July 3, 2022

Borderlands 3 – PlayStation 4 Review

From the perspective of a long-time avid Borderlands fan, I have to admit that despite it’s shortcomings Borderlands 3 is a blast to play. Now, how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated, and should be taken with a grain of salt. (This included)

First off, I’d like to state that: If you don’t like Borderlands, then 3 will not change that perspective. And that’s fine, not every game is made for every audience. However, Borderlands 3 was clearly made for the fans. The people who played and re-played previous entries to consume every drip and drop of content Gearbox had to offer, while (seemingly) endlessly waiting for even just a whisper of the word “Three”. Point is, some of us waited up to 7 years for Borderlands 3, but does it deliver?

For better or for worse, Borderlands 3 retains the tried and true OG Looter-shooter formula. It’s simply more Borderlands – take that for what you will. Personally, I enjoy Borderlands because it’s unique and doesn’t conform to industry trends. If changes to the franchise had been too dramatic, it’d lose it’s identity, and inturn its hardcore fanbase. 3 doesn’t reinvent Borderlands, but instead plays to it’s strengths, and polishes mechanics including a variety of “quality of life” changes.

“So, you want to hear a story, eh?”

– Marcus Kincaid

Borderlands 3 is currently being review bombed across multiple platforms for a multitude of reasons including but not limited to; Randy Pitchford’s personal conduct prior to launch, 2K games sending private investigators to the home of SupMatto, and Epic exclusivity on PC. I understand these concerns, but, as consumers I believe it’s important we separate ‘art from the artist’ and analyze the product precisely for what it is.

Now without further ado, let’s examine the product through the lens of metrics such as; Graphical fidelity, story/characters, content/length, controls and gameplay, and finally, sound design and cinematics


Graphical Fidelity

Right off the bat Borderlands 3 is, predictably, the best looking entry to date. Gearbox software refined their cell-shading graphics style, and textures now offer a sense of depth, and dimension. The moment gameplay begins on the bus, Marcus leans back to speak to the vault-hunter, and the player can see details as small as his teeth, are rendered in 3 Dimensions. However, the capability Unreal 4 was never in doubt considering the tech demo reveal in 2017. Shading is impressive, and you’ll notice lighting constantly change on guns depending on positioning to the light source. Cell shading is a unique graphics style that may not appeal to all consumers though, unfamiliar players may be less receptive.

Performance wise, it’s far less impressive. In single player the game performed considerably better than the horizontal only splitscreen. I personally play in horizontal, so this wasn’t an issue, but for many players the non-inclusion of verticle splitscreen is noteworthy and disappointing. Frame drops in splitscreen are frequent and bad. When the other player opens their menu, the game sometimes grinds to a halt. Screen tearing is also apparent. The game needs definite optimization on PS4, though I believe a great number of these problems (and others) Gearbox can potentially fix in patches. There is also a minor bug that leaves icons and menus on the screen, this can be removed by quickly opening and closing the menu. All in all, when performance permits, it looks pretty slick. Gearbox is currently working on an update.

Characters and Story

Many of people we see in Borderlands 3 are returning characters, such as Lilith, Hammerlock, Claptrap, Tannis, and (not so tiny) Tina. A few from Tales from the Borderlands, such as Rhys, and Vaughn. And finally, characters that are all new to the Borderlands Universe, such as the Calypso Twins, Lorelei, and Ava. Many of the characters in Borderlands are quite obnoxious, and the jokes don’t quite land as they do in 2. But, Borderlands doesn’t blow it’s load all at once, and there’s a steady stream of interesting dialogue and interactions to be had as you progress. As with all comedy, some jokes hit, some miss. And so far, Borderlands 3 has made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. The largest complaint I see is in regards to the Calypso Twins, a hyper-enthusiastic pair of evil-doers with a heavy hand in cultism and social media/streaming to their maniacal followers. These are not perfectly written characters, however, following one of the greatest video game villains in history: Handsome Jack, is a monumental task and comparisons become inevitable. The Twins aren’t jack, but as they get fleshed out throughout the game, I found them growing on me little by little. Their voice acting is phenomenal, though the writing may not be to everyone’s tastes. Overall, the new character introductions aren’t the strongest, but the massive cast of new and returning characters keeps the stage feeling fresh enough.

To avoid spoilers I won’t be going into detail, but with 23 chapters Borderlands 3 surely feels longer than 2. Especially the into cinematic, which remains unskipable (hopefully Gearbox patches in a skip button). The story takes some risky moves with certain characters, and managed to wow me once or twice similarly to Borderlands 2, such as when Lilith teleports Sanctuary. Gearbox managed to make specific moments feel epic, yet not carry much long-term weight, to it’s detriment. The story isn’t anything spectacular, but it’s not awful either. It’s passable yet formulaic, introducing new characters and plot points, while somehow feeling like it hasn’t changed the playbook at all. By Borderlands standards, the story plays it safe, with the tried and true.

Content and Length

Borderlands 3 is a meaty game, with tons of content to delve into. As previously mentioned with 23 chapters to Borderlands 2’s 19 ‘missions’, there’s always something to loot, shoot or somewhere to explore. Vehicles are now customizable, with now more than 2 variations of chassis, guns now have equipable skins (that aren’t sold by micro-transactions), and certain quests are repeatable for added replay-ability. New Game plus makes a solid return in 3, as per the expectation of it’s predecessors. The cryo element returns from the pre-sequel, along with laser weapons being integrated into certain guns. Additionally, Gearbox has added a radioactive damage type, and removed slag. The gear feels better then it ever has and quests feel well rationed across the 5 planets, each broken into it’s own unique tileset. It’s nice to see other environments outside Pandora, but it’s not quite as awe-inspiring as the trailers made it look. Nevertheless, fresh places to explore are always welcome. The story itself is approximately 30 hours long, without “smelling the roses” (spending time on sidequests, grinding etc.) In one of my playthroughs, I ended up past 30+ hours at only chapter 13-14. But I’m a completionist who enjoys exploring everything. Borderlands has always been designed for replay-ability, so an individual could potentially get upwards and above 100+ hours of enjoyment out of the game, if it’s their cup of tea.

Controls and Gameplay

Here’s where Borderlands 3 bloody shines despite the framerate hiccups and glitches: the gunplay has been polished and feels mighty crisp. It’s just so enjoyable, mowing down psychos with a wide variety of arms. Recoils have kick, hitboxes feel nice, reticles look sharp and react consistently. The shooting just feels so good, which is essential for a good looter shooter. About 20 hours in, I encountered a glitch that some would consider unbearable (I’ll detail in the following section), but I couldn’t put the game down. I was having so much fun with the gameplay, that the inconveniences seemed trivial as long as I could keep shooting, looting and having fun. Especially knowing that Gearbox will have to patch/update problems (as with most modern AAA titles). Ordinarily I’m a pessimist, but the optimist in me thinks “it will only get better”. Underneath the glitches and bugs, it retains the solid Borderlands formula that keeps me, and many others coming back for more. Of course, it’d be optimal if it had released in a better state, but the claims that the game is blatantly unplayable are, in my opinion, embellished. The gameplay loop, and gear will keep you coming back for.

Then, there’s quality of life changes. Such as the addition of a “lost loot” machine that collects any rare or better item that you may have missed. No more lost or forgotten gear. There’s also the ability to cycle through quests without going into the menu, thanks Gearbox! Also, compared to 2, the loot system is much cleaner and far more efficient. It almost never misses a cash/ammo pickup but some players have reported the item title card being out of place (another bug I’m confident Gearbox will sort out very soon). Ammunition and bag space is now bought with cash, instead of Eridium. Controls are very similar to previous installments, but not entirely. With the D-pad being re-assigned as ping, quest cycle, and toggle altfire mode. Ahh yes, altfire modes have been introduced as well, giving bonuses and/or extra guns to your guns! Controls play like most shooters on the market currently, aim, shoot, sprint all tied to their respective keys/buttons. Summing up; the game just feels glorious to play when it performs as intended.

The loot of Borderlands has arguably been what has given it the title King of the looter shooter, and 3 does not disappoint. It’s as wacky and destructive as ever! Want a rocket launcher that shoots hamburgers? Sure! A revolver that shoots shotgun spreads as fast as you can pull the trigger? Hell yeah! How about an automatic pistol that shoots 3 bullets at a time, and doesn’t need to reload? Gearbox says why not? The gear of Borderlands 3 is as gratifying as ever

Sound design & Cinematics

This is where Borderlands 3 metaphorically shits the bed. Another aspect of the game that tends to work better when playing solo, I’ve encountered numerous issues with the sound design when playing split screen.  The game uses spacial sound to project direction, but when two players are in different areas the NPC voices are far too quiet and it doesn’t switch to comms when it should. This has workarounds on PC, but not consoles. And the big one, in my experience; complete sound cutout or a muffled “underwater” sound applied to some gunshots, while most other sound is non-existent. This is frustrating and needs to be fixed, but regardless of how much it irked me, I couldn’t put the game down. Now that being said, when the sound does work as intended, the guns sound beautiful to use. Assault rifles sound rigid and sharp, revolvers have a mean sounding punch.

Overall dialogue seems quiet, and the subtitles are too small. These are all things that, depending on your personal taste could potentially make or break your experience with Borderlands 3. These are things that I imagine will be fixed shortly. Notwithstanding these issues, I can’t help but enjoy every minute I spend leveling and looting my vault hunter.

Conclusion

In deriving a rating or score for Borderlands 3 it is difficult without comparing to it’s predecessor, as many of us will. The gameplay is better then ever but the story is on the slightly weak side, some new characters are middling at best, but returning characters pick up the slack. Some want the Calypso Twins to be the next Handsome Jack, but they’re not. I want to give Borderlands 3 an 8.5-9 (based on pure fun factor and gameplay) but with the current technical issues I cannot in good conscience. I feel 7 is undeserving as I’m having more fun than the average game, so I’m settling on a nice, cushy 7.8 pending technical fixes. IF Borderlands 3 released in a perfect state without visual or audio glitches/bugs, I could easily justify a higher score, but in it’s current state: those looking for a super-smooth 60FPS perfect experience, won’t find it here. At least for now, until patches optimize and fix the issues that fans may be able to easily overlook based on it’s other merits. Gearbox software realized that they could not please everyone, so they chose to please the fans.

The topic of monetization is a short one. Loot is plentiful, and gameplay hasn’t been throttled in any way to encourage loot boxes because: there aren’t any. Some skins and cosmetics can be earned ingame, but there are cosmetic packs that do not effect gameplay additionally for sale or bundled with gold/deluxe editions.

Thanks Gearbox, for more jolly good Borderlands fun. Nothing more, nothing less.

What did you think of Borderlands 3? Let us know in the comments. and stick around ABG for all things gaming. If you enjoyed this Review, why not check out our No Mans Sky: Beyond PC Review


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Explosive and Wacky as Ever, With Performance Issues
  • 7.8/10
    Score: - 7.8/10
7.8/10

Overview

+ Great Sound Work, When it Works

+ More Jolly Good Borderlands Fun

+Fantastic Gear and Equipment

– Performance and Framerate issues

– Weak Story and Certain Characters

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