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November 13, 2014
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
14/10/20142K Games2K Games2K Australia and Gearbox1-22-4
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is out on PS3.
If you haven't made the jump to “next-gen” with a PS4 you're probably feeling underwhelmed by the recent release schedule for PS3. Outside of a couple of big multi-platform releases like Destiny and Call of Duty, there hasn't been much to get excited about in months. More and more games are becoming next-gen exclusives, leaving your beloved PS3 to collect dust in the corner. Enter Gearbox Software, who has bucked that trend in a big way by releasing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel for current-gen consoles only. Don't let the title throw you off, this is a full-blooded follow-up to Borderlands 2, and it's a great reason to spend some quality time with your PS3 again.

The story starts with your character being hired by Jack (he's not Handsome yet) to come to the moon planet Elpis, hunt a vault, and become a hero. So you jump into a Hyperion rocket bound for the Helios Space Station orbiting Elpis. Unfortunately some suicidal bandits have hitched a ride and they set about destroying the rocket before it can reach the Space Station. You make it, barely, but so do plenty of bandits, and they want to destroy you, Jack and the entire Space Station.

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Battles are often quite frantic.
There are four characters for you to choose from, all of whom have appeared in the Borderlands games so far. First there's Athena, an assassin rocking a sword and shield, previously seen in the General Knoxx DLC in the original Borderlands. Next we have Nisha, a gun expert, who is the sheriff of Lynchwood in Borderlands 2. Your third option is Wilhelm, a human obsessed with cybernetic upgrades who can summon drones to help him out in battle. Wilhelm is one of the early boss fights in Borderlands 2, so you just know his story won't end well…

Finally, and deserving of his own paragraph, is Claptrap. That's right; you can play as the chatty yellow trashcan who had an uncanny knack of irritating you throughout the first two games. The game attempts to talk you out of playing as Claptrap – you have to confirm him as your choice three times – and with good reason considering his skills can have both positive and negative effects on you and your party. Playing solo as Claptrap seems like a bad idea then, but in co-op he can be a bit of a laugh, even as, or perhaps because his skills can penalize everyone.

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It's possible to customise characters.
Just like the previous games, all four of the characters have three skill trees you use to upgrade their abilities. It takes 25 skill points to reach the final skill in each tree, and with a level cap of 50 you can eventually max out two of the three skill trees at any one time. Most skill trees have a dramatic effect on the way you play the game, so it's a lot of fun to re-allocate your skill points often, at least until you find the skills you like most.

The Pre-Sequel builds on the foundations set in place in Borderlands 2 rather than trying to re-invent the franchise, which is a fine idea considering how much fun that game was. There are a few new features worth mentioning however, the first being Elpis itself. Much like our own moon, Elpis doesn't have oxygen and gravity is significantly lower there than on Earth. To combat this you need an O2 kit (called Oz kits – shout out to all you Aussies!) to breath. You have a visible oxygen gauge and when it runs out you start losing health. Luckily most enemies drop oxygen when they die, and there are numerous cracks in the ground that leak oxygen allowing you to replenish your supply regularly.

Oz kits also grant the ability to double-jump/glide at a cost of oxygen, letting you leap insane heights and distances. Along with this you can “butt stomp” your enemies mid-jump, slamming down on them with your butt to deal major damage. Each Oz kit augments the damage you deal with your butt stomp making them almost as important as weapons themselves.

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The moon setting allows for some interesting environments.
Speaking of weapons, The Pre-Sequel adds lasers as a new weapon type. Laser weapons spew out a continuous jet of lasery goodness for as long as you hold down the trigger (or until your clip empties). They're interesting weapons that can be hard to control, but once you get used to them they're entertaining.

Also new to The Pre-Sequel is “cryo” elemental damage. As you can likely infer, cryo damage freezes enemies, giving you plenty of time to sink a truckload of ammo into them, or maybe waltzing up and shattering them with a melee attack. Cryo damage isn't any more powerful than the other elements – incendiary, explosive, corrosive and shock – but it's a welcome addition all the same.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that, along with being made by the talented folk at 2K Australia, the game features a decidedly Aussie flavor. Quite a few characters have (bogan) Aussie accents, while there's funny references to Ned Kelly, Waltzing Matilda and cricket among other things. The cricket side-mission features the funniest dialogue in the game (though as a cricketer I might be biased) and is definitely worth playing for that alone.

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Now that's one pretty big enemy!
So what we have here is an all-new Borderlands game with an Australian flavor. What could possibly go wrong? Not a lot honestly, though there are a couple of issues. The first such issue is pacing, which feels a little off throughout the game. Main missions go on for too long (there's always one more thing to do), side missions don't offer decent rewards so they're easy to ignore, and by the end my character was significantly under-leveled as a result. That meant time had to be spent grinding lower-level missions which is never much fun.

The second issue is the script, which doesn't hit the heights of Borderlands 2. In Borderlands 2, Handsome Jack was one of the highlights, and frequently had me smiling if not outright laughing. In The Pre-Sequel Jack has the opportunity to shine… but doesn't. He's not helped by the main characters, none of whom are half as interesting as Roland, Lilith, Brick and Mordecai. The script was the one area I felt The Pre-Sequel was B-grade, or at least significantly inferior to its predecessor.

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Character design in Borderlands is superb.
As far as multi-player goes, The Pre-Sequel allows both local and online co-op play throughout the campaign. I'm not going to lie; I never have more fun with Borderlands than when I'm playing with a friend (or three). If you play locally the screen is now split horizontally instead of vertically (this may be adjustable, but I preferred the horizontal split) giving a much wider field of view. The only time the split screen struggles is when you're looking at items and skills in the menu, with much of the text stuck just off screen and hard to read. If you prefer to play with online friends you can invite them with ease from the main menu, or join up with a random game through the match-making screen. Whichever method you prefer, playing co-op is fantastic fun.

Visually The Pre-Sequel is just as pretty as the other games in the series, featuring its distinctive cel-shaded style. Characters are a little bit more detailed, and cut-scenes have a little more going on in them than we've seen in the past. There's nothing revolutionary here, but on the whole it's an evolutionary step up on what's gone before. There is still some texture pop-in when you arrive in a new area, i.e. details are blurry for a second before the textures load, but it's not significant.

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Visually The Pre-Sequel is quite impressive.
The sound is, as always, impresses. There's a wide variety of guns in Borderlands, and they sound distinctive enough to make them interesting. Not all of them pack a huge punch, but that just means when you find one that does it's all the more satisfying. Characters are well-voiced, though as mentioned above they lack the zing of those in Borderlands 2. On the upside many of your favourite characters (e.g. Torgue and Tiny Tina) make entertaining cameos.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a genuinely fun game that builds upon what's gone before, rather than redefining the series. With a distinct Aussie flavor, from the bogan accents to the humourous side missions poking fun at Australian icons and hobbies, The Pre-Sequel combines two of my favourite things with consistently positive results. If you're patient enough to get through the pacing issues (the game is built for multiple play throughs), have enjoyed Borderlands before, or just need a reason to fire up the PS3 again, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel comes highly recommended. Great job 2K Australia!

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSFeatures the distinctive cel-shaded graphics we've come to associate with Borderlands, and looks excellent throughout.
SOUNDThe voice-acting is good but the script doesn't allow them to be great. Guns sound fantastic as always.
GAMEPLAYThe game is slow to develop, possibly too slow, but in all other ways it's typical Borderlands, i.e. fun, fun, and more fun.
VALUEThe Pre-Sequel is designed for multiple playthroughs with tougher enemies and plenty of leveling up to do. If you want to invest the time there's a lot here.
OVERALLBorderlands: The Pre-Sequel injects some “Australian-ness” to the Borderlands series and, to the surprise of no-one, ends up being a lot of fun. Finally you have a reason to dust off the PS3 again.

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