Fought the moon­light

The women do glow and the men do plun­der. And vice versa

XBox: The Official Magazine - - REVIEWS -

The Pre-Se­quel! is almost cer­tainly the most Aus­tralian game ever made. En­e­mies scream “strewth!” as they die, en­camp­ments bear scrawled warn­ings telling you to “rack off”, there’s a sid­e­quest in which ev­ery el­e­ment cor­re­sponds to a line from Waltz­ing Matilda, and you can find a shot­gun called Bo­ganella, who spews ver­bal filth at both you and your tar­gets when­ever she’s fired, reloaded or even put away in favour of some­thing else.

It’s a neat change in style – the game’s largely set on Elpis, the moon of Pan­dora, and it’s easy to see its re­al­world ana­logue. Its in­hab­i­tants, who share a dis­tinctly Ocea­nian ac­cent, have been stranded on an air­less rock filled with dan­ger­ous flora and fauna, borne the brunt of man’s de­struc­tive quest for profit and gone mad. Best of all, the game was made by Aus­tralians, so any calls of this ob­ser­va­tion be­ing in some way of­fen­sive can be di­rected at them. Hur­rah!

2K Aus­tralia’s clearly come into this project look­ing to be more than a mere stand­alone ex­pan­sion seat­warmer, and that dis­tinctly South­ern Hemi­sphe­rian take on things is the big­gest clue. Of course, it’s work­ing within a set tem­plate, and the game shares much with Bor­der­lands 2 – its multi-hub world, loot-frenzy fo­cus, triple-branched RPG skill trees and fast-ag­ing visual style (egre­gious tex­ture pop-in and all). Even The PreSe­quel!’ s new char­ac­ters feel more like an ex­ten­sion of the orig­i­nal’s ideas than fully fledged off­shoots – not least be­cause they all started life as NPCs.

Athena uses a Cap­tain Amer­i­cain­debted shield as both of­fence and de­fence, Wil­helm puffs out ro­botic drones and grad­u­ally adds bionic pieces to his body as you progress, and the sadis­tic Nisha can go full Clint East­wood, spin­ning on a dime to elim­i­nate whole rooms of en­e­mies in seconds. The only truly new idea comes out of the eter­nal – fi­nally playable – Clap­trap, whose VaultHunte­r.EXE abil­ity makes as­sess­ments of the com­bat en­vi­ron­ment, spawn­ing any num­ber of dif­fer­ent pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive ef­fects as a re­sult. Oh, and re­turn­ing vil­lain, Hand­some Jack – whose gen­e­sis this game’s story cov­ers – be­comes a whole heap more ir­ri­ta­ble with the shrill-voiced bin un­der your con­trol.

Have a gas

Where 2K Aus­tralia’s re­ally branched out, how­ever, is in es­tab­lish­ing a new feel to the game. Be­ing set on a moon, the most ob­vi­ous change is in the physics of com­bat. Bor­der­lands’ jump has al­ways been on the Halo end of floaty, but step into the oxy­gen-starved out­doors and you can now bound tens

“Jack’s de­scent into evil is rife with mo­ments of prag­matic hor­ror”

of me­tres at a time, even us­ing the Oz Kit item type to ground-pound en­e­mies – although this comes at the cost of some pre­cious air.

On the one hand, this turns huge swathes of the game into what could be an homage to low-rent ’90s plat­former wa­ter lev­els, forc­ing you to run for O -rich en­vi­ron­ments reg­u­larly.

2 The pay-off, how­ever, is in how it to­tally changes the feel of com­bat, forc­ing you to watch the skies and move for your own high ground, adding a mea­sure of tac­tics to the face-on pew-pew­ery we’re used to. Best of all, it eases the se­ries’ to­tal re­liance on com­bat as a means of pro­gres­sion – hid­den chests are now eas­ier to find, but of­ten re­quire you to scour rooftops and cran­nies for gen­er­a­tors to turn off elec­tric fences, and cer­tain quests are almost all about ex­plo­ration, mak­ing for a far more en­joy­able solo game.

Other new el­e­ments are less suc­cess­ful. The new cryo sta­tus ef­fect is es­sen­tially the ex­ist­ing cor­ro­sion dam­age, but with the added, dull con­se­quence of mak­ing bad guys stand still, and the ap­pear­ance of a laser weapon class is damp­ened some­what when you re­alise they’re a tad in­dis­tinct com­pared to the huge vari­a­tion in other classes.

The story – pseudo-Aus­tralian set­ting aside – is a lit­tle less whips­mart than the one it pre­cedes, too. A mem­ber of Gear­box once told OXM that if you re­moved the hu­mour from Bor­der­lands, it would be the grimmest story ever told, and to an ex­tent, that’s the case here. It’s cer­tainly darker in tone, and Jack’s de­scent into evil is rife with mo­ments of ever-de­creas­ingly prag­matic hor­ror. Yet the rea­son­ing be­hind that cor­rup­tion – ba­si­cally, he dis­cov­ers that he just re­ally en­joys mur­der­ing in­no­cents – doesn’t quite hold the power it should or could.

So, it’s not quite the rev­e­la­tion it could have been, but the fact re­mains that 2K Aus­tralia’s man­aged some­thing few do – come to some­one else’s se­ries with new ideas and made some of them work. PreSe­quel!’ s an ap­pro­pri­ate ti­tle, then. This feels like the be­gin­ning of a new take on Bor­der­lands – a more re­ac­tive, im­me­di­ate, Aus­tralian game, bet­ter built for lone play­ers but still ac­com­mo­dat­ing for the co-op crowd – although by no means dis­tinct enough to be called a follow-up. It’s un­likely to change minds, but it will in­dulge those al­ready on board – and, frankly, if you don’t like it, we’ll bor­row a phrase from Bo­ganella: [CEN­SORED]. OXM

Nail a head­shot out­doors and you dis­able the en­e­mies’ oxy­gen sup­ply too. Sadly, there is no head-bulge ef­fect. 2K games 2K Aus­tralia Xbox 360 Out Now

The term ‘rogue’s gallery’ doesn’t re­ally cover it – this lot be­come mass-mur­der­ers Stalin would cower from.

We don’t know, and we don’t want to know.

The eter­nal ques­tion: elec­tric sticks on arms, or elec­tric sticks for arms?

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