Borderlands 3 hands-on: Loot, Shoot and Lookin’ Good to Boot

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We were kept waiting for a long while. Myself, as well as a handful of other press and media are sitting in a small corridor, about to get our hands on Borderlands 3. We’re all chatting, having a good time, but I can definitely sense that some people are getting annoyed.

Our appointment was meant to start 15 minutes ago, but the couple of 2K employees dashing in and out of the dimly light yet RGB coated capture clearly seem to indicate that not everything is ready yet. I have to confess, even I was getting antsy. It has been a long day, my feet were killing me, there were sweat stains in places sweat should not staining and I hadn’t eaten a bite since the muffin I’d had at breakfast.

Yet, despite my annoyance I couldn’t help but quietly jitter with excitement. This was Borderlands 3. Borderlands 3! I’ve waited YEARS for this game; what harm could an extra 15 minutes do?

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Eventually, we’re given the go-ahead. We march into the room, some cautiously picking up the Xbox controllers, others almost instinctively moving to the keyboards (of which I was one; although I did end up playing on a controller). We were told to pick our character and dump a whole load of skill points into whatever we wanted, essentially starting off at over level 20 so that we could experience some of the more challenging aspects of the game. FL4K was definitely the flavour of the month, but one look at Moze’s giant mech ultimate ability had me sold on her. Having played a good many hours of Borderlands 2 I took my time looking over her skills, especially the passive abilities that could be mapped onto each of her mech weapons separately, and min/maxed probably more than I should have. I specialised in incendiary damage and thank God I did.

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Starting out the quest, it felt like I was slipping on an old pair of shoes. Not a tatty, ragged pair but rather a warm set of slippers you’ve had for years that still keep your feet warm no matter the weather. A warm set of comfy slippers with a brand new lining of recently trimmed wool. The enemies, the movement, the abilities all screen classic Borderlands. The varkids periodically morphed into bigger, more badass versions of themselves. The skags still burst into bloody pieces when shot in the mouth. The Rakk were still annoying as Hell. It’s Borderlands through and through; I know people might have wanted a bit more but I loved being welcomed back into that world with all the familiarities…but that’s not to say there’s nothing new.

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Look at it this way, while the things Borderlands 3 introduces aren’t fundamentally ground-breaking, they are enough to keep things interesting. It’s the same wall, just painted in a much more vibrant colour. Not only are there different weapon types, but sub-types within that. Standard shotguns work as you’d expect, charged shotguns release a series of bursts made more powerful the longer the trigger is held some just fire like outright assault rifles. While Borderlands 2 prided itself on weapon diversity, it always felt like weapons of a type were just reskinned versions of others you’d already seen; most weapons within a class kinda always felt the same to fire. Borderlands 3 seemingly moves away from that model, with a whole plethora of unique animations to make every weapon function at least somewhat uniquely, rather than just having “the bigger numbers” be the only noticeable difference.

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So I moved through the quest, killing everything in my path. Got knocked down a few times, but the fire-damage shotgun paired really well with the emphasis I placed on incendiary damage skills. Eventually, I felt like there just too many creatures for a single delayed-explosive-ice-rocket-launcher (I think the hyphens are appropriate here) so I pulled out the Ult ability, forming a mech around my squishy body and starting what felt like Titanfall except slower. I’d equipped a flame thrower on one shoulder a rocket launcher on the other to maximise the elemental damage off my chosen skills and boy, did those critters feel every singeing second.

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And then it was over, the final boss was lying at my feet. I was satisfied. I’ll be upfront about it, if you’re looking for something to switch up the Borderlands formula, this isn’t going to cock your pistol. Structurally, it’s more of the same, but I’m not complaining about that. Fans of the series and anybody looking for a solid, well-designed shooter to play with their friends are going to have a ball with Borderlands 3. Take a look:

By the way, I was the first media person to kill the final boss. Not that I’m bragging. Just nice to have established dominance is all.

Last Updated: August 21, 2019

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