Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! (and not Borderlands 3, or even Borderlands 1.5) is the latest game in the Borderlands universe, and takes place chronologically between the first two games. The game serves as a way for players to get to know and understand how Handsome Jack, the villain from the prior game (reviewed here), became such an utter malignant misanthrope. I grab my vault hunting gear and head for the moon of Pandora to battle lunar-tics and see what manner of loot I can grab.
In Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, you and your friends play as four types of vault hunter: Athena, a gladiator who can absorb damage with her shield; Wilhelm, a mercenary who is slowly augmenting himself with technology; Nisha, a law-bringer who uses her guns with deadly accuracy; and Claptrap, who uses a program called “VaultHunter.exe” to cause…well, chaos. In typical Claptrap fashion. You can choose to play local or online co-op, so it’s easy to find other vault hunters to play with should you not have any…you know…real friends.
Storywise, the game starts in media res, with your vault hunter team being interrogated by former vault hunters Lilith, Mordecai, and Brick. Your vault hunters explain that they were hired by Handsome Jack to find a vault. Your team catch a rocket to Helios, the space station that Jack is on, and on the way are ambushed. While trying to activate the station defences, they discover that a jamming signal array exists on Elpis, Pandora’s moon, so the lot of you are jettisoned over there to figure out what’s going on.
To me, Pre-Sequel felt a lot like a supersized Borderlands 2 DLC pack, because much of it is almost exactly the same as before. Yes, the characters, setting, and story are all new, but many of the systems, weapons, and so on are much the same (two weapon changes notwithstanding). One of the interesting new changes is that Elips has a lower gravity than Pandora, and the game’s physics match the lower gravity. Jumping tends to launch you higher up, and things can be fairly launched into space if you hit them right. Elpis has no atmosphere, so in addition to the standard equipment, you also need to carry oxygen tanks (called “Oz Kits”) and refill them at regular intervals. The Oz Kits serve a second purpose, allowing you to perform double jumps and ground slams. This has officially brought FPS games in line with sidescrolling platformers. In terms of weapons, there are two new classes of weapon: a freeze item that slows down or outright freezes enemies (they can be shttered when you melee them), and laser guns. Another change is to the vehicles. There are two vehicles on offer this time: a buggy that’s horrible to control, and a speedbike called “The Stingray” that is far far more fun to drive.
Veteran players will feel right at home here, since the game looks and plays identical to Borderlands 2, changes aside. In fact, even the humour is the same, so those of you who found the last two games hilarious will enjoy more of the same. Matchmaking was a simple affair, and the game allows multiple types of the same character, so you’re not limited to “one type per person”. The game stands a little less firm on its own as a single-player experience, however. The game offers that option, but it really is best played with the addition of friends, for numerous reasons, not least among them being that you’ll at least have someone to watch your back. Obviously, this game is aimed directly at existing fans of the Borderlands series. New players will find things confusing, and many of the recurring NPCs, in-jokes, and lore will be lost on someone starting this game for the first time.
Overall, not a bad addition to the series, but it feels more like a cash-in than a fully-fledged game in the series. It probably would have done just as well as a DLC game at a fraction of the price, because many of Borderlands 2’s assets are still here. That aside, much of what made the first two games so much fun are still intact, even if there’s not much new to crow about.
Final Score: 7 vault-hunting prawns out of 10
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Steam
Age Rating: 16+