Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review

claptastic_screen3 review

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.

Screenshot_2_tif_jpgcopy

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

Civilization: Beyond Earth Review

CivBE_Logo_Large

Civilization: Beyond Earth picks up from where its predecessors left off, by combining the excitement of planetary exploration from Alpha Centauri, with the solid hex-based gameplay from Civilization 5. C:BE has found a wonderful niche in the market that will feel new to experienced Civilization leaders, but also offer some streamlined mechanics for those fresh to the series.

At first glance it’s easy to think 2K Games have simply slapped a new lick of paint on their existing game, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Barbarians from Civilization 5 are now replaced by indigenous aliens and, rather than a simple early game annoyance that you have to manage for the first third of the game, the new aliens take on the role of a complete new faction and interweave with the very fabric of the core game. This isn’t a faction that you’ll engage in diplomatic relations with or trade for resources, but make up a part of the living, breathing world that you’ve landed yourself on. The sheer size of the alien forces that surround you will make you want to live in harmony with your new extra-terrestrial friends while you build up your civilization around you. But like any good science fiction story, these pesky aliens stand in the way of your progress and need to be slaughtered swiftly so you can develop ahead of the other factions that are growing around you.

CivBE_1Your faction of choice will provide bonus’ which will give you minor boosts that are most beneficial through the beginning of your leadership. However, once your civilization is up and running you’re going to be focusing on using the new affinity system – to develop the culture of your people and decide how you wish to approach new life on this fresh planet. Do you want to integrate alien life into your DNA, or perhaps preserve the way of life you enjoyed on Earth? Your three options – Supremacy, Harmony and Purity – provide completely different options as to how you will approach your playthrough and offer signature units as well as differing victory conditions. Two of these offer polar opposites to each other, while one sits firmly in the middle should you wish to test a little of everything. Purity is the idea of purging aliens from this new world, keeping your bloodlines pure, and making it on your own, while Harmony embraces alien life and allows you to use the alien forces to your advantage. Supremacy takes the least extreme route offered and presents bonuses to maintenance costs for the victor who chooses the peaceful path. The new depth offered through these options goes beyond simply wanting to play as a faction because they get something cool in the late game and actually increases the different playing options three-fold, to allow you to play multiple factions in multiple directions and have a different outcome and experience each time.

CivBE_Screenshot_Arid_EarthlingSettlerThe new tech tree offers a chance for players to plan out exactly where they want their faction to go, and rather than having a Wiki document open to ensure you’re making the right choices early on in the game, you’re presented with the entire tech tree up front to allow you full control over your destiny. This spread of each new technology you may want is a powerful weapon in controlling your development and building the civilization and type of playthrough you want.

Beyond Earth offers quests to complete throughout your playthrough, which result in you often trying something slightly different, or challenging your perception of what you are trying to do. These small side quests, while completely optional, provide bonuses that can come in handy in the late game pinch. As each faction pushes for victory and, in some cases, begins to direct you a little about what you could be doing whilst your city is amassing forces to attack your opponent, or you’re patiently waiting for that wonder to be built. In some ways the quest system feels like a powerful tool to offer buffs and advice that many will welcome during the long hours they will spend in front of the game.

CivBE_Screenshot_Harmony_MindflowerEndgameThe thematic differences that an alien culture provide in Civilization: Beyond Earth ensures this feels more than a simple re-skin of the hex-grid perfection that was Civilization 5. The tweaks to the technology systems and the new affinity system makes the game feel new while still feeling familiar and welcoming to new players. While Beyond Earth isn’t rewriting the core mechanics of the franchise, it is bringing enough to the party to justify itself as a full release and is an epic journey into the unknown that players old and new need to play.

Score: 9/10