Between visiting Gearbox for our September cover story and playing co-op with creative director Paul Hellquist at PAX East, I’ve seen plenty of Borderlands 2 in the last year. After playing another co-op session today, the game has maintained its perfect record of making me more excited about it with every showing. Gearbox’s PAX East demo showcased Salvadore and Maya, and the developer focused on Axton and Zero for this new E3 appearance.

Art director Jeramy Cooke selected the soldier Axton, and I opted for the robotic assassin Zero. For purposes of the demo, each character was granted twenty skill points that they could assign to their desired perks on the skill tree. I focused on making Zero a deadly melee fighter that remains deadly at long range. In conjunction with Zero’s hologram ability, it made for some exciting combat scenarios.

With a press of the left bumper, I was able to become invisible as the hologram of Zero distracted enemies. Various robots and human enemies focused their fire on my doppelganger, allowing me to sprint behind and slash them to death with my sword. I activated a perk that made me do more damage when attacking from behind, which made Zero’s slices all the more deadly. Cooke told me that if you wanted to focus your skill points on this perk along with shotgun strength, you could effectively become a shotgun ninja. The variety of ways you can build your character is staggering, and will certainly result in unbelievable replay value.

Borderlands 2 has much more in the way of narrative than the original game, so these firefights I engaged in had a purpose. After antagonist Handsome Jack exterminates all of Claptrap’s fellow droids, our robotic friend has an axe to grind. He decides that one way to strike a blow to Jack’s public image is to vandalize the numerous statues of him in Pandora. We approached the first statue and attempted to take it down, but our bullets and rockets didn’t quite do the trick.

In order to obtain some more firepower, Claptrap directed us to a disabled enemy constructor and suggested that we hack it. With the press of the X button, the large robot came to life and began floating. We were tasked with protecting it as it cut down the bronze statues with its laser. After fighting off waves of robotic enemies and sawing down several statues, Claptrap informed us that the area was free of Jack’s image. He told us to activate our constructor’s “dance mode,” so we pressed the indicated button on the robot. It slightly bounced around for a few seconds before exploding. Claptrap responded with “Oh, it exploded...I guess that’s kind of like dancing.”

A huge part of the Borderlands experience is the constant progression, collecting of loot, and customization, but it was still a blast in a stand-alone experience like this demo. Gunplay is fast and responsive, and the enemy variety is significantly improved over the original. Considering it’s already this fun in demo form, I can’t imagine how great the experience will be when I can actually sit down and begin developing my character. There are tons of triple-A games out on the E3 show floor this year, but I’m anticipating Borderlands 2 more than any other title I’ve seen here. September can’t come soon enough.