Go ahead… make my day… Anybody? Hello?!?!!
Gearbox’s Borderlands series has been a real highlight of this past console generation. Massive piles of bullets spewed from a near endless variety of gun, enough character customization to make your eyes glaze over, all tied up with some of the best dialog and funniest characters to grace our screens with their batshit crazy. Ok, sure, the plots were loose and not as cohesive as they could have been but who needs that when you have a giant brightly colored world to slaughter your way through? To keep the franchise in view and still let them get some other projects finally attended to Gearbox has handed the reins over to 2K Australia for The Pre-Sequel! and Telltale for the currently running episodic Tales from the Borderlands series. 2K Australia does a perfectly passable job with their entry.
Taking the spotlight this time around is Borderlands 2’s exuberantly sadistic villain, Handsome Jack, to give a better focus on his how and why. Hyperion’s still under construction space station, Helios, is attacked by The Lost Legion just as four new playable Vault Hunters, all returning NPCs from previous games, arrive. With Helios temporarily taken, the Vault Hunters make a break to Elpis, the moon orbiting Borderland’s usual location of Pandora, to regroup and get themselves a robot army.
Once again we can take our pick from four Vault Hunters. Athena the Gladiator, a former assassin for Atlus Corporation, who appeared in the original title’s The Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC. Her primary skill is a temporary shield that absorbs damage, be thrown Captain America style and can reflect elemental damage back at enemies. Nisha the Lawbringer, an Old West style bandit who kills bandits, who originally appeared in Borderlands 2 as Jack’s girlfriend and the Sheriff of Lynchwood. Her main skill is The Showdown, which slows time while improving gun damage, speed and allows for snap targeting. Wilhelm the Enforcer, the cybernetics addicted second boss from Borderlands 2. He’s this entry’s turret character but is a drone and as the game progresses he gets modifications that make he creeps toward the monstrosity he was the first time we shot him in the face. Finally, but certainly not least of all, is Claptrap the Fragtrap, the series mascot and fan favorite character finally is under your control. VaultHunter.exe skill generates random effects that can help or hurt you and your party, many of them are based on skills from the player characters from the earlier games. Claptrap is the only choice that actually plays in a new style. I know you were either sold on that choice already or rolling your eyes in disgust at his return but I want to assure you it’s great fun… if you’re playing with a group… for a second run-through… maybe a third.
While the humor isn’t as biting or as, well, laugh out loud while peeing yourself funny as 2, it still works for the most part. The player characters are all given expanded roles with more dialog and variations depending on which you are playing as. It’s a nice touch that was oddly missing in the earlier titles. That 2K Australia embraced the Aussiness of their team actually goes a long way to make this title worth a play. Instead of only catering to American and European players they sell the accents and Australian cultural references up thick, quick and don’t ever feel the need to have to explain them… because fuck you if you don’t get it. Sorry, it’s Australian, so I mean “because ***k ya gob sh****t if ya don’t get it”. While the old gang almost all of the old characters from the original Borderlands game returns in some capacity with cameos from all of the more popular NPCs from 2, most of the new NPCs just don’t leave that much of an impression.
LOADING SCREENS! LOADING SCREENS! LOADING SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENS!
Since half of the action takes place on Elpis, don’t expect the lush environments of the earlier games. While Elpis itself looks great, the moon above Pandora doesn’t offer much in the way of location variety. It’s all very grey and rocky or grey and spaceship like. Time spent on Helios makes up for this some, with everything from a grassy area where they’re breeding Nightstalkers to the cold vacuum of space. It’s not just the environments that start to take on a look of “Haven’t I seen this already?!?!?!” so do the enemies. While the previous titles had a breathtaking number of enemies, even if many were just variations on themes, The Pre-Sequel has a very limited number of even variations. I’d estimate there’s only three of four variations of each type of enemy and unlike previously they don’t all come in smaller versions.
Elpis does offer some new things though. Low gravity which allows for slow leaps, double jumps and ass slams that will stun nearby enemies. The new jumping setup allows for some good traversal and environmental puzzles to get from point A to point B. Since there’s little atmosphere on the moon, you equip yourself with an “Oz kit” to breath and maneuver. While double jumping or just exploring uses O2 there’s enough ways to replenish and there are more than enough spots on every map to do it that I never felt rushed or worried by it. Unfortunately you also move slower on the moon so in the early hours that long trek back to whoever gave you the quest you just finished can feel even longer… so fucking long…
Also new to the series is a laser rifles weapon class. These come in the largest variety of any weapon. Available in models with various shotgun like spreads or single shots or even continuous beams of searing death. They’re a lot of fun to play with and are the most welcome addition from Elpis.
That map isn’t that big… how do I keep getting lost?
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is just more Borderlands. Which is a good thing. While it never really makes it it’s own thing, it’s a fine addition to the series that will tide over fans for a while. Not a must play and not a must skip. It’s an ok entry but a disappointing final entry in the last console generation’s best new franchise.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel- 7/10- Not a bad entry to the series but doesn’t ever become it’s own thing, to forever stand in the shadow of Borderlands 2.