Borderlands 3 doubles down and innovates FPS looters, rather than blindly chasing trends

“This is by far the biggest, most ambitious Borderlands game Gearbox Software has ever made”

The first thing you’ll notice about the sequel is how dynamic the movement system is when compared to previous entries.

Borderlands 3 features a new sliding mechanic that has a satisfying, Apex Legends-esque feel to it, taking into account things such as speed and gradient to determine how far you travel.

Combine this with a Vault Hunter’s ability to now climb and mantle surfaces and you have a much more robust, involved first person shooting experience.

In those previous games, there were time when enemies would slip out of reach or climb to safety but here you can chase them down with deadly results.

I found myself giving way to a more confrontational, in-your-face brand of gunslinging instead of waiting for enemies to either rush me or poke their head out from behind cover.

There’s some welcome overlap with games like 2016’s DOOM and Bulletstorm, allowing you to approach combat scenarios with a little more zest and attitude while still feeling both tense and tactical.

Borderlands has always been about the guns, the 2009 original boasting an epic arsenal spanning 17.75 million weapons.

This has continued to snowball from one game to the next, Borderlands 3 taking that total to more than a billion.

Let’s be honest, that’s an unnecessary number of guns though this ensures that everyone’s playthrough feels unique in some way.

Aside from having more weapons to play with, some of them now come tagged with an alternate firing mode.

This can include elemental ammunition, adding a burst fire option, switching to a grenade launcher, and various other creative ways to morph you gun as you go into battle.

Of course there’s still that roleplaying game-like focus of breaking down and comparing stats on different pieces of loot for those number crunchers out there.

Another thing you’ll notice about Borderlands 3 is how it accommodates lone wolves and those who prefer braving these games alone. For the first time companion NPCs can revive you and you’ll also be able to return the favour, your in-game allies often capable of holding their own.

While completely viable as a singleplayer game, hopping online as a squad of four is purest Borderlands experience you can get. Together you’ll tear through entire areas, unleashing a constant barrage of bullets, explosions, and various skill effects.

One question fans have had in regards to multiplayers is how Borderlands deals with character progression and loot. It’s common for friends and strangers to drop into games where one of them may be a higher level than the others, which can cause some confusion when it comes to claiming loot.

In a nutshell, loot instancing creates a player-specific stat profile for each weapon or piece of equipment dropped, suited to their level.

For example, a level one and level twenty-five duo could be looking at the exact same pistol yet both will see completely different weapon attributes.

A smart change and one that goes hand in hand with the sequel’s level balancing, allowing players to connect more easily without barriers.

It’s also worth noting that these features can be switched off, for those who fancy the more traditional Borderlands experience.

Alongside these welcome new systems and refinements, there’s an absolute boatload of content for players to immerse themselves in.

This is by far the biggest, most ambitious Borderlands game Gearbox Software has ever made, and one that goes beyond our familiar stomping ground of Pandora.

While we still get to visit its vast deserts and dusty canyons, Borderlands 3 will have you exploring the galaxy for other systems.

These each have their own distinct visual style, story beats, and a catalogue of quests to get stuck into, all accessed via the Sanctuary III.

This spaceship is your mobile base of operations. Here you’ll plan your next mission and go over your equipment loadout while also conversing with the Sanctuary’s many inhabitants with plenty of familiar faces popping up.

It’s a huge, sprawling environment in itself and, according to Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford, has had more hands working on it than any other piece of content.

That definitely shows – there’s a lot of love here with plenty of character, callbacks, and humour plastered over every wall.

It will also change as you progress through Borderlands 3, chronicling your achievements by mounting signature weapons and trophies taken from particularly nasty enemies.

It all looks incredible too, sporting physically-based rendering (PBR) in Unreal Engine 4. Character models have been dialled up to the next level, each one a painstakingly detailed comic drawing in motion, bursting with life.

The art direction here is more varied and vibrant than ever, uplifted by Gearbox Software’s impressive technical prowess.

Borderlands 3 has made a remarkable first impression, striking a skilful balance between innovation and enshrining those elements that has made the series such a huge draw for fans over the years.

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