Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

9 Overall Score
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 10/10

Excellent Shooting | Very well-written and voiced | Outstanding multiplayer

New gameplay elements fall flat | Single player is lonely

Game Info

GAME NAME: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

DEVELOPER(S): 2K Australia, Gearbox Software

PUBLISHER(S): 2K Games

PLATFORM(S): PS3 (Reviewed), XBox 360, PC, Mac, Linux

GENRE(S): FPS/RPG

RELEASE DATE(S): 10/14/2014

If “Does the world need another Borderlands game” is something you’ve ever thought, please punch yourself.  Hard.

BTPS_Review_In-Game_Art_Jack

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! is the improperly-titled Interquel that chronologically rests between the first and second games.  You play as one of four new(ish) Vault Hunters in the ongoing quest for guns, loot, stuff, junk, and things.  There IS a storyline – isn’t there always – that’s actually pretty interesting to get into as well.  Working for series villian Handsome Jack presents an interesting look into the “other side” of the warzone that is Pandora, and does a good job of filling in the blanks between the games.  New gameplay elements, NPCs, guns, and enemies tossed in make this a pretty substantial game to get your teeth into.

These characters!  Writing is as good as ever, with its cavalier attitude towards fatalism in a world where a New-U station is right around the corner.  Sure you’ll die, but don’t worry, the Dahl Corporation will revive you for $200.  Villianous NPCs Athena (General Knoxx), and Wilhelm and Nisha (BL2) join perennial running gag Claptrap as the character choices, to help “In Over His Head” Jack take control of a space station and find a Vault.  Wilhelm and Nisha are pretty run-of-the-mill FPS characters, while Athena focuses a bit more on melee (not quite successfully) and Claptrap just goofs around.  While it makes sense in the Borderlands universe, Claptrap’s abilities are random, generally ineffective, and oftentimes quite distracting.  While occasionally the random power or ability will be exactly what you’ll need, it’ll more often A) not help at all or B) get you killed.  It’s an interesting character insertion, but ultimately most people will wind up choosing a more consistently effective player character – such as Wilhelm’s drones Wolf and Saint, or Nisha’s autotargetting gunslinger mode.  The new player characters and franchise’s always-clever writing are the key reasons for jamming around in this one.  No Siren player class this time means a much heavier reliance on firearms, although with each Borderlands game, they manage to shoehorn in more melee components.  DLC-class Krieg from Borderlands 2 aside, this process hasn’t been the best – but it’s definitely getting better than it was in the original game.

BTPS_Reviews_Screen_Concordia_2

While most of the gameplay elements have remained the same – kill, loot, repeat – BLPSQ introduces a few new ones.  Unfortunately, they’re not the best.  Lasers are the brand new weapon group, so you get another type of ammo to run out of at the worst possible moment.  And since so much of the game takes place on an airless, low-gravity moon, a few new tropes come into play there.  For one, jumping is substantially looser now, with long, high low-g jumps that take a while to land.  Very early in the game, you’re given an oxygen tank to breathe while roaming the moonscape – so now you have to deal with oxygen management too, before your character starts taking damage.  Couple these factors together and you get oxygen-assisted boosts, which allow you to jump even further and higher, and the exterior levels have been designed to accompany this new ability.  Which is annoying.  As we all learned from 1998 , first-person shooter jumping puzzles are just terrible.  Missing many of these jumps lead to a fiery instant death courtesy of lava fields.  But the floaty jumping doesn’t translate to vehicles (which are still a pain to control, a throwback to 2009), leading to poor buggy jump executions and, again, fiery instant deaths.  It’s stressful, being a driver in Borderlands.

This doesn’t paint the rosiest of pictures for a shooter, but the core mechanics of pulling triggers and killing bad guys is as good as ever for a Borderlands game.  There isn’t the huge expansion of guns as there was between BL1 and BL2, but the new introductions feel and fire right.  The characters’ special abilities are pretty decent – Claptrap excepted – and can really pull you and your team out of a bind if used right.  And the progression has changed a bit to allow more points and customization, netting your special ability much earlier in the game to allow expanded options in to how you want to field your vault hunter.

Jack makes his return from the now out-of-sequence trilogy, and he’s as well-written and acted as he was in Borderlands 2.  The story arc here in BLPSQ fleshes him out nicely, allowing us to see him as an actual heroic figure turned crazed, tragic villian with a fake face stapled on.  If he wasn’t such a jerk sometimes, it’d be sympathetic – but this is Borderlands and not some sappy indie browser game, so he will of course pull out a punishing verbal burn on someone undeservedly.  It’s very interesting to see how he was before he turned into a completely insane guy who relished in exploding birds and leading a robot army.  He also interacts with the different characters in different ways, which is purely aesthetic but interesting nonetheless.  And while these back stories aren’t fully fleshed out, it’s still nice to see a bit of dialogue change between Jack and each member of the foursome.  The rest of the sound and audio is top notch as well, as is the Borderlands standard.

BTPS_Reviews_Screen_SplitScreen_combined

Travelling the moon of Epsis and Helios Station is pretty boring alone – as it has been for three games, now – so multiplayer is a very welcome relief.  Voice-chat is crisp and lag-free on PS3.  Co-op gaming allows all sorts of combinations of players, with both couch and internet enabled so you can shoot enemies with any friends that happen to be over/online.  Increasing the number of players also improves loot, makes enemies a bit tougher, and lets your characters chat with each other.  While it’s rarely any longer than a couple back-and-forth taunts, it does help to add more personality to these already personable characters.  The only odd point is the glaringly obvious fact that this game was outsourced to Australia.  The dialogue has a distinct slant, and many colloquialisms and slang terms pop up in NPCs and random enemies.  Obviously you won’t hear Athena shout “G’DAY MATE, WONT SOME VEGAMITE?! BOLLOCKS” but you will hear a lot of talk about gobs and dinkum and wallery-roos or whatever they have in Australia.

THE RECOMMENDATION
Although not the huge improvement jump that was Borderlands 2 over 1, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! is a solid iteration in the franchise.  The spot-on writing, always-thrilling combat, fantastic inclusion of Jack (again!), and over-the-top bravado makes up for the weird gameplay inclusions and the still-awful vehicle controls.  For the Borderlands fan, for the FPS fan, this is a great game to run through a few playthroughs of, and definitely makes dusting off your now-outdated PS3 a worthy way to spend a weekend.

 

 

Summary

SHARE THIS POST

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Avatar
Author: James View all posts by
Dangerously fat. Twitter: @hypersaline