So far, the PS4 and Xbox One have been pretty disappointing in terms of new franchises. Instead, we’ve seen countless ports of PS3 and Xbox 360 games making their way to the new consoles. Now, we’re getting another remaster in the form of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection which brings the loot-driven FPS action of Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! to new-gen consoles. While the trend is getting pretty annoying, this is a great package for those who missed either of the games last generation.
In case you’ve never tried it, the Borderlands series is a one-to-four player FPS/RPG hybrid with a focus on loot. Set on the cartoony, Mad Max-inspired planet Pandora, the series sees you playing as mercenaries in search of the ‘Vault’ – a legendary cache said to contain alien technology. Each character comes with their own unique ability and weapon specialisations. The line-up of characters changes in each game, but they generally follow the RPG class archetypes (Warrior, Hunter, Rogue etc.)
One of the series’ main selling points is its obscene number of guns. With millions of unique, randomly-generated weapons varying in elemental effect, damage, rate of fire, scope, reload speed and more, you’re pretty much guaranteed to never get the same gun twice. Experimenting with new guns is seriously addictive, whether you’re finding out which weapons work best against a particular enemy, or just discovering a new personal favourite.
From pulling off skull-exploding headshots, to watching a chest intricately unfold and absorbing its goodies; everything in Borderlands pushes those endorphin-releasing buttons in my brain. The ability to sprint endlessly – and reload while doing so – will make you wonder why all other FPS games don’t follow suit. Starting with an unlevelled character, the core gunplay isn’t as immediately snappy as, say, Call of Duty, but this only improves as you progress. This is yet another addictive aspect of the game, and it’s easy to get into the ‘one more quest’ mindset.
Set in-between Borderlands and Borderlands 2, The Pre-Sequel (get it?) is pretty much more of what we’ve already seen, except with new characters and a different setting. This new setting is Elpis, Pandora’s moon, and it brings along with it some gameplay changes. Elpis lacks any atmosphere, meaning you’ll have to maintain oxygen levels by running over air pockets. You’re also able to jump extremely high thanks to the reduced gravity, and swiftly follow it up with a damaging stomp. Neither of these features revolutionise the formula, but they never get in the way, either.
Although it’s designed with co-op in mind, I’ve always enjoyed playing Borderlands alone. It’s just my preferred way to play games. For the sake of the review, I left my game open to matchmaking throughout my playtime in the hope that I could try out playing co-operatively. Unfortunately, no one ever joined. I don’t know if this is a matchmaking issue, or a general lack of players. Borderlands is better with buddies, though, so you’re better off playing splitscreen or getting a party going with people on your friends list.
Along with the new hardware comes a graphical upgrade, although this is no revolutionary change à la GTA V; the games simply run at a higher resolution, and, generally, a smoother frame rate. I say generally because things still get choppy during when there’s a lot of action on-screen, particularly in The Pre-Sequel!. Given the extra processing power, I would’ve liked both games to run at 60fps, as is the norm for HD remasters. The games still look great, though; the cel-shaded visuals are bright and colourful, and environments are varied and detailed.
As someone who played the hell out of Borderlands, got through most of Borderlands 2 and played none of The Pre-Sequel!, I’m probably the ideal audience for the remaster, but omitting the first game seems a strange decision – I’m sure there are plenty of PS4 and Xbox One owners who would like to start the series from scratch. The downloadable content helps to fill this void though – adding hours of great quests and four additional Vault Hunters. Anyone who played these games last generation can import their characters to the new consoles, although this doesn’t work cross-platform, meaning I was unable to bring my 360 characters to the PS4.
I have a few issues with Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. Besides the inconsistent frame rate and the exclusion of the first game, I found it mildly annoying that I was unable to switch between the two games without restarting the application. Those niggles aside – with tons of exciting content and great gameplay, The Handsome Collection is easy to recommend for those looking for some addictive, loot-collecting action on their new-gen console.