The latest addition to the Borderlands saga has been out for a few weeks now. Folks have been flocking to Pandora to search for fame and fortune as they hunt for the Vaults now spread throughout the local system. I finally broke down and bought it for the PlayStation 4 so my wife and I could play it together, since it’s the only video game she’ll play with me, and I have to share my thoughts.
Let me first say that I am a HUGE Borderlands fan. I love the characters, both playable and NPCs. Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2 is one of the best bad guys you’ll ever hate to love. It’s also the only game I’ve ever purchased the Season Passes for with no regrets. The wife and I have spent hundreds of hours traipsing across deserts, snowy mountains, and swamps, wading through hordes of robots and bandits, in search of bigger and better loot. I say all this so you will understand how difficult it is for me to write this review.
I am not pleased. The reasons for this are varied, and probably will change over time. But right now, on console, I am disappointed. Now let’s discuss why I feel this way.
As mentioned, the wife and I play this together on co-op. With Borderlands 3, the splitscreen is divided horizontally, and there is no option that I’ve found to make it vertical. A small issue in the grand scheme of things, but still, very annoying. Also, while playing the co-op version, any action involving a menu (shopping, skill tree checks, map checking, etc) causes IMMENSE lag. Sometimes it was so bad it felt that the game was frozen. But it wasn’t just when menus were open. It would also lag sometimes when there were a lot of enemies as well, which is not the time to be lagging. Not in single player, mind you. This was in co-op.
The controls: VERY imprecise. I’ll run up to something and try to interact with it, and there would be almost like a lag-type of reaction. I wouldn’t get the option to interact, so I’d reposition slightly, not get it, reposition over and over, and finally get the prompt. Also, during the repositioning there was an excessive “drift” effect where I would continue moving after letting go of the control stick. Frustrating, especially when looking through a scope.
NPC action and interaction: Some quests and quest givers are bugged so bad that I had to log out and back in to continue the mission. Even then, I found a couple that simply wouldn’t work. Luckily, they weren’t story missions, so I wasn’t completely stuck. Still, after working towards a mission for a better gun or more rewards, it was galling to have this happen.
General bugs and glitches (not the fun exploitable type): Enemies that jump and get stuck hovering in the air, loot that just disappears from your backpack, holes I get stuck in and require me to restart the game, and many more that I’ve found in the 25 hours I’ve played. I’m willing to forgive a few, but this is more than a few. MUCH more.
In the end, it’s Borderlands, so hardcore fans and supporters will support and overlook glaring shortcomings. But I have to be honest in my assessment. It feels like 2K and Gearbox were too focused on meeting a timeline rather than providing a game that, while not quite “broken”, still feels as though it’s not done.
It also begs the question: Is this the new standard that developers and publishers have for the public? That we gamers should just happily accept their offerings and curb our expectations? For larger AAA providers to ascend the heights of what made games great in the first place, the advancements in technology and creative storytelling, has seemingly been tossed aside in favor of higher profit margins and grabbing larger market shares in whatever genre the “flavor of the day” is.
As I said, this article was painful to write. Some might call my faith in 2K and Gearbox misplaced, but I’m hoping against hope that they do right by this series and fix the game. In the end, it’s still Borderlands, lots of loot, lots of baddies, and lots of bullets. The sounds, voice acting, and graphics are fun, as expected. When it works, it’s a great game. The skill trees are interesting and the added mechanics of sliding and climbing are fun to play with. Don’t get me wrong; I will continue to doggedly force my way through these issues and convince myself that I love it and I’m having fun.
But isn’t that the job of the creators and developers?