It takes a lot for a first person shooter to really set itself apart from the swarm nowadays. During the E3 presentations this year it felt like all of the shooters just blended together into one amorphous blob of shipping containers and jungle scenes. Borderlands was an FPS in a league of its own, not so much because it was a superior game in any particularly relevant way, but because you could easily pick the game out of a lineup.There’s no doubting what game you are looking at when you see a screen from Borderlands. And the original proved so popular that a sequel has been made, bringing four new Vault Hunters back to Pandora in search of a new Vault. Borderlands 2 is a bizarre return to a bizarre world, but done is such a way that old and new fans of the original will love it.If you played the original Borderlands, this new sequel will feel immediately comfortable. Very little about the actual gameplay has changed. Everything on the HUD is in mostly the same place, save for an infinitely more helpful mini map in the top right corner. Even the story told at the beginning of the game comes right out and says that much of history is repeating itself. You are a Vault Hunter, returning to Pandora to locate the secret treasures and riches found within a new and somehow better vault. Before the actual gameplay starts you are introduced to Handsome Jack, your new villain, as well as the seemingly magical AI that is guiding you to save Pandora. It’s all very familiar to Borderlands players, but that doesn’t stop you from marching right in and killing everything that stands in your way.Each of the four characters have been tweaked quite a bit from the original types, but still offer fairly similar gameplay experiences. The Siren’s special abilities, for example, have been modified to only work on one enemy at a time. The new Assassin class has taken the position of the Siren in the previous game, focusing on stealth and decoys to make the quick and silent kill. The Gunzerker is a heavier weapons adjustment to the original Beserker, allowing for the occasional dual wielding of just about anything. Finally, the Commando class feels just a bit watered down now that the Turret doesn’t have the ability to shield you until later in the game. It’s clear by playing with each of these characters for a bit that these tweaks are designed to encourage a balanced multiplayer game, instead of four players running the same power build.Despite looking and feeling very much like the original Borderlands, this sequel is absolutely filled with polish. The animations for Second Wind experiences, as well as the animations for resurrecting into your New-U have been greatly improved. The driving experience when in vehicles has greatly improved as well, allowing you to drive even at high speeds with much greater control of the vehicle. Even the cutscenes look much better than the original Borderlands, but all of this was done without straying from the almost cell shaded animation that has made this game so unique. It’s a really bizarre experience to be able to say that everything feels the same, but at the same time everything has been improved upon.Borderlands 2 has captured the continuous gameplay experience that the original game stumbled on a bit. The beginning of the game features exactly zero of the “kill x creatures and report back” type of grinding. Instead, the plot offers you what feels like a simple objective and then puts half a dozen smaller challenges in front of you until you reach that original goal. The game flows remarkably well, pitting you against groups of enemies in various stages of difficulty, each time forcing you to think about what weapons you have equipped to take out the bad guy. The slower parts in between these skirmishes are spent either purchasing better equipment, or re-organizing your weapon layout for the next fight. By the time you get to the first real boss fight, you’ve gained a more than appropriate handle on which weapons are the best against which enemy.Like the original, the scenery in Borderlands 2 is mostly indestructible. While you can benefit from this with the understanding that the tank that just rolled up on you can’t shoot past the 2″ bar in between him and you, it’s more than a little frustrating when a flag waving in the breeze catches your sniper fire. To help add a little balance in this situation, there are new environment variables that can be used both against you and to your advantage. There are exploding tanks that spray fire in every direction, barrels full of corrosive materials that can deal damage through your shields, and trees that behave like Tesla coils when shot or run into. It only takes being affected by these variables once or twice before you pay closer attention to them, but your enemies in game never quite seem to remember not to hide behind them.Gearbox Studios has pulled off what very few sequels are able to, which is to make the next title just as much fun as the first without messing with the core game. Borderlands 2 is every bit as violent, engaging, and hilariously vulgar as the original. The core game is far from all there is to do, especially since we already know that there are at least four DLC additions being released, and eventually including a whole new player class.For $60 on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC, Borderlands 2 is well on its way to being one of the best games released this year.