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Borderlands: The Handsome Collection – Review (in progress)

I love video games – I love playing them, reading about them and talking about them. So to lighten the mood of the blog, I have decided to write a review of one I am playing right now – Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. (BL:THC)

BL:THC consists of two games, Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Both games are first person shooters made in the style of a role playing game. Meaning, like most games you level up, get better gear, complete missions, but you also have to craft your character – of which there are many – with skills as you level. This enables you to craft your character the way you see fit to match your playing style. For the uninitiated, it is like Call of Duty meet Elder Scrolls… or, as many of my friends have pointed out, everything Destiny should or could have been (ironic, since Borderlands 2 came out way before Destiny). For the initiated, it is a space opera shooter that plays as an RPG.

Borderlands 2 came out in 2012, while the Pre-Sequel came out in 2014, so there are plenty of reviews already for these tow games, and of course, many comparison reviews for BL:THC on PS/XBox One versus their counterparts on old-generation consoles. For me, however, this is my first real experience with the series and these games – I did play the original Borderlands back in the day for s brief time, and my second experience with first person shooters in a long while, my first being Destiny. Many of these comparisons focus on frame rates and the newer graphics, but having no previous experience, I don’t really care, what I care about is the game play and the fun factor.

As a prelude, this game is rated Mature, and it is for a reason. It is bloody, vulgar and at times, offensive. It is crude and unapologetic, and honestly, I like it. No, I can’t play this game in front of my kids, well, I could, but at the very least if I do, I wear my headphones. This being said, it is no more violent then most violent video games, and it certainly isn’t Mortal Kombat, more Elder Scrolls meets guns – and just a little more crude.

The number one thing I take away from Borderlands is that it doesn’t matter. Nothing does. If I die, it doesn’t matter – I can still achieve my objective, it will just cost me more in game money. If I loot, it doesn’t matter, I can still get the equipment that I need. If I didn’t complete every side quest, though it may be blocked at the moment, it doesn’t matter, I can always come back, or join a friend and do it on theirs – it still counts on mine. In the end, nothing matters.

The whole point is to blow stuff up. Yes, kill bad guys and blow stuff up, and again, nothing else matters. As long as you do this, you will eventually achieve your objective. The other point is to loot, and even if you miss a million crates to loot, there are a million more. Blow stuff up and loot, I like that, its, well, peaceful. What I mean is, it isn’t nerve racking, I don’t get nervous going into a boss fight, like I might do say in Destiny, or Elder Scrolls Online. If I die, someone will be there to pick me up, or, I just end up paying the Hyperion Corporation to be rematerialized, again, it doesn’t matter, I will achieve my objective, or dye (again and again) trying.

For blowing stuff up, we go back to loot. The game – either one – gives me a million different option on how I can blow up any one of a million different things. There are a ton of different weapons, and likewise, shields, character mods, character relics and the like to get me where I’m going and to help me, well, blow stuff up, and in turn, loot more. I love the range of options these two games give me. I don’t have to buy a weapon to suit my playing style, I will find one, and even if I don’t, yes, I can buy one – finding plenty of money along the way. Since it play like an RPG, I have options of shields (armor) – I can choose a high capacity shield, which may effect my health, or a lower capacity shield which absorbs me… and so one and so on. On top of all of this, my character (again, of which there are several) come packed with certain skill sets in which I can place skill points to give me certain advantages – again, picking ones to suit my playing style.

All in all, these two games blend the FPS and the RPG experience very well – we have good shooting mechanics, good character mechanics and then, as always, there is the loot. Lastly, the questing is very progressive, and even with the large amount of side quests, I have not felt like I was stuck in one spot for too long. For this alone, if you like FPS and RPGs, this is a great collection for you. In addition of the stock games though, you also get all of the DLC for Borderlands 2 and the new DLC (featuring Claptrap’s mind) for the Pre-Sequel. On top of this, it is for the next-gen/now-gen consoles of Playstation 4 and XBox One.

Graphically, though I haven’t played the games on previous generation consoles, I am impressed with the visuals for both games on the new consoles. I play on PS4, so I can’t speak of the Xbox, but I haven’t had any issues on the PS4, even playing with a full compliment of 4 players online. To me, the scenery is gorgeous – its not realistic, but it isn’t supposed to be. It is supposed to be cartoonish/anime-like, and it shows very well. Its vibrant, in all ways, and I like that. Again, I can’t speak of comparisons, but from what I seeo n the PS4, it has been remastered very well. I can’t speak of frame rates or whatever, but I have played a lot of video games, and I really like how this looks.

Lastly, the story itself feels like an RPG. There are plenty of characters which, once you get past their crudeness, you actually do “care” about – unlike Destiny which thrusts you into a galaxy where there is story potential and falls flat on it face, Borderlands gives you a planet, a moon and a station in which a space opera unfolds.

While playing, I almost felt like I was in a Ben Bova novel of the Grand Tour series – there is corruption, violence, sex and heroes which aren’t antiheroes but aren’t good guys either – yet, you can feel an empathy for them (or not). There are many locales to visit, many characters to meet, and get to know and they all have a story. I found myself wanting to find out more and more, to get to get to the root of all the evil going on, I want to get to Handsome Jack and, well, blow him up. On the flip side, however, as long as there is loot and stuff to blow up along the way, you could care less, because in the end it doesn’t really matter.

Rating: A+ (97.786)

(Note: I have played Borderlands 2 mostly, only briefly play the Pre-Sequel, if anything changes on my impressions, I’ll let you know – I don’t apologize for not being technical, but honestly, as long as I like the way it looks and plays, its good enough for me… and it doesn’t really matter anyways.)

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