Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel coming to PC, PS3 & Xbox 360 this fall

By Andrew Yoon, Apr 09, 2014 5:00am PDT

When Gearbox said it wasn't working on Borderlands 3, they weren't lying. Taking place in between the first and second game in the series, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is definitely not Borderlands 3. And Gearbox isn't really working on The Pre-Sequel, opting to partner with 2K Australia to do the heavy lifting.

"My own studio spends its attention towards new IP and working towards the next gen," Gearbox president Randy Pitchford reiterated when demoing the new game to us. Instead, a conversation started with 2K Australia "over a year ago" on making a new game for the current generation.

"We're pretty adapt at collaboration," 2K Australia general manager Tony Lawrence reminded us, pointing out their work on all of the BioShock games. Pitchford sees The Pre-Sequel as an opportunity for the support studio--much like "Opposing Force (a Half-Life mod) was a turning point for Gearbox."

The Pre-Sequel tells the story of the rise of Handsome Jack, the notorious villain of Borderlands 2. According to writer Anthony Birch, he started off as "relatively good guy." In fact, many of the characters will go through dramatic changes through the adventure. Taking a page from Breaking Bad and other recent antihero tales, "your characters may be more morally ambiguous" this time around.

For example, Wilhelm--one of the first bosses of Borderlands 2--is one of the playable characters. In the Pre-Sequel, we see him as a man, but he continues to add cybernetic augmentations as players level up, eventually turning into the villain he becomes. Other characters include Athena from "The Secret Armory of General Knoxx" DLC, Nisha the sheriff, and Claptrap. Yes, although your camera is really low to the ground, "he makes up for it in other ways."

For the first time in the series, Borderlands goes off Pandora and to the moon. And with that setting comes brand new gameplay--notably, low-gravity areas and oxygen management. Oh, and laser beams, from "Star Wars style pew pew, solid rays, and Ghostbusters-style waves." There's also ice guns, a feature Gearbox always wanted to add but could never figure out. "I've always wanted ice bullets... but 2K Australia approached it like fans that didn’t care about our own arguments... So now we have ice guns in Borderlands," Pitchford explained.

Entering low-gravity no-oxygen areas gives Borderlands a completely new feel. Oxygen becomes a currency you must manage because not only does it let you survive areas with no atmosphere, but it can also be used to enhance your jumps, leading to some spectacular leaps. There's also a new ground pound mechanic, which lets you slam into the ground and stun enemies. If enemies are frozen, they'll shatter as well.

Enemies will also have their own helmets--which you can shoot off, of course. And, if you slam an enemy hard enough, you can even send enemies into orbit. One of my favorite features from The Pre-Sequel is Athena's "Wrath of the Goddess" ability, which allows her to use a shield to absorb damage and throw it back at the enemy Captain America style.

Although it's not Borderlands 3, the Pre-Sequel packs a lot of new gameplay to make it feel fresh. Part of the reason is the introduction of a new developer. But another reason is the decision to stick with current-gen platforms. "All the investment is going on gameplay, not tech," Pitchford said to us. "We're bringing it to the platforms that we know our fans have."

Seeing The Pre-Sequel add so much to Borderlands was refreshing--even for Pitchford. "For the first time, I feel like I'm playing borderlands as a gamer," Pitchford said. "We're playing The Pre-Sequel a lot... It's adding a whole new loop... it kind of sucks going back. I kind of not like playing Borderlands 2 anymore."

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will be available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 this fall.

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