Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.
Forty-four-year-old Tadaaki Abe has been arrested in Kagawa, Japan, for modding a PlayStation 3 and then selling it.
According to NHK, Abe is accused of jailbreaking PS3s so game discs could be copied and then played without re-inserting them. He was arrested for selling a modded PS3 for 15,555 yen ($145) to a Tokyo man in his 40s.
Not only does this violate Japanese trademark law, but it also violates the country’s Unfair Competition Prevention Law, which protects the rights of companies to sell their products.
The modded PS3 was sold last year through an online auction site. Abe, a part-time worker, was arrested yesterday. In an affidavit, he said he did this for income.
Authorities found 40 PlayStation 3 consoles in his apartment and are currently investigating whether or not they have been modded.
Sony isn’t waiting for any more leaks. They revealed more details about the PlayStation 5—and, yes, it will be called the PS5—to Wired today as well as announcing more about the console on the company’s blog. Here’s the key info:
The console will have a solid-state drive. Games will be released on 100GB discs.
Like the PlayStation 4 Pro, the PlayStation 5 reads physical media via a 4K Blu-ray drive.
As with games this generation, they’ll need to be installed from the disc, though Sony is now saying that players will have more granular control of which parts of a game they install or uninstall—campaign, multiplayer, etc.
The PS5’s revised user interface will show more information about what can be done in a game, including the availability of multiplayer matches.
Wired’s writer held a prototype of the new PS5 controller and wrote that it seems similar to a PS4 controller. It will include a speaker and—here comes some of the jargon you’ll start to see reporters and game makers using to discuss next-gen hardware—“‘adaptive triggers’ that can offer varying levels of resistance to make shooting a bow and arrow feel like the real thing.”
Wired was also impressed with the improved haptics/rumble in the controller, reporting this of their time using it to play demos created by the Studio Japan team behind PS4 VR game Astrobot Rescue Mission: “On ice, a high-frequency response made the thumbsticks really feel like my character was gliding. Jumping into a pool, I got a sense of the resistance of the water; on a wooden bridge, a bouncy sensation.”
For those of you who stocked up on micro USB wires for charging PS4 controllers, too bad! The PS5 controllers will be charged with USB Type-C.
One studio that is now confirmed as a PS5 developer is Bluepoint Games, makers of the 2018 Shadow of the Colossus remake. Said studio president Marco Thrush to Wired: “We’re working on a big one right now…I’ll let you figure out the rest.” Uh. Hmm. Clearly a tease that Sony has bought the rights to F-Zero and is making a new one. Thrush was enthusiastic about the speedier loading that comes with an SSD, noting that there’d be less reason to slow players down in hallways and doorways to mask the loading of new levels.
Sony’s announcements today primarily focus on the new controller, which is the main focus of Sony Interactive Entertainment president Jim Ryan’s blog post today. “Game creators have started to receive early versions of the new controller,” he wrote, “and we can’t wait to see where their imagination goes with these new features at their disposal.” With controllers going out, the news today seems designed to get ahead of any leaks of the device.
We’ll have plenty more about the PS5 and its new hardware and games as it breaks. Next year’s going to be a big one, folks.
Gran Turismo 2 was my introduction to that famed series of racing games, and was as much my gateway drug into car culture as the first Fast & Furious movie or any of the buff books I’d spend my free time devouring instead of hitting my math textbooks. The PlayStation game remains a series highlight for me too for another reason: the huge, almost unprecedented volume of cars available to race.
There are more than 600 cars in GT2, and while many of them are variations of the same model (there’s a lot of Nissan Skylines in this game) there’s enough that you don’t get bored easily. And that doesn’t even cover the cars that were cut from the final versions of the game.
Here’s something fun for all you kids still stuck in the late 1990s and early 2000s: YouTuber MattJ155 reviewed many of the GT2 cars that were left out of the final edition of the game, but were present in earlier demos or as unfinished models, lines of text, menu items or just in the licensing credits somewhere. Many can still be found within the game’s code today.
True to its name, The Cutting Room Floor has a list of cars and variants that were left out of the final GT2 game, and this video runs through a lot of them too. Interestingly, the Toyota Altezza/original Lexus IS300 was used as a kind of “placeholder” for the missing cars on menu screens and other places.
A number of them got logos made inside the game despite not actually appearing in it. Many of them ended up in other games at the time, or later iterations of the Gran Turismo franchise.
Cars that didn’t make the final cut include the Ford Escort RS2000, several RUF Porsches, a Dodge Stratus race car, a Jaguar XJR15 GT race car, the Mercedes-Benz AMG C55, the Renault Sport Spider, the Volkswagen Golf TDI, possibly the Golf Cabriolet, and I think perhaps most notably, the Pagani Zonda C12 and C-12S. The Paganis became staples of later games. Additionally, many of the cut cars were racing variants on existing models.
The video is very well-done and extremely thorough—it’s nearly an hour-long rundown of everything we didn’t get in GT2. It’s not at all uncommon for stuff to be left on the cutting room floor when games are made, but in GT2‘s case, it’s amazing to think that even with its already giant selection of cars, we almost got more somehow.
In Japan, there is an official PlayStation 1 lunch box. It’s a crane game prize and comes in packaging that looks like the cardboard box for the first PlayStation. How cool is it?
While you might think here’s a difference in nuance between “lunch box” and “bento box,” the packaging reads ランチボックス (ranchi bokkusu or lunch box). It’s being widely referred to as a bentoubako (弁当箱) or bento box.
WhileDengeki Hobbyreports that this is a game center prize, some online sites in Japan are also carrying the lunch box, selling it for 1,780 yen ($16.60).
Sony has announced that Shawn Layden, chairman of SIE Worldwide Studios and a mainstay of PlayStation’s E3 press conferences, will be leaving the company. No reason was given for his departure, and a successor has not been named.
Formerly president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America (until Sony’s regions were brought under one roof in 2018), Layden had been with Sony since 1987, serving in roles like vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and president of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan.
Next year, Bandai will be releasing some 2:5 scale models of famous old consoles. They’re nice enough to be sitting on a shelf as is, but what’s really cool about these is that they replicate the machines both outside and in.
The models—and their controllers—pop open to reveal intricate little reproductions of the circuit boards and other internal components.
There’ll be a PlayStation and a Saturn, and both will be released in March 2020.
Did you know there’s gonna be a new MediEvil game? Sony’s been showing it off at events, like the most recent State of Play livestream, but details have been a little scarce. A new limited time demo that came out today offers a sneak peek into the upcoming exclusive action-comedy game. The brief preview shows some of the game’s silly world and characters, but ultimately, it feels a little generic, at least so far.
The original MediEvil released in 1998 for the Sony PlayStation. It tells the story of Sir Daniel Fortesque, a skeleton knight brought back to life in order to fight an evil sorcerer named Zarok. Even though legends paint Daniel as a gallant hero, he’s a bit of a doofus, having died immediately to an arrow in the head during a battle against Zarok. Accidentally revived by one of Zarok’s necromancy spells a century later, he gambols off to defeat the sorcerer. It’s a silly set-up, and Daniel’s grinning antics making for a fun affair. You can yank off your arm to smack zombies in the face and solve rudimentary puzzles. It’s a bit more linear than the action and explorations games that would come after—Spyro, Jak and Daxter—but it’s cut from a similar cloth. The PlayStation 4 version is a remake, and a demo called the Short Lived Demo is currently on the PlayStation Store until October 7th.
Playing the demo earlier today, I found myself sucked into MediEvil’s zany world but underwhelmed by the actual playing. The demo contains the first level of the game, which provides an early sense of the pacing and action. In playing it, I found swords and throw daggers, traipsed about a graveyard picking up collectibles, and opened plenty of locked doors. MedIEvil is a straightforward game, almost entirely linear, except for some occasional branching pathways that soon lead back to the main area again. It feels like an arcade game, a step up from Ghosts and Goblins or Fester’s Quest. In that light, MediEvil as a fun blast from the past. In 2019, it’s got stiffer competition.
The demo lives up to the “short-lived” name, coming and going in about twenty minutes’ time without leaving much of an impression. MediEvil is silly in that way that older games were, with grainy cutscenes and broad voice acting. It’s also stiff and awkward to my modern eyes. I kept asking, “Why are we doing this, and why now?” The demo isn’t deep enough to answer that, although the original wasn’t that deep, either. Cartoony graphics and a classic feel brought a warm tingle of nostalgia, but MediEvil wasn’t all that exciting to play.
It’s neat to see an old classic back from the dead, but MediEvil feels a bit perfunctory. We’ve seen strong remakes in recent years such as Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap or the recent remake of Link’s Awakening that have their own unique flair and build upon the source material. That’s not the case here, at least based on this demo. While it might please fans who loved the original, MediEvil’s demo doesn’t suggest that the game is prepared to meet the challenge of reaching a new, broader audience. Hopefully, the full game will breathe a little more life into this idea.
Sony’s Nintendo Direct-style State Of Play livestream series returned today, with a deep look at The Last of Us II as well as short updates about other games coming to PlayStation, including Civilization 6. Here’s a rundown of the news.
The Last Of Us Part II will be released on February 21, 2020.
A demo of the upcoming remake of the PlayStation 1 game MediEvil is available today. You can get a special item in the full game by playing the demo. Full game’s out next month.
A limited-edition Death Stranding PS4 Pro bundle is coming on November 8 with a cool dripping-handprint design.
Enhance Games and Tha Ltd. are making an intriguing-looking game called Humanity, coming 2020.
Wattam, the next game from Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi, will be released in December.
Arise: A Simple Story, a charming cartoon action adventure game, is “coming soon” to PlayStation 4.
L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files is available now for PlayStation VR. A PSVR sizzle reel showed clips of upcoming games. Espire 1, Stardust Odyssey, After The Fall, and Space Channel 5 Kinda Funky News Flash.
Civilization 6 is coming to PS4 on November 22.
October’s PlayStation Plus lineup will include MLB The Show 19 and The Last of Us Remastered.
Correction 5:05 p.m. ET: The original version of this story read “Civilization 4;” this has been corrected. Kotaku regrets the error.
Take a bag of potato chips—any brand, anywhere—and you more or less know what you’re going to get. Crispy, greasy salt and oil delivered via thin layers of starch, they make a mess of crumbs and grease, and they’re terribly delicious, extremely difficult to stop eating once you’ve caved into the first, and likely to cause a carbohydrate crash and a sense of regret. Potato chips are great and awful and we all know what we’re getting into when we open a bag.
So how would you review one? Do you tell people chips are awful for their health and break down why? Do you get into the ethical practices of various potato chip companies, perhaps? Or do you go all-in on the other end of the spectrum, singing the praises of the perfect snack food, one that isn’t as impressive as other snack foods but also isn’t trying to be gourmet cuisine? I mean, sure, gourmet chips exist, but we all know it’s the snack of the people.
Borderlands 3, Gearbox Software’s return to their most popular franchise, is a bag of potato chips. It’s the series that popularized the loot shooter genre, marrying first-person gunplay with Diablo-style loot and skill trees. You collect gun after gun with the same mindless, dopamine-pumping pleasure of popping chip after chip in your mouth. It is awful and wonderful and also white noise, an experience so commonplace and reptilian that you wouldn’t call it the best gaming experience you’ve ever had, but you’d be down for it if someone put it out in a bowl.
Much like a bowl of chips, it also leaves a hell of a mess when the party’s finally over.
The story in Borderlands 3 is the same as it’s always been in Borderlands. Once again, you’re a vault hunter, a mercenary/fortune seeker who shoots their way across the bandit-ridden wastelands of the planet Pandora. The hope is that, in all this shooting, you will find your way to a Vault, an ancient repository of rumored riches. (And, usually, there’s a big nasty being in that Vault, watching over it all.) This time around, you’re answering a call from Lilith, one of the hunters from the first Borderlands who has since become commander of the Crimson Raiders militia that fights to protect civilians from bandit hordes and corporate overreach (corporations have armies in Borderlands). Also, of course, they want to loot those sweet, sweet vaults. They’re the good guys, kind of.
Nipping at your heels are the game’s antagonists, Troy and Tyreen Calypso, twin siblings who have united all the bandits of Pandora under their cult of personality. They’ve also figured out that there are other Vaults on planets elsewhere in the galaxy. Your mission: Get to those vaults before they do.
As the Vault Hunter hero of this game, you get to choose between four characters, each with their own impressively elaborate skill trees filled with different kinds of abilities to level up. There’s Zane, the Operative who controls the battlefield with drones, clones, and barriers. Moze, the Gunner, can summon a giant mech to pilot and outfit that mech with different cool weapons and upgrades. Amara, the Siren, can deal elemental damage by conjuring magical arms. And FL4K, the robot Beastmaster, has tamed a number of wild creatures who fight alongside them. It’s a lot to dig into, and like the first several potato chips in the bowl, it’s absolutely delicious at first.
Too Many Guns, But In A Fun Way
Unlike the tactical realism of a Ghost Recon, or Destiny’s system of arcane perks that only serve to make their sci-fi creations better at shooting, Borderlands’ guns are toys. They’re garish in shape and color, digital creations that exist to solve digital problems. It’s the best.
Borderlands’ approach both side-steps and doubles down on the gun fetishism that comes part and parcel in video games about shooting by making it all one big crass joke: wouldn’t it be cool to have an arsenal of impressive and interchangeable dicks that could also file your taxes?
Finding a good Borderlands gun feels like cheating, like you found an endgame weapon 20 hours too early. My first legendary sniper rifle was an absolute beast of a weapon that fired three incendiary projectiles at once but only consumed one bullet at a time. I got it at the end of the game’s first act, and it remained a staple of my firefights right up through the credits.
This is the high that Borderlands offers, and it feels great, but like any high, it cannot last. The experience of playing Borderlands often devolves into a hunt for the next fix, and the longer it takes to get that fix, the more time you have to resent the game for not giving it to you. When you’ve tasted the high of an unexpectedly power-packed weapon, trying out more of the “normal” guns makes you feel kind of like a scrub, you know?
Granted, “normal” in Borderlands 3 is still pretty wild. When you have guns that turn into homing grenades, or crawling drone turrets, or bouncing balls that yelp “ow” every time they ricochet off a surface, you’d have to work very hard to have a boring firefight.
The game is built to encourage an endless search for the perfect loadout. What if I’m missing out on the coolest gun I’ve ever seen in a video game? I won’t know until I find it, so I have to keep playing. But am I actually enjoying this? Or just chasing the high? It’s hard to say.
Tucked away into the corners of Borderlands 3, I do find a lot to like. Its generous approach to sidequests, for example, rewards players with items but also with bespoke little stories. There are whole regions of several maps that you’ll only ever go to if you’re pursuing a sidequest. They’re like optional dungeons, there for those who want to do them, each offering something new to see along with a chance for more loot.
Borderlands3’s soundtrack, which rarely makes itself known, has the benefit of offering occasional moments of delight when you stop to notice it. Like Borderlands itself, it can occasionally blast up into garish and annoying territory, but more often than not, it’s a hidden gem, there for the finding. After I got clobbered by a giant sphere drone and tried to re-evaluate my loadout, I happened to notice a throwback club groove that sounds a lot like the chorus to Kiesza’s “Hideaway,” with a touch of the sax-and-dance vibe at the end of Japanese Breakfast’s “Machinist.” Over on the swamp-world of Eden-6, I paused to take in a bit of ambient music that sounds like a Kate Bush synth cover.
These are little grace notes that show some personality in areas where other huge games might phone it in. There are some musical ideas I’d love to groove to there, but the game quickly moves on to other ones, like the (admittedly pretty good) running joke about a fictional modern jazz act.
The Borderlands Tone
Borderlands 3 is marketed as a comedy, but I’m not sure that’s what it truly wants to be. It’s irreverent, sure. There’s a very South Park-esque “everyone sucks” vibe to the game’s comedic beats. It’s just that the target of every joke is too lazy or too late. There’s a scene making fun of hipster baristas, a character who’s supposed to be a version of The Room writer/director/weirdo Tommy Wiseau, and an achievement list with titles like “On Fleek.”
Even less flattering are the game’s many comedic asides that make light of casual misogyny even as they exhibit an awareness of it. There’s the man who purposefully misstates “bitch” instead of “witch” when referring to a villain who’s an actual swamp witch. Another character, after saying something that could be interpreted as sexual harassment, notes that he “definitely attended that meeting.”
It remains baffling and infuriating that the game continues to treat dwarfism as fodder for slapstick comedy, even though it has ditched an offensive term for little people that previous games used, replacing it with the made-up term “tinks.” Or that, despite this being an issue raised about a character in Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3 has a white character appropriating African American Vernacular English. Or that this game prominently features Chris Hardwick reprising his Tales From The Borderlands role of Vaughn despite public allegations of emotional abuse (not all of the other returning characters have their original voice actors back).
While this is the garish shade with which Borderlands 3 colors itself, the game’s overarching narrative is more interested in telling a sincere story that feels like a last hurrah for the cast of characters that has slowly developed over the past four Borderlands games. (And yes, Tales From The Borderlands is part of this farewell tour.) Borderlands3 is casually and quietly inclusive, making it clear that a number of its heroes and villains are queer or nonbinary while also not calling too much attention to it. It’s a story in which the heroes are mostly women—women who lead and sacrifice and disagree and win. There are jokes, but the story delivers its stakes with a straight face, and bets that players will be delighted at which characters will turn, and who they will miss.
The bummer is that, much like its comedy, the drama of Borderlands 3 doesn’t really have a target it’s willing to show teeth to. “Corporations” in the abstract sense have always been the overarching villain in Borderlands games, but they’ve also been a target that Borderlands has always stood up to with the weakest of knees. It is hard, after all, to make clean hits at massive companies for trampling people underfoot in an amoral quest for profit when the heart of your game is wholly dedicated to selfish plunder.
The specific antagonists of Borderlands 3, Troy and Tyreen Calypso, also feel like missed opportunities. By making them shock-jock streamers who have amassed a cult following among the bandits of Pandora, Borderlands 3 gestures at the kind of unchecked influence YouTubers and livestreamers can have in our current media landscape, and how viral fame can also destroy those who it elevates. The bones of something compelling are there, but Borderlands 3 lacks any of the conviction necessary to deliver on it. Its themes are as poorly developed as its sense of humor.
It’s Still The Best At What It Does
Despite the proliferation of games like Borderlands in the burgeoning loot shooter genre, there still isn’t a big-budget game that does exactly what it does. It’s a massive offline Diablo-style first-person shooting game that can be joined at any point with friends, either online or on the couch. All of its serious competition—be it Destiny 2 or Warframe or The Division 2—come with a pretty big deviation, namely a required internet connection.
While the broad strokes remain the same, Borderlands 3 is a better Borderlands game than we’ve ever seen, notably in the way that it opens up the endgame. There’s the prerequisite new game plus that lets you keep your loot and skills to take on the story again, just harder and with better loot.
There’s also the new Mayhem mode, which allows you to go back into the world after the end of the campaign and clean up any side quests you have left, with stronger enemies and random modifiers that will buff certain weapons or enemy health, or debuff your stats. Maybe energy weapon damage is boosted while regular weapon damage is dialed back. Maybe your guns do more damage while your action skills do less. There are three tiers of Mayhem, each offering better loot in exchange for steeper modifiers. It’s a terrific feature that makes going back and cleaning up leftover side quests—which, as mentioned, are substantial—feel so much more rewarding.
Unfortunately, on a technical level, Borderlands 3 is surprisingly bad at one of its core features: inventory management. I’m not merely referring to the interface, although it is a bit too cluttered and throws so many numbers at you that your eyes will glaze over after several hours of comparing loot. The bigger issue is performance. On Xbox One X, the inventory screen stutters almost without fail. Sometimes there’s a barely perceptible lag, and other times it takes a full three to five seconds for your guns to load in.
This may sound like a minor quibble, but it’s a problem that’s magnified when you play in split-screen. The rest of co-op play works well enough, although the same technical issues that you may encounter in solo play, like lighting that doesn’t properly adjust when you go from indoor to outdoor environments, will persist. The real issue is the whole game grinds to a stop whenever one player opens up their inventory screen.
I don’t mean the game pauses when one player pauses. (The game only pauses in co-op when both players pause, which is a very nice feature.) I mean the frame rate drops to the damn floor and no one can move for a couple seconds once someone opens their inventory. Given how much of the game is devoted to inventory management, it’s enough to make you want to tap out after a single co-op mission.
I don’t know how vital couch co-op is to the Borderlands community as a whole, but it is one of the reasons why I’ve always kept a Borderlands game within reach. It’s one of the last holdouts in the big-budget shooter space that has held on to split-screen co-op in a world where it’s largely gone extinct (Gears 5 is another.). To me, it’s part of the reason I even bother with Borderlands.
So, How About Those Chips?
When a video game franchise has been around long enough, it establishes an identity in the public consciousness. That identity can become a defense against criticism. What did I expect, for a Borderlands game to not be Borderlands, with all the good and bad that comes with that?
Borderlands 3 has what its predecessors had: the corny humor that doesn’t always land, an unremarkable story, and an endless loop of replacing your loadout with a slightly improved loadout. It’s a relatively static experience in a franchise that hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last ten years. It is what Borderlands has always been, and everyone knows what that entails.
There’s room for it in your life, just like there’s room for a bag of potato chips in your pantry. They’re great for parties, or carb emergencies. They’re also unfulfilling, and don’t contribute much to your health. We call it junk food for a reason.
Like junk food, Borderlands 3 is an exercise in cheap hedonism. It’s not meant to take the place of a meal, but it still warrants criticism for being what it is, what it’s always been: a compulsively playable shooter with some good ideas and also some frustratingly retrograde attitudes. There’s enough good here to understand why you’d keep it around, but also enough troubling aspects that you could justify cutting it from your life entirely. But, even then, if you came across it at a house party, you’d probably take a bite.
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.
Today is the first press day for this year’s Tokyo Game Show (the four-day expo won’t be open to the public until Saturday). Let’s have a look inside.
Neither Nintendo nor Microsoft attends the show. Traditionally, Sony has dominated, but this year, Sega (and Atlus), Konami, and Square Enix all have booths of roughly equal size—or even, a smidge larger.
Interestingly, while Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t playable, it does have an enormous booth, with people lining up to watch a promotional clip.
Death Stranding is not playable, either, but while its presence is large, it doesn’t have the massive floor space that Cyberpunk 2077 does. No other single game does in the entire show.
As expected, the Square Enix booth is dominated by Final Fantasy VII Remake. Lines are long already on the press day. Expect them to be even longer—and the booth to be even more crowded—on the public ones.