I’d like to assume that the release of The Handsome Collection would mean that there won’t be a GOTY edition of Pre-Sequel later in the year, but we all know that’s going to happen anyway. I’ve criticised companies in the past for saturation of their IP with endless, half-assed sequels, but this is the first time I’ve admonished one for a torrent of re-releases. There are only three games in the Borderlands franchise but there have effectively been six Borderlands releases, which is a little ridiculous. Two of those have been GOTY releases, which are arguably good value for money, and that is much the same for The Handsome Collection. Normal retail price for two games and all its DLC is a pretty good deal; the problem is that I can’t see much of a point to it beyond that.
Seriously, it was a stretch to reach the minimum word cap for this one.
There’re a few things lacking, considering that it’s meant to be a “remaster;” for starters, there’s no way to switch between the two games without restarting entirely. The in-game menus haven’t been optimised for split-screen play, which is understating how much of a pain in the ass they are to navigate. While the bugs weren’t exactly frequent or (majorly) game breaking, they were definitely still present and strangely only while playing Borderlands 2. I had it crash on me a couple of times, and the game chose who I was going to turn a quest into at one stage when Claptrap apparently forgot he’d even given one. It seems like a minor point, but I would expect issues like this to be non-existent in a re-master.
It’s still Borderlands 2 and Pre-Sequel, great games in their own right, and a tonne of DLC to go along with them. Despite the issues with the in-game menus, there are no other issues while playing split-screen, and it’s always great to have a friend playing along-side you. The game only crashed a couple of times in the dozen or so hours I played across each game, and it played smoothly the whole time. This all sounds great, but I never had any real problems with anything I’ve just mentioned in any of the previous iterations of either game. If nothing else, Gearbox should be applauded for maintaining a consistency in the overall quality of the franchise.
Still not seeing what makes this a “remaster,” though.
There was a noticeable improvement in the gameplay of Pre-Sequel, however, which makes me wonder just how much effort went into this “remaster.” Traversing the terrain is a lot easier, I feel like a lot of the invisible walls that plagued my last play through have been removed. Whether it’s because of the improved framerate or otherwise, it also feels a lot smoother when sprinting or running and gunning. If you’re also a veteran player, picking things back up after not finishing either game on the previous generation, cross-platform saving means that you can port your old characters across to this game. These are minor improvements, however, and 1080p/60FPS gameplay doesn’t feel like enough to buy either game a second time.
What’s confusing is their decision to leave out the first game, the one thing that might have actually made this more of a “collection.” Just because both games revolve around Jack, putting “Handsome” before it doesn’t make it better. Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox, has said that we’ll get a re-mastered edition of the first Borderlands (maybe) if the Handsome Collection is “wildly successful.” Never mind the fact that the absence of the first game was brought up enough by consumers that the CEO of Gearbox had to address it – they’ve got to move units! What.. What’s that? You think it’s wrong that a game is being held for ransom until the consumers can be “trusted” to support it? Well, yeah, it is wrong and kind of gross.
It was released in conjunction with and is included in The Handsome Collection, so it bears talking about Claptastic Voyage – the latest DLC for The Pre-Sequel. Taking place after the events of Pre-Sequel, Claptastic Voyage sees Handsome Jack digitize you and sends you into Fragtrap to retrieve the H-Source, Hyperion’s priceless, digital IP vault. He is Handsome Jack now, as well, having well and truly crossed the threshold of violent insanity. His progression into the character we see in Borderlands 2 is pretty much complete at this stage, and there are some great moments where this is exemplified. Jack’s dialogue, however, which isn’t exactly infrequent, is often lacking in his usual trademark wit from Borderlands 2 and Pre-Sequel.
Instead of having him vulgarly wax poetic about the situation at hand, he just kind of dickishly eggs you on to be a prick to Claptrap while half-heartedly doing so himself. Given the dynamic between Jack and Claptrap, I feel like they could have done more with it. The rest of the campaign still delivers on the classic Borderlands style of humor in spades and, despite my usual distaste for Claptrap, I really enjoyed it. The virtual world of Claptraps innards follows the usual Borderlands DLC formula of smooshing familiar settings into some newly crafted ones but does it with M.C. Escher-esque style. “Impossible constructs” doesn’t even touch half the stuff that you travel through while playing this campaign.
Who knew that Claptrap could be so beautiful inside?
What was best about Claptastic Voyage, however, was the way it built upon and refined the existing story of the Borderlands universe. I’ve never been a big fan of Claptrap throughout the rest of the series; at best he’s the lame comic relief in an already majoritively comedy game. Claptastic Voyage, however, explores a depth to Claptrap that I would never have thought possible for the annoying little turd. Moreover, it provided a greater context to his role in the overall series, and I found myself kind of moved by his pitiable existence (for once.) In terms of overall quality, I still feel like Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep had a lot more going for it than Claptastic Voyage but both stand as the best DLC in the series. That being said, still not enough to justify buying The Handsome Collection if you already own both games.
I love Borderlands as a series, so if this collection had also included the first game, with all of its DLC, then maybe it would be worth it. All of the games in a single, easy to access collection would be pretty great, and if they’d released some additional content to go along with it, then it would have been amazing. As it stands, this is good value for money if you don’t own either game, and that’s about it. You can’t easily switch between the games, there are still bugs present, one of the games is missing, and the extra content in the form of “Claptastic Voyage” would’ve been coming out regardless. But hey, apparently it’s already gone Gold status anyway, so maybe Gearbox will let us have the first game after all.
DISCLAIMER: this game was supplied to us by the publisher, and reviewed on PS4 across 15 hours of gameplay.