Borderlands Handsome Collection Review

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Borderlands was one of the best new franchises to come out last console generation. It had tremendously addictive gameplay which combined all the joy of RPG level progression, dungeon crawling, and loot hunting, with all the fast paced action of a First Person Shooter. It had tons of style; with cel shaded aesthetics, a sci-fi meets wild west vibe, and a great deal of quirky humour and comedic sociopathy.  It also, from Borderlands 2 onwards, benefited from one of the more memorable characters in video gaming history; the appallingly cruel and yet entirely hilarious Handsome Jack. As the antagonist in Borderlands 2, and as a “hero” who descends into madness and villainy in Borderlands: The Pre-sequel, Handsome Jack was a key part of what made those games so memorable. Well aside from the incredibly addictive gameplay, rewarding loot system with “bazillions” of guns, unique style, and hilarious dark humour anyway.  Now, Gearbox has released Borderlands: The Handsome Collection containing Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and all the downloadable content. Throw in some slightly improved graphics, 4 player split screen co-op and the ability to transfer your save game file. All told, it’s a tremendous amount of content, and one that’s great value for fans of Borderlands who want to keep playing well into this console generation, or for those who missed out first time around.

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The rather aptly named Handsome Collection focuses on the series most memorable character to date: Handsome Jack. A sociopath, a narcissist, a tyrant who rules over the galaxy’s most powerful corporation and who commits acts of incredible cruelty in the name of a self deluded greater good. Who also happens to be very very funny. In a series that thrives on less than sane characters, a rather indifferent attitude towards violence and death, and a lot of black surrealist humour, Handsome Jack is something of a stand out, and he remains the lynchpin of the storyline for both Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel. As the snide, arrogant and sarcastic mad supervillain of Borderlands 2, and as the well intentioned would be hero of the Pre-Sequel, the Handsome Collection shows both sides of the character. But it’s not all about Jack. Borderlands has hilarious, off kilter humour and memorable characters all around. As an Australian though, I particularly liked the Pre-Sequel. Developed by the recently and very sadly shut down 2K Australia, rather than the Wild West Sci Fi of Borderlands 1 and 2, the Pre-Sequel was set in what seems like Space Australia. Complete with a talking shotgun called Boganella that screams out an endless stream of bleeped out stuff like “F@#k off, ya dag! Get in thereeee! F@#king feral!” It’s very wrong, and very very funny.

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It’s not all about the humour, the style and the narrative though. It’s just an excellent action role playing game in general. Aside from a great random loot system that offers “bazillions” of guns,  it also has an intricate and exciting skill progression system. With varying character classes, each with three separate skill trees that emphasise different aspects of the character, it’s enjoyable stuff kitting out your character, whether as a one man wrecking crew, a sneaky assassin, a helpful support character, or just something highly random and fun to use, even if they’re not particularly efficient. Of course, despite being a story campaign focused game, and an enjoyable single player affair, it makes for an even better multiplayer title, with the ability to form a well organised team that complement and improve upon each other’s abilities. And that’s been improved even further with the addition of four player local split screen co-op. The single player remains largely at 60 frames per second, while the split screen drops to about half that, or so they advertise anyway. Still for those who aren’t satisfied with just tearing it up online, the option of playing on the couch is a godsend.

The game still looks great, although that’s more a testament to how cool the cel-shaded art style is more than anything. The Handsome collection bumps up the definition somewhat, featuring a sharper look, and it also improves the frame rate. For the most part anyway. In most of the game it’s very solid and stable, but the Pre-sequel remains problematic at times, with frame rates noticeably dropping in some areas. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is irritating.

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