Borderlands 3 Hands-On: Loot, Shoot and Laughter

Loot, shoot, repeat -- or is it shoot, loot, repeat? Either way, all that matters is Borderlands 3 is on its way and it’s time to dust off the old trigger finger and return to Pandora.

I had the opportunity to go hands-on with the latest installment of 2K’s first-person shooter RPG, and September 13 can’t get here soon enough.

It’s Like Riding a Bike

It’s been five years since the last run-and-gun fest and I was worried I was a bit rusty, But as soon as that controller was in my hand, it was like I’d never left Pandora. Sure, there are new vault hunters with different classes and powers, but the name of the game is still shoot everyone in the room and take everything that isn’t nailed to the ground.

It was only a matter of seconds before I looted a Tediore shotgun off a random enemy and using it to send my enemies to the bandit graveyard via big, beefy shots. I’d forgotten that Tediore guns turn into grenades after every reload, but it didn’t take long before I was keeping track of my shots and using the bang from the literal boomstick to my advantage.

Switching between that and a long-range Vladolf assault rifle and I was soon mowing down my enemies and taking my time to loot the corpses and surrounding loot boxes. It’s a refreshing trip down memory lane, but with new characters, there’s plenty of room for fun, new memories.

The Story Thus Far

Borderlands 3, like most entries in the series, places you, the Vault Hunter on the lawless world of Pandora. This time around, the new threat to the planet and the universe comes from the Calypso Twins, Tyreen and Troy. The twin egomaniacs have created a dangerous cult called the Children of the Vault and with their legions of followers, are looking to plunder vaults to use all the powerful goodies inside to take over the universe. As a vault hunter, it’s up to you to get their first and get all the loot for yourself –– and stop the evil threat of course.

Don’t worry, you’ll have help. Borderlands has always been equal parts a shooter and a fan service machine. In addition to other new vault hunters, 2K has also brought back fan-favorite characters to aid you in your battle including the Siren, Lillith, who is the current commander of the rebel Crimson Commandos. There’s also Claptrap, the annoying mascot of the series, Sir Hammerlock, Brick, Ellie, Mad Moxxie, Tiny Tina and Zer0, the robot ninja just to name a few.

The road to the vault will be paved with countless bandit bodies, irreverent humor and guns, lots and lots of guns.

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To Pandora and Beyond

Outside of the outlandish humor and ridiculous amount of ways to kill someone, something that’s always kept Borderlands as one of my favorite shooters is the hand-painted, comic-book art style. The wastes of Pandora have always been beautiful, vacillating between icy blue-white tundras to sepia-toned deserts dotted with glowing crystals and sparse undergrowth.

This time around 2K is using its distinctive art style to flesh out worlds beyond Pandora. Thanks to the Sanctuary III, a large spaceship and your home base, you’ll have the ability to visit new planets on your hunt for vaults. Like Pandora, each planet will have its own unique look. For instance, planet Eden 6’s environment is based off the Louisiana swamps. And in order to make each world feel like an alien planet, each one will have its own distinct day and night cycle with unique lighting effects.

New Classes

Before you start vault hunting, you’ve got to pick a class. Depending on what you pick, it will unlock fun unique skills to help you on your quest. This time around you have Fl4k the Beast Hunter get a little help from his various animal friends to take down baddies. Taking some inspiration from the Mecromancer class in Borderlands 2 and a touch from D.Va in Overwatch, Moze, the Gunner employs a huge mech named Iron Bear that can be outfitted with all sorts of guns and can even act independently of Moze depending on the skill specs.

Zane Flynt, the Operative uses a mix of gadgetry and subterfuge to keep enemies unbalanced. His skill set allows him to send out a clone of himself to distract hostiles. And if he’s taking too much fire, he can swap places with the clone, giving him time to recover. He also send a drone (SNTNL) into battle for a measure of machine-gun crowd control.

And last but not least, there’s Amara, the Siren class. Not to be confused with past Sirens Maya or Lillith, Amara’s Siren power unleashes six powerful arms that are capable of dealing a ridiculous amount of damage. One of her skills summons a giant fist from underground to grab and hold enemies in place while another sends forth an astral projection, destroying everything in its path.

So Many Guns

Borderlands main conceit has always been wanton destruction. But to properly wreak havoc, you’ll need guns and lots of them. 2K is more than happy to oblige, stuffing the game with 1 billion guns. Yep, you read that right. Billion with a “B.” Pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, grenade and rocket launchers, you name it and Borderlands 3’s got it –– more often than not with a weird twist.

Each of Borderlands guns comes from a company that tricks out their weapons with special traits. Some guns deal corrosive damage, while others have incendiary or electric damage. There are some guns that shoot other guns and yes, there’s a gun that runs and talks.

Running and Gunning with Friends

As much fun as mowing down bandits and random hostile alien fauna is, it's even better with friends. But depending on how much or how little you've played, it's likely that you and your friends will have earned different levels. And a level 20 playing with a level 8 is never fun. Until now.

Borderlands 3 will be the first in the series to introduce level scaling for co-op play. It means that you and a friend can loot and shoot together no matter your levels. And when you're done, you’ll both be rewarded with level-appropriate loot.


In a world of dark, grim shooters with bleak near future scenarios playing out, it’s nice to have a game that tackles saving the world with more than a little bit of humor. Borderlands 3 keeps the things I love about the series intact, while updating certain features just enough to make it feel like a modern shooter. I for one can’t want to send a multitude of bandits to their maker by way of a gun that shoots other guns. Can you?

Sherri L. Smith
Editor in Chief

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.