Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review
Borderlands was undoubtedly one of the top break-out RPG hits of the last console generation and one of the most pleasant surprises for us here on RPG Site. Its loot-hoarding 'Diablo-with-guns' aesthetic ended up an addictive and compelling experience even three games later - and it's now pitching in with this new generation's most questionable trend with The Handsome Collection, an HD Remastered package of the two most recent outings.
The lack of the original Borderlands seems jarring, but it makes sense given the context of the title's name. These two titles tell the story of the popular Handsome Jack character, and while these two games run on near-identical technology under the hood the original Borderlands is different enough that it'd require a lot more work.
Like most HD Remasters, this title plainly exists as a stopgap until we get a proper new-generation Borderlands. Although the lack of the first game is a disappointment, it's not as much of a disappointment here as it might be within other packages.
Borderlands 2 is the archetypal 'bigger, better' sequel; it does pretty much all of the same things the first game did, but expands and improves on them such that given the choice between the two there's really only one sensible answer: the second game. One might have hoped for the first game just to be remastered with some of the second's gameplay tweaks, though that just isn't in the budgetary scope for this project.
In spite of this, it'd be hard not to call this collection a good value for the money. Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel both come with all of their downloadable content pre-installed and both are absolutely sprawling even without all their DLC. Tack on the fact that the Pre-Sequel is actually less than a year old and some additional new-gen only bonuses and the release starts to look a lot more reasonable.
Those unfamiliar with Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel are advised to go and read our reviews of thosegames, but to give the basic overview the series combines traditional first-person shooting action with dungeon crawling loot mechanics, character progression and abilities, creating an impressively difficult-to-put-down gameplay loop.
The Pre-Sequel adjusts the formula in some clever ways by taking the setting to a low gravity environment, adding suitably space-age equipment like jetpacks, lasers and ice-powered weapons. It's a small set of adjustments, as detailed in that game's review, but an effective one that suitably differentiates the game.
The amount of content in the collection is massive even with the first title missing, and several of the DLC expansions that many players skipped are some of the finest Borderlands moments outright.
In addition to all this stuff being packed in, the games finally come with four-player split-screen co-op play as standard, a lovely addition that simply wasn't possible on the previous set of machines.
Despite the fact that this collection can seemingly output 4 different viewpoints at once, even in single-player there's strange issues with performance. Both games have been bumped to 1080p in resolution, but both also suffer from occasional frame rate hiccups that make the experience a little less than smooth.
Borderlands 2 is by far the smoother of the two, with the problems far more pronounced in The Pre-Sequel to the point where in some instances this new version runs with a less stable frame rate than the previous generation versions.
These issues obviously stand out all the more in split-screen, which is undeniably a shame given how more fun Borderlands is with multiple players in the same room.
The textures haven't been significantly updated as far as we can tell, although it still look great, drawn in at a higher quality and sooner with the occasional unfortunate bit of pop-in.
In general both games actually look much better in any given moment - it's just the performance, particularly in the Pre-Sequel, that leaves much to be desired.
In a sense, this feels like one of the more bare-bone HD Remasters out there; the upgrades aren't ones that couldn't be found in the PC version already but for the four-player split screen. As such, it's a remaster that trades more on the quality and breadth of the content available.
With these two solid games and all of their expansive DLC, it's a solid package even with its iffy technical performance. If you're looking to experience Borderlands again or for the first time and don't have access to a gaming PC, this package is an easy recommendation.