Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review – A Modern Time Capsule (PS4)
During the previous generation of consoles, we saw the birth of a number of great new games, but the Borderlands series has to be one of my favorite franchises that emerged during the PlayStation 3 era. Using its quirky sense of humor, fantastic art style and a procedurally generated loot system, it was able to keep players, and myself, engrossed for long lengths of time that could rival some subscription-based MMOs. Now, 2K has released Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, a title containing Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and all of the DLC for both titles remastered for the PS4.
Everything Including the Kitchen Sink
While another release of Borderlands 2 might be a bit much for fans who have already revisited the game multiple times, gamers who haven’t had a chance to play it, or play it since it first launched, will find that this iteration is one of the best and most complete packages ever released.
Containing Borderlands 2 and the DLC packs: Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest, The Horrible Hunger of the Ravenous Wattle Gobbler, How Marcus Saved Mercenary Day, Mad Moxxi and the Wedding Day Massacre and Sir Hammerlock vs. the Son of Crawmerax. Not to mention the Mechromancer and Psycho playable classes, level cap increases, arenas and new costumes.
In addition to all of that, gamers, like myself, who moved on to the current generation of consoles by the time Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel released and didn’t get a chance to see Handsome Jack’s rise to power, will be glad to see that it is also included in The Handsome Collection. Unlike Borderlands 2, TPS does not have nearly as much content available for it, but does come with The Doppelganger and The Baroness playable classes, The Holodome Onslaught and the recently released Claptastic Voyage and Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2 as DLC.
Contents May Be Familiar
While it would be impossible to play through everything The Handsome Collection offers and still get this review out in a timely manner, I was able to put in a number of hours into both titles, as well as importing an old character to play through some of the late game content. Both Borderlands 2 and TPS are very much the same games they were on the PS3, but with a much more noticeable level of clarity. Looking sharper than ever before, it is easy to see how well the Borderlands’ aesthetic translates over to the PS4’s, at least, until things start to move.
One of the biggest issues with The Handsome Collection and both of its contained titles, is that it suffers from rigid character animations that keep the game from ever truly feeling like it belongs with the current line-up of games. From a purely visual standpoint, the game is beautiful and able to stand-up to many modern titles, but once you see objects in motion, it is that clarity that simply highlights the dated foundation of its animations.
It also needs to be said that Borderlands 2 does suffer from some noticeable jaggies, while TPS seems to be able to handle the upgraded visual a bit better. On top of this, they both still bring in the texture loading issues the series has become known for, where blurred out objects suddenly have details as its texture maps pop into existence, as well as the random low resolution texture.
Thankfully, and like many fans of the originals will surely attest to, none of the visual quirks of the game really hurt the experience all that much, as most of the visual hiccups become sidelined to the amount of content and fun players can have.
It’s About the Journey
While the original Borderlands may have put the series on the map, it was Borderlands 2 that seemingly perfected the formula. Using a number of varied and interesting characters, as well as adding in a ton of character customization options and, of course, loot, Borderlands 2 is generally considered the fan favorite of the series so far. Giving you control over one of six (with DLC) characters, the player has to stop Handsome Jack; the self imposed ruler of Pandora and president of Hyperion, a global corporation in search of alien technology stored in The Vault. Overall the story is solid, but this one is genuinely more about the ride than the destination.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which, much like its name suggests, is the successor to Borderlands 2, but takes place before the events of its story. Explaining the events that lead up to Jack’s rise to power, this one has a much more solid and darker story telling aspect than any of the entries before it. While it doesn’t have the same level of charm as its post-predecessor, it is a great addition that offers new mechanics and some new weapon types, six characters to choose from (with DLC), as well as the new O2 canister.
Being set on the moon has one major challenge for players, as there is no oxygen. Leaving players to hunt down air canisters, air locks and even air geysers, which are spots on the moon where O2 leaks, letting them recharge their reserves. This also allows players to do a high jump at the cost of some of their oxygen, and a new stomp attack for help with crowds. While not really changing the formula too much, it does add a bit of variety to the already tried-and-true gameplay of the original two titles.
Everything is Better With Friends
One of my favorite aspects of the Borderlands series, besides the almost endless number of different types of guns you can use, has to be the ability to play with up to four players in a seamless drop-in and drop-out lobby system. Both Borderlands 2, and TPS on the PS4 continue to handle seamlessly when it comes to players being able to come and go as they please, letting friends get together with as little resistance as possible. In a first for either title, players will now be able to now host a four way couch co-op session, so that they can fill a lobby without having to worry about connecting online.
Thankfully, all of this works wonderfully with the cross-save function which lets gamers who already have a leveled up character transfer them to the PS4, and yes, the Vita version of Borderlands 2 works with The Handsome Collection as well.
The Complete Package
The Handsome Collection is an easy recommendation for me to make to most gamers, especially if you haven’t had a chance to play through either of the games available on it. Fans who have put in hundreds of hours into each title may find less new content to really keep them busy, but given that everything is in a neat little package, with upgraded visuals and a new four player split screen mode, it still makes this difficult to not recommend to any real fan of the series. While the remastering could have used a bit more work on some minor levels, The Handsome Collection is a fantastic time capsule with enough polish to let players revisit it again and again for years to come without it ever feeling completely dated.
A copy of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection was provided by the publisher. For information on our scoring, please read our Review Policy here.