Video Game Review: Borderlands The Pre-Sequel!

Game: Borderlands The Pre-Sequel!

Version: PS3

What I Played: Through the story, completing most extra side missions.

“The Pre-Sequel” is an adventure in the Borderlands Gearbox/2K games that takes places between, duh, Borderlands 1 and 2. I’m not a huge fan of 1st person shooters; most are just violent free-for-alls whose real purpose is online killing your friends in group battles.

Borderlands 2 is cartoonishly violent due to the sci-fi nature and ridiculous weaponry. It’s also pretty funny. I’m not sure if the series of missions that lead you from locale to locale to fight marauding lunatics or toxic monsters links up the best cut scenes to form a story, but unlike the 1st game, there’s a real villain who is present and threatening…and hilarious. It’s Handsome Jack, voiced by Dameon Clarke (who won an award for this effort). He’s an arrogant bully jock of a villain who mocks your team relentlessly, with a few easter eggs peppered throughout the game of what a loser he was at one time, and the losers goons he’s surrounded by (that you’re killing).

He’s one of the elements that makes the game so much to play, and I’ve played it a few times through, and even bought the additional follow up stories, one of which, a fantasy adventure, that he appears in, despite your victory over him and his company at the end of the regular game.

I’m not sure if “capitalizing on one of the most charismatic video game villains that you killed off at the end of one game” is the reason to make a pre-quel, but I’ll imagine that’s the reason, and applaud the developers for coming up with this story where you assist many of the villains from Borderlands 2 at Jack’s behest to retake control of the Hyperion company. Jack & co. are the good guys, at least from the point of view of the weapons and robot manufacturer that is besieged by ecoterrorists who want to keep the company from cracking open more “vaults” that will lead to hideous monsters from destroying the planet below.

The Pre-Sequel takes place on the moon, and includes a hardship similar to the dark world in Metroid Prime 2, in the sense that you need oxygen which is supplied via a helmet and booster (that allows you a double jump and slam attack, an upgrade from  the other two games) that depletes while you are on the moon’s surface unless you find O2 distribution points. I don’t know the risk of running out of O2 because I played as the other major selling point in this series: Claptrap, a tortured soul of a robot who assisted you in previous games but is a playable character here.

Claptrap is voiced by Gearbox employee David Eddings (not the late sci-fi writer). Handsome Jack is the mean bully who wants taunts you in hopes to crush your resistance, and it’s Claptrap who is your muse that gives you hope and direction…hope being pathetic perpetual solitude delivering information in a cherry yet desperate tone. He’s a riot in every scene he’s in, to the point where I’d worry if I’d be spoiled if he WAS in every scene in the game.

So to play as him? It is a joy. He has a lot of great lines, many pertaining to the internal contents of the people you blow up. Many of the other characters didn’t talk much in the other games, and I don’t know if the playable ones in this game do either. Because of their narrative purpose in the other games (and this one) as well as their occasional meta-commentary, to not have Claptrap (or, I’m assuming, Jack) speak in this game while blowing up stuff from your POV would be a crime, so I’m glad that as you play as Claptrap you get to hear a lot of his hilarious commentary.

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In addition to the double jump and lower gravity physics and body slams (the result if you get a kill in lower gravity situations: watching the victim float off into space), elemental weapon upgrades include freezing enemies (which would have been great in the 2nd game) and a variety of laser weapons.

The weapons are one of the selling points of this series: the ones you find usually match your upgraded levels, and sometimes have added effects depending on your upgraded skills. I love the sniper rifles in Borderlands 2; there’s not a lot of opportunity to use them in this game where if you shoot someone from afar, his crony has jumped, glided, and slammed next to you by the time you reloaded or tried to catch them in your sights. The lasers are either weak beams (like the proton packs in Ghostbusters) with a lot of recoil, making them difficult to keep on an enemy, or powerful blasters that pack a punch but eat up a lot of ammo per shot, taking just as long as the beam to be effective. (I like the beam much better).

So since the variety of weapons gets hampered by the physics of the moon (and I wonder if playing as Claptrap, a small robot on one wheel, is a factor in the weapon recoil), I was grateful for the moon rock upgrades. In Borderlands 2, the “Eridium,” that allows you to add the amount of ammo you can carry for your weapon types, was hard to come by. Moon rock money falls from almost every bad guy and monster, which makes running out of bullets for the perfect automatic pistol (with great accuracy and a scope) a little more difficult.

(I am impressed with the level of detail that goes into the weapons. There are different classes, such as shotguns and submachine guns, and the elemental effects like fire and acid and electricity…but there’s different manufacturers who have unique firing patters or even special abilities that have nothing to do with your skill levels.)

If you ever thought the world of Pandora in Borderlands can get kind of bleak beyond the western motif from the first game and the industrial wasteland in the 2nd, well, you’re on the moon here, and it’s flat with most backgrounds having a monochrome setting. Or I’m full of crap. It just gets a little boring looking at moon rocks between bad guy camps. At least the cast from Borderlands 2 shows up to offer ridiculous commentary to help you along.

It’s a bit shorter than Borderlands 2, but considering how blah the moon can be at times, I’m grateful that the missions and tasks don’t take you all over every area or back and forth like in the previous games.

There’s also some bizarre combinations of difficulty in some levels. One moment you’re fighting some baddies, some that take a little more bullets than usual, some that are one shot kills..and then a turret with amazing range opens fire from afar and you’re dead and respawning at the other end of the map. Wha?

So is it good? Yes. I enjoyed it. Not as good as Borderlands 2, but still fun. I haven’t played as the other characters, so I will probably give it another shot.

Is it worth it? If you enjoyed Borderlands 2, and especially if you enjoyed Jack and Claptrap, duh.

What could I have been doing with this time spent on this video game?  I watched episodes of Brooklyn 99 between sessions. I also didn’t play for long. I played long enough to complete a side mission or if I opened up another part of the moon during the main story, I’d stop. I could have probably learned to be an EMT and saved a life or two. Or gone on dates with girls. Something like that. I will definitely be playing Borderlands 2 again though. I kinda missed it while playing this.

 

 

 

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