Nobody was excepting the next entry in the Borderlands franchise to be a last-gen exclusive; they didn’t expect it to be a prequel, and they didn’t expect a Borderlands game to not be developed by Gearbox Software. Yet here we are: a prequel to Borderlands 2, only coming to PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, and developed by 2K Australia. Fans have every right to be wary of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel since handing over beloved franchises to other studios has typically been a death sentence. At E3 2014, however, I was given hands-on time with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and I can say that 2K Australia may be the best thing to happen to Borderlands.
I’ve played both Borderlands titles and they are enjoyable, but they rarely hold my attention. Much of this is owed to the boring story and boring playable characters. This is where Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel grabs my attention. You play as Handsome Jack’s four lieutenants, which means you’re now a badguy. The demo only contained Wilheim and Athena, but both characters have plenty of personality. Alongside them were non-playable characters that were hilarious in typical Borderlands fashion. The writing is just as quick and snappy as in previous games.
The demo I was given took place on Pandora’s moon with Wilhelm and Athena helping a new character try to freeze a lake of lava. When I first learned that the game would take place on the moon and feature low-gravity I perceived this as simply a gimmick meant to justify the game’s existence. I could not have been more wrong. Playing in low-gravity and jumping around the environment and over enemies is extremely satisfying, and adds a new layer of experimentation to the game. You will need Oxygen to survive, but the game doesn’t make it hard to get. Entering an area with an atmosphere will replenish your Oxygen reserves immediately. Using the jetpack does cost some Oxygen, but will be replenished in full in a few seconds after landing. The only time the Oxygen meter will tick down is when you’re just running around the moon.
This is first and foremost a Borderlands game, and everything you expect from a Borderlands game is here. The shooting remains tight and responsive and there are still billions of different types of guns to play around with. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel checks all the boxes to be considered a Borderlands game, but does it add anything new? It adds a lot of new things. A brand new weapon type, lasers, has been added to the already large list of weapons, and are capable of delivering wicked elemental damage. The cold recess of space allows for ice elemental damage to be dealt. Tapping crouch in the air allows you to perform a super slam that damages enemies and throws them back. Oh, and shooting off the helmets of enemies causes their heads to swell and explode. Honestly, 2K Australia has packed some good stuff into this game.
The only thing that hasn’t changed is the presentation. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel delivers the same visual experience as its predecessors, but not much new or improved. Texture pop-in is still a problem, and some of the chaotic battles took a toll on the framerate. Of course, the game isn’t done and is still being optimized for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC so this could all change once the game is out. However, one can’t help but wonder how amazing this game would look if it was coming to PS4 and Xbox One.
Speaking of those consoles, I was able to talk to 2K Games about possible other platforms. PS4 and Xbox One are a definite no with the publisher wanting to wrap up the current Borderlands story on PS3 and Xbox 360. With this in mind I asked about the game making its way to PS Vita. This question was followed by a long silence and then I was told that their focus right now is on finishing up the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC versions. According to them, they have no comment on the possibility of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel arriving on PS Vita. So there’s always the possibility.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel could be the best entry in the Borderlands franchise. 2K Australia is not playing it safe with this entry, but is rather bringing tons of new content and exploring a brand new mechanic. What I got to see and play at E3 2014 got me excited to return to Pandora and explore its dangerous moon.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is out October 10 on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.