Taking up the tale five years after the events of the original game, Borderlands 2 sees you return to the alien planet of Pandora, now ruled by the ruthless dictator Handsome Jack and his Hyperion Corporation.
Handsome Jack controls the planet's reserves of Eridium, a rare mineral originally discovered by a band of intrepid adventurers – known as Vault Hunters. Now, rumours have emerged of a new vault hidden somewhere on Pandora, a vault which promises great hazards to those who venture inside – and even greater rewards for those who survive the journey.
In a plot inspired as much by stories of the Wild West as by the mysteries of deep space, a new team of Vault Hunters assembles, determined to uncover the vault and its secrets before Handsome Jack. They set off, guided by the mysterious Guardian Angel. But on Pandora, nothing and no one are what they seem – least of all Handsome Jack.
The wild bunch
Borderlands 2 lets you take control of four colourful characters in your quest to locate the legendary vault and beat Handsome Jack to the treasure. Along the way, you'll face hordes of homicidal creatures intent on little other than your total destruction – so it's fortunate that each character has their own set of skills, abilities and insane weapons with which to annihilate opponents.
Salavador is your squad's muscle - a burly hulk who wields two huge guns at once. Twice the firepower means this gunzerker can unleash double the frenzy on his foes – and when it comes to pure, incandescent wrath, Salvador's untouchable.
Maya is a more subtle proposition. Blue-haired and combat-suited, her skin wreathed in spectral blue tattoos, she's of Siren heritage and hails from a planet where she was worshipped as a goddess. Her finest weapon is her Phaselock, which sees her incapacitate enemies in an orb of glowing energy.
Trained assassin Zer0 is a masked master of the stealth assault. Able to create a decoy of himself to divert enemy attention, he's also blessed with the ability to dematerialise for a short time – which means many of his unfortunate opponents don't see him coming until it's too late.
Last but not least is Axton, a square-jawed commando who escaped a death sentence on his own planet and now works as an intergalactic gun-for-hire. Never seen without his favourite weapon, a heavy duty artillery turret, Axton is happiest hanging back and bombarding foes to smithereens.
Smash and grab
Borderlands 2 is a non-stop, action-packed orgy of shooting and looting, fusing the rapid pace and extreme firepower of a first-person shooter with the treasure-collecting and skill-building aspects of a role-playing adventure.
Your experience of the game will depend heavily upon which character you control at each point in the action, as well as upon the weapons your character has equipped. Each of the four Vault Hunters has his or her own special skills and style of combat, while each of the crazy guns and weapons you loot along the way will have a direct effect on how the action unfolds.
If you're running amok as Salvador, expect to be constantly in the thick of things, trading blows (and explosions) at point-blank range. As stealth assassin Zer0, you'll be freer to dip in and out of the chaos, taking enemies by surprise. Simply make your choice and the action will adapt accordingly. What's more, each character is truly customisable – allowing you to mould not only their look but their core attributes too.
As you progress through Pandora – which is gorgeously rendered in the crisp lines and vivid hues of a comic book – you'll gain experience and cash as well as new weapons, so you can upgrade your character's abilities as you see fit. The outcome is a gripping, emotionally engaging and often hilarious adventure that lets you choose your own way to play. And that's before you consider the multiplayer madness on offer...
You can join forces with one friend on your PS3 system or team up with up to three fellow Borderlands 2 fans via PlayStation Network to take on the forces of Handsome Jack. Once your gun-toting, combat-loving crew has been tweaked, tuned and readied for action, it's time to hit Pandora – where the adventure is more explosive than ever.
The multiplayer modes in Borderlands 2 are a superb showcase for the game's greatest strength: its expert balance of characters, skills and weapons. It's ace to wade into the melee as brutal Salvador while a friend zips around as Zer0, watching your back and picking off predatory foes before they can sneak up on you. Meanwhile, the beautiful Maya might be holding back a tide of monsters with her Phaselock, while Axton provides cover in the form of a relentless barrage of shells.
What's more, extra players can drop in and out at any time, with no need to restart the game – the result is a ferociously fun-filled mixture of rapid-fire action and team tactics that will see you yelling, laughing and high-fiving all the way to Handsome Jack's space satellite HQ.