- Developer: Turn Me Up Games / Gearbox
- Publisher: 2K
- Price: $29.99 / £24.99
- Release Date: 29/05/2020
- Review code provided by 2K
Introducing: Borderlands Switch Review
Being a Nintendo fan does have its drawbacks from time to time and with only owning the big N’s console for the last three generations, I have sadly missed out on some of the biggest third-party games released over the past decade or so. As the Switch gains traction and quickly becomes the must-have gadget, developers of all sizes are pushing the boundaries of what the little hybrid can achieve. We have already seen some impressive ports with the likes of Doom, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and The Witcher 3 but now it’s 2K’s turn. Recently, the popular publisher announced that not one but three much-loved titles would be let loose onto the Switch all on the same day at the end of May. I know what you are all thinking, ‘but my backlog is already the size of the vast, desolate wasteland of Pandora!’ Well, hopefully my review for Borderlands: Game Of The Year Edition will help you make that difficult decision…
As first impressions go I was hooked from the start, The intro cutscene felt like a movie whilst it introduces you to the world of Pandora and the four protagonists. The catchy anthem ‘Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked’ by Cage The Elephant blasts loudly as a Breaking Bad-style campervan hurtles across an empty desert with a dead Skag caught in the radiator. The ‘Borderlands’ Logo and companies involved in creating the game appeared on the screen like a high budget blockbuster. It was also my first introduction to the unique artwork that makes Borderlands stand out above the rest.
I was about to make the same mistake most people have made in the past by describing the art style as cel-shaded, but after doing my research the technique uses hand-drawn textures which are then scanned in and coloured in Photoshop, combined with software that draws graphic novel-style outlines around characters and objects, as explained by Gearbox themselves.
The premise of the game is simple, four Vault Hunters have arrived at the wastelands of Pandora to hunt down the elusive Vault which is rumoured to contain enhanced alien technology. Each of the protagonists has their own attributes so pick wisely when starting. I chose Mordecai, a hunter who’s strength is marksmanship, particularly sniper rifles, where his abilities improves critical hits.
Welcome To Paradise
The Borderlands series has been out for a while now but if you are like me and the Switch is your main console this may be your first chance to play the popular franchise. My first couple of hours with the game was a positive experience. The gameplay was fluid with no framerate issues both in handheld and docked modes even with the Switch version dropping to 30FPS compared to the PS4, Xbox One or PC running 60FPS. The main-story boasts over thirty hours of gameplay which is heavily built on mission-based objectives but for those completionists, there is probably 100+ hours of gun-toting fun to be had with the additional side-missions and added DLC.
Borderlands also includes an RPG system requiring you to level up and use skill points to upgrade stats. It felt like the pace of the game was set by the level you are. Each mission has a recommended level you need to be to complete it, resulting in you spending what felt like hours grinding to gain XP to level up. Another unique feature is the procedurally generated weaponry, with Gearbox boasting 17.75 million variations. Each weapon has its own stats including firing speed, reload speed, and damage type. This plays a huge part in taking down enemies especially as you progress through the story so prepare not to keep hold onto your favourite firearms as you will be dropping weapons from your inventory like it’s going out of fashion to make room for guns with higher stats. There are many types to weapons to pick up from handguns, assault rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers and sniper rifles.
Find the Vault
Pandora is a huge open-world with many breathtaking landmarks from the peaceful town of New Haven where you can escape the constant barrage of attacks from bandits and the four-legged scavengers called Skags to the vast open land known as the Salt Flats with huge mining equipment that towers over the horizon. But when you are out in the wastelands completing missions, taking down enemies can be a frustrating experience throughout the game due to poor AI. On many occasions, enemies would get stuck and walk on the spot or stop and stay in doorways letting you just hide and take them out from afar. This happened with a boss named Sledge, the leader of the bandits in the Arid Badlands. The Sledge was a huge juggernaut of a character and by chance, he got stuck in a doorway. The rest is history and I lived to tell the tale.
Another issue is the stats of the enemies, especially when doing a mission recommended for a player level a lot higher than you currently are. No amount of bullets and headshots will take them down. You have two choices: leave and come back when you have levelled up or just run for it. A hilarious moment happened when I was in the rocket launcher buggy. No amount of missiles would take down the high-level Bruiser I was fighting, resulting in him flying all over the place but I then accidentally clipped him with the vehicle and died instantly.
Speaking of vehicles, I found the driving mechanics to be a nightmare. The developers opted to use the same methods as Halo, where you have to move the camera angle and indicator using the right analog stick to steer and use the left one to accelerate or reverse. I found myself staying away from driving unless I had to if it was part of the mission. Also annoyingly, the vehicle would get stuck really easily leaving no other choice than to abandon it and walk the rest of the way. The tiniest of rocks would cause the buggy to be grounded.
Play With A Friend
Borderlands is a blast playing single-player but with the added online co-op mode you can enjoy over-the-top violence with your friend or you can jump into a lobby and join a random player’s game which can be a lot of fun. Playing in co-op was a pleasant experience with no lag. The only gripe I have is that you are unable to change your online settings in the pause menu, you have to exit back to the main menu. This was a problem with the Switch when putting it into sleep mode then turning it back on and jumping straight back into the game. It would disconnect you and the only way to change your online settings was to stop the game. Maybe this can be added in a future update.
The four DLC add-ons are a great addition to an already huge game, each one offering different gameplay. From a zombie outbreak in The Zombie Island Of Dr Ned to an organised underground deathmatch, you can fight to be the last man standing in Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot. I would recommend playing the DLC when you have finished the main story and have levelled up enough. For example, the Zombie Island DLC requires you to be level 35 and can be a little on the difficult side if you jump straight in.
Even after picking out the faults with Borderlands, it is still a truly unique and fun experience. The game handles perfectly on the switch in both docked and handheld modes with no frame rate issues and the art style looks great. There are hundreds of hours worth of gameplay to be had in Pandora and with the main game packaged with all four DLC expansions, it is definitely a great value for your money. But, I would like to note that for an extra £10 you can get The Legendary Collection which also includes Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel. Borderlands is a superb first-person shooter with RPG elements which is enhanced by co-op play with your friends.
- A solid first-person shooter
- Unique art-style
- Value for your money
- Online co-op
- Driving mechanics can make it awkward to control the vehicle
- Enemy AI can let down gameplay
- To change online settings you need to quit the game back to the main menu.
A unique FPS packed full of content – if looting and shooting in a vast open-world is your thing I recommend jumping into Borderlands. But, maybe hold off and get The Legendary Collection for even more value.