I hope you like guns. Because this game is so full of the wee shooty blighters that it'd get taken into a room and asked some questions at customs. Big guns, outlandish rare guns, low-level guns that you'll dismiss with a sneer of gun-disgust.
It's one of many ways in which Borderlands' sequel sticks to the formula that made the RPG loot-dropping shooter such a slow-burning hit. Despite the extended colour palette, this is a highly familiar setup for anyone who has spent time in Pandora.
Borderlands 2 does, however, benefit from knowing what it did right in the past, and edging further along that path. With this series, Gearbox is proudly in the business of big guns and comedy characters.
It's a more successful comedy than its predecessor, and a more progressive one too. Gearbox is guilty of some toe-curling misjudgments in the minefield of gender. Duke Nukem Forever had some depressingly rotten lines, and the 'Girlfriend Mode' mini-scandal was a needless facepalm. But the murderous dementia of Pandora is deeply equal-opportunities.
The pyschotic Tiny Tina, the turbo-Siren Lilith and Scooter's vast sister Ellie are as brutal and derailed as any of the male characters. The writing style has shifted to the great tone of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, and even robot irritant Claptrap's moved with the times. He's now a fan of dubstep, and wubwubs his way around Sanctuary.
Borderlands 2 takes a lot from the RPG handbook - levelling, skill tree specialisations and lots of comparable numbers. Each class still has skill trees, each with three branches, but those branches have been fleshed out quite a bit since the first game. With the same numbers of skill points to spend, that means you'll be re-speccing more often to test builds within builds and experiment with more refined specialisations.
There's a rewarding Borderlands mechanic that keeps you gripped from one bullet to the next. Critical hits are not determined in the RPG fashion, by pure chance. Instead they're earned by knowing your enemy's weak spot and hitting it, accuracy stat permitting. Bandits have soft heads. Spiderants' armoured faces conceal a lovely, shootable bum-sac.
New characters enhance this. Goliaths have the habit of popping off their regular head and sprouting a new, tiny bonce while their body goes rampant on whatever's nearby. Frequently, this is another Goliath, meaning you can leave them to it for precious seconds. Meanwhile, some Nomad Bandits use convenient midgets to plug the holes in their full-body shields. Kill the little guy first, and you've got a shortcut to some Nomad gut meat.
As with the first game, Gearbox claims that there are millions of guns. That's crazy talk, only meaningful to fans of minor statistical differences. That said, beyond the seven fundamentally different weapon archetypes, ranging from pistol to rocket launcher, there's an impressive range of reticules, iron sights, elemental damages, bonus effects and fantastically diverse feels to the weapons. There's always a temptation experiment outside of your class, because you'll stumble across a powerful gun from another type.
The character we spent most time with was Salvador, the Gunzerker. His special ability is to pull out two weapons and spray munitions with a regard for accuracy that's best described as 'willy-nilly'. While he does this, he's laughing and regenerating health and bullets. It's a style that benefits from high rates of fire more than precision - you can't use iron sights, so sniper rifles are a waste of everyone's time. But that didn't stop us experimenting with snipers between bouts of gunzerking. The huge multipliers for critical hits make them a massively satisfying weapon class for instakills. Then you'll find a Vladof mini-gun, and you're in lunatic, stupid love all over again.