Borderlands 3’s Review Situation Sure Is Strange

Borderlands 3’s Review Situation Sure Is Strange

Borderlands 3 reviews hit the internet very early today, but only at a select few websites, thanks to a bizarre scenario that publisher 2K says is in place because of security concerns.

Typically, video game reviewers work off early retail copies of games provided by publishers. They can be either digital or physical, and they function like any other game you’d buy in a store. Our forthcoming review of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, for example, will be based on an early retail code provided by Nintendo that functions just like the proper game will when it comes out on the eShop.

Occasionally, game publishers will send out very early game builds on “debug” consoles that work a little differently, but these days, that’s rare. Usually, reviewers are playing the same game that everyone else will — just a week or two earlier.

In the case of Borderlands 3, which comes out Friday for PC and consoles, things are unusual. Rather than sending out codes for the game, 2K gave reviewers special Epic Games Store accounts loaded up with early, work-in-progress builds of Borderlands 3 — a bizarre scenario that we’ve never seen before. As Polygon explained in their review:

2K Games and Gearbox didn’t send out review codes for Borderlands 3. Instead, they set reviewers up with new Epic Games Store accounts with the game unlocked, and gave us a few warnings about the game being a work in progress. They asked us to stay away from the DirectX 12 implementation, for example, and told us that our progress in these builds may or may not carry over to the final game.

As a result, Polygon reviewer Ben Kuchera wrote, he and some of his colleagues ran into some severe technical issues including random crashes and, in one case, someone losing six hours of progress and having to start from scratch (!!!!). Some other reviewers complained of technical problems; others did not.

Kotaku requested access to Borderlands 3 for a review but did not get access. A representative for 2K cited security concerns and told us we’d get code for the much-anticipated loot-shooter on Thursday, September 12, the day before it launches. (We’ll do our best to get you coverage as soon as we can.)

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the website VG247 reports that they and their fellow European video game outlets also haven’t gotten codes for security reasons.

This all comes a month after 2K and its parent company Take-Two went after a YouTuber who was posting leaked information about the game.


  • In other words, they’re expecting you to bag it and don’t want you getting the review out in time for people to cancel their pre-orders?

    • ‘Security reasons’ seems like a pretty transparent euphemism for ‘we only want positive reviews and you can’t be trusted’. The stupid thing is it doesn’t even work, because gamers will as wary (if not more) of a major media outlet being denied a review copy than they will be of a mixed or bad review.

        • Yeah, but looking at Metacritic’s review scores that seems to be an outlier. One even gave it a 95, which I just can’t accept as a believable assessment. And I say that as someone who really enjoyed the cooperative play of BL2 and TPS.

          • i believe that 95 would be IGN. according to davenport’s review, the main issues where the humour and mission structure of the campaign. at the end of his summary he states he doesnt even want to go through the campaign again for TVHM, which i think is pretty damning.

            Everything else was an improvement over 2 though

          • Doesn’t want to play the main part of the game again, but rated it 95/100. You’re right, that is damning, both for the game and for the score.

          • Ah, my bad, I thought Davenport was the IGN one. The 95 score was from some NL reviewer called ‘XGN’ apparently, though IGN gave it a 90.

        • Yeah but when you read the review, the primary critique seems to hinge on the humour, not the game itself? It’s got some fair points but nothing in it seems to really warrant that low a score?

      • Security reasons refer to Kotaku being blacklisted for leaking information and ruining reveals/announcements. Bethesda have also blacklisted Kotaku.

        • As the article notes, out a number of European media outlets (VG247 and others) also haven’t received codes for ‘security reasons’. It’s not just a Kotaku thing.

          • yeah i feel this is T2I trying to take as much advantage as possible to get one up over games media after the court win they had last year over against that british site which reported on leaks

  • This game is going to be a wait a few weeks and see for me. I’m concerned about the pc port and also how microtransactions are going to be implemented.

      • Well, some things are no-brainers. The Zelda remake. Surge 2. Cyberpunk.
        But yeah, people should definitely be wary of anything by 2K/Take Two in particular.

        • The Zelda remake and Surge 2 have both been very technically rough in previews and absolutely should not be considered no Brainers.

          I also thought the first Surge was awful but I guess that’s more subjective.

          • I played it three times through for the platinum and fourth time because I loved it so fucking much which I guess makes it a no-brainer only from my apparently uncommon perspective. 😛

        • Oh 100% I was more leading towards the games that have some kind of micro transactions or ones that are deliberately obscure on what they are.

  • As an aside, review copies haven’t been offered to Kotaku Australia either (but I’ve also not directly asked for one – I’ve got plenty on my plate at any given moment, so I’m not especially concerned. I’ll just buy the game later this week if it comes to that or if people especially want me to cover BL3).

    • Yeah it’s bizarre. It’s a huge title which has a strong fan base. Maybe they are being cocky, assuming it will sell either way..
      I found borderlands 2 (the only one I’ve played) to have weird shooting controls that seem to hit the target or not hit the target at random… I’ve played plenty of shooters and not encountered something so game breaking for me…

      • Personally I’ve been a fan since the first game but more because of the characters, story and world then the game mechanics so I don’t mind it not being spot on as long as it’s serviceable

      • Yeah, it was even worse in the first one. Bullets go straight through their target sometimes. I’m hoping the few things that pissed me off about BL2, and they were few, have been updated. Like that.

    • I’m sure the T&Cs allow exceptions for stuff Epic has approved.

      I have a suspicion that the difficulty of providing early review access goes hand-in-hand with Epic’s apparent struggles to get preloading sorted out, and this is their compromise.

      Might possibly be something to do with the game reportedly still not being ready for prime-time, and the likelihood that the Day One ‘make everything not crash and wipe peoples’ saves’ patch might very well be about the same size as the full game, meaning the servers are going to do double the work, now, and customers effectively have to download twice.

      It’d certainly explain Epic’s reluctance to do preloading until it made headlines as yet another point that they’re weaker than Steam on.

      • From the article it sounds like they’re still working frantically on it to iron out bugs. So rather than hand out a “release” version that’s full of bugs still they’re handing out the older version and saying “yeah of course it’s buggy, it’s an old version”. Great way to cover their arse, but bad if you’re trying to provide a genuine review of the game.

        Definitely sounds like a “wait a few weeks before buying” game.

  • So basically the game isn’t finished and we should expect a 10gb day one patch?
    I did pre-order this game, only because it is an Epic game store exclusive and such games end up being more expensive after release (amazon had it for $48 AUD).
    Let’s hope its not a total dud!

  • Last week I bought the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey “XP boost” – basically $15AUD for a cheat code – and no matter how dirty and stupid that makes me feel… in contrast I will not be going anywhere near Borderlands 3 until late 2020 at the earliest. So much is rotten about how this game is being presented and reviewed it deserves to be boycotted outright for now.

    • The XP boost was pretty pointless until the loooong after release patch that added additional levels past 50 so that there was actually a point to getting XP.

      Heh. I hit 50 within the first week or so, I could not possibly imagine what anyone was complaining about on launch with regard to that utterly unnecessary (at that point) XP boost.

      Now? Yeah, now that seems like a really valuable purchase.

  • So the big question is: Is this Epic’s doing, 2K’s doing or a bit of both? Is this going to be how it is for Epic exclusives from now on? We’ve had several Epic exclusives release without weird review situations but I wouldn’t be surprised if Epic changed the rules in light of the increasing backlash against them or because they changed how games are made available on their platform.

    • If this was Epic’s fuckery, I expect we would never, ever hear about it. At least not from all the publications I read who are firmly in a pro-Epic/anti-Valve camp.
      “B-but… EGS is the Chosen One! Those Younglings had it coming, right?”

      Seems unlikely to be just Epic, though.
      Take-Two and 2K deserve their notoriety. They’re not good people.

      • remember Take2 were the very first greedy cunts to force the infamous Australia tax 2 weeks after borderlands first released on steam when the aussie dollar was getting stronger against the US dollar.

        They upped the priced from 49USD to 70USD 2 weeks after launch claiming that price before hand was a mistake, thats how big of a pack of greedy shit cunts they are. Not even EA or Activision did that

  • This sounds not unlike what I had to do when I got review code for Civilization VI’s Rise And Fall expansion, except through some weird 2K program and my existing Civ VI Steam install. It was a really strange way to distribute the software and it left me with two entries for Civ VI in my Steam games list.

    • I’ve beta-tested a LOT of games, and it’s still weird and frustrating to me that regardless of the platform, I always have the remnants there in my libraries, unable to be dislodged. PSN, Steam, uPlay, Origin, Epic, whatever… everyone shows my past beta/demo access in my library.

      • I think I still have (or at least did until recently) a gift copy of the Payday 2 beta in my Steam inventory, which can’t be cashed in (it’s already active on my account) and can’t be gifted (because the beta doesn’t exist any more). Granted, after 16 years and 800 games it’s the only example of that problem I’ve had on Steam, but it was always frustrating seeing it in my inventory and not being able to do anything about it.

  • Or we can wait for the dust to settle, the buggy PC port issues to be resolved… and that will take 6 months and tgrn we can buy it on Steam 😛

  • I mean, we all know the real reason is that they’re concerned about how negative the reviews are gonna be and are trying to keep consumers uninformed until it’s too late.

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