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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review

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Graphics:

Even though The Pre-Sequel has released months after the newest generation of consoles launched, it has been developed for the previous generation, like Borderlands 2. I mention this because the graphics are, in many ways, the same as the previous title.

The style of the graphics does preclude some of the hyper-realism we see in other modern titles. While I would not want the style to change, the graphics left me wanting for a true next-gen game, or at least a high resolution texture pack for this one. In many places the textures were obviously blurred and compressed, making them quite ugly. For normal play this is not too horrible, as you are running around and not admiring the environmental details, but sometimes you may want to just look around or it can jump out at you. There was one mission that called for placing an object on the ground, and I watched it roll away. The object was of decidedly higher quality than the ground, and it is impossible to not notice the contrast. Fortunately in most places the textures just seemed soft and not in-your-face ugly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also encountered one bug in the game concerning the textures. Textures are just image files that are being applied to a mesh, and like any other image, have edges. Ideally these edges are never visible, but in one spot I found the texture's edge came before the edge of the mesh, giving me a view under the map.

 

 

Another issue, though less of a bug, has to do with the lighting. Yes, the lighting can be quite beautiful, with the sun illuminating part of Pandora and Helios, and the atmospheric effects. The problem is that Elpis has no atmosphere. There should be no light rays or diffraction, yet there they are, making for some beautiful sights. Granted, beauty is important in a video game, but with mechanics literally built around the lack of an atmosphere, you would think the graphics would appreciate it as well. (There are also fart jokes concerning methane you encounter, which are odd since the methane is liquid, you are in a vacuum, and methane actually does not have a smell.)

Besides those issues, and the PhysX implementation I am about to cover, the graphics are exactly what you would expect from any Borderlands game. The cel-shading-like styling is still used, with guns, characters, and vehicles still looking good. The game just could look better in some places, and I really wish it would.

Part of the idea behind PhysX is that CPUs cannot keep up with some of the more intense physics in video games. A GPU can handle the calculations much more easily, so by pushing the work to one, you can have much more intense and realistic physics. In theory the latter can be true, but not in The Pre-Sequel. Here PhysX is used purely for eyecandy that can be overwhelming to the point of absurdity. You can practically shoot walls and generate enough debris to build a new wall, and all of it can be disturbed. Sure it is kind of cool, but once I finish with this review, I am going to turn it off. It is just not necessary to this degree and can cause the game to slow. (I did the same thing and for the same reason with the previous game, which had similar PhysX.)

Besides the PhysX effects, there is not much in the way of fluids in the game. I cannot really remember coming across any water, and even fire was not too common in my playthrough. (I have not used many fire weapons, and things do not burn in a vacuum very well.) When I did encounter it though, the appearance was nothing special. It was obviously pre-rendered and being slapped onto the appropriate object. It does not look bad per se, but it is nothing impressive.

With that covered, time to share my specs and cover performance:

  • Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
  • GPU: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
  • PhysX: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit

All but three settings were enabled and maxed for my playthrough. Those three were depth-of-field, as a personal choice; PhysX, which I will explain in a bit; and FXAA, which I will explain after the period. Unlike MSAA and other AA solutions, FXAA is actually a post-processing filter, which is part of the reason it is so light on resources, but this also gives it one critical flaw: it can blur lines that are meant to be hard, such as text. I will almost always accept aliasing before blurry text, so I ran the game without it turned on. Fortunately there really was not much aliasing in the game, which may in part be due to the black outline surrounding many objects. In any case, that option was off. (I do want to say that this issue with FXAA is somewhat special to The Pre-Sequel. In other games with FXAA, I have not observed any text blurring.)

 

 

The reason PhysX was not set to its maximum setting of Ultra is because that setting is recommended only for those with a newer, top-of-the-line NVIDIA GPU. Considering the serious slowdowns I suffered when I tried playing at Ultra with my GTX 570 powering the PhysX, that recommendation seems accurate. What I did not think to do until now was to try letting the GTX 770 do the PhysX work and drive the display. With this configuration there was still a little bit of PhysX slowdown, but only enough to make it worth mentioning (i.e., not enough to step it down to High). Because I only ran that test after playing the game, I did play with PhysX set to high, and being done by my GTX 570. (Even knowing that the GTX 770 could handle it, I am still happy to have kept PhysX on High so that I do not need to change the driver setting for other games.)

At those settings, the game performed flawlessly at 60 FPS, save for the few PhysX slowdowns. This is not surprising though, given that it was designed for the previous generation of consoles.

One issue that occurred a few times, and I do not know why, was a screen dimming. It seemed to only happen when I opened up a fast travel menu and it dimmed almost like the backlight for my monitor went down a notch. I have never seen this happen before or outside of the game, so I doubt it is actually my monitor's backlight. Normally it fixed itself once I moved the cursor over a location.

I did encounter issues with NPCs multiple times, where they simply went places they should not. I witnessed an NPC walk off a platform, floating in the air until it got reset to where the NPC should be placed. Another mysteriously ascended a wall before snapping back to the ground. An enemy even ran inside of a metal beam, which made shooting it a little tricky. Also I found a pair of robot legs hanging in the air once and I have no idea how they got there. These are not very important issues, but ones I wish were caught and fixed prior to release.

 

Before concluding this section, I do want to mention something odd. The minimum and recommended system requirements listed for the The Pre-Sequel state that you need 13 GB and 20 GB of free space, respectively. I have no idea where these numbers are coming from as the install is only 5.73 GB.

Altogether I think the best summary I can give of the graphics would be that it is Borderlands graphics, could really use a high-resolution texture pack, and that PhysX is very overdone. It runs well and looks good, but could still use some improvements and is largely unremarkable.




  1. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review - Introduction
  2. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review - Graphics
  3. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review - Story
  4. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review - Gameplay
  5. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review - Conclusion
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