Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition reminded me of playing Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Given there are similarities between the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot and Sony’s Uncharted series, this clearly isn’t an absurd comparison. However there are definitely a few things this Tomb Raider did much better than that original Uncharted. For example not filling your screen with inordinate amounts of enemies shooting at you. Indeed although the combat probably isn’t as strong overall, I much preferred this slightly more realistic approach.

I have a sporadic history with Tomb Raider. I played the first one in 1996 and marvelled at it, much like everyone else at the time. And after playing the sequel I then didn’t pay attention to the series until Tomb Raider: Legend on Xbox 360. I also played a bit of Anniversary at a friend’s. So whilst not the biggest fan of the series I do appreciate the impact the games have had.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition screenshot of Lara in action.

There is a lot to like about Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Which came out nearly a year after the original release, in early 2014, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition updated the 2013 release for the new (at the time) Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles. It has some open-world components and there is some freedom to explore or revisit certain areas on the map. However this is largely a game pushing you on to the next part of the game.

On PlayStation 4 the game runs at 1080p and 60fps, although it does struggle to stay near the 60fps target with frame drops frequently occurring. And this can vary by level. Some of the more wider, open vistas can particularly cause the framerate to stutter. However I didn’t personally find this to be that irritating but this is subjective. It’s worth mentioning I don’t tend to run my PlayStation 4 Pro with boost mode enabled but my understanding is that that it can get the game much closer to the 60fps target.

The game got stuck on a loading screen once, although closing the game and reloaded resolved this. The graphics are muted and they definitely appear to be dated in places looking very much like a game that was designed with previous generation consoles in mind. Although with some great close ups and cinematography the game still has plenty of wow moments. The rendition of Lara Croft here is extremely impressive (particularly the facial features and hair).

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition screenshot of a cutscene moment from the game.

Overall I liked the story, although I thought the first third of the game was when things were at their best. As the story progresses enemies encounters ramp up, in difficulty and number. And the story advances into fantasy elements. It’s fine but earlier on there is more of a survival aspect. A sense of Lara working through every hurdle. Enemy encounters are more sporadic and shorter. The story takes a slow burn approach to build-up Lara which works very well. The realism is conveyed brilliantly, particularly when Lara gets injured. The weapons and combat are OK, but without crouch and cover button (you go into cover automatically where near some objects) it can get a bit frustrating and simplistic at times.

One thing the game does is encourage you to explore and rewards you for this. You need salvage for improving weapons and other items for XP to unlock skill points. And if you explore then you find more that will unlock things faster. It isn’t particularly in-depth but they have added puzzle elements to some of the things you can find. I think Crystal Dynamics nailed this balance of exploration and rewarding you for it. And indeed the pacing of unlocks was such that it was fun unlocking more moves or tools.

In terms of annoyances the game does rely on Quick Time Events (QTE) far too much for my liking. You often die if you relax as these play and it then becomes a Dragon’s Lair style game of trail and error to pass these segments. I wasn’t a fan of these which I found broke up the flow of the game if you didn’t pass first time. Although the frequent changing of the camera to scripted locked angles makes the game feel very cinematic. Which I’m sure was intended and again really helped to improve the presentation.

Although I knew the Tomb Raider reboot had been very well received back on release in 2013, I wasn’t necessarily sure I would like it. However I am glad to say I thought this reboot was brilliantly done and pretty much a perfect duration. It fits in well with a more modern and relevant Lara Croft. And I am looking forward to soon trying the probably equally as well received Rise of the Tomb Raider. Looking back on this game and it’s probably not an overstatement to regard it as one of the best Tomb Raider games I have ever played. Indeed it’s one of the best games I’ve probably played recently.

Played on PlayStation 4 Pro.

My thoughts on MMOs in 2019

This summer is going to see some excitement around MMOs. In June we will see the new chapter; Elsweyr for The Elder Scrolls Online. Shortly followed by the Final Fantasy XIV expansion; Shadowbringers in early July. On top of that World of Warcraft: Classic will finally arrive in the summer and rumours of a possible new World of Warcraft expansion being announced at Blizzcon 2019 are beginning to circulate. And finally even Star Wars: The Old Republic is getting a new expansion; Onslaught in September 2019. So there is a fair amount of new content coming for some of the more established MMOs.

With this in mind I thought I would write a very quick summary of my thoughts on how I feel about some of the most popular MMO games, given that MMOs and similar Live Services games have often dominated my playtime in recent years. This is concentrating on existing games rather than brand new MMOs that are yet to be released.

Currently playing: The Elder Scrolls Online

I’ve written about this before and I don’t need to say too much other than this is my current MMO/Live Service game of choice. I’ve already pre-ordered the latest expansion; Elsweyr. The only issue is that I don’t feel the hurry to jump into this new chapter content straight away having played a fair amount of the game in the last few months.

Given up on (for now): World of Warcraft

I made the mistake of picking up Blizzard’s 6-month subscription offer back in October and I haven’t played the game a great deal. In truth I’ve barely spent much time with Battle for Azeroth’s new content. My 2018 return to the game saw me playing more Legion content and catching up on old zones by levelling new characters. I’m struggling to find enthusiasm to play World of Warcraft anymore at the moment. So for now a good break from the game is probably the wisest choice.

In addition World of Warcraft: Classic doesn’t hold much attraction for me. I only started playing the game during The Burning Crusade expansion and even though I enjoyed the demo of Classic last year I don’t think I have the appetite for the original game. This is going to get a lot of attention though and for those players interested, whether they are reliving old memories or not, this should provide a fascinating experience. As a streamer recently said this is probably more akin to a seasonal event but will likely generate some interesting stories.

Not played in a while: Guild Wars 2

I’ve written about the original Guild Wars recently saying how I never spent enough time with that game. And unfortunately the same is true of Guild Wars 2. At the moment I’m enjoying The Elder Scrolls Online too much to go back to this. It’s a shame because I do have content I would like to experience like the Personal Story and Living World, but for now it isn’t happening.

Would love to try: Final Fantasy XIV

This seems to be the de facto recommendation for players looking for the best MMO in 2019. And for good reason. Square Enix’s MMO seems to have gone from strength to strength since the 2013 relaunch A Realm Reborn. However whilst I would be keen to give it a go, as ever with any Live Service like this, I’m trying to hold off because of the time and cost commitment. In addition it also sounds a bit like World of Warcraft in that for solo players there is a lack of endgame content (i.e. not even using LFG). And that is a slight concern for me if I got into this game.

Previously played: Star Wars: The Old Republic

I played Star Wars: The Old Republic for a few months when in came out in late 2011. And from the sounds of it a lot has changed in the last 8 years. Indeed this always played a bit like an offline RPG and there might be more content for solo players now. However whilst that appeals somewhat this might remain a once visited memory for me. It is good to see a new expansion arriving in September though.

The ‘not quite MMOs‘, but in the same category

Might be done with: Warframe

This is probably sacrilegious to write in 2019. Digital Extremes looter extraordinaire is the darling of most on the internet right now. And again for good reason. However I feel removed from this game, currently struggling to get back into it. The never ending and constant release of new items to collect along with more group oriented modes recently introduced has cooled me on this game. So why might I be done with it? Well it’s more about catching-up and having already amassed nearly 400 hours in a 18-24 months span I did get a little bit exhausted with Warframe.

Need to play: Path of Exile

Similar to the previous game, I feel a bit burnt out on isometric ARPG games in general which has impacted how many I’ve played recently (i.e. not many). Also the short seasons in Path of Exile mean I feel I need to jump in with a view to commiting for a month or two. And there are simply too many other games requesting my time at the moment. In no way a criticism of this game. At some point I will give it a proper go.

2019 is all about…

The Elder Scrolls Online will probably be the MMO/Live Service game I play most in 2019. With a new Chapter coming and a game I still find incredibly engaging it is hard to imagine playing something else instead of this. As noted there are a few games that are tempting or I would like to play again but when it comes to MMOs I feel less is more, and actually concentrating on one game is the best decision.

I haven’t really kept an eye on upcoming future MMOs and therefore there is a chance something emerges that takes my interest but is probably unlikely.

We Happy Few (Early Impressions)

I first remember seeing We Happy Few at Microsoft’s E3 presentation in 2016 and immediately it stood out with the fairly unique setting and aesthetics. Although I haven’t played the game that much, just over six hours, these are my initial impressions. I may return and spend some more time with the game although I currently have a large number of games on my backlog that I would rather be playing.

We Happy Few is a first person, action adventure, survival game crossed with some open world elements. Originally it was released as an Early Access game on PC which was then developed into a full retail release. Set in an alternative 1960’s UK where the outcome of World War 2 was different.

What it does well:

  • The setting and visuals are fairly unique.
  • Strong narrative. There’s a sense of a good story here.
  • Custom difficulty settings. As well as different difficulties levels, you can choose a custom setting which allows you to adjust individual elements such as combat, survival etc. For example, combat can be at the hardest difficulty setting, whilst stealth is switched to easy mode. Everything is explained very clearly to the player.

Things I didn’t like:

  • I encountered a few small graphical glitches and some FPS does drop in places.
  • Controls can be fiddly, you need to precisely hover over the item in question to select which can be tough when it’s bobby pins on top of a searchable cabinet or something. Many open world games have this issue but it feels like the controls work better with a keyboard and mouse.
  • Combat is overly simplistic. If fighting a mob it is far too easy for enemies to hit you off screen, where you never saw the hit coming.
  • Loading times as the game generates a level can be very slow.

Probably my biggest issue is that I didn’t like the survival elements which is at the game’s core and can often feel at odds with the more linear campaign. It feels like two separate games with a sandbox world to play in, which was reigned into a more concise story mode. You can adjust the difficulty on the survival elements so they can be ignored although you are still continually picking up food and drink items no matter what the difficulty setting.

As mentioned We Happy Few is a game that has some intriguing parts, although no doubt the game has some issues too. So it is one I might return to in the future but wanted to note my thoughts for now.

Played on Xbox One X, via Xbox Game Pass.

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a game I’ve had on my ‘to play‘ list for a long time. I first received it as a present near release but didn’t make much progress. Indeed it was a game I mentioned on one of my earliest backlog updates on this very website. However at long last I’ve finally managed to complete the story of the game. Although if I’m honest towards the end I had to really force myself to play the game through to completion.

Overall the game felt greater than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t excel in any areas in my opinion although it was fairly enjoyable. The biggest strength felt like the alternative universe set in a 1960’s where the German Nazis not only won World War 2 but went on to dominate the world. Certainly a far cry from the series earlier 3D games (the last I played was 2001’s return to Castle Wolfenstein). The setting feels original and unique. As if a lot of effort and thought went into this part. The story is fine, with lots of NPCs in the story, although I found them flat and didn’t really much care for them to much as the story played out.

The game has some very nice level design and environments. It really goes to town with its storyline and set pieces. The game uses health and armour packs to provide a ‘retro’ feel given most modern first person shooters have recharging health or shields. I kind of thought this worked well.

Technically the game on consoles runs nicely at 60fps and dynamic 1080p. The graphics have a nice amount of detail even for a game that came earlier in this generation of consoles. It also use has gritty visual style that suits perfectly. I can’t be certain of how long it took me to play through but I would guess somewhere between 20 to 25 hours. It certainly isn’t the shortest game. Oh and yes, the Easter egg is fantastic.

However there are things the game didn’t do well in my opinion. Most notably its use of stealth. It feels like the game was forcing it as a playstyle far too often with few tools to actually play it that way. If you can sneak through a set piece by remaining undetected it will make that part easier. However later on the levels and placements of enemies made this harder or more tiresome and I ended up just going in guns blazing as I couldn’t be bothered with the stealth anymore. The perk unlock system is also just a set of challenges to unlock something, rather than anything more in-depth.

The game includes five difficulty levels which is great, although the main difference seems to be the amount of damage you and enemies take rather than improved AI or anything. Until the final few levels I played the game on the default difficulty but for the last few levels turned the difficulty down and found myself preferring the game that way. Unlike other games such as Halo: Combat Evolved on Legendary, the game just becomes mostly irritating rather than changing the experience massively. At harder difficulty the ‘retro’ health packs and armour pickups obviously become more important.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is nothing I would regard as stunning but equally far from the worst single player, story-based first person shooter than I have played either. Never as downright sterile or flat as something like Halo 5, but equally doesn’t reaches the unique heights or set pieces of something like Titanfall 2’s campaign. If you enjoy the ride and accept the game for what it is, then it is a fun and strong modern update on an old game. A solid reboot.

Played (mostly) on PlayStation 4 Pro. Previously played the opening level on PlayStation 4.

Do some video games age badly?

There’s a moment in one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpieces where one of the characters realises that some things change so much that you can’t go back to things as they were before. And sometimes when playing an old videogame I think you may experience something similar.

This past Easter weekend the news leaked that some fans had been running a private server of the long since closed down MMO City of Heroes for the last six years in secret from most of the community. This on top of recent bad news about another fellow NCSoft studio; ArenaNet had made me want to play Guild Wars again. Not the 2012 sequel that most now know but the original 2005 Co-Op RPG game that came first; Guild Wars.

You see Guild Wars is a game I’ve played before. Actually I’ve had a number of attempts to try and play it. I played the 10-hour trial more times than I care to remember when I kept debating whether to drop money on the game. Guild Wars is one of those games that I’ve never played for as long as I should have, much like it’s sequel. The laundry list of things I have to do is still large, but at the very least I still harboured a desire to play through the main campaigns.

Guild Wars 1 screenshot.

Guild Wars is still an exceptionally beautiful game

So this past weekend I downloaded the installer and started the process of logging onto a game I hadn’t played for years. Surprisingly a relatively painless process and it didn’t take that long to get up and running. However almost as quickly as I had managed to log into the game I was hit by a strong sense of disappointment. And not just because of the reorientation process, i.e. there’s a lot of learn again but because it just wasn’t the same. The movement, skills based combat and interface felt a step back. Everything felt old, not surprisingly given how long ago the game came out, but worse still the overwhelming feeling whilst playing the game again was of wanting to play something else instead.

In other words the game compared unfavourable to some more modern games in my current library. Now of course this is unfair to Guild Wars. If was and arguably still is a great game but however irrational of me, I can’t shake the feeling that playing the game again doesn’t feel ‘right’. Knowing somewhere deep inside that maybe the chance I had to play this game has come and gone. Perhaps I’ve simply left it too long and the game’s time has come and gone.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this. Far from it. Although here I am writing about a game I’ve played before, you can also play a game many years after its release and still go through a similar experience. One time I remember in the early millennium finally buying Perfect Dark and Excitebike 64 on the Nintendo 64 years after release. Excitebike 64 still felt fresh and fun, Perfect Dark however felt juddery, slow and archaic. No matter how much I tried I just couldn’t get to grips with Goldeneye’s successor and it was a game I should have loved. Probably not helped by the newer First Person Shooters, like Halo, that had arrived in the years following. I even remember posting about Perfect Dark on an internet forum at the time and being meet with similar feelings as my own. Many also felt that as a game it had aged badly, or as least not as well as some of it contemporaries.

One thing is for sure, videogames do age. Both technically and conceptually. Some naturally much worse than others as some genres really develop over time. But the fact is that we players who play video games do also grow and change. And that can affect our opinions and reactions to older games. And therefore this is perhaps as much a comment about me rather than any critique about Guild Wars.

However almost as quickly as it took me to load the game, my adventure with Guild Wars comes to an abrupt end. Again. Maybe for the last time given that some day ArenaNet and NCSoft will turn off the servers. Although who knows as maybe as I may try the game again some day.

Whatever Arenanet is considering working on next, maybe a game that is truer in nature to the original Guild Wars, than its sequel ever was, might not be a bad thing. Hell I might even get around to playing it properly in a more timely manner this time. Maybe.

Coincidentally this post is being published to the day of the release of the original game; 26th April 2005. This wasn’t planned, just a happy accident I realised as I looked up facts about the game. So Happy 14th Birthday Guild Wars.

April 2019 Backlog Update

The month of Easter and a few new additions to the backlog this month, from discount and sales on PSN and Xbox Live.

New game pickups

  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag & Season Pass (PS4)
  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection (PS4)
  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (Xbox One)

I picked up Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag again. A game I’ve picked up before; free on PC and Games with Gold. And back in 2013 I actually purchased a version of this with my launch PS4 but never played it and sold it on. Given it’s one of the most highly regarded Assassin’s Creed I think it’s time to right that wrong. Also in a flash weekend sale, so just over £12 for the whole package (Season Pass unlock everything apart from ‘time saver’ packs).

I also picked up Borderlands: The Handsome Collection for PS4 for £8.99 (reviewed here), and in the Xbox Live Easter sale and grabbed Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Although I’ve barely played Origins this discount was too much to pass up the opportunity to play the latest release in the long running series.

As already mentioned on this site I also purchased (and written my thoughts) on the Cooler Master MH751 Headset.

Been playing (Grouvee)

  • The Elder Scrolls Online (PC)
  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (PS4)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4)
  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection (PS4)
  • Crackdown 3 (Campaign) (Xbox One)
  • Abzû (Xbox One)
  • Gran Turismo Sport (PS4)

Started this month where March left off. The Elder Scrolls Online has been running regular (Jester’s Festival, 5th year anniversary) events for tickets and double XP which has meant logging on for daily quest and playing the game. However I have now reached Champion Points 211 and completed the main original storyline.

Amongst the other games I have been playing are Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel. The games are still as fun as ever and I’ve easily had £9 of entertainment from the The Handsome Collection.

Completed, Abandoned & Shelved

Crackdown 3 (Campaign) I abandoned, and Abzû I completed. So that’s 2 games played and finished with this month. Unfortunately neither were on the backlog as both were via Xbox Game Pass.

Up next

If I can clear Wolfenstein: The New Order (getting closer to the ending but it seems to be the umpteen month I’ve been planning to play this one!) then there are a number of games on my radar that I’d like to put some serious time into.

Crackdown 3 (Campaign) Review

For a moment Crackdown 3 had me. Even after a very short time running around the city, I was quickly addicted to collecting orbs and taking out locations on the map. However what quickly set-in was the realisation I was playing the same game again and despite 12-years passing nothing had really changed. Still immense fun though.

I have fond memories of the original 2007 Crackdown videogame. It’s one of the first times I remember watching friends virtually jump from new release to new release every Friday. Something that was quite new with the Xbox 360 as you could seeing what your friends were playing via the dashboard. Although I never played Crackdown in multiplayer I did progress the campaign through to the end and enjoyed the nice twist as part of the story. And hunting down agility orbs never got old.

That said a lot of open world games have come and been in the last 12-years. And Crackdown 3 has left a quick impression on me no matter how long I’ll play this game for. I don’t personally believe a reviewer or critic needs to complete a game or have played it for hours on end. Whilst games can often change mid-way of fall off a cliff after the first few missions I generally feel that you get a good feeling for a game early on, depending on the game type of course. That said I haven’t played this game for long at all barely totalling three hours but I feel that’s enough.

Crackdown 3 is, well…Crackdown. Again. Essentially the same game as the 2007 original but with a new lick of paint. Nothing has really changed. As you jump around you slowly level-up various aspects of your character unlocking new abilities and moves. So you can jump higher, move in mid-air, fire with more precision etc. Just like the original game. You still fight enemies with weapons or melee combat and feel like a superhero jumping around in a comic book town. The sense of progression is both addictive and memorising as you watch, literally in front of your eyes, your foot soldier transform into a superhuman law enforcer.

‘Time to collect those orbs agent!’

The game does look quite nice in 4K on Xbox One X (Crackdowngrade 3 aside) although very bland and sparse with a lack of detail about its futuristic city setting. Much in the same style as the original. Cutscenes are relatively short and the game has the feel of a limited budget production rather than triple AAA videogame with lots of comic book style, 2D style cutscenes. What ever they had though was certainly spent on the intro and the rendition of Terry Crews. As it is superbly accurate.

I haven’t tried or played any of the multiplayer as this doesn’t interest me, although I love the fact you can choose whether to download the campaign or multiplayer parts of the game separately. Bravo Microsoft on this Xbox One feature.

If I’m honest I probably wouldn’t have tried this game if it wasn’t on Xbox Game Pass and again is a great example of the strength of the subscription service. Although still a fun game it might actually be better for those that missed the original. This is a simple update of the first game but without adding anything to really improve or change it. And it that sense as more of the same, it can feel like a disappointment. Which is a massive shame.

Played on Xbox One X via Xbox Game Pass.

This newb just got a bit more powerful

Sorry another The Elder Scrolls Online update. I’ve finally completed the main campaign from the original game and I just had to write about it! On top of the recent reaching Champion Points 160 (i.e. Endgame) it feels like another major milestone in the game has been checked off.

Without sounding like a broken record but I think I have come to conclusion that the progression system just might be one of the best I’ve ever encountered in a videogame. Certainly the best in an MMO in my opinion. The vertical and horizontal progression in this game is immense.

Although the game can be a slow grind what has finally started happening in the last month is a massive payoff after years of playing the game. And it’s something I’ve not seen in other games. These recent achievements have included; completed the faction quest line, maxed out my class and armour skill lines, hitting Champion Points 160, maxing 3 main crafting skill lines (Woodworking, Clothier & Blacksmithing), being able to straight away craft my Law of Julianos set (solid PVE endgame gear set) and completing the main storyline. And so on. All of the milestones falling in quick succession after what seems like forever working towards them. On top of all of this and I’ve finally been able to earn my first Indrik mount from event tickets only after starting to work on this recently.

Overall it feels like a wonderful time for me in The Elder Scrolls Online. And tonight I hit an EU Megaserver login queue (c.8 minutes) which is a good sign of health for the overall game. I think that this is simply my favourite MMO at the moment and my Live Service game of choice for now.

There is still loads for me to do. To start working through DLC and expansion content, try to find some proper Legendary Endgame Weapons and Gear and most of my current setup is a mix of greens, blues and purples (fine, superior and epic quality respectively). I’m also in desperate need of mats for upgrading gear, or in-game gold to buy them. And most importantly Skill Shards to keep improving my crafting attributes. And a few Alts to level. Simply loads although whatever happens I’ve certainly had value and massive enjoyment from this game.

The only negative is I just might be burned out on The Elder Scrolls Online as the third expansion (Chapter); Elsweyr lands next month (on PC). Oh well there are worse problems to have I guess.

Abzû Review

I’m not sure if I really wanted to write about Abzû from Giant Squid Studios. A 2016 game that I knew nothing about and tried following a recommendation. It is one of those games that it is best to know little about beforehand. I said something similar in my recent review of Dear Esther and it definitely applies with this videogame too.

However after playing through this game over a few hours I realised that Abzû had me wanted to acknowledge it. It felt like something I enjoyed and really think it is worth playing. Although it is a difficult game to put into words, so bare with me if I flounder at this. Like the aforementioned review of Dear Esther, I don’t want to go into too much detail but essentially an underwater adventure game. Although I would be inclined to describe it as more of an ‘experience’ or a ‘ride’.

It is beautiful, stylised and vibrant as it is simple. Abzû reminded me of certain Legend of Zelda games, which is a massive compliment. And it definitely had further parts that made me recall other popular games and films. I think that it does very well at providing some unique atmosphere and moments that are noteworthy or memorable.

The audio is standout and as good as the visuals. Whether it be the powerful and epic soundtrack, or the simple sound effects, which are matched to the game brilliantly. Either at individual level or as a package the whole game is executed very well.

Yes, it could be criticised for being shallow or way too short, but I think it’s best to just accept Abzû for what it is. Whilst the game might be very short it can be breathtaking, endearing and unique. And that makes it worth trying out if you like this style of game. It is very well made and rarely puts a foot wrong. I enjoyed this one.

Played on Xbox One X via Xbox Game Pass.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review

My publisher says I can’t call them ‘Bonerfarts’ after all.

Sir Hammerlock, Borderlands 2.

The above quote early on in Borderlands 2 sums up the juvenile and internet meme-ridden humour that litters that game. Indeed the first Borderlands had its fair share of humour but the sequel cranked it up to new levels. To be fair it wasn’t the only thing it changed up from the original game. Larger maps, more quests, more characters, more varied environments, better story and more guns. Borderlands 2 was more fun, loot filled first person shooter gameplay but dialled up to 11.

After completing the original and (most) of it’s DLC I purchased Borderlands 2 at release and over the years spent nearly 130 hours on the PC version. So why am I writing a review of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection years later? Well because I recently purchased it from the PlayStation Network due to being on heavy discount. And it was very timely as only a few days later the developer, Gearbox Software, would announce the follow-up. Along with a new re-release of the original and some 4K DLC for 2015’s Handsome Collection. So a fairly timely review.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection on PS4 Pro screenshot.

The free Ultra HD Texture Pack weighs in at 15.79GB on PSN and includes a new 4K resolution on the PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One X and PC. Well dynamic 4K on consoles at least. The Handsome Collection runs at full 1080p and 60 frames a second on the base Xbox One and PlayStation 4 so this free update ups the resolution and improves some of the textures in the game. It’s not a night and day difference but the free update has sharpened up the visuals for both included Borderlands games. I don’t think it’s perfect as there are small drops from 60fps. However for the most part both games run smoothly. It’s worth mentioning that The Handsome Collection introduced an adjustable Field Of View (FOV) slider. Anything above halfway (70-110) can cause frame drops in certain busier moments however.

The whole package is a massive performance boost over the original console versions on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Although I only played the original Borderlands on the Xbox 360 the limited FOV made you feel like you were running around wearing binoculars. The PC is still the best platform with the potential for over 60fps and Nvidia PhysX but the gap is now much more miniscule. The Handsome Collection includes both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! Unfortunately the first game wasn’t included which is a shame as it would have rounded off the whole package perfectly.

Borderlands 2 is widely regarded as the high point of the series to date and this is something I would definitely agree with. As a refinement on the original game its story and characters were a big step up from the original games providing countless hours of entertainment. And whether you max level a character or simply play the main storylines on normal it is always immense fun. Although one of the great things Borderlands always did well was understand it isn’t about the destination, but the journey. The best loot being able to drop at any point is a great choice in making levelling seem like part of the game.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! was something I never had much time for despite owning it in my PC backlog for years. Whether slightly irrational its presence irritated me. I regarded it as a cheap and quick cash-in that 2K Australia (who no longer exists) designed whilst Gearbox worked on their new project: Battleborn. What I really wanted was a true sequel to Borderlands 2. Unfortunately it would take Battleborn being a critical and financial failure for Gearbox to return to develop the recently announced sequel.

Playing The Pre-Sequel! For the first time now and I have very quickly realised it is basically more of the same. There are a few unique gameplay additions such as new laser weapons, the need to refill o2 air tanks for most classes and limited gravity. The games feels like more Borderlands 2 DLC doing very little to differentiate itself or anything drastically new. Still for fans it is fantastic and compliments the epic second games really well. The way the new weapons are introduced is fantastic and the game clearly has a lot of Australian references and in-jokes.

Overall Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is a nice re-release and certainly one improved by the recent free Ultra HD update (even with the new pre-order Borderlands 3 ‘nag’ screens and menu adverts). Borderlands 2 is a bonafide classic and this collection was always a great way to experience the two latest Borderlands games. In conclusion in 2019 it is still immense fun being a Vault Hunter. Badass!

Played on PlayStation 4 Pro. Borderlands 2 previously played on PC.