Borderlands 3's FL4K is a Beast-Commanding, Boss-Battling Badass - Preview

Borderlands 3's FL4K is a Beast-Commanding, Boss-Battling Badass - Preview

Richard Walker

In Borderlands, there is but one perennial truth that you need to know. Almost everything hates you and wants to kill you dead, and to remedy this, tooling up and blasting back a tidal wave of bandits, indigenous hostile fauna, and robot killing machines is the only way to go. If you can rope in three friends to help out too, more's the better.

This is apparently the best Borderlands to play alone, however, and getting hands-on with Beastmaster FL4K as a lone wolf, we can report that the new Borderlands game is indeed fun to play with no friends. Obviously, looting and shooting remains more enjoyable with others, and to that end Gearbox has made a bunch of improvements to streamline the entire co-op experience.

Playing Borderlands 3 solo is less of a slog than it once was, thanks to more generous fast travel points (you can spawn back to your vehicle for instance) and Vault Hunters that simply lend themselves to a single-player experience. Technically, you're never really alone. Moze the Gunner has her mech, Iron Bear; Zane the Operative has his own digi-clone; Amara the Siren has, erm, lots of arms to keep her company; and FL4K the Beastmaster has a faithful pet at his side.

Choosing from a toothsome skag, scuttling spiderant, or a simian gun-toting jabber, FL4K can enlist the aid of his pet when things get a bit chaotic, sending the beastie forward with an elemental explosion, cutting enemies down to size in a flurry of teeth and claws. Moze, meanwhile, can beckon a mech, temporarily turning the game into Titanfall, as you're able to stomp around riddling foes with lead and lasers. This is every bit as awesome as it sounds.

The unique action skills of Borderlands 3's characters aside, the game lives and dies - much like the previous ones - by its guns, shooting mechanics and RPG aspects, and the good news is that this is fundamentally more of the same. That's more of the same in the best possible sense; Borderlands 3 is a refined, streamlined experience peppered with a handful of modern trappings, like the ability to slide and mantle, for instance. Extra mobility like this can only be considered a very good thing.

Apex Legends' innovative ping system has found its way into Borderlands 3 too, enabling you to enjoy a co-op game with random folks – or friends you'd rather not talk to. At the touch of a button, you can mark waypoints, highlight enemies, and so on, much as you'd expect, which is a neat touch, but perhaps not all that essential in a game like Borderlands. Still, it's nice to have it.

Gearbox has also bolstered the number of customisation options you'll have in store to make your Vault Hunter stand out, with a range of interchangeable skins, heads, and colour palette fiddling you can experiment with. During our hands-on, we came across several different heads without really looking, so it seems cosmetic items will be doled out liberally and without a need to shell out for microtransaction-driven crates or whatever.

As for the story, this time around the Calypso twins serve jointly as sneering antagonists, both powerful sirens (to differing degrees) who also happen to have their own cringeworthy live-streamed show that ends with the sign off, “don't forget to like, follow, and obey.” Like any good villain(s), the Calypso twins are uncompromisingly nasty and unafraid of your band of Vault Hunters, even if you are backed up by badass siren Lilith, returning once again as an NPC.

Borderlands 3 is a planet-hopping journey that begins amid the familiar climes of Pandora, surrounded by skags, rakks, and roving bandit gangs. Soon, you'll be blasting off to other planets like Promethea or dangerous, overgrown swamp planet Eden-6, travelling from pillar to post aboard gargantuan vessel Sanctuary. A safe haven where you'll find Marcus' gun store and firing range, Crazy Earl and his Eridium store, and, of course, Moxxi's place where you can play the slots and let your hair down, Sanctuary has everything you could ask for in one place. Much like the town of Sanctuary in Borderlands 2, funnily enough. What a coincidence.

Familiar faces abound, then, but Borderlands 3 also has its fair share of new, equally peculiar characters, like an AI named Balex trapped inside a teddy bear voiced by Ice-T (yes, really) or a propaganda-spouting bandit overlord named Mouthpiece. Make no mistake, this is the Borderlands you know and love, then, just tightened up a bit, modernised slightly, and prettied up. Predictably, Borderlands 3 is the best-looking one yet, but then, what else did you expect? Vitally, it still plays wonderfully, and yes, there's over a billion guns to discover, some with alternate firing modes. There's even one that fires cheeseburgers, for some reason.

Boasting an inordinate amount of guns once again, Borderlands 3 promises to bring the anarchic looter shooter back with a bang, sporting the same off-the-wall humour, bright cel-shaded visuals, and a new cast of Vault Hunters seeking fortune and glory. Even if that means visiting the dangerous, overgrown swamp planet of Eden-6, a place teeming with wildlife that will happily tear your face clean off and feast on the chewy, sinewy bits. Yum. Borderlands 3 is also shaping up to be every bit as tasty as a freshly ripped face.

Borderlands 3 launches for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on 13th September 2019.

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