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Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review

by Dean James

Amidst a very impressive generation for new IPs, Borderlands was easily one of the most well received of the bunch. Taking a genre as played out as the first-person shooter genre and making it feel fresh was a tough job for Gearbox Software, but they managed to do so and then even improve on that further in the sequel, which itself got a prequel. To get players ready for the eventual third game in the actual trilogy, Gearbox Software and 2K have thrust the series to current-gen platforms for the first time with Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, which serves as an excellent refresher for fans as well as the ideal Borderlands experience for newcomers.

Not including Telltale Game’s recent Tales From The Borderlands series, there are three total games in the Borderlands franchise. One would think that a collection for current-gen consoles would see the remaster of all three, but Gearbox Software chose to focus only on the story of Handsome Jack, which only spans Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel. This was overall a good choice, as while it would have been nice to have three full games in the collection, the story and everything would have felt superfluous to what Gearbox was going for with this collection. Instead, gamers have been given a chance to see the villainous Handsome Jack at not just his peak, but also how he got there in the first place.

Fitting on one disc, players have the ability to choose either Borderlands 2 or Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel from the very start. The problem however is that once you open one or the other, there is absolutely no way in-game to switch to the other. Instead, you have to exit to the dashboard and close the game completely and start over to switch. While this is made fairly simple on modern platforms, it would have been nice to see the developers implement a way to switch between the two on the two included games’ respective main menus.

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The Borderlands series is rather unique in the FPS gaming landscape, as it focuses exclusively on a story campaign. Able to be played solo or with up to four players at once, Borderlands’ takes many of the elements you would expect from a shooter and switches up the formula quite a bit. Rather than going from level to level, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection has players using up the entire map throughout the game through a variety of main story missions and side missions. Feeling more like an MMO in that sense, the game still is never played with more than four at one time.

While both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel boast impressive single player campaigns that can be enjoyed fully when alone, gamers still are able to enhance the experience with up to four player co-op play, as mentioned above. Limited to only two players on each system in the past, cooperative play in Borderlands thrived most through online networks. However, gamers who much prefer local gaming on the couch with their friends are in luck with Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, as you can now utilize up to four player split screen on one TV for the first time in the series. It overall may not be as ideal as online play, but it is hard to match the level of intensity and fun that you can have when everybody is playing in the same room. This is definitely a feature that the series needs to include in any future entries.

Combined into this one collection, The Pre-Sequel feels just like the large scale expansion that many felt it should have been. Taking place in completely new locations, the overall mechanics remain largely the same as in Borderlands 2, though the physics can be a little troublesome at times. The OZ kits definitely add something new to the experience, but the floaty physics as a result can cause more problems than they solve.

Perhaps the most memorable thing about the Borderlands franchise is its brand of humor. Oozing personality throughout the entire game, players will meet an abundance of interesting and zany characters, such as the destructive Tiny Tina. There are many games that try way too hard to make standout characters that will be talked about far after release, but most of the time they fail miserably. However, the variety of characters found in the two games that make up Borderlands: The Handsome Collection feel completely natural and distinct from one another.

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Most specifically, as previously mentioned, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection provides players with the full story of Handsome Jack. Similar to Star Wars, players can watch Handsome Jack’s evil turn in Borderlands 2 and then go back and see just how he broke bad in The Pre-Sequel to get to that point. Jack is one of the most interesting of the characters in the Borderlands series, so choosing to focus on him was a very wise choice by Gearbox here.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection contains every single piece of DLC released for both games

The game’s unique personality is not just from the writing either, as the graphical style has a certain charm to it as well. Rendered with a gritty cel-shaded style, Borderlands has always felt like something that sprung right out of a comic or something similar. The cel-shaded visual style typically holds up better than any other, as seen by looking back at games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker even today. As a result, jumping to the current-gen consoles are not going to make a massive different to the overall visuals, though there is definitely less blurriness and more detail.

Where the game has seen improvements however is the frame rate, which manages to stay incredibly smooth throughout even large scale firefights. This is something the series sometimes struggled with on consoles in the past, especially on PS3, but it is as smooth as it has even been on consoles with Borderlands: The Handsome Collection.

In the day and age of DLC, both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel had a slew of different downloadable content available to players. Luckily, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection contains every single piece of DLC released for both games. This is a major selling point for this collection, as the last pieces of DLC for The Pre-Sequel do not launch until tomorrow themselves, but they are included in this collection at no extra cost.

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The developers are not forgetting those who owned the game in the past either, as they have very smartly included cross-save. While limited within the specific console families of course, Xbox 360 to Xbox One and PS3 to PS4, having this option is a lifesaver for those that don’t want to start everything from scratch. With a series like Borderlands that relies on multiple playthroughs, this is a vital addition to this collection.

The Verdict

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection combines one of the best games of the last generation and a worthy sidestep title in the same package. Boasting local four player split screen for the first time in the franchise history, the collection also provides players with every piece of DLC thus far with the smoothest console performance ever in the series. Costing the same or less than the Pre-Sequel and its Season Pass alone, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is the ultimate option for series veterans and newcomers alike.

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loved

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

  • Available On: Xbox One, PS4
  • Published By: 2K
  • Developed By: Gearbox Software, Iron Galaxy, Armature
  • Genre: Shooter
  • US Release Date: March 24th, 2015
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "Providing gamers with two very fun and lengthy games within Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, there is no doubt that this is the ultimate Borderlands experience for everyone."
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The Good

  • Two entire games with all DLC included
  • Four player local split screen for first time in franchise
  • Smoother than ever
  • Cross-save with last-gen

The Bad

  • No way to switch between games easily
  • Pre-Sequel’s awkward physics
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