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Blast from the Past review

FBT returns to the game that padded out a hundred of his reviews.

The Past

Fellow Previous Weapon scribe TheMorty constantly takes the piss, claiming I can’t review a game without referencing Borderlands. A quick check of my reviews, and … okay whatever.

In 2019 Borderlands will turn ten years old and its style is pretty standard now. But a decade ago … it was nothing new then either. We’d had non-linear shooters before, with raiders, creatures, powers and level ups all set in dystopian Mad Max scorched-earth scenario featuring cartoony graphics, in-jokes, gaming satire and self-references. We've been here before. But Borderlands had something none of them had – great marketing.

Borderland’s trailers, featuring Cage the Elephant's Ain't no Rest for the Wicked, and Champion’s No Heaven got me walking into Game and buying it at release price. The energy, the violence, the madness, the bazillion guns claim, the bravado of it all, the Lilith … Borderlands didn’t speak to me, it shouted.

It was insane, completely mental. It was Punk to other shooters' Genesis. It was the antithesis of the serious, choice-driven, worthy games; the kind TheMorty likes. Now every game has that irreverence, the Looney Tunes tone, the ultra-violence; is Borderlands still as Nirvana-like as it once was now everyone’s into Grunge? Even the sequel and ‘pre-sequel’ felt a bit copycat, shiny rather than down n dirty.

With Borderlands 3 finally here, it’s time to go back and reconfirm Borderlands is the OTT yardstick. It’ll be worth it just to annoy TheMorty. Alexia! Play that song that goes ‘There ain’t no Heaven’ …

Still a Blast?

Choosing Lilith again (it wouldn’t be a Blast if I picked another character …), I’m deposited in Firestone and meet Claptrap. TheMorty hated him but I liked Claptrap. He sets the off-kilter, cabin-fever tone of Pandora’s inhabitants. You get what it means to be a ‘Vault Hunter’, not some reluctant hero who will make it all better. I’m here to make it all worse.

Pandora, the planet we’re on, does look like Fallout 3 The Comic Book but it’s not that, it’s just a gutted rock, a scrapyard; a mega-corp turned the planet upside down looking for an alien vault then abandoned the place - and everyone who followed them - when they struck out. It has a failed goldrush western feel to it.

Looking around, the new HD version isn’t adding much to the world; it’s mostly cosmetic changes but what more can you do to a cell-drawing comic book look? BL was always VHS to its peers’ Blu-ray sheen; the rough edges set the scene. We’re not in Cameron’s Avatar, this is a Golan-Globus home video exclusive, and I’m a middle-aged Charlie Bronson.

As I head for my first Skag confrontation I’m not as panicked as I was back in the day. I meet the locals, take out 9-toes and his pet Skags, deal with Scooter and his ‘catch a riiiiiiiide’ mission, and ... it’s just okay. Oh no. I can sense TheMorty smirking from here.