Borderlands 3 has been a long time coming and a lot of fans had almost given up hope that a new entry in the franchise would ever come to pass. Thankfully Gearbox Software has been hard at work for the last five years to deliver the Borderlands experience that fans not only want but one that they deserve, too.
Borderlands 3 Gameplay Hands-On
At a press event in Los Angeles I got to go hands on with Borderlands 3 for over 90 minutes and in that time I learned a lot about where the franchise is going and what Gearbox has learned from past Borderlands titles. I’m happy to say that Borderlands 3 is definitely worth the wait.
My time with Borderlands 3 was a solo experience but I didn’t have any problems with that as the games catch phrase “Mayhem is Coming” is very fitting. Mayhem is everywhere; things exploding all over the place, enemies rushing you without rest and a level of sheer chaos that felt a little overwhelming but fitting for a Borderlands title.
My playthrough had me travailing to the planet Promethea – home to the Atlas Corporation. Upon my arrival I discover Atlas is at war with the Maliwan Corporation’s private army. As a newly enlisted participant in this war I was tasked with helping new comer Lorelei to fend off the Maliwan Corporation.
This section of the story didn’t focus on the overall plot that concerned the evil Calypso Twins, Troy and Tyreen who lead a very powerful cult in search of the ever lucrative Vaults located on various planets. The Calypso Twins are set to be the main antagonist’s in Borderlands 3 and quite honestly from what I’ve seen of them i’m not that impressed – mostly because of their face-clawing bad attitudes.
Essentially the Calypso Twins are that annoying YouTuber stereotype that you hate to watch because of their high and mighty attitude and how they lead a bunch of their subscribers who will do anything to defend them no matter what they say or do. They’re definitively a unique villain in Borderlands terms though, that much is for sure. I hate them for how they act and their personality but then that’s what really makes a compelling big bad; a villain you need to hate and that is something Gearbox has certainly accomplished with the Calypso Twins.
Moving to Unreal Engine 4 it’s clear that a lot has been improved in Borderlands 3. The biggest improvement comes in the actual gunplay. The gunplay has been improved tremendously, with smoother framerate that in turn provides better and smoother character movement. Enemies also didn’t feel as bullet spongy as they did in Borderlands 2 either, while creating combos is also quite fun too – almost giving the game a cool Bulletstorm feeling.
Elsewhere, movement feels responsive and empowering. Going from a run into a slide and then jumping into the air and landing on an enemy with a melee attack is a very satisfying and simple feat to pull off. Borderlands 3 doesn’t feel like a sequel to some relic of years past, it feels like a Borderlands title with all the trimmings of a modern shooter.
The skill system has seen its share of improvements as well. Though there are three skill trees as before that you can choose from, with branching progression path sprouting from each one, one of the bigger improvements are the passive skills that help throughout the game. Zane for example can deploy a gun turret but he can then augment his gun turret with a shield that defects attacks. In higher tiers of this passive skill; it can be further augmented to allow you to shoot through the shield but when shooting through, the damage and elemental type of attack changes – allowing players to effectively modulate their attack based on the enemy in front of them.
Of course, it’s not Borderlands without all the amazing guns, and Borderlands 3 does not skimp on the amount of bang-bang you can wield. The amount of loot you get in Borderlands 3 is insane and all the weapons I used were a blast to get to grips with. There are a lot of different weapons in Borderlands 3 then, and when combined with the alternate fire modes and numerous skills, all add together to create a delicious sum of violent possibilities.
Though I got to experience a fair amount of the vehicle combat, I came away less than impressed. The actual act of driving feels clunky at this stage and the vehicle turning and aiming controls are linked, meaning when you want to shoot at an enemy vehicle you’ll have to turn your entire vehicle to do it. Yeah, ouch.
When it comes to the visuals, Borderlands signature cel shading returns and overall the game looks superb. The character models and the environments look great too thanks to Unreal Engine 4 and manages to achieve that rare balance of looking like a classic Borderlands game while boasting all the modern bells and whistles one would expect.
Our playtest was on a very high end PC so l have reservations regarding how this fluidity will transfer over to the console versions of the game – especially when it comes to the split-screen co-op which Borderlands 3 will support; but time will certainly tell on that score.
Fans of Borderlands will be right at home with Borderlands 3. It feels like the same great Borderlands that they have come to love but with improvements that don’t drastically change what the franchise is all about. If anything, all the changes that have been made have all been for the positive and to help bring the franchise in line with contemporary expectations.
I had a lot of reservations after Borderlands 3 was announced but after having a chance to play it I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game. Gearbox Software might not have seen the need to reinvent the wheel, but on the early evidence of this play session, they’ve certainly done their utmost to keep it spinning with style and verve.
Many thanks to 2K for inviting us to the Borderlands 3 gameplay reveal event. Travel and accommodation were paid for by 2K.
Borderlands 3 releases on September 13, 2019 for PS4, PC and Xbox One.