2K love’s Switch, but do we love these ports?

Posted on June 9, 2020

It certainly seems like every developer and their dog wants to have their games ported over to the Nintendo Switch. And why wouldn’t they? The docked-handheld hybrid has done incredibly well since it launched, proving that it can run some pretty amazing experiences from this (and last) generation in the palm of your hand.

2K Games have come to the party with three of their key franchises, providing the collection for each in a tantalising package. In all cases, these franchises have not been on a Nintendo platform before – so loyalists will have the chance to play them potentially for the first time, while fans can get their fix of some of the (arguably) most influential gaming series of all time, all while riding on a train or sitting on a park bench.

Not all ports work on the Switch though. So, let’s dive in with our thoughts on Bioshock: The Collection, XCOM 2 Collection and Borderlands: Legendary Edition and see how they hold up:

It’s 2020 and 2K’s Bioshock trilogy has finally come to a handheld platform. Y’know, if you don’t count Bioshock’s brief and ill-fated iPad port. Comprising of Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite, alongside each game’s single-player DLC, there is certainly a lot of content here. Have these games aged gracefully enough to stand toe-to-toe with other modern Switch releases? The answer is, honestly, yes: the Nintendo Switch ports of the three Bioshock games are quite impressive, and are an excellent way to experience these three titles.

Bioshock began as a kind of spiritual successor to the two System Shock games. Taking place in the mysterious underwater city of Rapture, you play as Jack, a mostly mute survivor fighting to survive the onslaught of vicious spliced-up savages and learn about what caused Rapture’s downfall. Bioshock’s dimly-lit and atmospheric environments go a long way to making this 13 year old game still look good, particularly with the water effects. The annoying plumbing/hacking minigame still kills the game’s pacing but overall, Bioshock is a classic for a reason, and still holds up on the Switch.

In Bioshock 2, you instead play as a prototype Big Daddy called Subject Delta, who must face a new threat to Rapture following the first game’s ending. While a bit weaker on the story front, Bioshock 2 does improve on some areas in the gameplay department. For instance, the terrible hacking minigame is stripped out, and the moral choice system is fleshed out more. In terms of the port quality, once more it holds up quite well, potentially due to reusing many of the assets from the first game.

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“Bioshock Infinite is easily the most impressive of the Switch ports, in part due to how smooth the faster-paced action gameplay feels.”

Finally, there is Bioshock Infinite, the biggest departure in terms of tone from the first game. Taking place in the idyllic floating city of Columbia, you play as the rather talkative Booker DeWitt, a private detective sent on an errand to find a girl named Elizabeth to settle his debts. As you might expect, things quickly go off the rails when Columbia’s tyrannical prophet sends the entire city to stop you.

Bioshock Infinite is easily the most impressive of the Switch ports, in part due to how smooth the faster-paced action gameplay feels. It can occasionally get somewhat jittery in really hectic moments, but overall I did not find much to complain about on the performance front.

Swapping between weapons and Vigors, and zipping around the battlefield on skylines, is thrilling and feels right at home on the Switch. Elizabeth also remains one of gaming’s best support characters, supplying Booker with ammo and healing items, and using her reality-bending powers to spawn turrets and cover. Having only played the series on console, I knew what to expect regarding the controls, and didn’t mind using the joy-cons. I appreciated that Bioshock Infinite comes with different button configurations, so you can pick a layout that works best for you.

I would definitely recommend playing in handheld mode rather than docked. The titles all run fine in docked mode, but you definitely notice the resolution downgrade more on a TV versus the Switch’s handheld screen. In particular, text in all three games is way too small, and blowing it up onto a TV only makes it worse.

The bottom line is that whether you have never played the Bioshock Collection, or are a returning veteran, the Switch ports are surprisingly great ways to experience these games. Their distinctive art direction goes a long way to compensating for the Switch’s lower resolution. Plus, they all run at a rather smooth 30FPS, even the more action-packed Bioshock Infinite. While the games do not suit shorter play sessions the way that the Borderlands collection and XCOM 2 do, if you ever wanted to explore Rapture on the go, 2K Games and Virtuos have done a marvelous job of distilling these games onto a handheld format. – Tom

You’d be hard-pressed to find a turn based tactics game that has the high quality and level of detail as XCOM 2. Sure, Nintendo has Fire Emblem, an incredibly deep and popular Nintendo-exclusive TBT franchise in its own right, but the gritty, realistic sci-fi styling of XCOM has always been one of my favourite settings, with tough-as-nails missions that constantly keep you on the edge of your seat as the risk of permadeath looms. The XCOM 2 Collection provides the original XCOM 2, along with the expansion, War of the Chosen, which you can dive right into from the main menu if you choose. War of the Chosen could basically be played as a stand-alone experience given its depth, so it’s cool that you can play in this way if you’re a veteran.

XCOM 2 was a visually stunning game, so some allowances have been made for it to run successfully on the Switch. It runs at 30 frames per second at best, and textures often look slightly blurry in the background, even when looking at character selection screens .There are also some frame rate slowdowns when the game zooms in on certain actions, even when just running around the map, which can also be a bit jarring (but you could argue the frame-rate dips were present in the original release too).

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“…it’s still wonderful to be able to play XCOM 2 missions on-the-go, so I accept the trade-off.”

The nature of the game needing you to be aware of where allies and enemies are placed on a map also means that playing portable can sometimes be a bit challenging due to the smaller screen size, but it’s still wonderful to be able to play XCOM 2 missions on-the-go, so I accept the trade-off.

Also affecting the portable side, the Joy-Cons aren’t the most imprecise when it comes to choosing your actions in a grid-based style such as this. The Pro Controller works way better, and playing docked also provides a bit more stability with the way the game runs. Overall, I would have loved 2K Games to incorporate some touch-screen elements into handheld mode for the XCOM 2 Collection, as that would have made the portable experience a lot more palatable.

XCOM 2 falls under the category of other Switch ports we’ve seen, where it’s definitely not the most optimal way to experience XCOM 2; you’re going to have a much better time playing this on PC or even Xbox One and PS4. Despite this, it’s once again thrilling to have a game I love as much of this playable wherever you go, and this one in particular is an incredibly detailed game that pushes PC’s and other consoles to their limits as it is. In that sense, it’s absolutely an accomplishment that this even exists, and I’m excited to continue my tactical adventure on Switch. – Luke

I’ve played all the games in the Borderlands franchise, and Borderlands 2 I played upwards of three times. Mostly on my PS3 or PS4 when the Handsome Collection was released and even a couple of times on PC so I could play with friends online. Basically, I’m a big fan. So when I heard they were coming to Nintendo Switch, I was excited to see just how well they held up. Aside from the flagship Nintendo titles, I hadn’t really played anything other than indie games on my Switch so I was interested to see how the console would handle something meatier, and I… actually wasn’t disappointed.

Borderlands Legendary Collection looks just fine on Switch, the series’ signature cel-shaded art style means that there wasn’t much fidelity in the graphics to begin with. This means that even with a lower resolution, the games look pretty much as expected and don’t end up sacrificing the visual style that fans love.

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“Even with a lower resolution, the games look pretty much as expected…”

When playing handheld, you’ll probably never even notice any drops in quality, what with the small screen and how fast you’ll be zipping around in the game. It does definitely run better than the original version I played on PS3 back in the day which was a screen tearing nightmare.

The gameplay (unfortunately) is where the port loses me a bit. Borderlands is a fast series by nature, but the Joy-Con’s little baby analogue sticks make it almost impossible to aim down the sights quickly. Playing with a pro-controller is a little bit better, but if you’re only playing docked you might as well just buy the game on a home console anyway. There are options in the menu to turn on motion controls for aiming and I thought this was going to be the solution to my problem, especially given how well games like Splatoon 2 control with the gyro. Unfortunately, even with the sensitivity turned up to max, the motion control still isn’t sensitive enough; I had to turn my whole body left and right just to look around like I was doing some weird aerobics exercise. As someone who players solely as a sniper in any Borderlands game, this caused me a lot of problems. Even though the gyro makes it easier to get headshots in the game, I still wouldn’t say that it’s good enough. 

Apart from this though, the Switch port of the Borderlands collection is exactly what it needs to be. It runs well and it still looks great. If you haven’t had a chance to play Borderlands yet or are hoping to play it on the go, the port to Nintendo Switch is nothing to turn your nose up at. – Bree