After a decade of “Borderlands would be cool on Wii / Wii U / Switch” followed by thinking emojis, something finally happened. Borderlands 1, 2 and The Pre-Sequel have all come out on Switch and I’ve started playing the first game. These were released with no screenshots, footage or impressions so there’s some unknowns that I would like to quickly clear up in this impressions article. Firstly and most importantly, the game has motion controls! Rejoice!
It feels great and offers quite a large range of sensitivity options, with the highest being quite fast. It’s still a bit slower than Splatoon, but more sensitive than a lot of other third party efforts I have tried. Unfortunately I have noticed a tiny bit of gyro drift, but this is inherent to Switch hardware and I have not played a game without it. There’s no recenter button either, but you can move the right stick to correct it, or sit the controller still and it seems to stabilise itself. In Borderlands tradition, you can also map any command to any button.
The options are great, so how does the game run? Pretty much as good as it always has, at least for Borderlands 1. I can’t comment on the rest as I only bought this game, but it runs in 1080p at 30fps. This game is 13 years old so there are still remnants of last gen in there, with some outdated textures and janky animations. The image quality however is fantastic. Some of the indoor areas actually have been touched up quite significantly, with the art style bringing the geometry to life with expressive outlines. It’s a graphical style that has aged extremely well.
I recommend playing with the brightness setting too. It took me a while to notice how dark it was, but turning the brightness up made it look quite a bit better, especially indoors (the screenshots in this writeup are with the brightness on default). You can also widen the POV to your liking which lets you see more stuff on the screen.
Loading is also slightly improved. If you’re entering a small indoor area then the loading reflects it, taking about 10 seconds instead of 20 for the biggest areas. I haven’t timed this and I’m not a techspert (nor do I think it’s necessary) but as someone who’s played a LOT of Borderlands the loading had surprised me when it loads faster than I can drink my water.
He wasn’t drinking his water. These shots were taken in handheld mode and it seems to hold up well with no major graphical difference outside the resolution. A couple of textures are blurry but all the important objects are defined and it keeps the overall clean look. Motion controls also work in handheld mode by moving the system, and when you’re docked you can use either Joycons or the Pro Controller which both support motion. It’s nice that a game with local co-op has so many control options. I uploaded this clip to Twitter to show the motion controls moving around.
As someone who’s been playing a lot of Borderlands 3 in the past month, going back to the first game feels very different and more clunky. You don’t have the slide or ledge-grab anymore, and movement speed in general feels slower. Despite all this I’m enjoying it immensely. The atmosphere is primitive but less overwhelming, and it’s just nice to be an unknown vault hunter going back to basics. I’ve struggled with some early bosses, run out of ammo a few times, and flipped my car into Piss Wash Gully.
Here’s a screen I’ve never seen before. This is the first time I’ve seen a Switch game use the HOME menu to make things easier like this. When you are in a game you can hit “invite friend” on the lobby menu, and this is what comes up. It will take you straight to their online lobby where you can switch your character. Very smooth and no need for an app. I’ve tested split screen which seemed to work fine, but you need to have separate Switch accounts for some reason. I’ve also played online with 4 players and it worked with no errors, but there’s a little bit of lag on some inputs like jumping for some reason. It’s not a huge deal but single player naturally feels a lot smoother. You can also join random rooms or open up your game publicly, pretty much all the options you’d expect from past games.
Borderlands 1 and 2 on Switch all contain the full DLC campaigns. The second game actually has an extra option for motion controls, allowing you to set different sensitivity for the X and Y axis. They also support online mode with 3 friends, public rooms, and local split-screen. Pretty much everything you’d expect is here. Borderlands has finally landed on Nintendo systems and it’s amazing. Now people of all console backgrounds can gather around the fire and share Borderlands stories.
“This one time I killed a bandit”
“Yeah mate. Hundred percent.”
“And then what?”
“Then he was dead.”