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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review

Image for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Fly me to the moon

★★★★

Don't call it a comeback – but you can call the PreSequel a flashback. Set between the events of the first two Borderlands games, it tells a "lost tale" of the villainous Handsome Jack, except here he's painted as a hero. Something of a last hurrah for the comedy/sci-fi/shooter/kitchen sink series on the current gen, the game squeezes everything it can out of the Xbox 360 (version tested) and accordingly feels like a 'proper' instalment rather than a stopgap before the inevitable Borderlands 3.

Core development shifted to 2K Australia, with oversight from long-term shepherds Gearbox Interactive. The result is a game that feels true to the previous games while benefitting from fresh voices. The easiest thing in the world would have been to slap some revamped missions and maps onto Borderlands 2 and call it a day. Instead, we have new mechanics, new locations, and possibly the best looking game in the series yet.

Taking place largely on Elpis – the moon of Pandora, the planet where the original games took place – you'll play as one of three returning supporting characters or enemies from the prior entries. The real attraction is the lovable/annoying robot Claptrap, here outfitted for combat as Fragtrap. His offbeat commentary as you progress is genuinely hilarious, and he proves surprisingly competent in battle, with a VaultHunter.exe subroutine that delivers a variety of randomised buffs and upgrades.

Whoever you pick, the lower gravity drastically changes the entire experience, allowing exaggerated leaps, airborne attacks, and even buttslams onto surface enemies. Oxygen tanks can be used for propulsion or fancier moves. Or breathing, if you're a weak fleshy character. Overall, it's even more anarchic than before, and just as fast paced.

Comedy has always been a key part of Borderlands' appeal, and the jokes are really on point here. They're a little bawdier and more willing to poke fun at Americanisms, likely thanks to the Aussie influence, but the writers also seem confident enough to derive humour from the series itself now. Just try to select Claptrap as your playable character, for instance. This continues through mission dialogue, the narrative of the campaign and even some fourth-wall breaking material.

While enjoyable, especially when played with friends, the limits impacting PreSequel are apparent. The levelling, loot, and skill systems are barely changed from its predecessors, for better or worse. Familiarity is good, but in many cases here it feels untouched. Thankfully, what has been tweaked or improved – the combat mechanics, the smart comedy, the clever script – do enough to make the game stand on its own merits, though returning fans will undoubtedly get more from it than newcomers.

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