Well, here we are again. Pandora is a wonderful yet deadly place to reside and if you want to increase your chances to survive, you better bring some friends. If you have not played Borderlands before then this would be your perfect jumping on point and let’s be honest, what have you been doing with your life? Otherwise, if you are reading this you have probably played Borderlands in one of its various iterations and you would like to know what’s changed.
Borderlands was the original looter-shooter, first released 10 years ago on the PS3 and XBOX360. It gained mostly positive reviews from most outlets and has gone on to grow into a really popular IP and has even had a Telltale spin-off, Tales from the Borderlands. The game follows four ragtag characters looking for the mysterious ‘vault’. They are helped along the way by a mysterious being known as ‘The Guardian Angel’. Along the way, this band of uncouth individuals kill various gang leaders and make their way to the vault and uncover it’s mysteries.
This re-release includes all the DLC that released for the original game and comes with various bells, whistles and a few quality of life improvements. The game now runs at a 4K resolution and includes HDR, as long as you have the various equipment to support it. The game now includes a minimap, akin to Borderlands 2 and I will be honest with you, that alone makes a massive difference. Gearbox has also stated that all platforms will get improved character models, lighting and textures.
New weapons have been added, a few new legendaries that can drop from bosses or through the golden key system. If you are unfamiliar, the golden key system is a system that has been a staple of the Borderlands franchise. You can get codes, usually through Gearbox’s twitter account. When they have been claimed you can cash them in for high-level weapons and gear at the golden chest located in Firestone or New Haven. Another bonus that comes with this game is that if you have played either Borderlands 2 or the Pre-Sequel you will get access to 75 golden keys right off the bat. Sweet, sweet loot.
Another change thrown into the mix is a slightly improved character model customization. Before you could only change the colour of your chosen vault hunter, now you can also select different heads, similar to the later Borderlands games. Gearbox has also stated that they have tweaked the last boss, creating a more challenging and rewarding affair for players to engage with. Now we have covered the important changes, let us get onto the actual game itself and how it plays.
The main gameplay loop and its systems are unchanged. Any Borderlands player will drop straight in and be busting Skags like no tomorrow. New players will be treated to a deep co-op shooter that while showing it’s age, its beautiful simplicity jump-started the whole looter-shooter genre. The world is split into several connected small areas, you collect quests from an all manner of weird and wacky characters. Shoot, loot and destroy your way to finding the vault and discovering its enigmas.
One of my favourite things about Borderlands is its sense of humour, it’s often rude, crude and very tongue in cheek. It’s brilliant, weird and in places, very funny. Its characters are unpredictable, rawkus and the whole style to its dialogue and storytelling is something unique and not matched by many modern titles. Even though I played it 10 years ago I remember many of the characters and dialogue, that itself tells me how good some of its design is. Some modern games I have forgotten after a week or two, after finding them bland and uninspiring. Borderlands is definitely not one of these games and sticks in the memory.
Let’s get onto the loot, there’s a lot of loot and I mean a truckload of sweet loot. As you level up and progress you get access to better and better guns, there is a never-ending stream of randomly generated weapons and gear. It was touted when the title was first released that the game could churn out 17 million variations of weapon. They come in all shapes and sizes, with varying effects, stats, skills and buffs. They also come with different elements, shock, fire and even acid. These elements help in different ways to whittle down your enemies health, knowing your enemies and weapons will be key to success. The weapon system is what this game is built on. You get them from enemy drops, there found in lootable containers, from just about anywhere. No word of a lie, you will have that many guns that you will be throwing them on the floor constantly. It’s glorious.
Along with the guns, there are shields, class modifiers and grenades that are all randomly generated and have various effects and stats to mull over. You are constantly wading through a swamp of randomly generated loot and it’s heavenly. Even more so when you are playing in a team because you can drop them for each other and trade them to your heart’s content. I had a few games with my boys and it was great fun, they were a lower rank then me so I was constantly dropping stuff for them and making their quest in Pandora a bit more manageable. The co-op system is superb, and to this day, not much has surpassed it. It’s simple, easy and its no-frills approach is very satisfying.
Graphically the original Borderlands has never looked better. The 4K textures and graphics are very sharp, clean and bright. The art style of Borderlands does help here though, it’s cartoon style with cell-shaded graphics really tidies up beautifully. The other thing I noticed a lot was the texture loading, I remember playing on PS3 and having to wait for a second or two for textures and assets to load correctly. This is now none existent in the PS4 version and graphically it’s very pleasing on the eye.
Borderlands sound design was always good and the remaster is no different. I am not completely sure what has been done sound wise to the re-release but it’s still very good. The dialogue is clear and well written, the sound effects good and believable and it all works together to keep you immersed in the world of Pandora. The sounds of the guns and enemies are all designed well and I have no issues with the sound design whatsoever but I didn’t in the original, so that’s no shock. The improvements in this remaster seem to be mainly in the graphical and performance departments.
Right, so how does Borderlands perform now on the PS4? It runs beautifully. It should do really for saying its a 10-year-old game and ran originally on the PS3, a machine that has a much lower performance speed compared to the PS4. As I stated earlier, I remember the PS3 version having some framerate issues and some issues with graphical assets loading into the game. These issues are non-existent on the PS4 version and even when playing multiplayer I had zero issues with framerates or stuttering. Everything loads at a decent speed and I had zero bugs or crashes. All in all, a very smooth and enjoyable experience.
I will add though that there are some online multiplayer issues at launch, I had issues connecting to other peoples games but could connect to other PS4’s in my house with no concerns. You can change your router settings to rectify this but I will just wait for the fix to be released. Hopefully, Gearbox will be quick to sort this issue. It’s no deal breaker but it is slightly irksome.
This updated version of the original Borderlands has been handled very well. It runs extremely smoothly, has vastly improved visuals and has a few additions to make your travels through Pandora easier. It still has it’s trademark loot system, it’s funny and well-written dialogue and amazing co-op gameplay. If you are returning for a second time the improvements are enough to warrant a second playthrough and if not, all new players will benefit from the quality of life improvements. It may feel a bit old in comparison to newer looter-shooters but its beautiful simplicity is what started it all. Its price tag is quite fair so I can recommend it to anyone who wants to loot or shoot stuff.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*