Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
If you haven't played Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and/or Borderlands 2 and aren't opposed to playing shooters on a console, then grabbing a copy of The Handsome Collection is almost a no-brainer. The Borderlands series has become popular for a reason -- the games combine innovative shooting action with creative character customization and RPG elements. Borderlands 2 is the superior game of the two featured in this collection, but the new gameplay elements introduced in The Pre-Sequel mean you're getting two modestly different gameplay experiences in a single package.
The core games are the same as their original versions, so you can consult our review of The Pre-Sequel for an idea of what we liked about that title. We also recently took a look back at Borderlands 2, in case you missed out on that one.
Pandora Has Never Looked Better...On Consoles, Anyway
The Handsome Collection pulls together two full games along with every bit of DLC yet released for the two titles (including the brand new Claptastic Voyage), and bumps it all up to 1080p. It also adds improved textures to the older Borderlands 2 and when compared to the previous-gen version of The Pre-Sequel.
The Borderlands games are some of the most visually distinctive games around, and while you won't be getting every bit of visual flair on a console that you would get from a dedicated gaming PC, the effects will still be impressive.
One of the main differences between PC gaming and console gaming for many people is the location it takes place. If you have your console in your living room hooked up to a large HD TV, the colorful vistas of the two games in The Handsome Collection are a great treat, and might even encourage family members or roommates to sit down and watch.
And speaking of roommates...
A Couch Play Extravaganza
Co-op multiplayer has always been a huge part of the Borderlands experience, and if you can ever manage to pull together a full four-person team of well-built characters with different guns and class specializations, there's not much else in the FPS world that can match the experience. But online co-op, as fun as it can be, has some real drawbacks. Finding the right group to play with can be a trial, even with Borderlands' well-executed matchmaking features. Even if you find play partners of an appropriate skill level, all too often you'll find yourself with a group that just doesn't seem to want to play the game in the same way as you.
That's why it's so great that The Handsome Collection introduces split-screen co-op play into the Borderlands world. You and up to three friends can join together in your living room to fight your way through the hundreds of hours of action-packed content in the package. And since Borderlands is a game that lends itself to shouting, laughing, and cursing, it makes for a great in-person co-op experience.
There are always problems to be solved with split-screen FPS play, and The Handsome Collection doesn't do anything special to solve these problems. It can be hard to see little details on your corner of the split screen, screen text and your map aren't always scaled in a useful fashion, and some of the visual flair of the games will be lost. There are also performance issues, and the game can struggle to maintain 60 fps when there's a lot of action spread across all the screens.
With all that said, though, four-player co-op in Borderlands is a hell of a lot of fun. It's nice to have a new high-quality co-op focused split-screen FPS experience on the consoles, as it's easy to imagine breaking out The Handsome Collection as a party game without worrying about varying skill levels as much as you would in a PvP split-screen game.
Shoot, loot, repeat. It's a tried-and-true formula that Borderlands has refined to an ultra-high level.
Replay Value: 9/10
This collection has two full games and 12 characters to try out, along with a ton of DLC missions and extra content. You could play The Handsome Collection for a long, long time.
Both Borderlands titles collected here look better than they ever have before on consoles, though there are framerate and texture issues that weren't present in The Pre-Sequel on high-end PCs.
There are many hours of sprawling adventure storytelling and humor contained in The Handsome Collection, and it's nice to have two sides of the story of Handsome Jack in the same box. That said, strong narrative storytelling isn't one of the best features of either game.
Couch Play: 8/10
Admittedly there isn't a lot of competition in the "AAA split-screen co-op FPS" category, but The Handsome Collection fills that niche nicely.
If you've already played one or both of the titles included in The Handsome Collection this package might not be for you, unless the chance to play split-screen is too tempting to pass up. If you've never given the Borderlands series a try and are eager to test it out, The Handsome Collection is a great way to dive in.