| Lou Kesten |
LIKE dozens of other video games, “Borderlands” is all about destroying – robots, monsters, whatever. But “Borderlands” has a not-so-secret weapon in its arsenal: an acidic sense of black humour that’s a welcome relief from the gung-ho cliches of competitors like “Call of Duty” and “Halo”.
In 2012’s “Borderlands 2”, the source of most of the comedy was Handsome Jack, the sarcastic yet charming villain. Jack is back in “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!”- and, in a characteristically perverse twist, this time you’re fighting on his side.
It’s an origin story of sorts, taking place between the first two “Borderlands” games.
Jack (he isn’t “handsome” yet) is a middle-management flunky at the rapacious Hyperion Corp, headquartered in a space station near the planet Pandora. When one Commander Zarpedon and her rogue military unit, the Lost Legion, take over the space station, Jack and his pals fight back.
You play as one of those pals, the mercenary “vault hunters” who are generally more interested in money and mayhem than in quaint virtues like truth, justice and the Pandoran way. There are four characters to choose from:
Athena the Gladiator is a former assassin whose shield absorbs incoming ammo and then can be used to attack the enemy.
Nisha the Lawbringer is a sharpshooter with the ability to freeze time and quickly take headshots at opponents.
Wilhelm the Enforcer is a cyborg who can unleash two drones that attack foes or heal friends.
Claptrap the “Fragtrap” is a robot who’s loaded with malware; its unpredictable effects can be lifesaving or disastrous.
You can play solo as any of the characters, although Claptrap’s unreliability makes him an iffy choice. He works better when you’re playing cooperatively with three other online vault hunters, although you should expect to hear them cursing some of his choices.
Besides the new characters, “The Pre-Sequel” brings two more substantial changes to “Borderlands” combat. One is the addition of ice weapons, which give you the ability to freeze opponents and then punch them until they shatter.
More significant is the addition of a low-gravity environment. Much of “The Pre-Sequel” takes place on Pandora’s moon, Elpis, where your character can jump much higher, and even manoeuvre in midair to shoot at enemies from above. The physics is dubious – I would think shooting a ballistic weapon in low gravity would send you flying in the opposite direction – but it’s an exhilarating feeling and adds an extra dimension to the “Borderlands” formula.
“The Pre-Sequel” isn’t as polished as “Borderlands 2”. Several times I had to reboot missions because the game made them impossible to finish, and in a few cases my character suddenly died even though there wasn’t an enemy in sight. But it’s still a blast, and should satisfy fans until the next proper sequel arrives.
Three stars out of four. – AP