With so many exotic sights to behold and unload into, the only kind of ‘bor(e)d’ you’ll find in Borderlands 3 is an expansive arsenal of fully-bored guns.
One of gaming’s worst-kept secrets, Borderlands 3, is ready to hot-drop players back into the loot-filled (firing) ranges of Pandora. No, not the idyllic planet from James Cameron’s Avatar occupied by countless CGI wonders; the cel-shaded fractured space rock that’s littered with a bazillion guns.
And it won’t just be Pandora this time around, with developer Gearbox Software teasing interstellar adventures on other planets.
This OG shooter-looter sequel may be sporting an Unreal Engine 4 facelift, but its core gameplay loop is very familiar. For anyone who’s never plundered the depths of a seemingly never-ending arsenal of a Borderlands 3 game, here’s the sitrep.
Engage in missions dictated by the wacky, weird and wonderful inhabitants of Pandora, and Blast number-spewing foes in the face – these kind chumps drop more ammo for you to continue to disperse lead sandwiches in their not-long-for-this-world buddies. This is all in the pursuit of experience, which can be used to tailor your class. But really, if we’re being honest, it’s more about the endless pursuit of enough firepower to make a T-800 smile.
This is where some of the new starts to creep in. While the core gameplay loop certainly subscribes to Darwinian evolution over French-fuelled revolution, it’s the little tweaks that make for interesting new mechanics. For instance, certain weapons have a secondary firing mode. It’s not new for shooters, but in Borderlands 3 it can be as simple as switching from face-melting radiation (a new element) or patsy-to-popsicle-spewing frost. Or it can be more complex (and satisfying) by converting a bullet-spewing minigun to an explosive-pineapple-lobbing grenade launcher. All at the tap of a button.
“It’s always satisfying to slide around a corner and unload a magazine of buckshot into the codpiece of a cowering foe.”
The shooting’s been tweaked for the better, too, which is important considering how much of it you’ll be doing. For starters, there’s a diverse range of enemy types who feel smarter than previous entries. Players are empowered to take them out in Doom-like forward-thrust ways, too, with the addition of a generous sprint-to-slide mechanic. It’s always satisfying to slide around a corner and unload a magazine of buckshot into the codpiece of a cowering foe. Alternatively, with flimsy construction standards seemingly making way for destructibility in Borderlands 3, you can always penetrate your way through certain bits of hard cover to perforate the soft innards of Nameless Grunt #421.
Vault hunters can now also make use of vaulting to embrace the Obi-Wan Kenobi philosophy of high-ground dominance, so verticality plays a bigger role in combat spaces. The addition of more environmental objects, like fuel lines that can be shot to spew the flammable crude stuff, on top of the expected explosive barrels means more options to play with your prey.
On the RPG side of things, skill trees can be tweaked to open up new play styles and the two characters we got to tool around with both felt different in terms of their unlockable active and passive abilities. There are new rides, too, the most notable one being a giant wheel that’s clearly come from General Grievous’ mechanic.
These fully armed and operational mounts mean the simplicity of riding from A to B is complemented by the satisfying distraction of vehicular combat. They can’t be driven everywhere, though, and you’ll hit literal walls that require you to lug it on foot. Be sure to loot absolutely anything that has a green light on it—bins, outhouses, lockers, etc.—to keep ammo reserves full, which is something we found ourselves short on more often than not.
While it can be tantalising to stack your three-option arsenal with two or even one weapon category, this’ll leave you exposed at the most inopportune times if our experience is any indication.
After around 90 minutes of hands-on time, our biggest gripe so far is that we only got to play solo. In the past, Borderlands games can absolutely be played alone, but like G or X rated versions of Twister, two-to-four-player co-op is more fun than going it alone.
Borderlands 3 releases for PS4, XBox One and PC this September 13.