One of the high profile Playstation VR releases this holiday season, 2K has released a VR version of Borderlands 2. Being released six years after the original game, does it hold up well enough in VR?
Borderlands 2 is somehow building a reputation for itself when comes to being ambitious in exploring new technology. The original game was ported to the Playstation Vita, and despite initial struggles with the release it shaped up nicely thanks to a few essential post-release patches. It looks like the team behind Borderlands 2 VR learned from this experience, because the game’s state at launch demonstrates plenty of care and consideration on a technical level.
There’s a big difference with the Vita version though, and that’s the fact that the current PSVR incarnation does not include the DLC content that the portable edition did. This is a real shame, because I consider existing (or previous) Borderlands 2 players to be the core audience for this release and they’re likely to feel like they’re missing out on content they previously enjoyed – making the experience feel a bit like a “what could have been” experience. If you’re a fan of Borderlands 2’s cooperative mode then you’ll have the same experience as well – it was stripped from the VR edition.
Having said that, it’s impressive to see Pandora’s cell-shaded environment realized in virtual reality. Dreamworks’ Voltron VR Chronicles was gorgeous in how it realized a cartoon-like style, but infinitely shorter on content than Borderlands 2. Spending hours upon hours completing missions, gathering loot and exploring environments feels great – though the immersion breaks apart a little whenever a cutscene starts, as those play out on a virtual screen in good old 2D. I assume they were initially rendered in 3D, and it would be been great to see them realized that way, but I realize that would have involved a ton more work – especially if they only had the cutscenes to work with, and not the original assets.
Cutscenes in 3D or not, the fact that a lot of care went into the development of Borderlands 2 VR is clear. It features one of the most flexible control systems you’re likely to find on Playstation VR, with a whole range of options that support DualShock and Move controls as well as a free choice in how you want them to function. Prefer teleportation? You got it. Free locomotion – also not a problem, and different turning mechanisms are also implemented.
Whatever your comfort level in VR, Borderlands 2 gives you a way to deal with it. To deal with overwhelming combat scenes, the VR version also features a bullet time mechanic to make dealing with these hectic situations easier. Head movement takes care of aiming, and you’ll also switch to first person while driving this time around – instead of the third person perspective in the original game.
It’s great to see a game like Borderlands 2 appear in VR, but the lack of all that previously available DLC content feels like a concession – and makes the prospect of going through six year old content a little less enticing. But with a lack of traditional first person shooter experiences on Playstation VR, Borderlands 2 is certainly welcome – I enjoyed Farpoint and Doom more, but still enjoyed my time on VR Pandora.