Split-screen has been a feature in Borderlands since the series’ inception, and thankfully, it hasn’t gone anywhere. Borderlands 3 still offers the ability to not only play through the game in split-screen, but to have your friend link their account to your console and get achievements through their playthrough. In an era where local co-op continues to go the way of the dinosaur, it’s refreshing, to say the least.
But try as I might, it’s hard to recommend playing through Borderlands 3 with a local partner when it’s in such an abysmal state.
This starts at a base performance level. Obviously, split-screen in any game is going to cause a hit in framerate, but it’s especially woeful in Borderlands 3. On a PS4 Pro, the game chugs to a near-halt when the game’s graphical settings are focused on resolution, making it borderline unplayable. Things fair a bit better in performance mode, but it’s still not optimal, and still outdone by other games with local co-op.
But things really start to get dicey when it comes to navigating menus. The game’s menus aren’t the most efficient things in the world to begin with, but they absolutely destroy a local co-op playthrough at times. Opening up a menu when your co-op partner is in a firefight is basically a form of accidental griefing. The game slows, stutters, and even outright freezes for seconds at a time. It’s baffling how the simple act of opening a menu can cause the rest of the game to essentially up and die, and unacceptable when so much of your time with the game will be spent in said menus.
This problem persists when both players are in menus, even. There were instances where my buddy and I were both working on skill trees, and had to wait an upwards of twenty to thirty seconds just to get into that menu. Not only that, but there were instances where the menu just straight-up wouldn’t load, forcing me to exit out, open the menu again, then wait and wait as my friend’s framerate took a massive hit. And even when we both managed to navigate the menus, it was a slow, choppy process that took forever to just allocate a skill point and equip a new weapon.
The performance issues aren’t the only problem, however. Graphical bugs and glitches galore plague local co-op – ones that I haven’t even seen in my single-player playthrough. Subtitles will randomly change size and plaster themselves into weird areas of the screen. Triggering cutscenes while in a menu can plaster and stretch the menu overlay over the cutscene, partially obscuring vital story beats. Certain menu text shrinks to a completely illegible jumble in some cases, and the size can’t be changed.
The worst part of this? I really, really dig Borderlands 3. It’s a fun, streamlined shooter with loads of personality, lots to do, and some of the best shooter mechanics of 2019 – not to mention the fun, whacked-out narrative and (mostly) lovable characters. But for me, this series is about playing with friends. I’m playing through my co-op run with my best friend of fourteen years, who I spent countless hours in high school doing practically everything there was to do in the first game. To sit down, all this time later, and to have a game that runs worse, acts worse, and is more glitchy than one from 2009 is an abysmal experience, and distracts us from actually having fun with the thing.
Maybe Gearbox will issue a patch and fix all this up soon, but in the meantime, Borderlands 3’s split-screen is a real mess and definitely not the ideal way to play the game.