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Borderlands 2: Smarter enemies, crazier guns, cooler characters

Why the return to Pandora will be better than ever...

The new issue of PSM3 is on sale now.

Remember how in the original Borderlandsthe combat felt stiff and repetitive? Enemy AI was predictable, andmost could be dealt with by simply chewing away at their health with whatever gun you happened to have equipped at that particular moment.

Well, in Borderlands 2, it's a completely different story. Enemies are now smart and vicious and have some fiendishly clever tricks up their sleeves to force you to play tactically.

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This makes the co-operative experience - which is, let's be honest, the main reason to play Borderlands - even more rewarding. "We call it the AI ecosystem," says Gearbox Software's Steve Gibson. "The idea is that not only are enemies more reactive and more aggressive, but they can co-operate."

We see this frightening prospect in action during our hands-on. We're fighting a pack of Skags, the feral dog-like creatures from the original game. Only this time they've become trickier to negotiate, tougher to bring down. One special breed of Skag has the ability to rally its weaker companions, which sets them on fire and makes them just that bit more dangerous. "This is just one example of the AI working together," says Gibson. "In battle, you now have to prioritise more than just who's closest to you. We want all the combat to feel richer and more tactical."

FIVE STAR

There are five character classes in total: four brand new (and one returning class), with familiar faces from the previous game serving as quest-givers. First up we have the Siren, Maya. The first game's Siren, Lilith could use the Phase Walk ability to turn invisible and sneak up on enemies; Maya's power is the Phase Lock. "She can grab an enemy and trap them in a floating bubble," says Gibson. "This can be upgraded too. The Routing add-on, for example, will freeze any enemies near your bubble."

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Then there's the Assassin, which is a stealth class. "He's good at finding critical points on enemies, and can create a copy of himself to distract his foes," Gibson tells us. "The Gunzerker is self-explanatory. He can dual-wield weapons and blow stuff up twice as fast." This is the class we played in our hands-on. Dual-wield power only lasts a few seconds (you can increase this with upgrades), and places another weapon in your left hand, doubling damage. Whenever we found ourselves backed into a corner, activating it would gave us the extra punch to fight our way out.

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