So, we aren’t getting our new-generation Borderlands yet, but the fact that Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is stuck in last-gen isn’t a bad thing if you’ve held onto your PlayStation 3 or have yet to move up to a PS4. More Borderlands just means that it will make the wait for the next title in the franchise all the more bearable, and there are enough changes and enhancements to the gameplay in this bridge between the previous two games that fans and newcomers alike would be remiss to miss a trip to the moon above Pandora.
2K allowed us to get our hands on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel at this year’s E3, and in true spirit of the Borderlands games, we were able to play the small segment in co-op. We had a choice between two of the four final characters, Athena and Wilhelm, with the other two nowhere in sight. They may be saving some reveals for closer to the game’s release, and as one of these missing characters is Claptrap, I’m eager to find out more about the changes that playing as the iconic robot will bring.
Even without Claptrap in the mix yet, The Pre-Sequel has a distinctive feel, primarily due to the game taking place on the surface of the moon above Pandora. The new environment brings with it a few new elements to the gameplay. The first is lowered gravity. Your jumps allow you to effectively float, making huge jumps across massive ravines possible. In fact, the first thing I had to do to continue my quest was to leap over a chasm that I would have never thought possible to cross. There are also jump pads that boost your character into the air (or lack thereof, we are on the moon after all…). Jump pads aren’t just for you though, you selfish bastard! Enemies can use them too, which makes for some Matrix-esque gun battles as you, your partners, and your enemies all fly through the air shooting every which way.
The next thing the moon brings us, or takes away rather, is oxygen. Your character is now outfitted with an oxygen accessory in order to survive when out in the unpressurized moon atmosphere. While oxygen management may sound annoying, my play time with the game never felt like I needed to consistently monitor it. Oxygen stations are generally close enough together that it’s not going to take away from the fun of the game. You’re going to have to share this aspect too though, because enemies need oxygen, but that’s a good thing when you can pop the helmet of a psycho and take his breath away. How romantic.
Oxygen can also be used as a sort of jet pack to propel your character through the air in any direction, including down into the ground. Similar to having status elements on grenades, the oxygen tank makes elementally charged ground pounds possible. Crouching while at the height of a jump brings you crashing down and damages enemies around you along with whatever elemental modifier you have equipped. It’s a cool new feature that helps to make this game feel fresh.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel introduces a new element, cryo, and a new weapon type with lasers. Apparently these only exist on the moon because we didn’t see them in Borderlands 2, but boy, are they fun to play with. Cryo in particular will freeze enemies, allowing you to shatter them with either a melee attack or further gunfire. In crazy firefights, this can make all the difference between life and death, and save you and your partners from becoming too overwhelmed as you freeze them in place. It will be interesting to see how level and progression play into what the cryo element is able to do or not do, but for now I’m happy with the awesome new ability that will add further strategies to my Borderlands expertise.
Each of the characters’ new special abilities felt unique from the vault hunters’ abilities in previous games. Athena wielded a shield that she could use to defend herself or throw in the style of one Mr. Captain America. Wilhelm summoned two drones to help fight and guard for him, and seemed to be a cross between the standard turret based special ability and the mechromancer’s special ability of summoning a floating robot. Both of these abilities can be upgraded and altered with the expansive skill trees that the Borderlands games are known for.
Fans of the series will be happy to note that it retains the signature visuals, looting, and gunplay that Borderlands has come to be known for. The dark humor is also intact, with a new cast of unique and deranged characters to help drive the game forward. Being lieutenants under Handsome Jack means we’ll get plenty of the Jack humor that we loved in Borderlands 2, with a unique perspective as Jack is on your side this time around.
Borderlands is not a game that is easy to just pick up and play without wanting to spec out your character and dig into the stats of your guns, but as I glanced through the menus and quickly assigned the free skill points that we were given at the start of the demo, I noted that the massive amount of customization and weapon options previously available appears to have returned in The Pre-Sequel (is that like some Back to the Future type of stuff?), but of course, it really wouldn’t be Borderlands without it, so I expected nothing less.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel takes everything gamers love about Borderlands and throws it on the moon. The added elements provided enough of a difference for this to really feel like a new game in the franchise, and we haven’t even seen the full scope of getting to play as Claptrap yet. The Pre-Sequel may not be coming to the PS4, but 2K seems to be offering us a damn good reason to hold onto our PS3s for just a little while longer.