Charleyy Hodson writes for Bleeding Cool
The situation seems totally helpless. Death faces me on every side. I look to my friends and see them in sheer desperation. The end is nigh. I close my eyes and expecting death, but instead feel the cool steel of Loader Bot underneath my buttocks as I'm rescued for the fourth time with his convenient timing and charming sentience. Minus the real life knowledge of what it feels like to fly atop a faithful robot minion, one thing's for sure; TellTale's newest instalment of the Tales From The Borderlands collection is as erratic and raucously humorous as it's predecessors.
Following on from the formulaic 'tough endgame decision' in the Episode 2 which left you choosing between the dead crazy guy in your brain or your derisive con-woman side kick, Catch-A-Ride continues on with the powerful theme of unreliable narrators and launches the player into a 3 hour rom-com/apocalyptic hell-hole. For hardcore devotees of the Borderlands franchise, some of the highlights of this new episode comes from the surprising entrance of 2 of the original Vault Hunting ensemble – Brick and Mordecai.
Sadly, whilst protagonists Rhys and Fiona (if you really can try to classify them as the 'good guys') are portrayed superbly through their voice acting and attention to scriptwriting, it seems that the effect of Handsome Jack in any narrative he touches immediately overpowers everything. In both Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel, Jack's self-confidence and douchey attitude effectively culminated in his total dominance and dictatorship over Pandora and Helios. His devilish plots made for an extraordinary narrative drive throughout both titles and in the process created one of the most memorable antagonists for years – in my opinion, anyway.
However, as set up in some of his funnier scenes in the third episode of this season, Catch-A-Ride, it's clear that his old ways are destined to become the downfall for his new host. His love for death and destruction is seemingly about to take significant influence over Rhys. It's genuinely thrilling to watch Jack in action, even if he is stealing the metaphorical spotlight from two brand new characters. That isn't to say that they aren't than capable of holding their own though, even amongst Jack's irreverent whirlwind.
At times, Jack was left feeling like the crutch of the game – this style and flair make for easy enjoyment, but quite often you just find yourself wishing he'd pipe down to let other narrative elements breathe.
Regarding the expansion of previous episodes, CAR never loses a beat from it's constantly switched on sense of humour and awareness of the form, as it toys with mindless-menu narration and quips about the Borderlands plot timeline. With bad guys working with even worse bad guys to make deals with complete assholes, the choices become more difficult to select as the futileness becomes apparent and you realise that you're screwed eventually anyway.
New narrative additions to this episode come in the form of the Gortys project, and the disequilibrium the game has been driving towards solving. It ends up being freaking adorable. Honestly, I won't ruin it for you, but the reveal of this 'project' became one of my favourite things about the sequel. It sticks it to those who really do take Borderlands games too seriously. It's genius.
Furthermore, this episode begins to offer up the usual 'romantic' dialogue as is expected with TellTale games. It was somewhat of a relief however, to see the path for TFTB's star-crossed lovers still mocked and self-referential from the beginning. At this point in the game, it's clear that TellTale have thoroughly immersed themselves into every possible nook of their games in order to make it faithful to it's lofty expectations.
Unfortunately, at times, the game seems to fall into fairly predictable patterns – and I'm not talking about the 'big final decision' you come to anticipate in all TellTale games. Instead, as previously mentioned with the Loader Bot, Catch-A-Ride very rarely leaves the player with a sense of satisfaction as the resolution to most disputes is settled through a cinematic interjection laced in luck and coincidence.
Additionally, whilst your gang of loveable rogues rapidly grows without an RSVP invitation to do so, the plot becomes derailed by the Gortys project and the original drive to open up a new Vault is sidelined. The new focus is the Energy Chassis for your new companion. That's it. About ¾ of this episode is dedicated to a Fetch Quest.
The episode stalls to an abrupt destination in order to set-up for the next release Escape Plan Bravo in an otherwise satisfying 3 hour gaming experience. Having said that, I'm still impressed with the ways in which TellTale are able to recreate a notoriously fast-paced FPS shooter into a gripping 'talkie' with challenging quicktime events.
At times the animation is clunky, the pacing for jokes is off and more than once I'm ask myself why Vallory is supposed to be an intimidating 'Queenpin bad guy' when she looks equivalent to a GALA Bingo regular. These are anomalies though. Catch-A-Ride is a fast and droll addition to a successful new TellTale series that puts the player back behind two half-rounded protagonists that I really hope will be continued in the newest 2K release – assuming they don't die, of course.
And lets not put that past Telltale.
As a 23-year-old British woman, Charleyy Hodson enjoys sampling the finest Pandoran delicacies, walks on the beach and swearing profusely on the Internet. Over the past 5 years she has nurtured the alias of 'Confessions of a Gamer Girl' online, eventually being crowned one of the 'top 5 influential female gaming bloggers in the UK under 30'. And yes, she also thinks that's an awful lot of qualifiers. If you ever get bored, she's normally ranting on Twitter about poor children's programming – @CharleyyHodson.