Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel review, by G

First off, a confession. I love Borderlands games. Always have done. Ever since the first time I played the first instalment, I’ve dug the run ‘n’ gun gameplay, the endless looting, the wacky characters, the (literally) millions of different weapons. And I’ve yet to play DLC for it that’s disappointed me. The Tiny Tina D&D spoof vies with the Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam multiplayer for my favourite add-on of all time. So you can imagine I was chomping at the bit to return to Pandora and get blasting away at some bandits.
As with the other 2 games in the series, you get a choice of 4 Vault Hunters, each with their own special abilities that make them unique. Each of them feels distinct from the others in the game, and from the playables in the previous iterations. Fans of the series will both hate and love the fact that you can play a Claptrap robot, whose special ability randomly chooses an ability from another Vault Hunter, or does something so utterly random you’ll be scratching your head and apologising to the other players on your team. Other players, you say? Borderlands has always featured full 4 way co-operative play, managing to make it an always superb experience, with the option to trade or duel with your teammates. The Pre-Sequel is no exception to this.
This game takes place between the first and second games, with the story having you work for Jack, the villain of the second game, and exploring his rise to power on Pandora. The scripting for Jack is excellent, managing to straddle the line between antihero and outright heel. Each Vault Hunter also has their own responses during the story, often bringing a wry smile. The game’s full of nifty touches too, from the way Wilhelm’s voice becomes more robotic as he levels up, to the Millennium-Falcon-breaking-down noise the jets make as they spin out of the sky. The moon physics and O2 usage also add an extra element to the frantic combat, as you can now boost into the air and slam down on top of your foes. The game also adds a new element, cryo, allowing you to freeze enemies, as well as burn, electrocute, explode and corrode them.
So far, so good, you’re thinking. But now the negatives, of which there are sadly some real whoppers. First off, this game is buggier than anything else I’ve played on the 360. From getting permanently stuck with the slow effect from a cryo shot, to getting trapped on the scenery, quitting out to rectify a problem becomes commonplace. And this becomes doubly irritating, for the game dumps you back at the start of the level rather than at your last save point, forcing you to fight through the same enemies you just chewed through your ammo killing minutes before. This frustration is compounded by the way missions seem to require you to traipse back and forth through the same areas, repeatedly killing off the same endlessly spawning foes. Mission design feels lazy, with every door seemingly needing some kind of override or fuse forcing you to backtrack, sometimes several times, just to progress.
Overall, the game has flashes of sheer brilliance, and made me laugh out loud on many occasions, but simultaneously made me grind my teeth in utter frustration at the bugs or 2-steps-forward-1-step-back nature of the mission design. 2K are planning on 4 pieces of DLC over the coming year; let’s hope they can recapture the brilliance of the former games. And release a patch for all the goddamn bugs!

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