The idea behind Borderlands: The Handsome Collection was enticing: billed as the definitive console editions of Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel, the remaster promised full HD visuals and a smooth 60fps update on both PS4 and Xbox One. Unfortunately, the launch code felt distinctly uneven and lacking in polish, with a wildly variable frame-rate and intrusive screen-tear. Last week, Gearbox Software released patch 1.02 to tackle these performance issues in addition to squashing a number of bugs. Weighing in at around 9GB on both consoles (around 7GB for The Pre-Sequel and 2GB for Borderlands 2 on Xbox One), the update is remarkable, a genuine game-changer. The developer has finally handed in something closely resembling the experience we were hoping for - 1080p60 gameplay on both PS4 and Xbox One.
An initial look at the PS4 patch reveals substantial upgrades in performance, with demanding scenes operating at far higher frame-rates than the day one code. An early gunfight in a large control room initially suffered from regular bouts of screen-tear and heavy frame-rate drops, creating judder and highly variable controller response. By comparison, after the latest 1.02 patch is installed, frame-rates stick closely to the desired 60fps refresh with only a few minor dips in smoothness that manifest as occasional brief pauses, which are short and rare enough not to cause offence.
The same level of optimisation is found in throughout the game: small fire-fights play out without a a hitch, while locations sporting long draw distances mostly retain the target 60fps - something that definitely wasn't the case previously. Tearing remains present but far, far less of an issue than it was previously, with only a few odd torn frames sneaking in when the engine can't quite hit its target 16ms frame-time.
There are similarly impressive improvements on Xbox One. Frame-rates now stick closely to 60fps during smaller skirmishes, the performance remaining solid during larger battles featuring multiple enemies and boss characters. Just like PS4, early shoot-outs in the control centre now appears smooth and fluid, while the constant tearing that previously created a distinct wobble across the screen when traversing large environments is completely eliminated. The latest patch effectively provides a mostly v-synced gameplay experience, with the action only very briefly interrupted by very occasional split-second pauses. Again, tearing is still evident, but its appearance is limited, making it almost a non-issue during gameplay.
Overall, the latest update for Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is something of a revelation, finally giving us the definitive console version of the game we were initially hoping for, offering a worthy upgrade for owners of the Xbox 360 and PS3 releases of Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel. In effect we are now getting the promised 1080p60 gameplay with no trade-offs - everything achieved here seems to be the result of thorough optimisation, as opposed to downgrading the experience. We get full HD resolution on both platforms and in terms of equivalent PC quality settings, the console versions are effectively maxed out, with only the Nvidia PhysX effects missing.
It's not often that a patch arrives that truly provides a game-changing experience, but The Handsome Collection's 1.02 offering is exactly that. In the original Face-Off, we lamented the performance issues on console and reckoned that the PC version remained the best bet overall. This patch changes things: the combination of good performance plus the ability for owners of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions to port over their progress to Xbox One and PS4 respectively now makes the Handsome Collection more enticing than the PC game. It's a shame that the remaster wasn't this good at launch, but its issues are mostly resolved and as such, it's highly recommended.
UPDATE 26/5/15 8:48am: Updated with the correct PS4 vs Xbox One frame-rate test video, apologies for any confusion!
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