There’s a lot that the new Borderlands: Game of the Year remaster gets right. Yes, there are clear and obvious upgrades over the original release, not least the provision for higher quality textures that ensure that the game holds up well on a modern 4K display. Then there are the enhanced options and quality of life improvements and the fact that PC owners of the original decade-old release get the new version for free – but just how good are the various console ports?
Without head-to-head comparisons, the initial impression when loading up the GOTY edition is that this is classic Borderlands just as you remember it – and it’s fair to say that the game’s cel-shaded style still manages to hold up today. The key visual upgrade is indeed to texture quality, with much more detail – and this may account for a 19GB download size on PC up against the original’s 12GB. Lighting and colour grading also seems significantly punchier too up against the older version.
While the objective is to deliver a presentation fit for 4K displays, the same upgrades are present and correct across all versions of the game, with both base and enhanced machines delivering the same core art. Interestingly though, while HDR is supported, it is restricted to consoles only – the PC version is left behind in this area.
While there are variations elsewhere between the consoles, the good news is that gameplay tweaks are consistent across the board. These changes are small but significant, starting with the inclusion of a revised mini-map and inventory system that’s much easier to handle, and similar in nature to that featured in Borderlands 2. Characters also collect health and ammo automatically now, while the option to tweak field of view also proves welcome. Also impressive is a bump to local split-screen play from two players to four, though online-enabled accounts are required for each participant, which is a bit of a pain.
First impressions suggest that a decent level of thought and effort has gone into this remaster, but there are some concerns about the quality of the console conversions, particularly in terms of GPU utilisation. Borderlands always ran well on PC and bearing in mind that we’re looking at a decade-old title here playing out on much more advanced hardware, performance is less impressive than expected.
On the plus side, 60 frames per second is the target on all systems – but In order to keep frame-rates relatively consistent, dynamic resolution is in place on all consoles. That means we’re looking at a range between 1536×864 to full 1080p on the base PlayStation 4 (albeit with few dips below the target) which drops to a noticeably more variable 1440×810 to 1080p on the standard Xbox One. Meanwhile, the enhanced consoles also vary, with a 1440p to 1800p resolution window on PS4 Pro, widening out to 1440p to 2160p on Xbox One X.
Visual differences between the four console builds are minimal. Each receives the same texture pack, though the quality of anisotropic texture filtering improves significantly on the enhanced machines – though this could be down to the increased sampling delivered by a higher native resolution. Shadow clarity also gets a small upgrade on the enhanced consoles, presenting slightly crisper edges.
Bearing in mind that this game is almost a decade old now, it’s a little disappointing to see that even though DRS is in place, Borderlands GOTY still has some performance problems. All four console releases target 60 frames per second – but if the current scene can’t render in time, v-sync is temporarily disabled, resulting in tearing travelling across the entire screen. It keeps latency low, but it’s somewhat baffling to see Xbox One X’s six teraflop GPU unable to hold a consistent level of performance and likewise with the other consoles and their lower resolution targets. Pro and X stick to 60fps best, but even here, episodes between 50-60fps are possible. The performance window expands out a touch on the vanilla consoles, seeming to 45-60fps. The base PS4 is fairly solid overall, but it is still prone to some drops and tearing, while the base Xbox One is less consistent overall than any of the other versions.
Performance issues apart, Borderlands GOTY does the job in delivering a decent enough remaster for the current-gen systems but revised textures apart, it’s actually the quality of life tweaks that make the most impact here for the solo player. That said, boosting split-screen functionality from two to four players is a pleasant addition – it halves the frame-rate target from 60fps to 30fps, and there are still performance drops even then, but it does add somethng new to the overall experience. It’s an improvement, but not quite everything you want it to be – something that sums up the console versions of Borderlands GOTY quite succinctly.