The Handsome Collection includes the 2012 sequel to the original Borderlands and the 2014 Pre-Sequel! I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I had never played Borderlands before coming across the Handsome Collection and wish I’d got around to it sooner!
Borderlands was developed by Gearbox Software, Armature Studio and Iron Galaxy Studios and published by 2K Australia for the Pre-Sequel!. Here’s some words that you don’t hear often when gaming; ‘jumbuck’, ‘billabong’ even ‘bloody lunatic’ and when I first heard them uttered in a definitively Australian accent I was thrilled. The Australian game industry does well to embrace our moments when they appear and this was a big, moon shaped one. From start to finish every time someone opened their mouth I was excited all over again.
Aussie accents on Elpis aside, imagine a world where you bound over moons with ridiculous weaponry, chase bad guys for fun and/or money and generally cause mayhem and havoc wherever possible in pursuit of the greater good. There’s loads of curious characters and a story loose enough to allow you to wander freely and take part in as many or as little side quests as took your fancy but still draw you right back in when you do eventually head in the direction you’re supposed to. In each game you’re a vault hunter initially saving Pandora with Jack and then against him as the story unfolds in Borderlands 2.
Ridiculous-ity is a concept that suits this collection well, and before grammar nazis jump in to tell me it’s not a word have a go at Borderlands and you’ll understand why it’s so perfect. Everything is exaggerated, the comic book-esque graphics are bright with bold outlines, the world is intense in its harshness and variety and the characters you encounter are really something else. From their first utterances characters like Clap Trap, Handsome Jack and Springs really make an impression. They’re wacky and wonderful and a special kind of endearing, sort of like the fondness one would have for the village idiot. Sure they’re an idiot, but it’s okay because they’re your idiot.
The enemies share this eccentricity, there’s so many different felons you’ll encounter across the Borderlands universe and they all were uniquely entertaining. I have a fondness for the lil lunatics, who take both badass and crazy to whole new levels and the boss challenges were generally thrilling encounters. The variety of enemies and their different behaviours, strengths and weaknesses, as well as the automatic matching of enemies skills to your level meant that I was constantly challenged and entertained by the silly humour. Both entertainment and challenging gameplay are important in a game and both were huge factors in how much I enjoyed the Borderlands franchise.
Borderlands operates as a first person shooter RPG, there’s some bells and whistles, oxygen jet packs, special abilities and extras like corrosive or cryo damage. Plus the choice to use your badass points and skills gained as you see fit on your character. The maps are large and connect up to form a fairly open world with some fast travel points and plenty of vehicle spawn locations to make up the distance quickly.
The gameplay could be clunky at times which made some of the quests, like jumping for the ECHO at the very beginning of the Pre-Sequel great sources of irritation. There’s occasional glitches, enemies getting stuck or indefinitely re-spawning in a single location instead of as you move around the map but for the most part it worked as it should. You’ll find that despite looting everything in sight you’ll often not have enough ammo so frequent visits to the vending machines to offload excess weaponry, buy a top up and have a chuckle at the soviet vendors will be necessary.
There’s some things I wish were better, the ability to use sniper rifles isn’t particularly useful where enemies spawn only when you’re close to them and due to the frenetic nature of the combat cover is a must but not always available, especially when reloading. What I did love was the second chance to recover when dying by getting a kill, the excess of the weaponry that made every fight thoroughly chaotic but so very wonderful, plus the fact that you never really knew what was coming – every quest, every corner, every port-a-loo had something to make me smile or laugh.
I’ve always enjoyed playing socially and I loved the co-op gameplay ability in Borderlands. It’s mad-cap style is perfect for gaming with others. Your enemies increase in abilities when are two of you to keep it challenging and you gain the ability to revive each other. It’s easier to clear areas and it’s just as fun to play through quests with them as it is to roam the map killing and looting scavs on moon buggies. It’s handy that you can trade and inspect but it’s frustrating, especially on the prequel that unless your friend has a save already they must start at level one. They have no shield or oxygen mask and no ability to find one easily because the game is levelled to the main character. It really limits what you can do, and the host can’t even help unless they saved level one equipment, which lets face it, no one ever would! The screen gets pretty tiny on split screen, but they’ve been smart about it and allow you to scroll to all the parts of your screen because it definitely does not fit. Maybe they could have shrunk it, but hey at least I can pick which bit I’m able to see.
When it comes down to it this is a great series and a worthwhile addition to your gaming library. The Handsome Collection is a winner for its humour and flair but also the pure madness that ensues every time you play.
Review by Zahra Emily
*Borderlands The Handsome Collection was reviewed on the Playstation 4 system.