The first two Borderlands titles took the world by storm with their irreverent humour. But now, it seems that the franchise needs to go back to the drawing board if it wants to remain relevant.
Blazing guns, crazy characters and a lack of respect for anything normal may have worked wonders before, but now the game just feels tired.
I started with Athena, a female gladiator whose shield can absorb plenty of damage before hurling the stored energy back at the baddies. You can even turn her into a clone of Captain America with her ricocheting shield, if you invest her skill points in the right places as you level up.
Then there is Wilhelm the Enforcer, who controls the flying robots Wolf and Saint. Wolf is designed for combat, unleashing volleys of fire on enemies while Saint stays back to heal his master.
Nisha the Lawbringer is the ultimate gunslinger. She specialises in dealing plenty of damage with her guns. And then there is Claptrap, the lovable robot mascot from the earlier games, but which is now a playable character with a random special ability ranging from summoning a mini-turret to aid you in battle to morphing into a robot butcher with giant knives.
Like before, you can level up your characters and gain skill points to invest in customisable skill trees. You can make your hero tougher, or eschew survivability for the ability to deliver more powerful attacks.
There are three new trademarks of this latest edition of Borderlands. Fighting on the oxygen-starved moon adds urgency to your actions as you race against time on the moon's surface in search of oxygen centres.
The reduced gravitational pull on the moon lets you leap higher into the air and fall back more slowly, so you can enjoy shooting at enemies while you descend. Then there is the butt-slam. If you can curl up into a crouching position while airborne, you can wreak some serious damage when you slam down on any critters below you.
While the Pre-Sequel does offer some nifty mouse and keyboard "gunzerking" exercise for the fingers, four new characters to play and cool anti-gravity jumps to master, the whole adventure feels so "been there, done that".
In fact, I felt tired as I slogged through 12 hours of charmless slapstick comedy, which kept me from treasure hunting in Destiny.
The garish hand-drawn graphics add some life to the game. But it feels passe next to new games such as Destiny, Ryse and Shadow Of Mordor, which make the most of the eye-popping performance of the new generation of gaming consoles.
It is telling that this Borderlands game neither runs on the Xbox One nor the PlayStation 4, testament perhaps that the game developers themselves did not take their own game quite seriously enough.
$74.90 (Xbox 360, PS3); $59.90 (PC, version tested)
This article was first published on Oct 29, 2014.
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