Sony’s not stupid, and it seems to recognise that titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Borderlands 2 VR need to exist in order to get potential PlayStation VR adopters through the door. While headset veterans will accurately argue that it’s the titles like Astro Bot Rescue Mission and Beat Saber that really shine in virtual reality, sceptics will always demand those bigger brands before taking the plunge. And so here we are reviewing another PlayStation 3 port in a different dimension.
Gearbox’s loot-shooter isn’t quite as ubiquitous as Bethesda’s infamous action RPG, but it has popped up in a multitude of places since first debuting some six years ago. This is the full original game, minus its DLC and co-op functionality, which may make it a tough sell for some in 2018. While it’s missing some key components, however, this isn’t the half-hearted port that it seems to be on the surface, as it’s clear that 2K Games has invested a fair amount of effort to make this work in virtual reality.
There are two control schemes: DualShock 4 and PlayStation Move – support for the very popular PSVR Aim Controller is an unfortunate absentee. The former is a fairly familiar option, with aiming mapped to the head and everything else functioning more or less as you’d expect. The PS Move is a little more complicated, and while it feels more natural actually aiming your weapons, the convoluted control scheme takes serious adjustment – even if it does, for all intents and purposes, work.
To the developer’s credit, there are ton of control and comfort options available here. You can use teleportation if you choose to, but it’s not enforced, and free movement is available across both control schemes – as is the ability to turn in increments or in a more traditional style. You can turn on and off blinkers, set the intensity of them, and even toggle when you’d like them to appear, and you can fiddle with the control scheme until you get something that feels right.
While it results in a lot of options, we reckon it’s important in virtual reality to allow you to tailor the experience exactly as you’d like it to, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that everyone has different tolerance levels when it comes to motion sickness. As such, the title deserves serious credit for going out of its way to allow you to shape the game to your own personal needs and requirements. This is the way forward – particularly for intense titles like first-person shooters.
The gameplay does feel a little bit dated these days, which isn’t necessarily the fault of PSVR but just a consequence of the release being several years old now. There’s still an abundance of loot to collect, but missions generally devolve into fetch quests or combat gauntlets, which aren’t really all that exciting. The cel-shaded backdrop of Pandora does look vast in virtual reality, but it doesn’t have the same kind of appeal as Skyrim did a year ago. The cut-scenes are pre-rendered, so unfortunately you have to watch those in Cinematic Mode, which can be jarring.
There have been some subtle tweaks to the gameplay: a new time slowing mechanic can be used in combat, perhaps to compensate for the fact that you won’t have any partners in PSVR and to give you a breather during particularly extreme firefights. Vehicles can also now be driven from a first-person perspective, which makes sense in virtual reality and keeps you immersed in the experience much better. They’re minor additions, but examples of care.
There’s clearly a lot of effort been invested into bringing Borderlands 2 to PSVR, and that’s appreciated. The gameplay does feel dated these days – and the lack of DLC and co-op is a real shame – but there’s still fun to be had with the loot-shootin’ loop, and Pandora scales well to virtual reality. The PS Move control scheme is cumbersome but the game plays fine with a DualShock 4 in hand, and an array of comfort options mean that you can tailor the experience to your exact needs.