Borderlands 3 is coming to PS4 and PC and XBONE… Soon… Ish? Anyways, my 16-year-old inner self is currently on day 3 of screeching with childlike delight, so I thought I’d break down exactly what it is about this game that sets my loins aflame. Alright? Alright.
There’s something kinda off about the gameplay reveal trailer. It doesn’t have the highly scripted feel we’ve come to accept from AAA trailers – This is due to the fact that the game is true to its mechanics – or, in other words – the devs trust the gameplay to sell itself. Borderlands combat is hectic; from 2 onwards, the series has combat that feels wobbly and chaotic, yet somehow remains exhilarating. It’s a balance of spectacle, random effects that feel fair, and tight shooting that lets itself loose in situations that make sense – Your gun may be shaking all over the place, but that’s because it’s gonna ricochet off of 8 surfaces anyway. Borderlands 3’s gameplay reveal felt amateur, at first, as if it was a very well-done fanmade trailer… And that’s because they weren’t showing mostly cutscenes or tightly scripted action setpieces. It was a series of moments that accurately reflected what to expect from this game – It looked like Borderlands 2 with a load of cool extra stuff on it, which is exactly what we want.
Borderlands 3 has clearly put its status as a video game first, embracing the thing that makes it great rather than hiding it with a few flashy scenes that only look good in a trailer. Call of Duty this is not – This is a video game that’s goddamn proud to be a video game.
It puts the right amount of resources into visuals; Borderlands has always been sold on art style rather than raw graphical fidelity, and indeed, playing the original game back doesn’t feel nearly as polished as you’d expect from a AAA game today. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is the same level of graphical fidelity as Borderlands 3, it seems – There’s no overtuned lighting effects or additional ‘realistic’ details. More than ever, the game looks like it has crawled out of a Jamie Hewlett comic book (And that’s not even considering the playable Tank Girl rip-off). The Borderlands punky, comic-book inspired look has not been changed or ‘evolved’. It’s back and simply re-tuned. After 3 titles, Gearbox knows exactly how their art style works and can use it to extreme effect – The looks of the new characters, while graphically similar to those found in Borderlands 2, are far more interesting and absolutely radiate ‘punk’.
It’s clear that the art department has been given just the right budget. This game refines and improves on the quality seen before without being overfunded; some were expecting the game to look leagues better than Borderlands 2’s HD port, especially considering how damn good games like God of War look nowadays, but Gearbox has clearly shown restraint and is once again not bowing to industry pressure – They do their own thing and are instead putting resources into making their game better, not trying to chase other people’s success. That’s the most punk thing of all, at the end of the day.
It’s building on its predecessors. This is not a Borderlands reboot, it’s more of the insane Borderlands we all love, but more so. The combat looks as varied as ever without losing focus, the humour is clearly still a mainstay, and the game acknowledges its storied history of lovable characters without feeling the need to hide in their shadows. The four new Vault Hunters, twin villains, and Maliwan corporate military all look different from anything ever seen in Borderlands before, and yet feel like an integral part of it already; the series didn’t have them a week ago, yet they already feel like a part of the world that’s always been there. Based on the excellent art team alone, I’m already chomping at the bit to experience the stories these characters new and old will tell. I’m just hoping Krieg gets revealed before too long, even if (In fact scratch that – Especially if) he’s a boss fight. Everything we’ve seen so far looks like something that could have appeared in a previous game, and I count that as a major strength.
It’s Borderlands. That’s enough of a sales pitch for me already – I’ve played through Borderlands 2 more times than I care to count, and I once spent an afternoon designing the skill tree for a fictional player character. This game could be Borderlands 2 with everyone wearing a hat and I’d still probably buy it, but it’s clear this series values itself as a piece of art. A punky, irreverent, and crass piece of art, but art nonetheless. The gameplay looks as fun as ever and the art team clearly had a blast. I cannot wait to buy this game on launch day – And I haven’t bought a game on launch day since Fallout 4.