Return to Pandora, where the mayhem never ends.
The other day while playing Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, I suddenly realized that I was playing two full-length games – Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel – each providing hundreds of hours of content even without their respective DLC packages. And if you’ve ever experienced a Borderlands DLC package, be it the Headhunter DLC or Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep or even the new Claptastic Voyage, you’ll know that you’re getting your money’s worth. On top of this, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection offers four player split-screen co-op, a 1080p resolution and improved visuals. That is an awe-inspiring amount of value for any FPS fan, whether they’ve played through the original games on previous gen consoles or not.
Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with Borderlands 2, which sees you taking control of six different Vault Hunters as they explore Pandora and join the Crimson Raiders to defeat Handsome Jack. Jack isn’t your normal run-of-the-mill psychopath – he’s got an army of robot Loaders and is digging up a powerful ancient Warrior to control. It’s up to you to become the killer that everyone needs and deserves to stop him.
"These games may have their filler but it doesn't encompass the entire experience by a long shot. And it's a testament to 2K Australia that it made Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel stand out as such a strong experience on its own with Oz kits, ground slams and low gravity settings."
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, on the other hand, takes place mostly from Jack’s initial mission to discover the Vault on Pandora. It takes a separate group of Hunters under Jack’s employ to Elpis, where they must stop the Dal Corporation’s Lost Legion from blowing up the moon. From there, a variety of twists and turns link The Pre-Sequel to Borderlands 2 while advancing the story for the overall franchise.
The magical thing about Borderlands is in its gameplay. It is a loot-grinder but also an action heavy first-person shooter. The RPG mechanics are subtle but endless variations can be created depending on the Vault Hunter you choose. Each Vault Hunter has three separate Skill Trees which can be upgraded for different results.
Take Maya, the Siren, who can use Phase Lock to effectively trap enemies for a short period of time. Phase Lock can be modified to inflict elemental damage, siphon health back to allies and even pull enemies close together. Then there’s Athena, a Gladiator who’s Aspis Shield acts as a strong defense but who also possesses a sword for brutal melee kills. Athena can either be the ultimate defender or the most murderous melee attacker available. Let’s not even get started on Claptrap’s skill tree.
Add in several tiers of weaponry, ranging from Assault Rifles to Rocket Launchers, and different elemental types like Lasers and Slag and you have what’s guaranteed to be a riveting new experience each time. This isn’t Destiny by a long shot – in Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, you’ll find a huge variety of side-quests and story missions to complete. The cast of characters is well-written, humorous and extremely memorable. This is ably assisted by the voice acting, particularly for characters like Mr. Torgue, Handsome Jack and Mad Moxxi.
One could make the point that many of the quests in Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel are simple fetch quests. However, the good majority of the game offers far more variety. You could be charged with finding a group of fly-boys clearly spoofing Top Gun and murdering them. Maybe you’ll fulfil one Bandit’s request to be shot in the face. Or perhaps you’ll be taking on an enormous flying blimp before going one on one with a frigging Badassasauras Rex. These games may have their filler but it doesn’t encompass the entire experience. And it’s a testament to 2K Australia that it made Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel stand on its own with Oz kits, ground slams and low gravity settings.
"First time players owe it to themselves to visit Pandora and Elpis - they'll wonder why they ever bothered with the big floating Traveler in the first place."
That being said, I found the storyline for Borderlands 2 to be much better than The Pre-Sequel. It’s much like comparing a full-blown epic to an well-made mini-series though – pacing issues with The Pre-Sequel aside, it’s still a ton of fun. If only there were more memorable moments and the ending didn’t make me want Borderlands 3 all the more.
The visuals for both games are top notch, adhering to the PC version’s High settings and delivering an excellent experience overall. You’ll still find some iffy textures here and there, and the frame rate isn’t quite locked at 60 FPS. The amount of drops becomes even more annoying during co-op play, especially during Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. While it’s tolerable, one of the tenets of The Handsome Collection is its improved visuals. Having an unstable frame rate just doesn’t feel right in that regard.
Another technical issue with The Handsome Collection is the sizeable download both PS4 and Xbox One players have to deal with. For the latter, it’s roughly 16 GB or so, adding the Claptastic Voyage DLC in the process. This was released incredibly close to The Handsome Collection’s completion and more content is always a bonus. It’s just a shame that it requires such a large day one update. There’s also the issue of switching between both games. In order to play The Pre-Sequel, you’ll need to quit Borderlands 2 and load up the game separately. There’s no way to switch between the two on the fly, not even through an in-game menu setting.
Again, these are just minor annoyances for a grandiose package like this. If you’ve ever played either game before, you shouldn’t really expect much new content. Then again, if you’re re-experiencing it for the current gen platforms, this is an awesome combination of one of the best RPG shooters ever made and it’s extremely competent and fun pre-sequel. First time players owe it to themselves to visit Pandora and Elpis – they’ll wonder why they ever bothered with the big floating Traveler in the first place.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Phenomenal gunplay, character variety, loot selection and scripting. Strong story missions and side-quests. Excellent DLC which adds all the more value. Native 1080p resolution and polished textures look exquisite. Four player split-screen co-op.
Over 16 GB update for Xbox One version. Some less than stellar textures at times. Frame rate drops can be annoying, especially in co-op. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a tier below Borderlands 2 overall.
Two amazing first person shooters with all their DLC and polished visuals. Even with its few technical snafus and large update, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is pure unadulterated fun.