As someone who loved the original Borderlands – an FPS with RPG mechanics and loot grinding that meant non-stop fun for hours on end – I never, for whatever reason, played through Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel when they first came out.
What’s even more strange is that I even played through the original Borderlands DLC add-ons which were – and still are – impressive in their scope and differentiation from the main campaign, introducing new and interesting locations and funny new characters. However, we are here today to talk about a very important package; a package I bought just so I could catch up to the Borderlands franchise – Borderlands: The Handsome Collection.
As a student who had just passed his A-Levels, but hadn’t yet received his results for his university admissions, I had a lot of time to waste. That time wasting was helped by the fact that my parents treated me to an Xbox One, and so I needed to find something to get my teeth into. After all, what was I supposed to do all summer long? If only Gearbox, the developers of the Borderlands games, were to release a package which included remastered versions of Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel in a timely manner so that I could play through them during this gap that had appeared in my gaming downtime.
Well, it just so happens that Gearbox did just that – remastering both games with all the DLC included (of which there was tons for Borderlands 2) and used the power of the current hardware so that they play smooth and had the capability of four player co-op online and on the couch. It was Borderlands: The Handsome Collection.
Now I had a perfect opportunity to learn all about Handsome Jack and the new vault hunters that were featured in this critical and commercial darling. I thought it would be best to start with Borderlands 2 because that was the order in which the games were released, and my friends had told me that there were many references in the Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel which I wouldn’t understand until I’d played through Borderlands 2.
To conclude before I’ve even begun, Borderlands 2 is a fantastic video game. It delivers on being an addictive RPG loot-grinding experience and having an emotional story full of characters which have a surprising amount of substance to them, mainly due to their traumatic and tragic backstories.
What’s more is that the game, compared to the original Borderlands, is absolutely huge. It must have taken me around 15-20 hours for my first playthrough including all the side missions when the original Borderlands can be blitzed in about 5-10 hours.
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Although all I had heard about Handsome Jack were good things, I was still thoroughly enjoying every moment of him antagonizing me over my ECHO, or meeting Tiny Tina for the first time and helping her take revenge on her parents’ killers. There isn’t a dull moment playing through Borderlands 2. It is one of the best games of the Xbox 360 generation without question – it is Gearbox’s magnum opus.
The same can’t and won’t be said for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, though we should not give in to the collaborative bombardment that it gets just because a lot of other critics and gamers thought it was more of the same. Alas, while there is some truth to this, that is by no means a bad thing. The Pre-Sequel provided context behind the rise of Handsome Jack, the chance to play on Pandora’s moon and on Hyperion’s space station, and the opportunity to navigate environments with less gravity. All these would contribute to a different experience which I found to be a more than pleasant one, especially when playing with friends.
The DLCs for both of these games are impressive too, with a major standalone for the Pre-Sequel taking place in Claptrap’s mind and the many add-ons for Borderlands 2 – both minor and major – feeling just as substantial; think Oasis and Tiny Tina’s imaginary Dungeons and Dragons map. The latter of which is one of the best DLCs I’ve ever played.
There isn’t much to say about the Borderlands: The Handsome Collection that hasn’t already been said. The gameplay is incredibly addictive, smooth (at a remastered 60 FPS) and surprisingly substantial with the character development, though this is present less in the Pre-Sequel. I had an absolute blast playing through both of these games, both solo and with friends, and don’t regret any minute of the hundreds of hours I’ve ploughed into the Borderlands franchise. Gearbox got something right with this series, something which many other games fail to do. Borderlands is joy in a bottle.
If you are yet to play Borderlands: The Handsome Collection then you should head to the Xbox Store and pick it up. It’s available for £44.99 or as part of the Xbox Game Pass.