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Review Borderlands the Pre Sequel — it’s a Pre-Boot!

A witty and amusing reinvention of the franchise, complete with Australian accents and humour
A witty and amusing reinvention of the franchise, complete with Australian accents and humour

Giving a reboot to the Borderlands series of games, this Australian (2K Games) retooling develops the story of Handsome Jack, the villain of Borderlands 2. If you know Borderlands, it’s a first-person shooter done in a kind of tech-cartoony style set in a sic-fi environment. You solve a series of (seemingly endless) quests gaining different guns and abilities as you go, which you really need since the quests get harder and harder.

Handsome Jack with his handy wrist-guns can actually be helpful this time around
Handsome Jack with his handy wrist-guns can actually be helpful this time around

This new game, released October 14th, fills in the backstory of Jack as an employee of Hyperion trying to re-gain control of its space station Helios from a military operation known as the Lost Legion. You’re helping him.

The amount of guns available is famously excessive. It’s part of the delight of the game – you’re always looking for that elusive, more powerful, more exciting, more accurate and more destructive piece. Attributes you pick up also change the way guns, grenades and other things react, so you have to check everywhere and loot at every opportunity.
The mouthy characters in the Pre Sequel are funny and entertaining in their own right. You go from little town (on a moon of a planet somewhere) to hamlet to metropolis talking to robots, other humans and also to various things … you can trade in your booty for things you actually want, collect money and various other valuable objects (like moonstones – of course) every time you enter a new territory. You;ll need cash for buying better stuff and to pay for your rebirth every time you get wasted. when you demolish someone they drop money, ammo, weapons and other handy items – all can aid you in your quests.
When I got this version of the game, I thought I’d just play it a bit to get the hang of it as I’d previously deleted the one before. Borderlands 2 was destroying my productivity. Four hours later … so, hate to say, this one’s easily as immersive and hard to stop playing once you’ve succumbed to booting it up.

PC? Yes and no — Politically correct: not at all. Some of the characters are kinda sexy, although there’s no actual sex. Just innuendo and suggestion. There’s even Lilith, but she’s too busy dancing in a bar, on first sight (apart form the intro) to tell you much.
But yes, it’s also popular on PC, and other gaming platforms.
This version of the franchise is even more irreverent than the others thanks to those Aussie coders. In-game characters are downright rude as well as funny and often speak in broad Australian (or should I say ‘Austrayan’) accents. They speak Strine – one character (Peepat) even starts spinning yarns quoting scenarios from famous Australian Bush Poetry. A lot of them swear like Aussies, too. There’s an age restriction on this game, and apart from the innuendo and violence, it’s due the language: “There’s a vault hunter at the bloody door!” etc, signs tell you to ‘Piz Off!’ (sic) etc. If you don’t mind that sort of thing, it’s pretty entertaining.

A lot of the conventions are familiar — things that glow with green lights, for example, open for loot or to discover things. Doors don’t … unless there’s a little green light by the handle –a rare occurrence, but be vigilant. Head-shots still count for quicker kills, and you get bonus points and attributes for achievements, some of which are tailored to this game (like shooting things accurately while you are in the air).

Moxi is back, left, and also appears in a new guise, right
Moxi is back, left, and also appears in a new guise, right

As with the other Borderlands games, I prefer a sniper rifle for outside and switch to something short-range and sprayable. This is needed for those nasty surprises (of which there are legions) that almost inevitably appear when you go into a structure.
But I’m not a fan of pistols or shotguns – I have used them if there’s nothing else, and shotguns are quite good against flying things once they get close. Each to their own. I gather if you’re young with faster twitch reflexes than mine, you’d like these sorts of weapons.
Around pretty much every corner or up some stairs, prepare to be engaged by something new, or by some familiar trouble. It pays to constantly stop, when somewhere safe, and check through your inventory in case you’ve picked up a better weapon, grenade or mod. Anything substandard, flog off at the vending machines, where you also sometimes find better weapons, shields and meds.

Moon Buggy transport – but it's weaponised
Moon Buggy transport – but it’s weaponised

There are new twists, too — this plays out on a moon, so often you’re outside monitoring your oxygen as you go, as an added distraction while various things try and kill you. You need to look for oxygen vents to fill up (just stand over them) and oxygen cylinders often appear when you destroy things. Suck them up, too.
The vehicles are based on the Apollo Moon Buggy (weaponised, of course) and it has its own oxygen supply, or enter a building and all’s good. But the moonscape also means you do these great low-gravity leaps which is cool fun. There’s a whole new class of weapons (like the freezing Cryo) and when you bound into the air – I mean, atmosphere – you can ‘butt-slam’ people by crashing down on them. Mm-hmm. See what I mean about irreverence? But it’s surprisingly satisfying.

A Star Wars reference or, more accurately, The Fifth Element's Star Wars' joke revisited
A Star Wars reference or, more accurately, The Fifth Element’s Star Wars’ joke revisited

Sense of fun — This game is infused with it. Humour, great touches like when you blow people up in low gravity they go flying into the air and dangle there and lots of clever touches.
There are also loads of hidden places to explore and some lead to some very cool gaming/sci-fi history Easter Eggs. You can find a Super Mario level, Buzz Lightyear appears (or something much like him), and references to movies like 2001 A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and even to the band Daft Punk. And there are even more – this thing is riddled with ’em. Check out this link and go exploring!

Conclusion — Genuinely fun time waster. Set aside hours. No, that’s wrong – set aside days.

What’s great — Cheeky, funny characterisations. Excellent music and soundtrack – I think it’s the best soundtrack of the Borderlands games so far, in fact.
What’s not — Fairly CPU intensive game, so make sure your Mac has what it takes before you buy. My MacBook Pro is pretty well-specced and has 16GB RAM but the fans always spin up on playing title, as did so with Borderlands 2.

Borderlands the Pre Sequel, US$59.99 (about NZ$77), by 2K Games and the original developer, Gearbox, with the Mac port handled very expertly by Aspyre – it’s available on Steam and in the Mac App store, and/or buy directly from this link.

Mac games renaissance — There has been a surge of Mac Games in the last year or so, and many are first rate. Since SSD Macs are so fast and graphics cards have improved so much (the Retina iMac must be a stonkin’ game engine) it’s well worth looking at some others. For example:
Borderlands 2
Borderlands 2 Complete
Borderlands 2 GOTY
Borderlands 2 Season Pass
BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinite Complete
BioShock Infinite Season Pass
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Civilization IV
Civilization IV Complete
Civilization V
Civilization V Complete
Civilization V: Brave New World
Civilization V: Gods & Kings
Civilization: Beyond Earth (new)
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Platinum
SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic