Thursday, June 30, 2016

PlayStation VR Impressions

Virtual reality has been a dream for technology gurus and consumers for over 20 years. Magazines of the early '90s were inundated with articles about how “VR is coming!” and entire movies were made on the concept. It made the mind wonder about the possibilities, and one of the first industries to really see its potential was gaming. Sega was incredibly forward-thinking in that regard and their entire Virtua line of games came about due to VR and trying to make games more immersive.

Fast forward 20 years and VR is in the mainstream. Oculus made headlines around the world with Rift, while Samsung and its Samsung VR put VR headsets onto the face of many with a more affordable option – albeit one that lacked the power for gaming. Sony's long-rumored Morpheus became PlayStation VR and will seemingly bring VR into the homes of many gamers seeking a VR experience at an affordable price point.

“Affordable” is a relative term, as the lowest cost for the device is $400 – which gets you just the device. Spending $50 gets you the device, the PlayStation VR Worlds game/series of tech demos, a PlayStation Camera, and a pair of PlayStation Move controllers. Best Buy and other retailers have recently launched demo kiosks that will be set up every so often depending on the store and offer everyone a chance to try VR out.

As someone with one eye, the 3D side of gaming has never appealed to me and I was left out in the cold for things like immersive 3D on the 3DS and 3D games on the PlayStation 3 using a 3D TV. The latter didn't really bother me, but the former does make me feel like I'm not getting the most out of my device – but not so much that I feel I'm being ripped off owning one. Going into the PlayStation VR demo, I honestly had no idea what to expect from it. I've seen videos of the games and they look solid – but video only tells one part of the story.

What someone sees on the screen is in theory what the person experiences – but not entirely. Upon sitting in the demo kiosk area, you're outfitted with the headset and can tailor it a bit to your needs. If you need it to be tighter, you can adjust a strap and the headset itself fits easily over glasses. My glasses are quite a bit wider than they are tall, so they fit perfectly and didn't put undue pressure on the lenses. This part actually amazed me because my frames are about five years old and the right lens in particular is prone to falling out if too much pressure is on it – but there were no issues here.

Adjusting the headset's position either up or down should result in a far better experience. Much like going to an eye doctor, you'll see a “good, better, best” setup when you move it around and just tinker with the positioning until you get it to where things aren't blurry. You may not think it will affect anything because there isn't much text, but if you play with a ton of blur, you will definitely get a poor experience and probably open yourself to headaches and definitely get some needless eye strain as well.
The actual VR experience is outstanding – but not worth damaging your vision over. With the Best Buy demo only allowing for so much time to be spent with it, my time with the device has been limited to just EVE Valkyrie and Ocean Descent demos. The $500 version is set to come with both demos and PlayStation VR Worlds, with EVE Valkyrie being its own separate thing and Ocean Descent being on PlayStation VR Worlds.

My first experience with VR was with EVE Valkyrie, which was easily the most-played game at my Best Buy store while Ocean Descent was what I chose to play the next week. In talking to the PlayStation representative, it seems like most people were playing EVE Valkyrie, and others had issues with Ocean Descent being a bit too immersive for them. After playing it, I can kind of understand why.
It's a very passive experience and in theory, should be the most relaxing. You're put into a shark cage and plunged into the depths of the ocean – fitting since the game's original title was The Deep. This area is a bit claustrophobic, but allows you to really get immersed in the world. You can look around and see gauges on the cage and also see wear and tear. This becomes important later as a gigantic shark comes and tears your cage up! It's a bit terrifying, but even as someone who isn't much of a jump scare horror movie fan, it didn't really get to me at all. It was surprising, sure, but you can see the shark roaming around – so you have a pretty good idea that you're going to interact with it. The stereo headphones that come with the device world really nicely too – they fit comfortably over the ears and bring you all the sounds of the ocean and let you know which direction things are coming from.

It's an outstanding experience overall, and one that is reasonably accessible for those with disabilities. Being able to look around the world with the glasses actually helped me get around not having much in the way of peripheral vision since I could just tilt my head and compensate for it. The bold colors on the 1080p eyepieces made things easy to see, and with one eye, I didn't appear to be missing any of the action. Based on what I saw others playing, each screen displays the same image – so having one eye won't affect immersion levels at all. There are no subtitles or descriptions of the in-game actions though, so those with auditory problems will definitely miss out on some of the sound design.
EVE Valkyrie was the showcase game for the device and the one that fills the headphones with loud noises from just about every angle. It starts with sirens and instructions – and like with Ocean Descent, there aren't any on-screen prompts or subtitles. This is definitely going to impede playing the full game if it isn't remedied since a lot of instructions are given via your in-game allies. This is a more involved experience and unlike Ocean Descent, does require a controller. Those with hand/eye coordination issues may have trouble with the game since you can't see the controller while you're playing. However, anyone used to touch typing should be able to get acclimated fairly quickly.
The core game is basically a space dogfighting game with airship battles. You move around with the sticks and shoot with R2, while L1 and R1 do barrel rolls. Looking around gives you a better idea of where you are in relation to your allies and enemies too.  It's easy to imagine the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront PlayStation VR game working perfectly with this setup after playing EVE Valkyrie, and the sound design is incredible – with directional cues being given via enemy location and making it a much easier game to navigate in a VR setting as a result. It's also quite gorgeous and something that would stand out as a top-tier title on the PS4 on its own even without VR – something that is important to catch the eyes of people either in a room with someone playing on a PSVR or in a store with one on display.

BattleZone is a riot - but really text-heavy. This is one where you definitely want to have the headset strapped as closely as possible to you to ensure that the text is clear. If not, all of the reading from around your cockpit will be hard to see. The left stick moves you around while the stick aims and R2 fires a basic shot, with L1 launching your super-powerful EMP. It's a lot of fun to target folks in VR and this setup should work nicely for an FPS at some point.

SuperHyperCube is definitely an interesting concept for VR. The idea of a puzzle game in virtual reality has potential - but it doesn't feel used very well here. Beyond looking around your pieces to see the shape of the entry you need to fill with your block, it doesn't do much and is a bit disorienting. HeadMaster was something I was initially hesitant about, but wound up loving.

It's a soccer-themed game where you bop the ball into the net or various other targets using just your head. The concept is simple, but the execution is addicting. There's ongoing commentary and an amusing premise of your just engaging in a free training session for the demo - so even though this is an expansive ten minute-long demo, the full game should have even more to offer up. Your aim does need to be on-point and those with vision issues may have trouble here. There's no auditory cue as to which direction things are coming from, so you have to keep your head on a swivel to hit all the balls that come flying at you. This means if your peripheral vision is poor, you will have a much harder time with it. However, if your mobility is limited, you can still have fun with the game since you only need to be able to move your head around to get the full experience.

Finally, you've got London Heist. The playable demo doesn't show off a ton of action, but what's here is intense and surprisingly immersive. It starts out with you and your driver in a car and you have some time to explore the car. It may seem odd, but you can open up the glovebox to reveal a can of soda, which you can then pick up. You can also grab ammo from there, or adjust the radio knobs and play with the air vents. It very much reminds me of Shenmue where by adding layers to the reality in the game, you wind up caring more about what happens.

When the core action begins, you move your Move controller and shoot with the left hand and reload with the right. Initially, this took some getting used to - but within a minute, I was already no-look reloading instantly. You can't just reload willy nilly either - so doing that is of no value, and it's a huge time-waster anyway. When your clip is exhausted, just grab a new one and resume shooting. Aiming for gas caps is your best bet - but headshots are never a bad way to handle your business either. I was initially iffy about the Move-based gunplay, but it works out well and should be even better with the Aim controller add-on.

PlayStation VR and its launch library are due out in October. Pre-ordering is nigh-impossible, so your best bet is to simply enjoy the hardware as much as you can via in-store demos and hope for a plentiful supply in October. If you already have PlayStation Move controllers and a PlayStation Camera, then you may want to go for the $400 variant – however, the inclusion of PlayStation Worlds does make the $500 version more appealing. You also do get two PS Move controllers with that bundle, which makes it a better overall deal. Nothing has been announced as far as a bundle with the PS4 and a PSVR headset, but one would expect something like that in late 2017 when they will no doubt have more PSVR headsets made and thus have plenty to bundle in with consoles.

WWE NXT 6-29-16 Rundown

Not really much to the show. Alexa vs. Carmella was boring and headlock-filled, and the Nakamura interview was kind of dreadful. Almas's win did nothing for him, but Ciampa and Gargano came off as bigger after their win - and the heel tease works for them. Authors of Pain do NOTHING for me at all right now.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Raw 6-27-16 Rundown

Darn fine show.  Both major matches delivered and they built up Battleground really nicely. The Wyatts-New Day stuff isn't clicking for me as something memorable, but I do like it when it's on-screen. Titus vs. Rusev bringing the stiffness also filled my heart with joy. This D-Young and Bob Backlund stuff is astonishingly horrible though. I don't know who this is supposed to appeal to, or how it's supposed to help Young, but it's not doing anything to help him beyond keep his name on TV.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Bellator Dynamite 2 - Rampage vs. Ishii

 The theme from 2001 plays us in to the show and we get a pretty epic intro using the LED boards and a faux-dynamite explosion. PRIDE-style walkouts to start with everyone coming on-stage. Patricky Pitbull now has a creepy stache. Love the big-time intros on Bellator. Bruce Beck and Bruce Albgeri will be doing the kickboxing commentary, with Bellator's team doing the MMA work - good move overall. Matt Mitrione is in the opener next.

The Bellator-tron looks amazing - they've added a huge LED board to the walkway that is great. Mitrione's video package goes into how his last name was always screwed up - so he became Meathead. "I don't set out to get guys pregnant - I'm here to hit with fists and shins. I don't play shit safe - it's not in my nature!". "Simple Man" plays him in while we talk about we're told about Meathead's daughter possibly having her severed nerves saved on Monday thanks to being in St Louis for this fight. Big John is our ref and we're told it's the first time Big John has reffed a fight of his.

Carl kicks the legs to start. A brief slugfest breaks out and Matt gets clipped and hit hard. He's down and Carl goes for a choke. Matt recovers and has Carl on his back now. Matt...crawls around him for a while. He gets up, kicks the legs and hits a fistdrop to KO him. After the fight, Matt says he doesn't recall being KOed and he has no memory of crawling on the mat. Matt's next fight is against Oli Thompson, who puts him over for his recover. We see a highlight reel of Oli, and they'll fight in July at the O2 Arena.

King Mo and Hendo are shown in the crowd. Kickboxing is up as Gloria Peritore faces Denise Kohltz - who will now just be first names. Dang - they start off quick just throwing everything. Denise lands a 1-2 and Gloria slips. Gloria lands a side kick and it's just non-stop action for round 1. Round 2 keeps the pace up with a big spinning backfist by Gloria. Slugfest to close round 2. Denise knocks her on her ass with a hard leg kick. It ends with a hug - I'd give Denise the win here.Gloris gets the split decision win and a sea of boos.

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is up against Rebecca Ruth for female MMA flyweight action. Ilima tries to dominate, but can't take her down. Really sloppy fight here - nothing pretty about it, but they're moving constantly. They talk about how Ilima works a second job. Bellator - our fighters have to work second jobs to make ends meet. I know it's women's MMA and even UFC's fighters have issues, but DON'T TALK ABOUT IT ON COMMENTARY. They cut into the second round of the fight from an ad. Whoops. Ali goes for an RNC off the ground, but Ruth escapes after a big struggle. She stands, but then gets put into another RNC standing up and taps. Lei cries in victory.

Randy Couture is in the crowd. Shocked they haven't tried to get him into the cage. Lennox Lewis says he'll be at the O2 as a fan for the next Bellator show. They plug the Bellator Kickboxing show AFTER THIS SHOW. Jeez. That's gonna be on until like 1:30 or 2. "A Country Boy Can Survive" brings out Justin Houghton to face Kevin Ross, who has a wacky song mixing J-pop and rap. MMA FIGHTER VEST! Love it. Round 1 is non-stop action with leg kicks and jabs. Lots of fast action in rounds 2 and 3, but Houghton falls to a pair of hard shots at the end of round 3.

Bendo is interviewed and says he's going back to 155 more likely than not. Pitbull vs. Chandler is up next and is our semi-main event. Pitbull's stache is disturbing. "I'm Coming Home" plays Chandler down and we get an epic shot of Chandler with his flame tron through the cage. Chandler gets him down, hits a huge right hook and KOs him! Dayum! Chandler hops ON THE CAGE with both feet - bad idea.
Chandler says he'll be Bendo's Huckleberry and fight him if he wants it. Rampage video shows him training with his dog, and saying that the only thing keeping him going in this old body is the high he gets howling in the ring. Ishii says knows Rampage from his movie "Team A" and says he became a fan seeing Rampage fight Saku. Rampage says it's been a long time since he's been called the best - but he wants to get that title again. Ishii gets a really cooling lighting setup for his intro. Beautiful theme too. Rampage's setup is full of chains.
Jimmy Smith talks about meeting Rampage when he had nothing - he had no on-paper credentials, but a lot of heart and earned everything he has. He comes in with his camo and looks really soft. Nothing happening to start. Literally nothing. Rampage is walking away and Ishii is doing nothing. Ishii gets him against the cage and goes for a Kimura, but he lets it go. Ishii gets a...kinda takedown... Well, it's fitting on a night with Ken vs. Kimbo being shown in highlight form that we'd get that. Rampage has absolutely nothing left and it's sad. They talk about Barney being around when Rampage started and segue into Demi Lovato.

Round 2 starts with some good leg kicks by Ishii. Ishii takes him down and goes into north/south. Rampage is flapping all around and winded. Rampage is dominated from the clinch constantly and round 2 ends with nothing really happening. They show Demi and talk about her being on Barney. They circle exactly like they did to start the round. Leg kicks. Not entirely sure this isn't just a replay of round 1 with booing added in. They are each caked in sweat, so takedowns are going to be harder as are subs.

RAMPAGE GOES FOR SOMETHING, but can't get a trip. Takes him down and he's got nothing left to do damage. Rampage lands a few punches from the side mount. No power in them at all. Rampage goes for a double and then a single, but can't get either so he holds a clinch against the cage while they talk about how exhausted Ishii is. I know Rampage is a meal ticket, but COME ON, call the fight as you see it. I can't say as I'm shocked at them pointing out how bad Ishii looked and not doing the same for Rampage, but I'm disappointed. "You wonder if Bellator gold is something he has interest in". HE CAN'T GET THROUGH THIS FIGHT and you want a title fight? Rampage "wins" via split decision. Rampage thanks God and says that this is the oldest he's ever been in a fight. No kiddin! Rampage cuts a great promo about taking a break, and then going to train and come back to kick some ass!

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Kimbo Slice: One of a Kind

We hear Kimbo talk about respect - respecting yourself and everyone around you. We see various news reports on his passing. His manager says he was in the hospital on Friday, and not Monday. That was when he found out that he needed a heart transplant and his brother Deven, who was in the hospital says that he was in so much pain he just wanted it to end for him. His manager gets a call from Kimbo's wife on Monday at 5 PM saying that he's stopped breathing. Baby Slice talks about his dad sleeping in his car and Bellator's machmaker talks about how Kimbo went from nothing to the top of the sport. Dana White talks about how he'd never seen anything like Kimbo before.

"He had his heart, his balls, and a hell of a punch!" Coker talks about Kimbo being the biggest star and someone says Kimbo should be in the Mt. Rushmore of MMA. We see Goldberg's video tribute to Kimbo and Hogan's tweet. Kimbo "in his own words" is next. Kimbo says he wasn't bullied, but he hated bullies and beat up a bully in the 6th grade.

Kimbo talks about growing up in Pine Crest and you could see a body next to the dumpster taking the trash out. He had a killer instinct, but had to be respectful because he had his family. No matter what he did, he had to come back to his family and look at them. Kimbo vs. Mercer was set up, but no one wanted to sanction - but he still won. He loved going back to the projects and meeting his friends for a BBQ. Kimbo's rise to stardom is up next.

Kimbo talks about how fights start out over beef. Chou talks about him crossing over to Nickelodeon and we get fan footage of his first CBS fight. Well, that's one way to get around UFC owning the footage. Kimbo vs. Ken is showcased - first with Bellator clips and then the CBS fight. "Listen here Shitrock, keep eatin' your Wheaties - ain't gonna help ya!" Ha! Big John talks about the takedown and Kimbo thinking about tapping during the choke. Big John talks about the big right being like a sledgehammer, and Kimbo fighting after he could've quit.


Kimbo's manager says after the Ken fight, he and Ken got along. We get post-fight stuff in the medical area with Kimbo saying he was in that choke deep, and he remembers - but he got out. Jimmy Smith says the link from the streets to MMA died with Kimbo. Rampage, Ken, Royce, Kurt Angle, and Rashad talk about Kimbo briefly.

 We see some amusing behind the scenes footage of Kimbo's mic falling off and dancing during a photoshoot. ATT trainer talks about Kimbo getting a small cut and being a big baby about it. The Kimbo-Dada presser is covered. Kimbo makes wacky faces and we see Dana talking about meeting Kimbo for the first time. His manager talks about knowing him from high school and we get more Tweets about him.

Kimbo talks about his son Kevlar being his best Christmas gift. We see a day in the life of Kimbo and see his whole family. Kimbo says that when he was in his '30s, he thought like a 20 year old. At 40, he was where he wanted to be physically and mentally. Kimbo says he wants his kids to be better than he was and we learn that his son Kevlar has autism. We see his son train with a heavy bag, and it's really adorable to see how Kimbo looks after him here.


At Dave and Busters, Kimbo plays some games with his kids and spend time with his grandson. Mick sends a video wish to Kimbo and Mick talks about bonding with Kimbo over them both being the parents of autistic kids. Kimbo talks about taking care of his family by fighting. Scott compared Kimbo to Elvis Presley and Bruce Lee. Kevin Connolly is the least-comfortable person saying ANYTHING in this and it's so awkward. Dana talks about feeling sorry for the family and respecting him. Baby Slice says he'll miss his dad and Big John commends him for being honest. "I believe we live on in the memories of those who remember us." is touching and true. His brother says he'll carry his legacy and he'll see him one day.