Hands-On Borderlands 3’s Classic Loot Shooter Gameplay at E3 2019

Gearbox's original loot shooter is back and looking better than ever.

June 23, 2019 by

In the five years since the last Borderlands game, we’ve seen the rise of other popular loot shooters like Destiny and Warframe. We’ve also seen the quick demise of others such as Anthem, The Division, and Gearbox Software’s own Battleborn.

Often used by players as evidence of how to do the genre right in today’s microtransaction era of gaming, Gearbox has picked the perfect time to bring back their beloved Borderlands series and are giving fans exactly what they want: More classic shootin’ n lootin’ action.

Introducing four brand new vault hunters, each with their own unique skill trees that allow players to play their own way. In our demo we played as Moze the Gunner, whose special ability allows her to instantly summon a mech suit around her.

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Moze and the mech she can summon as her special ability.

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One of the many new enemy class types in Borderlands 3.

In the character loadout screen, Moze’s mech arms could also be swapped out with various different big guns like flamethrowers, miniguns, and grenade launchers. Our demo wasn’t co-op, but when playing with friends, Moze’s talent tree also has an ability that allows other players to jump on and ride her mech.

While Gearbox’s return to the bright and colorful cel-shaded world of Pandora feels almost the exact same as it did so many years ago with updated graphics, we did notice improvements to the movement mechanics including the ability to now slide and mantle over objects.

Aside from the upgraded graphics, the biggest change is the increased amount of customization options. Similar to Warframe, weapons and armor have primary, secondary, and tertiary colors you can edit with hundreds of different choices and even tiny trinkets you can collect and attach to your weapons.

To add to the replayability, new bounty boards have been added which allow players to hunt down bosses with friends and collect unique items as rewards. Gearbox explained at E3 that bounties and their rewards are randomly generated, so going into a friend’s game can lead to finding something new that isn’t in your own story. Best of all, you can also now mail weapons to friends.

We only got about 20-minutes of hands-on time with Borderlands 3, which wasn’t nearly enough time to experience the “billions” of guns Gearbox claims the third game has to offer. But with guns that shoot guns and even guns with legs that run around and kill your enemies for you, we’re certainly excited to get our hands on even more unique and hilarious weapons.

Of course, the trademark humor is still present with plenty of dialog as you shoot and loot your way through each mission. In the level we played, we noticed some more modern video game references with the bosses live-streaming what we were doing and engaging with their chat.

Split-screen local co-op is also returning for everyone who wants to play the game with a friend in person, however, Gearbox’s new friendship with Epic Games has resulted in the game not coming to Steam at launch – a move which has upset a good amount of PC gamers to say the least, but wasn’t a surprise when reading Randy Pitchford’s cryptic tweets leading up to the game’s first announcement.

Borderlands 3 is set for release on September 13, 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Epic Game Store on PC.