Borderlands The Pre-Sequel delivers us a lot of the same Borderlands we have grown to love during the first two iterations with just a bit of low-gravity and Australia chucked in for good measure. After the 20 hours that I have spent going through this game I have blown away more enemies than I can fathom, taken on some challenging bosses and collected so much loot that my square button needs replacing. Despite the often bland scenery and the game not running so well on the PS3, 2K Australia have taken this already established brand and introduced an interesting new low-gravity mechanic that keeps the gameplay fresh while still including the deep customization, immense amount of weapons and the smart and funny dialogue that we all know.
The Pre-Sequel centers on the lovable and charismatic Jack and his descent into madness, morphing him into the sadistic maniacal Handsome Jack that we all know from Borderlands 2. You will take control of one of 4 protagonists as you help Jack on his path up the chain of command, watching him spiral out of control as he gains more power.
All four of the playable characters are recognisable from the previous Borderlands titles and they each come with a bevy of upgrades, skills and customization options to really make your character feel like a badass. There is even a playable Claptrap that has some insane abilities that need to be experienced to be believed. I opted to play as Athena “the Gladiator” during my playthrough. Athena has the ability to temporarily absorb damage with her shield before hurling it into enemies to deal a large amount of damage. Each of the different players has completely unique abilities and they not only warrant but reward different play styles as well.
Just like the other Borderlands games you can play through either on your own or with some friends and the varied abilities of the characters makes playing the game with others some really chaotic fun. It wasn’t long before I was overwhelmed with the amount of loot that was dropping during the Pre-Sequel, and that definitely isn’t a bad thing, with the addition of laser weapons and the new cryogenic elemental effect which had me slowing down and freezing my enemies. I was building my character and feeling extremely powerful very early in the game.
Due to the Pre-Sequel taking place almost entirely on Pandora’s moon, Elpis, a new low-gravity mechanic has been slotted into the already addictive Borderlands combat. This new low-gravity mechanic allows you launch over expansive chasms with ease and get to places that you never before thought possible. Also when you are out on the moons surfaces your character requires an oxygen kit in order to breathe. These O2 Kits or “OZ” kits not only allow you to breathe on the surface they are used to double jump, hover and to perform a powerful ground slam ability. Although this new mechanic did take some getting used to with the low-gravity movement often feeling like a slow crawl, before I knew it I was timing my massive jumps perfectly, picking off headshots in mid-air and using the new slam ability to take out enemies below.
Anyone who has played through even the first couple of hours of The Pre-Sequel can easily tell that a company from Australia developed it. 2K Australia, with the help of lead writer Anthony Burch, have crafted an interesting and often hilarious story that has so many references to Australian comedy and culture that will make any Australian either cringe or laugh, even the inhabitants of the Moon have thick Australian accents. There are definitely some standout references, although without spoiling anything a particular side quest and weapon are definitely some of the highlights.
Despite the addition of the interesting new mechanics the Pre-Sequel did fall down in some sections as well. The level design was often confusing and constantly had me back tracking through missions in order to flip a switch before I could move on. Along with some of the problems that have plagued the previous Borderlands titles such as the long and lonesome trek back to complete a mission as well as the vast and bland environments that you are frequently trudging through. Adding to this, during my time with the PS3 edition I did witness some slow down as well as some late texture pop-in really taking away from the polish of the PC version. Although this didn’t hinder my time all that much it was more notable than ever that the 8-year-old hardware is definitely at the end of its run.
Despite The Pre-Sequel falling down in some of the same areas that this franchise has before, 2K Australia have implemented enough new additions to draw me back in. New weapons, new mechanics and an entertaining story champion the bland scenery, often confusing level design and slower console edition. Watching Jack change into the character that we know from Borderlands 2 is a fantastic excuse to jump back in for some more of the aspects of Borderlands that we love, to shoot more bad guys and get more loot.