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Game Review

Borderlands has become a fan-favorite franchise over the years by relying on a certain gaming formula. It blends engaging shooting mechanics, outlandish guns and tons of loot rewards with a fast-paced, Mad Max-like tale full of quirky robots, grizzled humans and roaring beasties. Then it drizzles the whole caboodle with a free-flowing chum bucket of juvenile humor.

After digging into Borderlands 3, I'd guess that the gamemakers at Gearbox Software have a big sign in their code-writing room that proclaims: "If it ain't broke …" 'Cause this newest entry is unquestionably cut from the same crazed and tattered fabric as the company's past offerings.

If you want insight into what that looks like, stick around.

Choosing Hunters & Cracking Skulls

The game begins with some rough-edged characters called Vault Hunters being ushered onto the planet Pandora, a place rumored to hold a hidden chamber packed with treasure, tech and the finest advanced weaponry man or robot has ever seen. And after an opening cutscene awash with driving music and ultra-violent bloodletting, gamers get the choice to play as one of the four hunters (Zane, Amara, Moze or FL4K), each with their own unique skillsets.

Zane is an Aussie-accented sharpshooter who's probably the closest thing to a typical Wild West gunslinger, only with a saddle bag full of special gadgets, shields and drone helpers. Moze fleshes similar defensive perks out even more with the ability to summon a powerful mech suit and blast baddies with artillery strikes.

Amara is a Siren, and she packs psychic abilities that can hoist enemies into the air and lob devastating elemental attacks. Finally, FL4K is a robotic self-identified non-binary who can call in sharp-toothed creatures to rip and maul its enemies. And all of the hunters can layer-on a variety of skill-tree upgrades to make their baddie-bashing strengths even more deadly.

Story-wise, your chosen Vault Hunter teams up as something of a hired gun with a group known as the Crimson Raiders. Led by Lilith, a former Vault Hunter, the group's goal is to not only find a special map that will reveal all the secret power-packed vaults in the universe, but also to push back against a duo of evil villains. Tyreen Calypso and her twin brother, Troy, are both looking for that immensely powerful vault loot, too. And they've gathered a rabid cult following that will gladly sacrifice life and limb to help them get it.

Rip 'Em Up, Rip 'Em Down

Of course, taking lives and lopping off limbs are really the beating-and-bleeding heart of this game. And Borderlands 3 strives to make that pursuit as "entertaining" as it can by offering up a loot-seekers dream in the form of "over one billion guns," according to Gearbox claims. And these aren't just your run-of-the-mill pistols, shotguns and machine guns, mind you: In loot boxes and quest payouts, you find randomly generated weapons with much more exotic functionality.

The Ginormous Bangarang XL, for instance, is a pistol that, when thrown, makes a boomerang-like circle around a given area, shooting every which way until returning to you. The Venomous Ripper is a machine gun that delivers greater damage after feeding on the blood of an enemy. And the Porta-Pooper 5000 is a rocket launcher that hits foes with a missile of irradiated, well, let's call it waste material. Multiply those examples by a couple hundred thousand or so, and you've got a lot of creative death dealing.

That creativity doesn't make the massacre here any less messy, however. The game's visual style is comic-like, but the frenetic firefights are some of the messiest out there. The dead are regularly scattered with protruding bones, spurting wounds and ripped open chests. If shot just right, little gnome-like battlers will explode like a 55-gallon drum of gelatinous chunks. And in the heat of ever-grinding battles, foes writhe and scream after having an arm or leg obliterated.

Players also encounter scenes decorated with impaled heads and bodies. And you'll face off against macabre machines that spew the goopy hamburger of ground up people. And while there's nothing visually sexual here other than some revealing female costumes, some of the characters' jokey dialogue can include boasts about sexual performance and the like. Oh, and the language in general can be quite dicey. I didn't hear any misuses of God's name in the rancid spews, but f- and s-words and other crudities such as "a--hole" and "d--n" were commonplace.

It's all part of that Borderlands gaming formula. And if anything, the foul side of that recipe feels all the more heavily spiced this time around.

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Record Label



2K Games, Gearbox Software


September 13, 2019

On Video

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