Borderlands 2's Killer PC Version Gives Us A Taste Of The Future

Last night, as I sat there playing the excellent PC version of Borderlands 2 on my big ol' TV, I couldn't shake the feeling that the next generation of gaming is already upon us.

The PC version of Borderlands 2 is fantastic. (The game itself ain't half bad, either.) I've only played the Xbox 360 version at various conventions, but I'll say without hesitation that the PC version is the definitive version. Gearbox has clearly learned a thing or two from the lackluster PC port of the first Borderlands — the sequel's PC version is a shining example of PC porting done right. It starts with the impressive array of PC settings — everything a PC diehard would want is in there, from tweakable FOV to an adjustable HUD size.

Everything in the game works flawlessly — menus are slick, controller integration is seamless, but if you want, you can switch immediately to the mouse and keyboard and back again. For example, you could do the first-person parts with a keyboard and mouse while driving with a controller.

(Click to embiggen.)

Functionality is only part of the success — Gearbox has also gone to great pains to make the PC version look better than its console counterparts. Not only does the game's colourful cell-shaded art style really pop in full 1080p resolution, but the explosions and water effects look unlike anything I've seen on either of my consoles. The draw-distance is a big notch above consoles, as well, which is great, since unlike the first game, Borderlands 2 features some breathtaking vistas.

Combine that with Steam's wonderful new big picture mode, and my PC really does feel like a next-gen console.

The video here is humorously short (and might not always stream in HD), but I wanted to post it just so you could get a sense of what I'm talking about. The crispness of the graphics, the sharp sky against the rocks, the way the mountain is reflected and skewed by my sniper-scope — it's all so colourful and rich. Though man, I'm frustrated with this video — it just doesn't convey how good the game looks in high-res on a big screen. I kinda of wish I could somehow have you all over to my apartment to show you what it looks like in real life. (Well, no, I guess I don't wish that. All the same, it'll never quite come across in a streaming online video.)

In Kate's post yesterday about Borderlands 2's PC settings, commenter TheApina remarked:

How can you tell that the industry is going to shits? When a famous gamer and a YouTuber has to make a video and an online gaming blog has to write an article about how the PC port of a sequel to a successful and famous first-person shooter doesn't suck. I mean, it's a bit a surreal, don't you guys think? Imagine if Kotaku had written an article about Half-Life 2 back in the day and about how its PC port doesn't suck, because the opposite is generally expected.

That's true — things really have flipped over the last 10 or so years. Used to be, console ports of PC games were the terrible ones, and the PC version was king. But the ubiquity and relative power of consoles changed things, and suddenly, it became just as likely that a PC port would feel rushed and wouldn't take advantage of any of the PC's hardware advantages.

How nice, then, to see the tide turning again. Just as we saw a little while ago with the fabulous PC version of Sleeping Dogs, developers and publishers seem to have cottoned to the notion that a good PC version of a game can mean better sales on that platform. (What a conclusion!) What's more, and I'm only guessing here, it's also likely that developers have gotten so good at using sexy tech that current-gen Directx 9 consoles can't handle that it's relatively easy for them to make their PC versions truly superior, as opposed to up-res'd ports.

Of course, Borderlands 2 is still current-gen. It's a really nice looking, smooth playing current-gen game, but the PC version isn't substantively different than the console version. It doesn't have the amazing AI, vast number of interlocking systems, and other advanced features we're all hoping to see in the future, when consoles all have a lot more memory and processing capability. All the same, playing it with Big Picture on my TV tastes future-y to me. Who knew that the future would taste like candy-colored guns?

Bravo to Gearbox for dedicating the time and resources to make their PC version was as good as their game deserves. Now, if only I could convince all my friends to get it on Steam, we could all play together…


    Honestly at this point with developers beginning to gear up for next gen hardware, Windows 7 (and thus DirectX 11) market finally edging out Win XP's and so on, if you've got a decent gaming PC then just about every game that has a PC version is going to be better on PC than console, at least for the next 18-24 months.

    There is decent multi monitor support as well, only a few menus are out of place but it had decent fov scaling.
    I managed to play about 10 min of the story before work today and i'm definitely impressed.

    Developers! Is it really that bloody difficult to add an FOV slider, anti-aliasing, decent resolution customisation and an opening screen that doesn't say "press start"? Obviously not! So why not just humor us and quit locking out a fanbase because of dumb oversights?

      FOV slider : already there
      anti-aliasing : FXAA is there
      resolution customisation : already there
      Opening screen : No press start button on PC version

      Not sure what are you talking about there. Unless you are playing console verson of the game

        I think he was saying that if Gearbox can do it why cant anyone else.

          Yes, this.

            I said this a few days ago, but I think it's worth repeating.

            This exchange above is why I like reading Kotaku comments -> there will always be slight misunderstandings and differences of opinion about stuff. But commenters here seem like real people that discuss reasonably.

            The above interaction could have ended with swearing and noob-calling, as with many other forums. I like how it went here.

              It's funny, because Kotaku has the reputation of being one of the worst social groups on the internet.

    Just collected my loot chest PC version, as gimicky as it is i was impressed by what was in the box.
    Sitting all shiney on my desk at work.

    Im keen as mustard to get home tonight and play till the wee hours.

      Yeah hoping my one arrives today... :) can't wait, I did enjoy the first one.

      My PC loot chest is also at work. Sitting under my desk begging to be played with. Then there's the loot chest!

    Playing this on my HP Envy 6 laptop and its kicking butt!!!! Gotta love Steam and Gearbox!!!

    Im more into games like borderlands for the couch coop with my bro, so its still ganna be a console buy for me, regardless of the fact that the PC version is a million times better :P but yeah, mostly i buy for PC and im tired of quick and lazy console ports to PC. (Or even cheap and bad ports between consoles)

      Hook up the PC to the TV, run Steam Big Picture, plug in a second controller. Then you're there!

        I was under the impression there was no local coop for the PC version...

    how does it run on low settings?

    I dont think I can cope with playing another game with a gamepad

    I want a website where I can plug this game (or any game) into a search field, then plug my PC's specs in, and then I find out if my PC can not just run it, but run it well. Maybe even show an approximate example of the result.

    Is there such a site?

      Google is your friend. There's a site alled canyourunit that does pretty much exactly that, although I'd take it with a grain of salt. that should be pretty much what you want Leigh, if not thy come up pretty easy in google

        I appreciate this site, but I wish there were an option to manually put in specs so it can help me decide on what to purchase.
      Yes this site!

        I'm not on the PC I'd be playing it right now. My AMD Radeon should cover it. Cheers.

          If it helps, i'm running it with a 2GB 6950, and it looks amazing, no dropped frames at all, smooth as butter.


    Its done cheaply and poorly and you won't be getting any money from this gamer.

    Bring on the weekend, got 3 mates lined up and clear schedule. LAN time!

    The same could be said about Sleep Dogs in relation to "porting done right"..

    I run it maxed out in 1440p and it has been optimized really well, about 30% higher frame rates than sleeping dogs, and much smoother. Pc gaming has started looking up

      Also - How good is shooting ropes in two? The advanced physX stuff is phenominal

    My biggest complaint about this article is the video encoding really annihilates the crispness. So pleased with Borderlands 2, however!

    and the future is apparently dot net 4. Which i had to just install.

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