas. 2K Australia started work on the game around the March 2013 release of BioShock Infinite, which it helped create.
The scavenger enemies on the moon have thick Australian accents, and there are plenty of Australia-related jokes. There's a reference to Irish-Australian bushranger Ned Kelly in there, and Bruce Spence, the New Zealand actor who played the Gyro Captain in Mad Max 2, has voiced a character in The Pre-Sequel - a character who pilots a gyrocopter in the game.
"Currently there is - between PS3 and Xbox 360 - over 150m installed units worldwide - probably 170m is more realistic. There are fewer Xbox Ones and PS4s than we sold copies of Borderlands 2."
Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford explains why there is no next-gen version of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was built using the existing Borderlands 2 engine, and will launch on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC only - there is no next-gen version, Pitchford confirmed. This, he said, was because most Borderlands players are still on these platforms, which have a huge user base.
But why not make it for PS4 and Xbox One as well as PC, PS3 and Xbox 360?
"It's not free to build a game for next-gen," Pitchford explained. "So when we decide where to spend our resources, we want to spend all of the attention we can on the game itself.
"If you try to image the set of Borderlands players who have already upgraded, that's not 100 per cent. But if you try to image the set of Xbox One or PS4 owners who do not have an Xbox 360 or a PS3, the difference there is so close to nil you can't make a business rationalisation around that."
There is, of course, the seemingly inevitable Borderlands 3 (Borderlands 2 is the best-selling title in 2K history), but for now Gearbox is content building new games.
"We're making other games, too," Pitchford said. "I don't think I would have to stretch far to suggest there's probably a lot of demand for more Borderlands. That demand lives on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. We don't know to what extent it'll live on the next-gen. I imagine over time - maybe by the time we get to the third or fourth Christmas - there will be enough of an install base.
"Currently there is - between PS3 and Xbox 360 - over 150m installed units worldwide - probably 170m is more realistic. There are fewer Xbox Ones and PS4s than we sold copies of Borderlands 2.
"But because Borderlands 2 did so well there's obvious demand there, and we have not been able to serve it sufficiently with just DLCs. And we've consumed all the memory there is to consume to add more content to Borderlands 2.
"And frankly, as creators, we love the space. We're still arguing inside of Gearbox about how much of our own time we should spend in the Borderlands space versus on future things, because a lot of us really love making Borderlands.
"We are inventive. We know if we take the posture that we should only make sequels because they're safe and it's a sure thing, if we took that posture Borderlands wouldn't even exist. When my studio created Brothers In Arms it was a huge hit. We got great scores, sold millions of units, and by some business thinking maybe that we would only be making Brothers In Arms for the rest of our existence.
"Gratefully, we can't help ourselves. We like to invent, so we did create new things. Although we haven't announced anything, I haven't been quiet that we're building new IP at Gearbox. We'll announce something in the future about that."
Images are below.