Release Date: October 14, 2014Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3, PCDeveloper: 2K AustraliaPublisher: 2K GamesGenre: Action RPG/FPS
Scrolled across the front of every one of Marcus’ weapon vendor machines in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is the phrase “Guns – In Space!” These are words that speak volumes. For as much fun as the title pokes at today’s overabundance of sequels crowding the gaming landscape, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel very much feels like it falls under the “not really necessary” category, as it adds little to the gun-collecting, RPG-lite, colorful, nihilistically humorous world that Gearbox created with Borderlands 1 and 2. It’s fun, it’s brash, it’ll be like crack for loot hunters. And no one but the Borderlands faithful need to play it.
Don’t get me wrong — Pre-Sequel, even though development was handled by a different studio, 2K Australia, is still just as technically proficient as the first two games. Elpis, the moon on which the game takes place, is the most gorgeous dead rock I have ever laid eyes on, proving once again 2K’s uncanny ability to bring lush, eye-popping color to barren landscapes. Towns feel alive this time around, with more citizens populating the streets and occupying the local watering holes. The shooting mechanics are spot on, allowing for numerous decapitations and excessive cranial destruction. Everything works wonderfully.
Those that put time into the first two games will also notice one huge difference — the absence of gravity or oxygen. In the vacuum of space, your jumps now send you climbing to spectacular heights, and you suffer little to no falling damage on the way down. If you slam down the B button (O on PS3), you will perform a ground pound attack that pulverizes your enemies and adds a new dynamic to melee combat.
Borderlands 1 and 2 were pretty dry and one-dimensional in the movement department, but navigating Elpis in Pre-Sequel is much more dynamic and three-dimensional. While the limited oxygen tanks made things more tense during firefights as I dashed from cover to grab refills, the flow of exploration was broken when I had to divert course to go grab more air, and became an outright annoyance after hours of play.
Outside the low-gravity combat, Pre-Sequel is pretty much “more Borderlands,” with the exception of the new Cryo elemental damage type, laser weapon class, and vehicles that (still) don’t control that well. Of course, there are new classes. The stand-out is Claptrap the Fragtrap, who is fun to tool around with at first, but in the end, it all feels very similar to previous experiences. You still choose your path along the classes’ respective branching skill trees, collect loot, grab quests off the bounty board, and shoot a ton of baddies.
The story, meant to bridge the gap between Borderlands 1 and 2, tells the tale of how Handsome Jack came to be such a bad guy. It’s definitely better written and thought out than the previous stories. Given how threadbare the narrative has always been in this series, it would be a stretch to say that very many are going to be rushing to buy this game because they want to hear more story.
You are here to shoot and loot, and the game does this just as well as the first two while adding some spice. It helps that there are tons of appearances from existing characters such as Mad Moxxi, Crazy Earl, and Roland. Even though their parts are minimal, it was entertaining to see them operating outside of their roles and making references to previous games that series faithfuls will certainly understand and get a kick out of.
For Borderlands fans who haven’t grown tired of the formula, The Pre-Sequel couldn’t come with a higher recommendation. The added touches will be more than enough to keep things interesting, and the numerous character appearances and references to previous games will add a new layer to the lore. For anyone that is “over it” or that has never been interested in the series before, this game will not change your mind or pull you back. It never aspires to do that.