Like previous counterparts, 2K decided to continue the franchise with a game that enjoyed making my console/television second guess their frame-rate possibilities with balls-to-the-wall action scenes that were truly spectacular.
If anyone knows me at all, you already know this review is going to be a positive one. Even though I’m often asked ‘what is your favourite game’, and I rarely supply a certain answer, you can be sure that the Borderlands series will be up there as one of the best in my opinion.
As one of the only games I have completed 100%, the very first Borderlands game was everything I never thought I would enjoy in a video game: a multitude of side missions clogging up the main quest line, FPS style of gameplay and overly complex RPG elements of character customisation. But after total completion of the game back in 2013, it was for every one of these reasons that I fell in love with the franchise and decided to follow the developers wherever they wanted to take me.
So two games later, we’re faced with the game only the people at 2K could come up with… The Pre-Sequel. Yes, a game that comes after 1 but before 2. Be it the Black Flag to Assassins Creeds 2 and 3. Either way, it confused me for too long a time.
Now I know I’m late to the party once again, with the game having come out in October 2014, but I’m a full time mum and student so give me a fucking break – I’ve literally only just finished it. And my god was it good. In fact, I would possibly place it higher than the previous two games in the series. Here’s why.
As I said before, the gameplay mostly relies on FPS combat to such a degree that you may find yourself grinding and respawning enemies to complete challenges and gain XP, but it’s never a dull moment. At times in the game, I found myself in the middle of a soaring lead shit storm with only my laser gun for protection and my partner’s Wolf ability as a foe. It’s honestly berserk. At times my Xbox found itself lagging because of how draining the how scene was on it’s frame-rate possibilities – but thankful I found this more hilarious than I did aggravating.
Take for example the final boss, now I won’t give away any spoilers, but as well as being a total ballache to finish off (with multiple difficult and challenging phases to learn and overcome), the sheer amount of crap that guy was throwing at us from all angles was just incomprehensible. In fact, I’m certain that about 60% of that battle was me just holding down the trigger and hoping I was hitting something that needed to die. It was exhilarating. I was literally shouting with glee at my all too frightened partner.
Another reason for the delirious amount of fun to be had in the game is (again, what I thought was a negative) the deeply-ingrained need to customise and develop your character to play how YOU want to. Out of the 4 new playable characters me and my partner chose Claptrap and Wilhelm respectively – with my moany son-of-a-bitch boyfriend complaining every time I triggered Claptrap ‘VaultHunter.exe’ skill and turned us into Rubber Duckies. Exactly like the old games, players need to loot a bunch of guns and protective gear such as grenade mods and shields to power their chosen Vault Hunter, supported the enormously unique Talent Trees and Badass Rank systems. It’s true to say that no one person will play this game in the same way someone else will.
Other successful features that translated well across the titles come in the form of the genuinely hilarious voice acting and sense of humour/style and a story line that focused around what I believe the best character/villain/human beauty that is Handsome Jack, the spine and genital quivering bad guy from Borderlands 2. If you loved him from his first rendition, then you really won’t be disappointed with his origins story. You meet Jack as a lowly Hyperion programmer following an offer to go and find that illusive Vault they’ve all been twittering on about. After multiple ambushes,questionable defense tactics on Jack’s behalf and string of culturally referential side quests, we finally see what made Jack so Handsome…
However, this is where some players may falter slightly with the game, and it is 100% understandable. I mentioned that ‘string of side quests’ just now… yeah, there’s a lot of them. And even though I’m sure you could somehow play just the main story line to the game, I equally don’t understand how that is possible as you’re so reliant on XP and leveling that you just can’t avoid them.
Most, if not all, of the quests are fun and don’t deter away from the main premise of the game, with various locals and freakballs needing help in some way, shape or form. But sometimes they’re just fuckery. Pure fuckery. See here: a mission where you need to accompany ICU-P and RT-FC to their friend Toby Van Adobe to deliver a message from Her Snootiness about him ‘having her only soap’. It’s absolute fucking madness.
Fun new elements such as the Grinder and the incredibly fun laser-based weapons keep the franchise alive, even if both of these come with their own aggravations. The Grinder, that allows you to grind together (how literal) 3 guns into one supposedly better gun was all but pointless to me, based on the fact all my new guns were shitty and sold for less at the market. Secondly, whilst the new laser weapons were fun and at times overpowered, I found most of the ones I looted and equipped were completely obnoxious to use based on it’s recoil and the sheer fucking size of it’s iron sights in my display.
Overall, whilst most of the environments were uninspiring and at times downright confusing (take the space stations areas where you needed to fly about on gravity launching pads – there was a certain guarantee I would get lost in this area even on my 70th visit), Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel takes a game that can arguably be seen as DLC and fills it up with enough world-history and character development to create, in my eyes, one of the best games in the franchises history. I’m not even fussed that 2K Australia kept it on the same engine as Borderlands 2 as I found the graphics and physics from prior titles amazing anyway, so why fix what doesn’t need fixing, amirite?
Personally, I would recommend that ANY game in the franchise needs to be completed cooperatively as any attempts I ever made at not just this game, but all of them, ended in immediate failure and total boredom. It’s a world that needs team work and a friend sat next to you who can shout at you every time their down and you’ve fucked off to look at something shiny on the other side of the map. Borderlands to me is built for fun, and with both hands on the controller, there’s no way you can have any real pleasure by yourself.
9.5 outta 10. Fully recommend to all gamers, and particularly to those who loved the story world and characters of previous titles. One of the most rewarding elements of the game were the numerous Easter eggs and link-backs to story lines that have been and are still to come chronologically.