Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review

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Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

Developed by 2K games

Reviewed on the PS4

Borderlands is a series of games that I really enjoyed playing on the last generation of consoles. I played the first game on the PS3 and the sequel on the Xbox 360, both were well made games that had hours of gameplay and implemented the addictive shoot and loot mechanic that just keeps you playing. Hours fly by as you shoot and then collect your loot, hoping to find something amongst the millions of different weapons and tools that improves on what you are currently using. Time really does fly by without you realising it in the world of Borderlands.

claptastic_screen1 reviewI purposely avoided picking up the Pre-sequel that was released towards the end of last year as I knew it would end up being released on my PS4, after all there seems to be few games that aren’t being repackaged and released for the latest consoles. Is it right that companies are doing this so often? Well that’s a debate for another time, but it definitely has its advantages and some of those are prevalent in the Handsome Collection. First off, you are getting both the newly released Pre-Sequel and a re-mastered version Borderlands 2 for the price of one game. The various DLC add-ons that have been released for these games are also included and as such this makes up two truly massive games that in all honesty are just too big to take in all at once. It is disappointing the original game isn’t also included but this is the Handsome Collection (Handsome Jack wasn’t in the original game so I can see why it was left out).

Chances are you will have played at least one of these two games on your older consoles and investing many hours upgrading you characters, you will be delighted to know that you can carry this information over, but only if it is the same make of console. Sadly I played Borderlands 2 on my Xbox 360, so I couldn’t retrieve my fully leveled up character from that game for the PS4.  As I have a modicum of sense I don’t own an Xbox One to transfer my save to so I had to fully start over again with this game. Luckily it is already a great game, so playing it again with a different class of character isn’t too much of a chore, but I don’t fully understand why you can’t import a save across platforms, after all Rockstar managed it with GTA5.

hc_screen26Focusing on Borderlands 2; it has clearly been given a graphical boost to get it running in full 1080p and it does look an improvement, but little else has changed with the game and it plays exactly like it did before. There is still a lot of texture pop in, especially when you are entering a new area or reloading a checkpoint. I was surprised as it’s now running on much more powerful hardware and sometimes it last for a number of seconds whilst you are waiting for the image to load in front of you. It isn’t too distracting from the game but it is disappointing to see that a five year old game still has the same technical problems. Does it point to a rushed cash in? Perhaps, but the sheer amount of content lets 2K get away with it.

The game I was really looking forward to playing in depth though was the Pre-Sequel, this was not developed by Gearbox like the previous two games, but  2K Australia, there certainly seemed to be an Australian twang in the accents of a lot of the enemies you encounter. You are given the choice of controlling characters that were all involved in Borderlands 2 including one of the true stars of the games – a Clap Trap robot. Despite the menu urging you to reconsider a better and less annoying character several times, the characters all belong to a different class with different abilities that you can upgrade as you earn experience from discovering new areas, killing enemies and completing missions.

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The humour from the last two games is still there and the one liners are as good as ever. If you like the previous games then you will enjoy this installment too. Very little has changed from the two games except for the introduction of the effects of a moon with no atmosphere on the characters. You now have O2 kits that help you breath (unless you are a robot, after all they don’t breath) and also jump around in the low gravity environment. You can now jump high and use your O2kit to smash into enemies beneath you. Laser based weapons have also been added along with a new elemental power that freezes enemies allowing you to smash them with your melee attack if you are quick enough. Annoyingly, the same texture pop in problems that are evident in the re-mastering of Borderlands 2 are also here. Again, many seconds can pass as you wait for the world to fully load up, but once it does, it does look great on the PS4 even if it is a little bland. All of the areas have a similar style in both colour pallet and architecture. Hopefully a lot more variety and detail in the environment can be added when a truly next generation Borderlands game is released.

If you haven’t played any of these games before I would hugely recommend this just to play through number 2 with all of the DLC, and there is a hell of a lot of it, it really is a brilliant and fun game to play. If you have played through the campaign of both games before then I would say the minor bump in graphics isn’t enough of a reason to play through it all over again. Borderlands the Handsome collection doesn’t feel like the definitive version of these games, it just feels like a good way for people to get into and catch up with the series before something bigger and better comes along from Gearbox with the next installment in the series.

It is packed full of content and for the price is amazing value, especially for new comers to the series.

Score: 7.5/10

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review

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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

PC

2K Australia

One thing I’d never considered before about game development, is to what extent it was like cooking. Specifically, following celebrity chefs, buying their cookbooks and then trying to make their delicious Tarte Tatin.

In this instance, Gearbox Software are Delia Smith; a world-renowned chef to the common man, who makes tasty titbits to be enjoyed by all. 2K Australia on the other hand are more like a semi-finalist from TV’s Masterchef, in which regular plebs, who’ve had a bit of a go at cooking try and do it properly for the entertainment of others. 2KA have started out by following the recipe set out by Gearbox, but somewhere along the way have settled for cheaper ingredients in some areas and brought some of their own herbs and spices from home – with mixed results.

BTPS_Review_In-Game_Art_JackSo Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel tells a story that’s set between the events of Borderlands 1 and 2, before Handsome Jack became the crazed villain we all loved to hate in the second game. It turns out that Jack started out as simply a wise-cracking and thunderingly sarcastic git who has a little ‘something’ about him. You get to discover what that something is as you explore the new Borderlands setting – the moon.

Ah yes, the moon. Pandora’s moon, Elpis, is at once the games’ biggest strength and greatest weakness. It was a very good decision on the part of 2KA to change up the locale for the game. Whilst Elpis is a familiarly dusty wasteland, it’s colour palette is markedly different, with a lot more red and blue than the earlier games dusty browns. Being a moon it naturally lacks the atmosphere of the homeworld – a fact that ties in neatly with the mechanics. When in exterior locations, you are required to constantly be on the hunt to refill your dwindling oxygen reserves. Fortunately, opportunities to do so are frequent, with natural air-geysers (um) and oxygen posts liberally scattered across the surface.

Your precious life-gas isn’t just a timer for certain areas however, it is built into the boost jumps that are now capable of thanks to the lower gravity. The Pre-Sequel now boasts a high-degree of verticality to its play. Areas are designed in such a way as to lend themselves to both yourself and enemies taking advantage of higher ground. Even better, you are now blessed with a stomp attack, where you can thrust yourself into the ground causing enemies surrounding you to take considerable damage. It encourages you to keep mobile, with enemies who can drop in from all sides and heights, simply poking out from behind a box and shooting isn’t as effective as it once was.

Whilst this mechanic is superb, the drawback to Elpis is that it’s simply not as well conceived as many of the locations on Pandora. The first half-dozen hours in particular are pretty slow going, with trudging across the moon’s surface and endless requests to go back through areas on side-missions. Of course, this was a fault with the original Borderlands games as well, but since Pre-Sequel’s environments lack a key ingredient that those games had, namely characters. Too many of B:TPS’ characters feel like recycled versions of people we’ve met in earlier games. It’s very enlightening to see that, when you’ve trudged back across the lunar-scape for the umpteenth time to turn in a quest for Johnny-no-personality, quite how integral to the success of the Borderlands mission system those characters- like Scooter and Ellie were. If you’ve less desire to hear what the NPC’s have to say, due to familiarity or simply less entertaining script,  then your likelihood of doing all those side-quests rapidly diminishes.

BTPS_Review_In-Game_Art_Jack BTPS_Reviews_Screen_DahlBossFortunately what the game does get right is the combat. Shooting things in Borderlands remains as endlessly entertaining as it did in the previous games, especially with new abilities like freezing to add into the mix. Coupled with the increased mobility, gun-play is very strong. Your characters have skill trees that are significantly changed from earlier games and make all four (including various builds for each) markedly different and change up the game-play considerably.

One thing that struck me from the get go was a sense of, ‘huh, I wonder how that’s going to work’, when looking at how the skills pan out. It lends itself to increased re-playability when you’re very intrigued has to how things might develop. The shield-toting Gladiator, drone-equipped Enforcer and dual-wielding Law-bringer classes are joined by everyone’s favourite mechanical malcontent, Claptrap. Far from being a weak patsy for pratfalls and kickings, Claptrap is a rolling death-dealer with a delicious element of randomisation to his abilities. His VaultHunter.Exe skill allows him to draw upon the talents of other vault hunters – supposedly to best fit the situation, but it’s Claptrap. In order to deal with enemies, he’s constantly exploding, releasing copies of himself and buggering up the plans of his team-mates. It’s stupid and awesome, exactly what you’d hope of a Claptrap playable character.

BTPS_Reviews_Screen_SplitScreen_combinedHow much you’re going to enjoy The Pre-Sequel depends entirely on how saturated you are in Borderlands experience right now. If you’ve only just got around to finishing Borderlands 2 and you immediately bite into this title, I think you’re going to get pretty full, pretty fast. This isn’t all that unlikely, since that game has only relatively recently stopped getting DLC, despite being two years old at this point. B:TPS is more of the same, only with writing that would have been sent to the compost pile of the earlier game. If it’s been a while and your taste-buds are tingling for something familiar but with a little twist, then Pre-Sequel should definitely be in your list of things to indulge in.

I’m going to leave it to Jack to sign-off in his own (it turns out, relatively imitable style):

“I called you an asshole because I thought I’d hung up?

….

My bad.”

 

Karlos Morale

Score: 7/10

Borderlands: The Pre Sequel is out now for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3