Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is quite an impressive collection. For one price you get Borderlands 2 and all of its DLC (Captain Scarlett and the Pirate's Booty, Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage, Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt, The Psycho Pack, and Tiny Tina's Assault On Dragon Keep) and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel with its DLC (Claptastic Voyage, Handsome Jack Doppelganger Pack, Lady Hammerlock Pack, The Holodome Onslaught). The Handsome Collection also marks Borderlands' debut on next-gen consoles, and although the games included in it have been previously released on last-gen, the graphics have been given the "remastered" treatment to take advantage of next-gen horsepower. Now there's a bit of a caveat with that in that the Borderlands games feature a cel-shaded animated art style, so don't expect to be floored that you can now see characters' split-ends and pores. There is an upgrade in that there's an increased draw distance, improved frame rate, and sharper lines and textures - an incremental improvement over last-gen and probably pretty close to what PC gamers with good rigs got out of these games in the first place. So, in short, if you've already played through everything here, the updated graphics alone aren't really worth buying what you already own all over again. On the other hand, if you've dabbled a bit with either game before but never got through everything, then you'll be able to transfer your previously played characters into this version of the game.
When you start the game you'll be given a choice as to whether to load up Borderlands 2 or The Pre-Sequel. The two games are completely distinct from each other, so if you have some sort of scheme in mind in which you will jump back and forth between the two games you'll have to exit out completely before switching to the other game. I'm not sure why anyone would want to do that, so this is at worst a minor inconvenience to a small portion of the gaming population.
So which game should you play first? Although it may be tempting to play The Pre-Sequel first to maintain the space-time continuum in the Borderlands universe, I recommend starting with Borderlands 2 first. The games' writers wrote the stories in that order assuming that they would be experienced in that order, so it's best to follow the narrative thread as it was developed and designed to be experienced. It's like introducing someone to the Star Wars saga - you wouldn't have them watch the prequel trilogy first, would you? (WOULD YOU?!?)
Since you'll be playing Borderlands 2 first (right?), let's start with that game first. Vault Hunters (basically mercenary fortune-seekers in search of alien treasures locked away in ancient vaults) who have been coming to the planet Pandora have been systematically killed by Handsome Jack. As head of the Hyperion Corporation which owns the mining rights on Pandora, he wants to ensure that there's no freelance competition getting in his way in the search for the next vault. You manage to survive his ambush upon your arrival on Pandora, and with the help of a demented robot named Claptrap and a mysterious AI you set off to put an end to Handsome Jack's grip on the planet.
Since you get all of the DLC from the start, you'll have your choice of one of six characters instead of the original four. The story is the same no matter which character you select, so you may as well select the one that suits your play style from gun-loving tank to stealthy ninja. Or like a lot of fans of the game, level up a few of them so you can take on any role in a co-op game or just have fun adjusting to the different game experience (from a combat perspective) each one offers.
Borderlands 2 is a great game, offering a story full of humor and satire, and enjoyable RPG meets FPS game play. If you love loot, the game is probably second only to Diablo III in dropping weapons and gear that will have you spending plenty of time comparing stat trade-offs and special effects as you tweak your loadout. For a complete look at the game, check out my review here.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was originally released last year and it saw the game's development handed off from Gearbox to 2K Australia, which means you'll run into more characters with Aussie accents and inside jokes such as O2 canisters being referred to as "Oz". The game moves the action from Pandora to the surface of its moon and tells the story of Handsome Jack and how he went from an ambitious middle manager at Hyperion Corporation to its power-mad CEO/dictator of Pandora. The move comes at the expense of an atmosphere and normal gravity, meaning that you'll need to carry air with you on the moon's surface and that you'll be able to jump small ravines in a single bound. A new set of characters are available for play in The Pre-Sequel, so you'll need to say goodbye to your Borderlands 2 character when starting The Pre-Sequel (you did play Borderlands 2 first, right?). The star in the character lineup is hands-down Claptrap. Since his need for oxygen is merely psychosomatic, you won't need to worry about his Oz supply while out on the surface. You also get to enjoy hearing his rather unique and demented take on everything that unfolds during the story, and his special ability is a "special" programming subroutine that provides the "best" boost for the current tactical situation which apparently is wielding a pointy stick in some cases. Overall, Borderlands 2 is the more enjoyable game of the two - the verticality of the gameplay is an interesting change, but you spend way too much time traveling between distant mission waypoints (with annoying random encounters in between) and The Pre-Sequel manages to somehow cross the line and actually give you too much loot. I know that sounds crazy, but there's so much stuff in the game that if you want to spend time with the game anywhere else other than the inventory screen you'll find yourself simply ignoring half of the drops. Again, if you want a complete look at the game, you can find it here.
One more new addition to the game in this collection that's worth mentioning is four player couch co-op. Now I'm not really sure how many people actually play couch co-op shooters outside of game journalists who share an office or attend a press event since it's so easy to play online these days and when you do so you get the whole screen to yourself. Still, the feature is there for those of you who are into this sort of thing, although you'll have to deal with tiny screens and fonts in your corner of the screen and so this mode is best played on larger TVs.
Taking everything into consideration, this collection is pretty much a must-buy for shooter fans who have yet to experience Borderlands, and that's what I am basing my review score on. If you've played plenty of Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel already, then it's pretty much what you've already seen and may still own, so it's really a matter of if you want to play everything again or just want to collect some new PS4 trophies.
Final Rating: 90%. A handsome collection indeed.