Borderlands 2 VR is both a good and bad example of how to retrofit games for VR

Since the launch of PlayStation VR we’ve have had fans clamouring for full-sized games for the system. The common wisdom might be that you need to have games developed specifically for VR, there are others that try to retrofit ports to the system. Borderlands 2 VR proves yet again that it’s possible to retrofit games, but that it can come at a cost.

Just looking at the port’s features, you can see the compromises. You don’t get any of the DLC, which seems very cheap considering it was all ported to the PS Vita, the remasters and how old the game is now, and this is a solo experience, so you can’t play online with three friends as you could in the original game.

But on the other hand, they have tried to make up for that with some VR-only features. Your powers have been boosted significantly to make the game much easier, helping to make up for not having buddies along for the ride, and there’s also a new mechanism called Bad Ass Mega Fun Time, or BAMF for short. This allows you to slow time which gives a huge advantage; dodging attacks and lining up shots is a doddle.

The game has plenty of comfort settings, and you can move via teleport and swivel in snaps if you like, but I rarely get motion sickness so turned everything off and used a DualShock rather than Move controllers. In this set up you aim your guns by looking at the target and I found this much easier than using a joypad to aim. Headshots are super easy now, and you now sit in the cockpit of vehicles when driving rather than floating above in third person view.

As ever, Claptrap is present to explain how things work and has new dialogue which relates to the new features found in the VR version. After his brief tutorial you can head off and explore Pandora and there’s a definite ‘wow factor’ of stepping into a game you have only experienced as flat 2D screen, and the stylised colourful graphics really help the immersion. You feel like you are wandering around a comic book.

If you have played the game on a previous format then there’s less of a reason to dive into VR. The story and characters remain the same, and given that you might have run multiple characters across the original release and remaster, you might not feel the need to play the game again. Even so there’s something rather wonderful about just being ‘in’ Pandora rather than simply watching it.

Sadly the port to VR hasn’t been entirely successful. All of the cutscenes are still pre-rendered, so they appear as a flat display in your headset and the jump to and from these is rather jarring. The icons and health bars are positioned quite centrally in your field of view and can be distracting, while there’s still a bit of texture pop in when you load in to a location which is even more noticeable in VR.

However, it’s a small, almost insignificant effect found in the original game that caused me to most headaches in Borderlands 2 VR. You may recall that when you pick up ammo or weapons rather than vanish or quietly slide away somewhere, the items spin excitedly straight towards you character. Not a problem on a flat screen, but in VR it means you are continually getting things thrown at your face and it’s hard to resist the urge to duck and weave as a box of bullets makes a beeline for your noggin.

There’s been plenty of success bringing last generation games to VR, with the brilliance of Wipeout Omega Collection and the draw of exploring Skyrim yet again from a very different point of view. Borderlands 2 VR mixes good with bad, though. Not having the DLC and reusing pre-rendered cutscenes feels a bit low rent, and you’re forced to be Billy no-mates in a game that was all about playing with chums in co-op, but on a technical level the comfort settings and things like BAMF means it works really well in VR. Borderlands 2 VR is a good example of a VR retrofit, but it’s not perfect and not as good as just playing the remastered collection with a few friends.

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