Borderlands 2

Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty

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You'd think after nearly sixty hours spent trekking across the world of Pandora, we'd be eager to point our guns somewhere else.

"Yea, sure."

So we pack our ammo packs, and head to Oasis, a new waypoint on Pandora (by way of a press preview event in central London).

PR estimates peg this first big chunk of DLC (the newly-released Mechromancer class, a Level 50 version of which we parade around as today, is separate from the season pass plans) at eight to ten hours. A quick check of the session time shows we've got just under an hour and a half.

The download's entitled Captain Scarlett and her Pirate's Booty - a new storyline spread over desert seas and sink bullets and boots into a new catalogue of villains and wildlife as you seek out buried treasure.

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It's excuse for quests, sightseeing and bumping into another wild cast of characters, all of whom are bizarre enough to prove that Gearbox didn't expend all their ideas on the main game.

And, like the main game, it's due to these that we can see ourselves quite happily making bringing extinction to a entirely new hub plateau on Pandora. These elements pull Borderlands 2 far and away from the simple - yet entirely true - mission statement that is: "you just shoot stuff. A lot."

So the main arc is helping Captain Scarlett find, steal or kill for parts of a compass that'll lead to a buried treasure somewhere out in the desert.

Of course, you know it'll end in her betraying you, but that the game plays up to the fact (even her intro emphasises the point - "she will stab you in the back") from the off is an alteration of convention that's entirely welcome and keeps you interested in the character.

But you've got to find her first: she's out in the desert somewhere - a sea or lake that's been wholly drained through some unknown design to create the vast wasteland you stumble into.

You come onto its edge, and the equally-deserted town of Oasis as the story starts. It's obvious this is Gearbox's ode to both Tatooine and Dune, if either iconic desert planet and its denizens had been scripted by Douglas Adams.

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Oasis in a beach-side holiday resort with a population of exactly one - the tourist trap that is Shade.

While we chuckle at his initial monologue, voice filled with loneliness and hysterical laughter, we honestly avoid a variety of side-quests in and around the town, not to push forward as much as possible in our preview time, but mainly to get the hell away from Shade's incredibly uncomfortable company.

There's an edginess to his voice and character borne from years of alone (or has that edginess reason for his loneliness?). That'd be worrying enough, but the fact he's hog-tied corpses around the town and fitted them with radios to make it seem Oasis isn't quite the ghost town it so clearly is an ink-black humour.

Oasis is a beach-side resort without a sea. Desert stretches out as far as the eye can see, huge mountains twist awkwardly into the sky, and the bones of monstrous deep-sea creatures merge with dunes and rock formations. A oil tanker sits pierced on a mountain top nearby, the words "NICE PARKING" scrawled huge along its side.

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An early mission has us battering together a land hover skiff to hightail it across the lands and avoid being eaten by monster sand worms, and as we blast across the dunes we spot some huge something burrowing through the sand nearby - clearly some gigantic boss to come.

Out there we find Scarlett's home - more galleon than skiff, a multi-levelled hovering monstrosity that gives us immediate pangs of jealousy, and a hope that the DLC ends with us inheriting it so we've somewhere called home for the rest of our time on Pandora.

Scarlett's Pandora's version of a high-seas pirate, entertaining to listen to, even as we do size up her crew and wonder at our odds in surviving the firefight likely to come before we reach the end of this DLC.

But she's our first main quest giver, and becomes the voice in our ear as we head out, to and under, the dunes to steal a compass piece off an ally turned foe of her's: the Sandman.

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Sandman turns out to be a bowler hat-wearing midget protected by all types of pirates - teleporting ninjas, sword-wielding Buccaneers - and living in an underground tropical paradise. It's a car wreck of fashions and genre types, but combat-wise enemies fall into similar categories as the gangs we've fought before.

We've only offed him and start unravelling the tantalising question as to who is seeping Oasis's water underground for their own purposes when our time runs out. An hour and a half does fly by when you're enjoying yourself.

It seems like tiny drop of gameplay given the projected size of the DLC, but we're thirsty for more. Yes, its just more shooting. But its shooting done very, very well.

Captain Scarlett and her Pirate's Booty DLC is released tomorrow, retailing for 800 Microsoft Points for the Xbox 360 version (PS3 version costs still to be confirmed) and forms part of the Borderlands 2 Season Pass.

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