This week’s Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel rumour was not an elaborate hoax, as the release has been officially confirmed by 2K Games today. The title – which takes place between Borderlands and Borderlands 2 – is being developed by 2K Australia and series creator Gearbox Software, and is set to fire onto the PlayStation 3 later this year. That’s right – there’s no PlayStation 4 version.
“It's not free to build a game for next-gen," said franchise overlord Randy Pitchford when asked the inevitable question by our friends over at Eurogamer.net. "So, when we decide where to spend our resources, we want to spend all of the attention that we can on the game itself.” An admirable intention, but why not make the title for next-gen consoles in the first place?
“If you try to image the set of Borderlands players who have already upgraded, that's not 100 per cent,” he continued. “But if you try to image the set of Xbox One or PS4 owners who do not have an Xbox 360 or a PS3, the difference there is so close to nil that you can't make a business rationalisation around that.”
In other words, the install base isn’t big enough yet, but we can’t help but ponder whether the developer’s following the easiest route to market. After all, work on this title started in earnest around about a year ago, and it’s due out in a matter of months. In a world where most big games take two to three years to produce, that teensy production period doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence.
Nevertheless, it sounds like the raucous release has intentions far greater than the average expansion pack. As suggested earlier in the week, the escapade will take place on both the moon and Hyperion space station that orbit the planet of Pandora. You’ll play as one of four of Handsome Jack’s employees: Athena the Gladiator, Wilhelm the Enforcer, Nisha the Lawbringer, and Fragtrap.
Fans of the franchise should be familiar with this ragtag cast, as all of the characters have appeared in previous titles. Fragtrap – who’s encountered at the start of the first game – is perhaps the most interesting addition, as he’ll play from a much lower perspective, much like Oddjob in Nintendo 64 classic GoldenEye 007. He’ll have abilities to counter his height disadvantage, though.
Another big change is the addition of the previously rumoured oxygen system, which you’ll need to maintain in order to breathe in battle. However, you’ll be able to use this air to also power your jetpack, allowing you to double-jump over long distances. As such, you’ll need to decide when to consume the precious substance.
Replenishing your supplies will be a simple case of looting it like ammunition, but you’ll also be able to employ oxygen bubbles, which will create small, breathable arenas in the world. When you’re inside these, you’ll be able to strategically enable things such as elemental damage, as fire will not function as effectively outside of these havens.
You’ll have some new firearms to make up for that, at least. The Cryo type will allow you to freeze enemies, while Laser weapons will provide a natural fit for the intergalactic setting. As always, you’ll be gathering up rare armaments as you progress, as well as putting points into a skill tree, which, in the case of Wilhelm, will see him transform from a normal human to the giant robot that you may be more familiar with.
It certainly sounds like there’s plenty to sink your teeth into, then, but the lack of a next-gen release is disappointing to say the least. “Currently there are – between the PS3 and the Xbox 360 – over 150 million installed units worldwide – probably 170 million is more realistic," Pitchford pointed out. "There are fewer Xbox Ones and PS4s than we sold copies of Borderlands 2.”
Fair enough, but it’s not going to stop us from wanting a next-gen release.