Borderlands The Pre-Sequel – As We Play

Format – Xbox 360

Version – 1.01

Having played over 400 hours of the Borderlands franchise, an amount pushed over by the Pre-Sequel, I think I can finally say that I’m done. Not in a bad way, Borderlands has given me a ton of enjoyment and entertainment, and more importantly, given me more life out of an Xbox 360 which has rapidly started to collect dust, I’m grateful for that, but if Borderlands 3 comes along and does exactly the same things as its predecessors without drastically overhauling the system, I can honestly say I won’t give it a second glance.

So that should probably answer your first question. Pre-Sequel is more of the same. And really, if you’re a Borderlands fan in anyway, that’ll be music to your ears. New quests, new locations, new characters and enemies, but a very familiar vibe throughout. The humour is still top-drawer, first class stuff. The boss battles are torturous and challenging, and the guns are, of course, still the star of the show. But while narrative isn’t really key to your enjoyment of these games – though it definitely plays a part – Pre-Sequel sadly feels little more than an overly-exquisite expansion pack.

There are some changes, and I will highlight those in a moment, but it’s important for me to stress from the get-go that, if you’ve never cared for Borderlands up to now, this honestly, truly will not change your mind in the slightest.

With that said, let’s move on.


The name Handsome Jack will be very familiar to you. His dastardly schemes in Borderlands 2 really brought that game to life. He was, of course, the black comedic villian with his own unique brand of vengeance and he worked wonderfully as opposition to the vault hunters. Without question, he was one of the true highlights of Gearbox’s big, budget sequel.

Pre-Sequel, however, introduces you to a very different Jack. A weaker, less charismatic Jack, who actually seems heroic in his actions and choices. Pre-Sequel basically explains how he becomes the dictator we meet in Borderlands 2 through a series of consequences and decisions. On one hand, that’s great as we see more of Jack, but on the other hand, part of Jack’s magic was seeing his dark side come to life, listening to his outrageous comments, and feeling him get under your skin. While this Jack shows hints of that persona throughout, frankly, Pre-Sequel feels like it dilutes a lot of the magic created with that character in Borderlands 2.

Still, this isn’t just Revenge of Sith in Borderlands form, the writing is still wacky, off-the-wall and consistently superb. This time, duties have been split amongst the team, which does help keep the content fresh. In that regard, Pre-Sequel feels like a celebration of the success of the series and the game has incorporated many wild, wacky, missions that feel right at home in this universe.


But perhaps the biggest celebration of all, and the ultimate in-joke for Borderlands fans is that finally, you can play Claptrap. Yes, really. And when you try to select that character, by God, does the game let you have it. It genuinely asks you THREE TIMES if you’re sure you want to play as Claptrap in a variety of hilarious ways. ‘Are you sure you want to play Claptrap, you remember how annoying he is right?’ ‘Have you seen the name of his power-up? Are you sure you want to do this to yourself?’

I had a good chuckle out of that for a few minutes and that was just the title screen.

The kicker, of course, is that Claptrap is actually pretty great. His talent trees can make him an overpowered force of destruction and his power-up, VaultHunter.exe is a neat trick which allows him to adapt to any situation, depending on the tide of battle. If he’s low of health, he can summon heal-bots to revitalize him, or he can summon a pesky, ranged bot which can inflict damage on all nearby enemies. He can even summon a decoy and trick enemies into attacking it.

But yes, to get all of that you really will have to put up with  Claptrap talking throughout the game. Thems the breaks.


Fortunately, the other three characters are also pretty ace and well-balanced. They’ll also be familiar to Borderlands fans, as they served as henchmen for Jack in Borderlands 2. The game actually begins with the vault hunters interrogating Athena, a rogue assassin, and she recollects Jack’s tale. However, you can also play as Nisha, The Lawbringer and Wilheim The Enforcer. Each offers something unique to the party, and all combined can make a forceful team.

Another refreshing aspect is that the characters have a lot more dialogue than any of their predecessors. Missions now feel like exchanges in dialogue rather than an NPC spouting instructions at you, which also makes multiple playthroughs more interesting.

Other new features include a new Oxygen Tank system, because, well, you are in space. While it’s mostly irrelevant for Claptrap, he can still earn health from o2 boosts. O2 generators are situated all over the moon, but weapons also have augments and slots on them which can increase breathing, stat bonuses and even boost newly added ground slams and deal additional damage. The o2 boost can also act like a jetpack, making it easier to do double jumps, as well as hover. While I played Claptrap through most of my playthrough, the o2 system didn’t impact me massively, but it’s a unique addition that can add some additional tension – and frustration – to a gunfight.


Laser guns have also been added to the game’s already massive arsenal, making combat fresh and interesting. Cyrogenic elemental effects have also been added to weapons, enabling you to freeze enemies, then melee to destroy them, though sadly the effect isn’t anywhere near as satisfying as Duke’s freeze and boot combo that made the bubble-gum chewing bad-ass so popular in 96.

And, of course, there’s the gravity effect. Not only will you jump higher than ever before, enabling missions to go to new, unreachable heights, loot will also disappear if it isn’t collected quickly and taken away. Missions can also be tackled at the same time, and sometimes, one objective from a mission needs to be completed before you progress another, even if you’re already half way through your objective. Clever touches that, coupled with the o2 system, keeps movement between objectives a slightly more enjoyable endeavour.


But really, apart from that, everything else is the same. Fight it out against bounds of enemies in dinky space suits, build skills across three talent trees, fight for your life if your health bar is reduced and use a ton of weapons along the way. The co-op gameplay is still the standout highlight of the Borderlands series, whether you’re playing via split-screen – unlike a recent Bungie title *cough, hack, splutter*- or the net. Unquestionably, Pre-Sequel comes to life when you’ve got a buddy in town.

And hey, when you look at new-gen exclusives this year compared to what last-gen has had between this, South Park, Dark Souls 2 and the forthcoming Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, it makes one wonder if waiting to upgrade for another year was actually the smarter decision.

So yes, Borderlands fans, it’s wonderful. You’ll be in heaven. Questionable core of the story aside, the missions are a joy, the new cast of characters are entertaining and there’s a lot of new enemies to learn more about. I cannot think of a more fitting way to say farewell to your Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, than to buddy up with your group of friends one last time, get that party started and blaze through this content and its forthcoming DLC. It’s another reason to keep you playing your last gen console for another six months before you finally retire it to the big second-hand retailer in the sky.

The Good Stuff

  • Great writing and genuine laugh out loud humour
  • Fun gameplay tweaks, such as gravity and laser guns
  • The best damn co-op experience on this or any other platform
  • It’s Borderlands

The Bad Stuff

  • Jack storyline feels more detrimental than beneficial to his character
  • Very little in the way of change.
  • Solo can be challenging and a bit of a slog
  • Some clipping and graphical hitches

Final Analysis

The Pre Sequel will cure the Borderlands itch you’ve been dying to scratch, but this product has been clearly designed to appease the core fanbase, rather than attract new entrants. And at the end of it, you may finally find yourself more fatigued with the franchise than before you started. Fortunately, the clever new twists and split-your-sides writing will see you happily entertained and mostly satisfied throughout.

Technical Competency – 7.5/10
Graphic/Sound Quality – 8/10
Entertainment Value – 7/10
Network Stability – 9/10

Overall Quality Grade – 7.5/10

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