Published on November 7th, 2014 | by Sean Warhurst
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel PS3 Review
Summary: Even considering the occasional bugs, the game is more than worthy of your time if you’re a fan of the franchise.
Guns... On the MOON!
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel PS3 Review
Developer: 2K Australia
Distributor: 2K Games
Format: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rating: MA 15+
Reviewer: Sean Warhurst
With a host of new features, an intriguing opportunity to peer behind the curtain and gaze upon the creation of one of recent video gaming’s most charismatic villains and a decidedly Aussie flavour to proceedings, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel aims to take the series in some new directions whilst retaining the core essence of what makes the Borderlands series such a blast to play – Namely frenetic shoot-outs, visually unique settings and RPG- like stat crunching.
Taking place in the five year period between Borderlands 1 and 2 (And, paradoxically, also after the events of the latter game), the aptly titled Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel transports players to Pandora’s moon Elpis for more satisfyingly anarchic gunplay.
The main plot of The Pre-Sequel focuses on Jack (He hasn’t yet earned the title of Handsome, apparently) and his journey to becoming the villainous antagonist familiar to fans of Borderlands 2. A lowly programmer for Hyperion and still possessing somewhat honourable intentions, Jack is tasked with taking back a highjacked moonbase, enlisting the assistance of some familiar faces to help him along the way.
For the first time in the series the game isn’t being handled by Gearbox, with the creative reigns being handed to 2K Australia this time around, allowing for the local developer to put their own Antipodean stamp on the Borderlands universe (The denizens of the moon all boast an Ocker ‘Strayan accent).
But it’s not simply the same old creamy Borderlands goodness this time around, with the new moon setting drastically changing the way players approach combat as well as traversing the austere environment of the moon.
The low gravity atmosphere of Elpis allows players to bound across the landscape in protracted bursts, which lead to this reviewer taking great delight in hopping about gleefully whenever the opportunity presented itself.
These floaty physics enable players to reach areas that would have been inaccessible in the previous games as well as instilling movement with a slow, dreamlike quality; combat becomes a frenetic experience that takes full advantage of the increased verticality, with a healthy portion now taking place whilst airborne, reducing the need for constantly ducking behind cover and the inclusion of a new slam attack allows players to hurtle back to terra firma with devastating force.
Also new to the series are OZ kits, limited supply oxygen kits that, aside from the useful ability of keeping the player alive, also serve as rudimentary jet packs that can be harnessed to propel players to out of reach areas via use of a double jump as well as being used in conjunction with weaponry to produce elemental effects, such as the much touted new Cryogenic attack and using fire in high oxygen environments to flush out enemies.
Speaking of weapons, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel adds lasers to the series’ already immense armoury, with as varied a selection to choose from as fans would expect: Shotgun Lasers, continuous beams, laser chain guns – 2K Australia has taken great pains to appease laser aficionados (That has to be a thing, right?). There’s also a new machine called a grinder where characters can toss in three of their guns in order to create a single brand new (And hopefully better) weapon.
The cast of Vault Hunters feature familiar faces from previous games and DLC aiming to make their mark in the Borderlands Universe. Firstly there’s Wilhelm, looking very different to his heavily augmented appearance in Borderlands 2, Nisha, who this time around is merely a gunslinger rather than the eventual Sherriff of Lynchwood and Handsome Jack’s romantic plaything. Athena, a morally ambiguous assassin and finally fan favourite motormouth Claptrap finally makes his playable character debut.
I elected to play as Claptrap, ignoring the game’s insistence that I reconsider, and found him to be a surprisingly solid character with the funniest lines in the game and a wildly unpredictable special ability – Vaulthunter.exe.
Each character has their own special attack – Wilhelm calls a pair of drones for assistance, Athena can use her shield to absorb damage and fling at her enemies like Captain America, Nisha can summon Showdown, which gives her perfect firing accuracy, increased speed and more overall damage.
It’s Claptrap’s ability that I found to be the most interesting, though, as it affects his fellow Vault Hunters as well as himself; by activating Vaulthunter.exe, Claptrap runs a program that aims to emulate the skills of Vault Hunters, such as affording everyone Gunzerker (Or Funzerker, as it’s called here) abilities or giving Claptrap a handy minion, although with Claptrap there’s always the chance that things can go terribly wrong and on occasion activating Vaulthunter.exe can result in players being encased in giant rings and helplessly ricocheting off of the environment.
Unfortunately, One area where I didn’t anticipate so much trouble with The Pre-Sequel was in contending with bugs… Unfortunately the game, in its current state, is riddled with them.
The worst personally experienced includes being unable to purchase another shield after selling of my one and having to fight Deadlift twice in a row because, when I had him on the ropes, I backed out of the room to take cover from his electrified attack and upon re-entering the game reset the battle and I had to frustratingly whittle away all of the dopey brute’s strength yet again. Another time I encountered a glitch where my shield instantly recharged, practically making me impervious to damage.
Other issues that remain from my initial hands on impression of the game include confusing objectives and characters not appearing at objective markers, a map that hasn’t been refined to account for the increased verticality offered by the moon environment, and the incredibly sloppy handling of the vehicles making some chasms seem almost impossible to jump due to ramp placement.
Thankfully, for the most part there are ways to get around these issues and 2K have promised a patch addressing certain issues, but it is disappointing that these bugs weren’t ironed out before release.
Still, The Pre-Sequel manages to remain endearing during even these rough patches and the overlong travelling sequences and occasionally meandering storyline through ithe sheer charm of its sense of humour, which is as on point as ever – You’ll know no greater joy than when slaying enemies with “The Bogan Gun”, a powerful weapon that slings bogan insults such as “This is giving me a wide-on” and the classic “Awwww, Get F**ked!” as well as bullets, and its little touches like these that make it hard not to forgive Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel for its shortcomings.
Graphics and Audio
Graphically the game is basically identical to Borderlands 2, with the cel-shaded art direction and aesthetically pleasing apocalyptically ravaged character designs making a welcome return. Of course, when compared to current gen, the game isn’t the prettiest, with multiple jaggies and some visual rough patches cropping up here and there, but for the most part Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel takes full advantage what capabilities are available to it.
A minor complaint regarding the visual design itself would be that Elpis and the moon environments just aren’t as visually arresting as the varied amount of locales players discovered in Borderlands 2; pretty quickly traversing the moon becomes a monotonous experience due to landscape being composed almost exclusively of craggy grey moon bluffs and the occasional river of lava and you just can’t wait to get to quickly drive your moon buggy to the next bandit stronghold or city just to see something a little different.
Another issue I experienced quite frequently on the PS3 was severe stuttering during cutscenes, most noticeably during the opening sequence.
Audio wise The Pre-Sequel holds up admirably, with a likeable voice over cast and some great one-liners. The score is suitably epic when needed but more subdued, even barely present, during the quieter driving portions. There were a few encounters with instantly repeating dialogue from quest giving NPCs and the volume can be a bit shonky at times, but overall a solid effort in the sound department.
There’s a simple reason why The Pre-Sequel isn’t titled Borderlands 3 – It’s not the next major step planned for the series. Rather, it’s a way of saying a fond farewell to the last gen of consoles (Whilst still saying “How you Doin’?” to PC) by offering fans of the franchise one last chance to experience a new adventure set in the Borderlands universe before the inevitable transition to current gen consoles for the true third instalment.
In this respect, 2K Australia have given fans exactly what they want – More quirky characters, pulse pounding boss encounters and a winking sense of humour that permeates throughout. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel comes with an intriguing new setting, gameplay elements that enhance rather than distil the essence of the Borderlands series and a story that, whilst admittedly not as grand in scope as Borderlands 2, is an engaging enough reason to dive back into the rich and wildly unhinged world of the Borderlands universe.
Even considering the occasional bugs, the game is more than worthy of your time if you’re a fan of the franchise, with the whacky humour, considered character classed and chaotic on-line play serving to counter the technical issues somewhat, and if you love the series or FPS games then this will more than satiate your desire for gun porn until the next big thing comes along.