Date: October 18, 2014
Author(s): Jamie Fletcher
After the events of Borderlands and before the events of Borderlands 2, we have a gap. No bullets were fired, no corny jokes were told, no heroes were around, and certainly not enough tentacles. A gap so large, it couldn’t be filled with a prequel, a gap too long to be filled by a sequel; Ladies and gentlebeings, I present, CLAPTRAP!! – Wait, I mean, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!
Claptrap saves the world, the end!
What? I told you everything you needed to know… wait, you get to play as Claptrap, who then saves the world!
YOU GET TO PLAY AS CLAPTRAP!!
Holy biscuit wheels of donut-shaped justice Rakkman, it’s like Christmas and a dream come true in the same evening; it just took a couple of years to get here. There’s a space station, a moon, EXPLOSIONS! and freaking-lasers. Double jumping, doom-buggy riding, tentacle monster slaying, and a suspiciously heroic Handsome Jack, it’s got everything!
I don’t know what people were expecting, I myself stayed clear of a lot of the media surrounding this game for the simple reason of spoilers. So I’m going to spoil you rotten in this review, but with a tight editorial leash, because I love you guys that much. What does this all mean? My comprehension is lacking at the moment due to so many bullets and lasers to the face… I think I have a lot of pent-up aggression from squealing like a [something young and delicate] at the sight of [phobia inducing creature] – by that I mean Alien: Isolation, so it’s nice to shoot things in the face for many hours. So many hours of face shooting…
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a 2D isometric sports management simulator, set in the near distant past about unicorns, fairies and basketball players. You play as one of, or all of, the four playable characters, including a soon-to-be sheriff, an assassin, a bodyguard, and an accident waiting to happen. An existential crisis unfolds, people die, theres lots of crying, and the basketball players lose their jobs. Suddenly, a giant lizard appears, everyone pulls out more guns than ABBA had singles, and the universe degrades into a cesspit of humor, derangement, damsels in distress and robot luvin’ men. It all makes sense now… or it will do… probably.
OK, none of the above actually happened… probably… but the premise is the same; crazy stuff happens, you save the world with guns, or in this case, the moon. Events are set before Jack holds a grudge against the vault hunters and tries to kill all of them, but after the events of the first set of vault hunters opening up Pandora’s box… I mean, before they let a giant tentacle creature from another dimension come through a giant orifice… wait… no, there is no good way to put that, is there.
The Pre-Sequel is an interactive story; your actions setting the narrative for what unfolds, with lots of guns, childish and not-so childish humor. What lead Jack to track the vault hunters down, the back story behind Hyperion, and why there are so many Aussies in the game… actually, I can answer that last one, Pre-Sequel was developed by 2K Australia.
There are plenty of new things to do, as well as new landscapes to explore. Most of the game is set on the moon of Pandora, Elpis, with the Helios space station ogling over it. This sets players up for two major factors to be aware of when partaking in murder sessions, that of low gravity and air conservation. The former is pretty self-explanatory, lower gravity means you can jump higher and for longer, leading to new tactics as well as places for things to hide. Air conservation is in the form of oxygen (Oz), which is used by meatbags for breathing, as well as used as a propellant for double-jumps, gliding, and also stomping. Claptrap, being the superior life-form in these events, does not need to breathe, and can use his entire reserve for jumping around. However, when working as a team, Claptrap can give his precious jumping fuel to other players, to help them live longer.
Dotted around the landscape are air-vents, which you can use to replenish your oxygen. Certain enemies will also drop air canisters, and there are air-bubbles that can be set up, too. These pockets of air are also useful for another reason, they let you set things on fire! See, it’s a shame really, no air, no oxygen, no fuel to burn, it’s very sad. So remember, lure enemies into pressurised areas to set them on fire. Speaking of fire, LASERS!!
A new weapon type has finally found its way into the Borderlands universe, well, a handheld version at least. Full of pew-pew goodness, as well as the ability to set things on fire. However, don’t tell Torgue that, he’s too busy making things explode to worry about lasers. The poor guy. There are freeze rays too, but they appear to be in much lower supply.
New terrain means new vehicles as well, with new weapons. It’s all new! Auto-targeting missiles, laser cannons, mortars, hoverbikes, buggy races… speaking of the buggy, what a terrible vehicle. There are plenty of things I like about Borderlands, but one thing that never really clicked with me was the vehicle handling, and more specifically, turning with the mouse; it’s just so unnatural. I guess it’s less of an issue when in a team, but assigning both aiming and turning to the mouse makes things very complicated. Also, for some reason, the moon’s gravity doesn’t affect the vehicles either, they still behave as if they were much heavier. Mix this with the poor controls with the mouse and very large jumps over lava, means that I’ve wasted a lot of time and money on falling into firey pits because of a slightly poor jump… a jump I could have easily made by actually jumping. The sadness.
Unfortunately, there is some other bad news too, that of bugs. Quest points that don’t trigger, leaving you running around aimlessly for 15 or so minutes, trying to figure out what to do; NPCs that get stuck behind walls and then magically teleport in front of you; timers that don’t start and stop properly, collision detection issues… it’s rather a shame. However, these things should be fixed in time.
One new feature that took a long time, is that of individual character interaction. Previously, all NPCs treated all players as the same, as one conglomerate meatsuit; now things are different. With massive advancements in AI technology, there is now individual dialog and responses to certain characters, although there is a universal disdain for Claptrap.
Much of the humor from past games is present in abundance, bringing back the witty banter of old and new favorites. While the dialog seems weaker in parts and I have yet to see the story fully unfold, the humor more than makes up for it.
Each of the new playable characters bring with them a unique assortment of play styles that are worth the replay to find out how they compare; from Claptrap’s random ‘do anything’ button, to Athena’s shield toss, as well as the extra dialog options that get thrown around.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel brings some new and interesting features, however, the Oz system may leave some running for the hills. There is a tonne of fan service for long-time players as well. The game does feel less polished compared to previous titles, but it has its own flair, too. DLC has been a big part of previous games, and I expect The Pre-Sequel to be no different. This is a game I’m sure to enjoy just as I have with the others, always made better with friends. This is definitely one to get for long-time Borderlands fans.
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