Games

Borderlands 3 review: A lot of fun but not that funny

Borderlands 3 is great – if you turn the dialogue off

We all have that one friend who tries so desperately to make the room laugh, but just isn't funny. Borderlands 3 is that person.

You do, almost reluctantly, probably like this person anyway. You find a way to see past the grade-Z jokes, tone-deaf observations and the fact they repeat the funny things you said 10-seconds after you, only louder. They are, at heart, a good sport. They might even sometimes hit the mark with a joke, but their hit-rate is so low it doesn’t really count.

I dread to think who, if anyone, finds Borderlands 3 as funny as it clearly thinks it is. It’s a loud, obnoxious game; one that never knows when to shut up and clearly doesn’t seem to care who finds it irritating. Some players – and I count myself among them – would probably have a hard time playing the game without considering muting the dialogue. But I’d wager it’d be hard to find someone who doesn’t find everything else that Borderlands 3 offers really enjoyable.

Borderlands 3 is best enjoyed while ignoring most of the utter nonsense spouted by its different characters. Take Claptrap, for example, your trusty wheeled tincan and long-time series stalwart. He is more annoying than he has ever been before, and yet only the start of Borderlands 3’s obnoxiousness. Luckily, if you’re playing with friends, you have far less reason to pay any attention to what people are saying (or shouting) and instead can just concentrate on what’s good.

Firstly, the guns. Borderlands has always been a game about silly weapons, but the third outing is by far the best for its sense of progression. Not only is the volume and variety as strong as ever – with everything from normal pistols to laser assault rifles via guns that you throw instead of reloading and which then explode on the battlefield – but the sheer feeling your arsenal gives you is far superior to any previous game in the series.

Then there’s how you spec your character, which is the deepest and most fluid it’s ever been, allowing for the most dynamic sense of progression yet in a Borderlands game. I chose to play my campaign as Moze, who’s the gunner class, which means she can enter a walking robot armed with dual turrets every now and then to decimate her enemies. The other classes, like the Siren and Beastmaster, each have their own unique powers – three in total per class – and each different skill tree has a raft of different upgrades. It all leads to a system that’s incredibly diverse and open to customisation, and I never felt like I was entering a stale plateau of not unlocking new stuff as I ventured around.

Next, and last, are the new worlds. Borderlands 3 takes the series to the stars, opening up multiple different planets for exploration and questing. You leave Pandora, the series’ long-time wasteland home to venture to new worlds like Promethea, which is a planet-wide city, or Eden-6, which is a swampy marshland. They all feel quite similar, atmospherically – you’re ultimately there to shoot enemies, so there’s not a huge amount of variety – but the increase in visual breadth gives Borderlands’ art team the space to flex its muscles.

Despite relying on its trusted cel-shaded art style, this is a supremely beautiful game, relishing the colour and vividness of new planets and even making the wastelands of Pandora pop with a new level of detail. If you have a PS4 Pro, Xbox One X or a high-spec PC – plus a 4K HDR capable television – then you are in for a real treat. It might not be a ‘next-gen’ looker like a couple of other recent games, but I found something to appreciate and stare at everywhere I looked, even down to the clouds in the sky.

Just remember – you’re not going mad. You haven’t suddenly become uncool, old-aged or boring; it’s natural to raise an eyebrow every time Claptrap screams unendingly, a bad pun comes up, or an in-game villain adopts YouTube idioms to say things such as, "Like, subscribe and obey." Borderlands 3’s script is stuck somewhere in the past, a place we’d rather not revisit, and it makes no apologies for it. I sort of admire it for that, but I think that’s only because the rest of the game makes up for its loudmouthed pitfalls, and because I can – unlike that annoying friend who thinks they’re funny – turn its volume down when it all gets a bit much.

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