When it came out in 2009, the first-person shooter role-playing game Borderlands was such an inventive, addictive, and funny breath of fresh air that part of me hoped it would never end. But while I enjoyed the 2012 sequel, Borderlands 2 almost as much, by the time I got to the end of that one, I was still hoping it would never end…I just wanted it to take a break for a while. Now we have Borderlands The Pre-Sequel!, which was made by Gearbox (who made the previous ones) and 2K Australia (BioShock 2) for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. And while it’s not as good as the other two, it’s still loads of fun.
Set between the events of Borderlands and Borderlands 2 (though it seems more like a prequel to the latter than a sequel to the former), Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! once again has you hunting for a vault, except this time you’re looking on Elpis, Pandora’s moon. This, as you know if you’ve played the other games, will require lots of runnin’ and a gunnin’ and a lootin’ around some big open spaces. Which is why, like its predecessors, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! is like Fallout 3 if that game was made by the Call Of Duty people, but scripted by the writing staff from Space Ghost: Coast To Coast.
And yes, it does have all the quality that previous sentence implies. Not only are the controls tight and responsive, and not only is the beautifully cel-shaded world ripe with adventure and things to do, but it’s also got a weird sense of humor that keeps things light, even when you’re mowing down tons of not-so-innocent people. Which is why, like the other ones, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! is one of those games where you’ll sit down to just play for half an hour, but then the next thing you know it’s four hours later, and where the hell are my pants?
Of course, as a sequel, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! is an all-new adventure with new weapons (and types of weapons), enemies, and your choice of four new vault hunters, all of whom have their own unique skills and special attacks. You can even, for the first time, play as a CL4P-TP (though the game does its best to dissuade you), which makes this even funnier. Well, unless you hate him.
Also, because Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! takes place on the moon, where there’s less gravity, your characters can jump even higher than in the other games. Which comes in handy since, even more than before, this game has a fair bit of verticality.
Along with the reduced gravity, the moon in Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! also has no atmosphere, which means you have to be mindful of your oxygen. Though not too concerned. No only are there plenty of air pockets and machines that create air bubbles, but dying enemies now drop cans of oxygen along with money, ammo, health boosts, and new weapons.
Where these two elements of Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! come together is in a new addition to your arsenal called an Oz Kit, which uses oxygen to let you to double jump and, after jumping, slam yourself down, injuring anyone nearby (though your enemies can, and will, do this slam attack as well).
Aside from all that, though, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! is very much like the others. Be the combat, the leveling up and associated systems, the navigation, the vehicular homicide, the Doctor Who-ish resurrection tunnel, the mix of main and side quests, or the hidden mini challenges that run in the background but can really add up over time, this really does feel like the third version of the same game in many ways. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it was a pretty solid game to begin with, but it’s hard not to think this might need something new to juice things up.
While the biggest problem with Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! is that it’s mostly more of the same, it does have a couple other issues that, annoyingly, were present in the other two games as well.
For starters (and this is not the only game that does this), while you’re supposed to loot every crate, box, cabinet, toilet, dumpster, gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse in the area, if your mission has you following someone, they’ll often bug you to keep going. A lot. Just once I wish my character would yell something like, “Will you relax, I’m lootin’ here!”
There are also times when the map can be unhelpful. Nothing prohibitive, mind you, but it’s still annoying when you’re trying to find something. It’s funny, six years ago, when I saw how setting a waypoint in Fable II would create a trail to your destination, I asked that game’s creative director Peter Molyneux if he was okay with the idea that other games might rip it off (he was). But aside from the Dead Space series, most games haven’t, even though it would make a game like, oh let’s say Borderlands The Pre-Sequel!, that much more fun to play.
Similarly, I wish Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! had a different loot storage system. Not necessarily one that would let me carry more stuff, but at least something where — like in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots or Destiny — I could junk stuff I don’t want in the field, rather than have to constantly run back to the vending machines. And yes, I know I can just drop stuff, but as a greedy, materialistic bastard, that’s about as appealing as a chocolate-covered textbook.
Then there’s the problem with the co-op settings. While Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! can be fun to play with friends, if you don’t play well with others (like me), you’ll want to set the network options to “offline.” But the problem is that if you take a break and come back to the game later, the game will reset the network options back to “Friends Only.” Which means you’ll have to reset it to what you want every time you play.
Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! also has a problem that’s so common these days that I now just cut and paste this paragraph into almost every game review I do (seriously, go check): some of the type is too small. Unless you sit really, really close to your TV — y’know, like your mama told you not to — you’ll have a hard time reading the in-game menus, the mission specs, and other messages.
But here’s the thing: While I wasn’t terribly excited for Borderlands The Pre-Sequel! when they first announced it (largely because the close release dates and DLC made it seem like I’d been playing Borderlands and Borderlands 2 for four years straight), after playing this third entry, my enthusiasm for this game — and any DLC, sequels, prequels, pre-sequels, or even se-prequels they might do in the future — has returned. Sure, it is largely the same game all over again, but that same game is still a lot of fun.