Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review (PlayStation 4)
Gearbox Software is the latest studio to bring us optimized versions of its latest hits to current-gen consoles with Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, which packages together Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel along with all of their major DLC packs included for free. With Borderlands 2 being less than three-years-old and The Pre-Sequel debuting five months ago, there has been a ton of bonus content included atop of these two solid shooters, which were already filled to the brim with personality and fun. It doesn't matter who you're interacting with, what kinds of enemies you encounter or who you have at your side, the Borderlands universe is filled with unique characters who tend to add so much more enjoyment atop an already solid FPS experience.
Even if you already cleared the Vault on Pandora or helped Handsome Jack become the hilarious, maniacal leader of Hyperion, you'll find out that there's simply too much content here to ignore. The series has always been about ridiculous guns, hilarious characters and crazy shootouts, and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection certainly delivers with a crap-ton of downloadable content included to boot. Along with the ability to transfer your saves from last-gen consoles to current-gen, The Handsome Collection reminds us of why we love being a Vault Hunter.
The Handsome Collection tries to bring both games to the level of graphics that high-end PC gaming rigs were capable of the first time around for both games. The resulting effect is a vast improvement when comparing the visuals of both games to their last-gen counterparts. To no surprise, Borderlands 2 caught most of the polish and shine in Gearbox's attempt to bring both games to current-gen standards (as it should be, since I consider The Pre-Sequel to be weaker of the two). At first glance, I was skeptical as to what could possibly be upgraded in terms of Borderlands' signature cel-shaded style of visuals. I was legitimately surprised meeting Claptrap for the first time after that introductory train ride on Pandora. Everything in Borderlands 2 now looks gorgeous, with a distinct jump to 60 fps that instantly made everything look so much smoother in motion. In particular, the Lynchwood, Arid Nexus, Candlerakk's Crag and Hatred's Shadow zones look spectacular. Improved textures, models, lighting and particle effects help make The Handsome Collection much easier on the eyes than the games' first runs. After dumping so many days of my life into the series, I was still captivated at how great my first Eridian weapon looked while playing this improved version of Borderlands 2.
Despite how pristine both games look in action, there are a few minor hiccups when it comes to The Handsome Collection's presentation. While a vast majority of both games' textures and models have been beefed up and ironed out, it was quite noticeable when certain things weren't. Most of these were usually small, environmental objects that you probably won't notice out in the wild, but it is noticeable when it's a part of the gun you're carrying. Every once in a while, I encountered a piece of a gun that looked like someone forgot to fix going into The Handsome Collection. While there are thousands of guns in both Borderlands games, I noticed this happen for multiple green and white weapons throughout my adventures.
Borderlands 2 has become the better-looking of the two, but both games occasionally dip in frame rate during gameplay, especially when things get crazy with the number of enemies and explosions on screen. On top of this, the screen tearing is quite noticeable for both titles, and much more frequent in The Pre-Sequel. While these issues happened more during the action, they would also occur while I was traversing random parts of the moon, even when there were no enemies or anything going on around me. I noticed this happened more in the larger, outdoor areas on Elpis, mainly the ones with farther draw distances as opposed to the indoor or more closed off areas. The frame rate also noticeably decreased for both games while playing split screen co-op.
While it's likely due to Borderlands 2 being the older and visibly less-demanding game of the two, it ended up being a much smoother experience compared to the other title. The sounds of both games are excellent in terms of both soundtrack and audio effects (played from a 5.1 surround sound system) — every bandit and bullet could be heard and their audio levels were appropriate to their location and distance relative to my character. For all the content that you're getting with The Handsome Collection, I still felt like I was getting my money's worth despite its graphical shortcomings. Luckily, Borderlands' solid gunplay is more than enough to make up for its visual hiccups.
In terms of actual gameplay, Borderlands' kill-loot-repeat system is in full effect. If you're a fan of the series, you should know that very little was done to change an already excellent gameplay system. Borderlands 2 consists of exploring, questing, shooting, looting, inventory management and a ton of fun throughout it all. The Pre-Sequel follows this formula to a T, expanding on an already excellent engine with some new lunar additions. Atop the shield-draining shock weapons, the flesh-scorching fire guns and the acid-dealing corrosive firearms (no, I didn't forget the slag or explosive types), The Pre-Sequel's new cryo and laser weapons are excellent editions to the game's already gargantuan-sized arsenal. The randomized nature of Borderlands' loot system helps add a ton of unpredictability to the overall experience as you're never sure what kind of gun you get. The dungeon crawler and MMORPG fan in me has always felt absolutely catered to by Gearbox when it comes to Borderlands' inventory system, and The Handsome Collection features some of my favorite weapons in first-person shooter history.
Those new to the series should know that the Borderlands experience pretty much delivers on everything I was hoping Destiny would be, but with a well-written and more enjoyable story. More importantly, it is Destiny's polar opposite in terms of character. It doesn't matter who you're interacting with, what kinds of enemies you are shooting at or who you have at your side, The Handsome Collection is filled with so much personality that it improves upon the overall entertainment you get from an already excellent, RPG-influenced first-person shooter.
The thing I love about Borderlands: The Handsome Jack Collection is the amount of content you get from it. You can easily drop 100+ hours into both games when it comes to beating their main stories as well as their multitude of DLC packs, and that's if you were to only play them all using one character in each game. If you were to go back and start over with a new character after clearing everything, The Handsome Jack Collection could easily give you 200+ hours of content. For Borderlands 2, nearly every major piece of DLC has been included, such as "Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty," "Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage," "Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt," and much more. The same can be said for The Pre-Sequel, though it obviously has less DLC content so far with it being the newer game of the two, but it's still nice to have even the brand new "Claptastic Voyage" DLC included for free. Atop all of this extra content is a multitude of new skins and every DLC character, including Gaige, Krieg, Handsome Jack's Doppelganger and Lady Hammerlock.
I've had more fun playing Borderlands: The Handsome Collection than nearly every other game in my PlayStation 4 library. The visual upgrades are nice, especially for Borderlands 2, but both games (especially The Pre-Sequel) are plagued by a few minor visual issues. If you have the PC versions of both Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel and have a high-end gaming rig to play them on, then perhaps The Handsome Collection isn't for you, but the amount of DLC content from Borderlands 2 alone already pays back its cost. Fortunately, The Handsome Jack Collection's addictive gameplay, excellent writing and charismatic cast keeps things moving in an unforgettable, fun-filled way.
This review is based on a purchased copy of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection for PlayStation 4.