Republished on Wednesday, 15th February, 2023: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of February 2023's PS Plus Extra and Premium lineup. The original text follows.
Borderlands 3 is one of those rare games where you most likely knew if you would be purchasing it or not the moment it was announced. Its unique brand of looting, shooting, and humour divides the room, with those who manage to get a good laugh out of its referential comedy on one side and those who can’t help but cringe on the other. What can’t be debated, however, is that there’s not another franchise out there quite like it. That’s probably why the series manages to get away with a third entry that feels wholly similar to its predecessors. This is an excellent experience, although you might begin to feel like you’re going through the motions once or twice.
In the seven years since Borderlands 2, the series’ formula hasn’t changed one bit. This continues to be an undertaking full of looting and shooting, and if previous iterations didn’t take your fancy, then the third entry won’t convert you either. Gearbox Software has remained true to what put its adventures across Pandora on the map, much to the delight of fans. The studio hasn’t been biding its time, however, because those same features and mechanics that it excels at have been tweaked, fine-tuned, and improved upon to such a degree that this latest iteration automatically becomes the definitive Borderlands experience.
The simple act of playing the game feels better than ever. A freeing amount of movement and mobility allows you to get about the battlefield with ease, whether it’s clambering up cliff edges to jump back down again with a ground pound or just dodging bullets in the heat of battle, the options available give way to creativity that wasn’t possible before.
Gunplay, simply put, is incredible. It’s almost as if the development team has taken a leaf out of Bungie’s book because the weightiness, feel, and act of shooting every weapon is a unique trip in itself. You’ll take the charge-up time of a corrosive gun into account as you line up your shots, consider the splash damage of a rocket launcher, and switch between sights on the same weapon as enemies come at you in close quarters and at length. It’s a delight to stack up buffs on tougher foes, bring your grenade into the mix with a well-timed volley, and finish a Psycho off with a melee attack. Even if a new weapon doesn’t improve your build, you’ll want to try it out for five minutes anyway just to get a feel for something new.
Advertised as having more than “one billion guns”, Borderlands 3 seems to absolutely live up to that promise. Every other weapon we equip comes with its own unique feature or mechanic, from an assault rifle that can overheat and needs to be tended to with water to a shotgun that is reloaded by throwing away the replica you were just using. And these sorts of modifiers can be found in even the lesser tiers of weapon rarity, we can’t wait to see what some of the legendary guns unlocked in the endgame are packing.
While Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel did take us to the moon, the franchise is very much known for the dusty wasteland of Pandora. The desert-like setting returns, but it almost feels like a cameo appearance compared to the three new planets you’ll be visiting throughout the 20-hour main campaign. Promethea is a futuristic metropolis bursting with high-rise buildings overrun by bandits on the streets below, meanwhile, Eden-6 embraces nature with greenery as far as the eye can see while a swamp provides firm footing in places. Athenas, on the other hand, rolls back the years with a setting themed around ancient Japanese temples residing among the mountains. All three new locations are infinitely more interesting than Pandora, making for environments that you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny of.
The four planets play host to a main narrative that isn’t quite as interesting as we hoped it would be. Following the discovery that numerous other vaults are hidden throughout the galaxy, a violent faction known as the Children of the Vault was formed from the rag-tag groups of previous cults. Led by characteristic twins Troy and Tyreen Calypso, it’s your job to team up with Lilith and the Crimson Raiders as one of four new Vault Hunters in order to stop them.
The twin antagonists very much carry the narrative on their shoulders, because if they were devoid of their personalities, this wouldn’t be a particularly fascinating trek across the universe. Some twists and turns provide exciting scenes along the way, but beat for beat, the plot just isn’t all that interesting. There’s enough here to see you through to the conclusion, but this is most definitely not the greatest story an RPG has ever told.
Contrasting that is the eccentric selection of characters you’ll meet along the way and the wacky, far-fetched side quests they have to offer. There are some truly bizarre optional missions to dig through on the outer reaches of each planet, containing homages to classic films and full to the brim with pop culture references. If the main plot isn’t particularly gripping at any point in time, you only have to wander for a couple of minutes before you encounter something weird.
You’ll do that with one of four brand new characters – all of which bring their own abilities and quirks to the table. Amara is a Siren who uses ethereal fists to deliver devastating body shots to those who cross her path, while Fl4K leaves the work to three different pets which obey their every command and sync up with abilities on occasion. Moze is built around incendiary damage and a gigantic mech she can call upon when her ult is ready, and Zane utilises gadgets to outsmart enemies and is the only character who can equip two action skills.
Every Vault Hunter feels and acts vastly different to one another, to the point where four varying playthroughs of the game is a more than viable option. Each can spec into three different skill trees, offering up a mammoth amount of passive abilities and upgrades for action skills. You and a friend can be playing as the same character but have wildly different builds, with one that focuses on offensive damage and the other pouring their upgrade points into defensive traits and boosts for teammates. It’s a seriously impressive line-up of Vault Hunters that opens the door for synergy between abilities, buff stacking, and true team play.
Holding off on those tactics might be a good idea, though, because online co-operative play on PlayStation 4 is a bit of a mess at the time of writing. Playing with a friend seriously impacts the frame rate to the point where it’s all but unplayable and leads to all manner of unwanted disconnects and frustration. We expect the issue will be fixed with post-launch patches, but we can’t ignore the effect it had when we attempted to join a buddy’s game.
There’s a bit of an elephant in the room right now, and it’s the humour. You already know if you vibe with the Borderlands style of comedy, but going into the third entry, we weren’t actually sure where we’d land. Various jokes and one-liners did get a chuckle out of us, but we also found ourselves laughing at the game just as much. We’ve heard the phrase “my dude” enough to last us a lifetime now. Borderlands 3 continues its streak of dumb banter with an ounce of wit and half a ton of on-the-nose gags. It’s one of those games where if you think you’ve come across a reference, you can most certainly be assured it actually is one.
Presentation-wise, the game’s a bit of a stunner. Its cell-shaded aesthetic returns to bring colour to the wasteland and embolden textures that wouldn’t usually stand out on their own. It’s once again a visually fantastic art style, but the experience can’t always back that up with a smooth frame rate even in single player. The PS4 Pro allows you to prioritize the resolution for a 4K experience or performance which unlocks the frame rate, but it never consistently hits its target of 60. Combat is the biggest offender with drops all too often in the midst of battle, but for the most part, it stays smooth enough while traversing the open world.
We can’t sign off without talking about the boss fights, though. A series of bad guys and robots will stand in your way at certain points in the campaign, and the unique mechanics and settings they introduce make for some of the best engagements we’ve come across in quite some time. We’re not about to spoil any, but there are some pretty amazing sequences to be found throughout the game that you’re going to want to experience first-hand for yourself. Katagawa Ball can do one, however.
In refusing to dramatically innovate, Borderlands 3 continues to occupy a unique position in the RPG genre. Its blend of looting, shooting, and comedy makes for varied gameplay sequences, deep and meaningful player progression, and a couple of laughs along the way. It’s not going to convert anyone who wasn’t a fan of previous iterations, but in doing so, Borderlands 3 sticks to what it does best.
I don't understand the common criticism of this game - "It's just more Borderlands" or "They haven't changed anything." It being more of the same is EXACTLY why I preordered it the minute it became available. No need to fix what isn't broken. They tried changing it up a little with the pre-sequel (a game which I really liked at the time), but it wasn't received nearly as well as the first two games, so they went back to what worked.
@LegendOfStewart right there with you. All I wanted was more of the exact same thing with a few tweaks and a fresh coat of paint. That's exactly what we got and I'm pleased with the game!
@LegendOfStewart You and me both mate.
8/10 is a fair score and loved the story (especially the final third).
Excellent review - very balanced. I know @get2sammyb had this preinstalled at the midnight launch!
I'll be picking this up when they fix the performance on the enhanced consoles which don't perform well enough on either mode at the moment. Beyond that it seems like a really good game and I was a huge fan of the second game, just a shame we can't get another Handsome Jack as those two just seem irritating
@LegendOfStewart I agree, I genuinely hate the humour in these games and the plot’s threadbare so it really is the gameplay that does the talking. If I can stick music on while shooting and looting then that’s all I need.
@LegendOfStewart I appreciate the "more of the same" bit because I'm someone who put way too much time into BL2 and wanted a different feel this time around. It's like saying an RPG is "grindy" - that's not a bad thing to everyone, but it conveys something that some people will care about.
While I don't doubt the game is great for single players if you are like me and want to play this co-op wether online or couch then you should pass on BL3. Couch co-op is a mess with freezes and lag plus the lack of vertical splitscreen makes it darn well impossible to play. Online with all the freezes and lag is just a total mess.
It's clear that 2K and Gearbox wanted a single player game more then a co-op one which is a shame cause that's where this series shines as a co-op game.
This game went from one of my most anticipated titles of 2019 to my most disappointed title of 2019.
I will never buy another Gearbox game at launch again.
Wait, this is a co-op focused game, something Borderlands has always been, the co-op online and offline is a mess, it doesn't really work, and you barely mention that. The single player is secondary here, and you just ignore that the main part of the game is kinda broken in the review? You just give it a passing glance? You still say "It's a great game." No, no, it should be treated as a game that first and foremost doesn't work. You literally just ignored the main part of this game being broken.
The announced improvements to co-op like level scaling also weren't mention neither was split-screen state mentioned.
2/10 is my score not enough bullets
@Jaz007 Single player is not secondary, it's just as important as the co-op experience since you're experiencing literally the same content. And the content that is there makes it a great time, with the patches for online co-op coming in the near future. I didn't "glance" over it, there isn't really anything else you can say.
@Jaz007 yeah I wouldn’t say BL is primarily a co-op game at all to be honest. Of course, plenty of people still mainly play it that way.
@Jaz007 It's because if they say anything negative Gearbox and 2K will blacklist them and won't provide them with review copies of upcoming games.
While I agree this is wrong I can understand why they say or leave out things from reviews.
@Jaz007 @Tasuki Excuse me? We have never, in the history of the website, altered our opinion on any game from any publisher in order to secure future review code. What an absurd suggestion!
It's even more absurd when you consider that we're running this review several days after release because 2K Games didn't want us to have it at the same time as other outlets.
You may not agree with the points raised in the review, and of course we welcome everyone's feedback, but the whole point of the review is for the writer to share their opinion. If co-op is important to you then it's outlined in the review where it falls short and you're encouraged to make your own purchasing decisions based on that.
@get2sammyb well said. Don't forget, everybody else on the internet knows better 🙄🙄
Wonder how much the check was for this positive review score. Score Gearbox screw 2k and screw pushsquare i wont read another pushsquare review
@get2sammyb this is one of MANY reasons I come to this site. I know that I can trust it to give me their honest opinion, not a bought opinion. Keep up the great work!!!
Having a blast playing solo. Sucks for those having trouble with co-op tho.
There are no cloud saves. How can this be? The remaster of BL2 had cloud saves for heaven's sake. The feel of some of the guns, especially the sniper rifles is terribly off. The aiming through the scope is far too to sensitive and despite turning the sensitivity down it still has almost no effect. The framerate playing co-op is a abysmal at times, especially during menus which are a key part of the game. Performance on enhanced consoles is even worse than base consoles. There are innumerable bugs in multiplayer which have been listed everywhere on the internet. There is no vertical split screen option.
The list goes on...
How this game was ever released is beyond me. If it were any other sort of commercial product a company would be hauled over the coals. The game should have been in development for another 6 months at least, and us as consumers should not be standing for these practices.
Yes, the core gameplay loop is excellent and the game has the potential to be a great title. But with all those faults that I have outlined how on earth can you give it 8 out of 10...?
Maybe when all the bugs are ironed out and the performance is where it should be it may be worth that.
Did i miss something when i played the 3 previous games on last gen and Handsome Jack on current gen? Did i miss how the games, especially BL2 and dlc, are desisgned in difficulty to not be played solo.
BL1 and dlc, PS3, offers the best solo play of the 3 previous games when playing as Roland. The elemental weapon effects, ammo regen, health regen, and gun turret makes it doable solo. That is until the final big boss Crawmerax. Doable solo yes using skill and the Lilith character, but ideally for 3 or 4 leveled up skilled players.
Borderlands 2 and dlc is not like BL1 and dlc. Difficulty soon ratchets up to where it is clear that it is a multiplayer design. Weapons are weaker and enemies are bullet sponges. The boss and raid boss fights are nearly impossible solo without glitches like infinite ammo and the Evil Smasher trick.
BL2 on PS4 performs and looks very well, but the enemies seem buffed from the PS3 version. My play has been limited and only solo. A disc copy without updates allows for the use of helpfull glitches for solo play against bullet sponges and when ammo crates often have money when it is ammo and grenades that i need.
BL2 on PS4? Definitely multiplayer in design. Maybe more so than on last gen because of suspected enemy buffing.
The Pesequel, PS3, is more doable solo than is BL2. However the boss fights are a nightmare solo.
So what is BL3? Is it specically designed in difficulty for solo, multi, or both? Then there is the percentages of players that desire solo only, desire mutiplayer only, and those that will be happy either way.
With all that said i believe an 8/10 review score is too high for BL3 in how it performs at release. Too high for the online performance unless it is determined that online/ co op play of BL3 is only a very small minority. Thus the vast majority, 95%+, play solo and are not affected by the poor multiplayer performance at release.
I play mostly solo so my big hope for BL3 was for it to be very doable solo. Not easy solo, but doable solo without glitches needed like i could in Borderlands 1 .
@get2sammyb I am sorry Sammy. I didn't mean any disrespect. I guess I am just bitter at Gearbox and 2K games because of them I can't enjoy this game how it was meant. It kinda also ticks me off how people are making light of the the problems with co-op when that is what Borderlands is about. Then when people like me say anything about how broken the co-op we are called whiners, crybabies and overreacting or people just ignore it. It's obviously a big problem if so many people are talking about it and asking for change yet everyone doesn't think so, especially Gearbox and 2K games, but why would they when everyone gives them such high review marks.
Honestly I understand it's opinions reviews but I would given the game 5/10 due to the broken co-op. Now once they patched it and if they added vertical splitscreen then I would probably give it and 8 or so.
Four player split screen has become two player split screen and the online coop is a mess? I'll skip this.
My only interest in this is for couch coop, if that doens't work properly it's no sale for me. And I'm surely not going to buy it anticipating a patch to fix this in the future. I'm with @Tasuki on this.
I'm glad the review made mention of this and I can decide for myself not to buy it.
@Tasuki While I agree that Gearbox has acted poorly by neglecting the co-op (since I believe that this element of the game is what helped Borderlands 1 to gain traction in the first place), the timing of this review is surely proof that Push Square has not been provided an early copy, making for a more trustworthy review? Comments like this are bound to prompt accusations of overreacting.
Anyway, cheers @LiamCroft for the review, it answered my questions and made me feel better about being a poverty-stricken down-and-out who couldn't afford to buy the game on day one.
Probably 10+ hours in.
Have to agree that this is the definitive Borderlands experience because of so many quality of life improvements. This third (4th?) iteration of the series runs like a well-oiled machine. The humor is great, from a main character saying he had to “wait 7 years for this” to a bandit just before death screaming “my chili recipe dies with me!”.
Not specifically mentioned in the review is the dedication to fan service. This is a love letter to all Borderlands fans, where the whole gang gets together to progress the story.
Visuals are great, colorful and bursting with the Borderlands style. I an using the PS4 Pro in Performance mode and have not had issues. I have not done co-op play. I got the season pass, if this is anything like past Borderlands, there will be tons of content to come. Looking forward to the Halloween DLC.
Borderlands started the looter shooter and #3 is a very, very fun ride so far.
@get2sammyb I want a #micdrop. Well said.
@billyboyblue666 What are you talking about? No cloud saves? Are you on PS4?
@NoCode23 There is an Easy Mode for solo.
@get2sammyb I wasn’t suggesting that it was altered merely that it grossly overlooked the game’s flaws. It’s also strikes me because “future patches” shouldn’t be another reason. I mean, Unity is a great game patched, but I would hardly say it didn’t deserve the backlash. I also understand it’s a personal opinion, but I would ask if choosing someone who may not value co-op very much when the game has it as such a big part is the right choice? And with that I don’t mean disrespect for the reviewer. I guess kinda how we don’t throw JRPGs to review at you Sammy. 😜
@Liamcroft So you’re not taking into consideration as much that half the game really doesn’t work? I won’t argue if you think the SP is as important. It’s a big selling point with the co-op though and the series prides itself on it. We don’t know how soon or how well those patches will come in and work as well. It’s giving it a higher rating based on speculation of the game being fixed, which it probably will, but we don’t know the timeframe or true quality of those patches. It could end up never working as well as it should
@LegendOfStewart True, it seems that most people want to live by "if its not broken then fix it until it is!" Often these days people change things too much and end up making games (films and music too) not nearly as good as they use to.
@frankmcma, thanks, i did not know that BL3 has difficulty choices. That is something new for a Borderlands games.
Given a choice i start at normal difficulty and go up or down from there if i feel the need.
took 4 YEARS to write a 2 page review lmao
The game deserves a 5 at most and that's me being generous.
The antagonists are annoying and try way to hard.
There's no humour in the game what so ever, the whole dialogue is just one big cringe fest.
The guns are subpar compared to the previous games.
The game started to become woke. "Oh we need to change the name of loot midgets, incase it offends one person".
The story is rather forgettable.
Hopefully if make a bl4 they will go back to thier roots and actually bring back things like x4 tourge smgs, elemental badass skags, an actual story that's doesn't try to hard.
Yeah, this review is way off the mark in my experience. Far from being the best Borderlands game, it hasn't aged well at all.
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