Co-op always makes games better. One outstanding multiplayer focused franchise is Borderlands, which just released its third numbered entry this month. Save for some performance issues, Gearbox's newest title has received great praise from critics and fans alike. It's not the only cooperative shooter, though; nor is it the only one centered around collecting loot.
Destiny and The Division are two big names that come to mind from the genre. To compare the cel-shaded franchise to games of a similar ilk, the following list will present five things Borderlands 3 does better than other cooperative shooters, and five things it does worse.
10 Better: Solo Play
Many games designed for cooperative play often feel like something is missing when playing alone. Either AI partners replace humans, or the other characters' powers compliment each others' skills and don't work well on their own. Borderlands 3 avoids this by never including AI team-mates and giving each character enough power to survive without assistance.
With three action skills to choose from, even classes typically thought of as support roles can be modified to put up a good fight while tackling the story solo. Of course, playing with buddies is always preferred, but it's good to know lone wolves won't be left out in the cold.
9 Worse: No Consistently Updated Content
A lot of games have some sort of living element to them these days. In many co-op shooters, new weekly missions pop up, giving players something to go back to on a constant basis.
While the base game is packed with plenty of side missions and Gearbox is always generous with DLC, they don't add things for players to feast upon while waiting for the DLC. There is a new game plus, however, and some are even glad live service features aren't included.
8 Better: No Microtransactions
Microtransactions, loot boxes, and other money-making methods in the modern gaming market are a hot topic. Some games utilize them appropriately and they don't get in the way, while others nearly make them mandatory for an enjoyable experience.
The newest game in the franchise avoids these trappings by relegating microtransactions purely to cosmetic items. As of now, it is impossible to buy guns, mods, or skill points. 90% of the game's fun comes from the progression, so including this functionality would ruin the experience.
7 Worse: Performance
Borderlands 3 has some glaring performance issues. The high resolution mode on the beefed up consoles barely reaches thirty frames per second, and the occasional glitch forces players to reload their file in order to progress through a mission.
The worst offense, however, is how laggy the pause menu gets. Going in and out of it takes several seconds, when it should be instantaneous. Gamers don't expect it to run at sixty frames per second without drops, but a solid thirty with a working pause menu isn't asking too much. Perhaps patches will address these issues.
6 Better: Narrative
Most co-operative shooters put story on the back burner in favor of pushing players through to the next arena as fast as possible. The first Borderlands even falls prey to this, as it lacks detailed cutscenes and scripted events.
Thankfully, the new entry has cinematics and scripted events that don't take control away from the player. The supporting cast are all unique and memorable, even if they aren't always likeable. Compare that to something like The Division, and most people couldn't even remember the names of NPCs that one.
5 Worse: Competitive Modes
The series has always been about co-operation and teamwork, and that's okay. However, sometimes people just want to duke it out. One can always initiate duels, but they are brief instances taking place on the world map and not tried-and-true deathmatches.
The characters aren't balanced for such a mode, but it still stings for some that no multiplayer suite is in the game. At the same time, others are fine with its exclusion and are happy Gearbox focused all its efforts on a smooth co-operative experience.
4 Better: Humor
Some games take themselves too seriously to the point of feeling like a parody. When dramatic dialogue is done wrong it becomes its own source of comedy. Borderlands eschews any sense of realism or attempt at grit. Not everyone enjoys the humor, but trying to be funny all the time is better than being overly dour.
Borderlands is a lot of things, but overly serious? Definitely not. In combination with the cartoon look and goofy hidden secrets, this goes a great length towards differentiating the series from games like Fallout.
3 Worse: Can't Run Into Other Players
A cool feature of co-operative shooters is the chance to see other players going about their business. Even when you're going solo, it makes you feel a part of something bigger.
On Pandora or any of the other locations players visit in Gearbox's game, such occurrences are impossible. The only other players in the world are the buddies you bring along. The party will never see another group doing a different quest or just goofing around.
2 Better: Split-Screen
In an age where most games are doing away with local options, Borderlands is still letting close friends and family progress through the story on the couch through one console. Granted, Borderlands 3 can run poorly in split-screen, but the option exists, and that is more than many other co-operative games can say.
Hopefully, Gearbox remedies the local multiplayer issues in a patch. At the end of the day, multiplayer is still a blast even if it runs poorly: just look at Goldeneye on the N64.
1 Worse: Fewer Customization Options
Character creation in some games offers an unbelievable amount of options. Sometimes it is almost too much to handle. Borderlands 3 lacks hefty customization options. Having established characters with predetermined skill sets is nice, and a series staple, but more ways to make that character one's own would be appreciated.
As of now, it's just a series of skins and heads to purchase. It's doubtful the series will ever let somebody make a character from scratch, and not everybody wants that, but people also like leaving a creative mark on the avatar they are controlling.