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HTC Vive Review

I recently had the chance to try the HTC Vive, the next generation virtual reality peripheral.  I spent about 4 hours taking things for a test spin, poking, prodding, and testing the hardware capabilities. Going into this I had questions about the Vive and this new VR wave in general. Is it a gimmick? Is it truly as immersive as they say? Most importantly, is it worth the money? Well I’d say sorta. Here’s what I think of it so far.

Brief History of VR

I don’t know, I’ve always been drawn to new takes or concepts and I’m always on the look out for new ways to interact with technology, but ever since VR was first touted in the 90s with films like Lawn Mower Man, I was always let down. Gimmicky devices like the failed Nintendo Virtual Boy had left me jaded as to the possibility of having anything like the Holodeck anytime soon.

Wii Comparison
That being said the Vive bares some similarities with Nintendo’s Wii. Both are creative and innovative ways of interacting with a games. They also are both great at bring otherwise non-gamers in to gaming. Interestingly, because of the unique interface, it poses both a puzzle and an opportunity to make games.

The Wii brought motion controls to the fore front and virtually every other gaming system incorporated a wiggle, wag, or a wave into there list of user controls. More Importantly, although the Wii was slightly gimmicky it opened up everyone’s eyes to a new way to play. The Vive is at a very similar crossroads. I believe it is the first VR device that is actually up to the task.

Wii

Level of Immersion 
All of the hardware allows an unprecedented level of immersion.  Every movement and location is tracked flawlessly in real time 1-for-1, enough to fool your instincts up to the nearest millimeter. The 3D vision from the headset coupled with precise motion controls tricks your mind into thinking you are actually in the game. Proof of this to me was treating the virtual world as if it where real.

In one game, although I knew support beams and furniture wasn’t actually there, I had to fight the urge to place the real life controllers on them. I often found myself bobbing and weaving around obstacles that weren’t actually there. Not to mention the actual game mechanics. When the in-game baddies charged in to attack I flinched and backed away, much like a child would when first experiencing video games. I was having as much fun as that small kid playing games for the first time.

Games covered
I played three games and for the most part they reminded me of the Wii Sports and Wii Play games. Sure, incredibly fun to play in their own right but they were fairly simple in both look and function. They are often meant to demonstrate a concept or idea that would otherwise not even be possible on other platforms. And much like the Wii, they were meant to give both game developers and game players ideas of what the Vive can do for gaming. Let’s take a look at those three games next.

Space Pirates: takes inspiration from Tron Legacy. It’s a basic shooter with a techno feel and neon look. You hold lasers in both hands and shoot down drones in a kind of futuristic trap shoot, except the clay targets are shooting back. You fire in powerful slow moving shots or in much weaker rapid fire. To help you out you can draw a shield barrier that can protect you from one angle as your enemy tries to circle around and hit you in the flank. When this fails you can actually dodge and move out of the way in a “bullet time” style when time slows down.

Space Pirate GIF 1

On the whole Space Pirates was a fun challenge as it gets progressively more difficult. Groups of drones hold formation in front of you to draw your attention while others flank you. After learning this trick I’d draw my shield between me and the formation and take out the flankers when they popped up over the horizon. Both your pistols and movements are tracked flawlessly 1-for-1. It felt much more like playing a sport than actually playing a game. Exactly the kind of immersion I’ve been graving.

Space Pirate GIF 2

The Lab:  not so much a game as it is a platform for VR ideas. Many of the features of The Lab are only marginally interactive. The robot repair sequence or solar system model have you more as a passive observer. My favorite by far was the bow and arrow simulation. Holding the bow in one hand and pulling the arrow back felt incredibly realistic. It took some getting used to but it was very satisfying when I got the hang of it. But the amateur astronomer in me was giddy walking around the solar system, chucking planets that I grabbed along the way. This was obviously a great educational or professional tool. Imagine looking at a chemical molecule and walking around inspecting it. The Lab was all done in the Portal video game feel with GLADOS making appearance. As you might imagine it was incredible funny.

The Lab

Zombie Training Simulator: as an avid shooter fan I really wanted to try this one. Sure the zombies coming at you where only cardboard but everything else was realistic, especially the firearms. Besides, I wanted a more realistic shooter than Space Pirates. I was curious at just how easily you could look down real iron sights in the game. At first, my reflexes brought the gun on target, much as it would with something like what a Colt 1911. The in-game guns would shoot like I was pointing my finger at the target, very realistic. At greater ranges the Glock’s U shaped irons sights weren’t that useful but other guns like the MP5 and M4 allowed from the shoulder firing, much as you would in real life. It all felt realistic and accurate. Having to manually aim like this would make “run and gun” tactics in modern day shooters like Call of Duty obsolete, rewarding skill and reflexes, not foolhardiness.

Zombie Training Simulator

Final Thoughts
The HTC Vive is an incredible experience that everyone can enjoy. Sure the price tag is steep ($800, about 1 months rent) but it’s a first step in a completely new frontier of gaming that other game makers are sure to follow. And it’s true that there aren’t many 3rd party developers or in-depth games just yet. But  I imagine as time goes on prices will drop and more and more people will adopt. Developers will follow and we will be living in a new era of gaming. The Vive is more than just some gimmick but for what it’s promising and the price, I’d wait a little longer. Trust me, if I had the money to spend, I’d buy a Vive. I’m ready for VR.
Pros:

  • Immersive beyond compare
  • Clever use of motion controls simpliefies gameplay, no need of multiple buttons
  • A new way to play, making even mundane gaming chores fun
  • Cheap games

Cons:

  • Price tag reminds me of the Sega Saturn’s initially high price
  • The headset isn’t terribly comfortable and sometimes you don’t want to move around a front room just to play a simple game
  • Due to the 3D drain on the system and motion sensing there isn’t much computer resources left for pretty games
  • Not much 3rd party support just yet

Have you had a chance to try any of the new VR platforms? Comment below with your thoughts!

HTC Vive Review

Pokémon Go: First Impressions from a Beta Tester

If you have been living under a rock, Pokémon Go is a new mobile game launching this year from Niantic, the studio behind the Android game “Ingress”.  It allows Pokémon fans to do something they have always wanted to do, be the “Ash Ketchum” of their own personal Pokémon journey.  This game is now in the beta testing phase and a slew of invites were sent out this week to bring in more testers.  I was one of those lucky enough to be chosen for the test , and now that I have had the game for a few days, I decided to do a short article to give my thoughts on the game as it currently exists.

Just to preface this, I will not be giving out any information as to actual game-play mechanics.  As a beta tester, I am subject to an NDA, and I will not be breaking that.  This article is just to give my impressions having played the game for a few days.  If leaks are what you want, there are plenty of places out there to get that information.

Pokemon Go

Capture Pokemon in their first augmented reality adventure.

To start with, the game is quite fun to look at.  The graphics are quite good for a mobile game.  I am playing the game on a Nexus 6P, and it looks great  on the 5.7 inch screen.  The AR (augmented reality) portion of the game works quite well, making it look like the Pokémon are actually in front of you.

Pokemon Go

Explore your real life surroundings to capture imaginary Pokemon.

The most surprising part of Pokémon Go, for me anyway, is that it makes you actually want to leave the house.  I am not generally an active person, but this game has succeeded in making me want to leave the house and explore.  Just yesterday, I went out to go try and add a few more species to my Pokédex, and I found myself walking further and further from my home, trying to hit that next Pokéstop or gym.  There aren’t many other beta testers in my area that I have seen, but I imagine once the game releases, it won’t be uncommon to run into other people playing, hanging around those landmarks in the game.

And it is there that I think this game will succeed.  Whether you are a fan of the original Red and Blue, or a newer fan who enjoys the 3DS games, you will find something to love in Pokémon Go.  I will release a full review, as well as a tips and tricks article, once the game is closer to release and the NDA is over.

 

Pokémon Go: First Impressions from a Beta Tester

Best Prank Gift Games on Steam

Here’s a list of some of my favorite games to prank gift on Steam, the PC game platform. Sometimes you want to get back at friend who let you die in a co-op mode. Other times it’s a real life friend you want to give a chuckle. The best games tend to be obviously horrible and don’t cost much and sometimes you can find it on a Steam sale very cheap. I buy’em in bulk and dole them out later.

Best Prank Games on Steam



Lovely Weather We’re Having

Lovely Weather We're Having - On Steam
This game takes an interesting idea, and well … fiddles with it and then lets it die. Using your local weather data to affect the game’s environment is a great way for your friends to waste time. Imagine the weather sucking outside so your friend has to stay indoors and play games and then they find this dud waiting for them. On top of all of that, the game is buggy to boot, a decent choice for a prank gift. Check out the game here.



Bad Rats

bad rats - On Steam

Ugliest of all the Prank Games

Ever longed for those awkward days of video games, the ones with the early Playstation, when game makers were way too ambitious with the graphics and didn’t have any of that 8-bit nostalgia going for them? This is that kinda game; however, it is made fairly recently and looks horrible. So much so that the online website Kotaku described it as “putridly awkward.” And it’s a physics puzzle game for some reason. And oh yea it has something to do with rats killing cats or something. I’ve actually never played. I just give it out to friends. At least it’s cheap prank gift. Check out the game here.

Bad Rats Gif



Barbie Dreamhouse Party

Barbie Dream House - On Steam

Pinkest of Prank Games

The first reflex to give to all of your Black Ops teammates this game isn’t a bad choice. Though it’s usually not on sale, it’s overly pink and girly atmosphere will never let your teammates forget your gesture. Some of the more interesting Steam user tags I’ve seen for this are “Demonic”, “Gun Customization”, “Pyschological Horror” and “Female protagonist”  … naturally. Check out the game here.



The Graveyard

Grave Yard

Most somber of all the Prank Games

Sometimes I like my prank gifts to be summed up in a single sentence. This one would be: “Old lady walks around a grave yard.” That’s it. Judging by the screenshots and the trailer that sums things up succinctly. This is the king of Walking Simulators. Give it to your deep, self-righteously intelligent friends. Tell them to look for the hidden meaning of the game, you know, symbolism and stuff like that. Check out the game here.



Viscera Cleanup Detail

Viscera cleanup detail - On Steam

This is another great game for shooter fans. It has actions scenes with blood, gore, and mayhem. Not that you’ll be participating in any of it, you’ll be cleaing up after everyone else. I hope my shooter fans enjoyed the realistic physics as they put gibs in the trash. Check out the game here.

Viscera cleanup detail



Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015

Shower With Dad - On Steam

Best Prank Gift of All Time

Simply put, this is the best prank gift of all time. With users stating “this game lost me 12 Steam friends in 53 minutes…” and “perfect game to gift to random people.” This is game is perfect for all of your friends, not just the long term Team Fortress friends but even real life friends as well.  Even if you don’t give it away and instead keep it for your self, your friends will be seeing you playing this gem of a game. With an awkward title that is… hard to ignore, what makes this such a great prank gift is not just the title or implied nudity and awkwardness but its price. It usually goes for just twenty five cents when on sale. I usually buy a couple and keep them in my inventory, giving them out to people on servers who irritate me for some reason. Check out the game here.



Goat Simulator

Goat Simulator - On Steam

Goat Prank Games

This is proabably the most classic and best known prank gift. No one actually wants to play a goat, don’t believe the reviews, they’re trying to take advantage of your gulbility. But if you can find a person who’s new to Steam gaming, then throw this at’em. It should at least make them pause and wonder why … Check out the game here.



Confrontation

confrontation - On Steam

Where a lot of prank games are never too serious this game is an honest attempt to make a fun dungeon crawler game. Except that it falls flat on its face due to sub-par graphics, poor game-play, barely functional mechanics, and terrible story. This game deserves its Steam reputation as one of the worst.  I mean even the trailer for it looks bad. Save this one for a birthday to surprise your friends, sneaking it beneath the radar, tricking them into installing it and making them think you care about them. Check out the game here.

confrontation Scene



The Secret of Magic Crystals

Secret of Magic Crystals - On Steam

All I know is, this game has ponies that you groom and train. There is also something about getting special horses like unicorns and stuff. You go about unlocking brushes and other treats. Imagine a horse stable simulator but gone horrible wrong. I usually give this to my online friends who are wound too tight. Pets help with this right? Check out the game here.

Secret of Magic Crystals Horse

Horse Prank Games

Are there any other great Steam prank games out there that I missed? Comment below with your favorite prank games to give out to friends or that annoying online player!

Best Prank Gift Games on Steam

Atom Bomb Baby – A.K.A. My Experience with Fallout 4

Fallout 4.

I couldn’t believe it was happening.  The excitement for this game’s announcement was near Half-Life 3 levels and deservedly so.  The last 2 games in the series were some of my favorite games of all time.  Yes, even New Vegas.  Don’t be a hater.

The game opens with you in your quaint 1950’s house, having discussions with your spouse about your baby, how you need to get your Mr. Handy serviced soon, and eventually goes to the topic of the inevitable nuclear war.  Just then, a salesman from Vault-Tec knocks on your door, wanting to ensure your spot in Vault 111 when the bombs drop.

Wouldn’t you know it?  Within minutes of him leaving, you are running for your life.  Running past all your friends and neighbors, the rest of civilization that doesn’t have a spot in the vault.  As you get to the vault and the elevator starts to drop, BOOM, you see an explosion. The world turns a terrifying shade of orange, and the doors close above you.  You and your family are safe.

I’m not going to dig deep into the story, as I want you to be surprised by the twists and turns that it takes.  The main storyline is great, and as with other Fallout games, your choices can change the wasteland in a very visible way.

Let’s get real here, though.  The draw for Fallout games is never the main storyline.  It’s everything else you can do in the open world.  It’s dealing with the different factions, finding companions, getting that perfect suit of armor, scavenging for that perfect gun, and finding that next bobblehead.  It’s popping that super mutant’s head off with a sniper rifle from an obscene distance.  You get all that and more in this game.  If you thought you were testing the limits of your marriage with the last game, this one adds new mechanics that might just push it to the breaking point.  Call your lawyer and get the divorce paperwork ready, and let’s dig into this.

First of all, when I play a game with role-playing elements, I always pick a female character.  DON’T JUDGE ME!  Anyway, something I love about Fallout games is all the different clothing options available to you.  A downside to this particular Fallout game is that you have to make a choice: Either be fashionable, or have armor and not die immediately.  I’m hoping that’s something they patch in later.  I did my best to find a compromise i could be happy with.  This is, seriously, the outfit I have worn through the majority of my play time.

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Though, sometimes, a lady just needs a suit of power armor to get the job done.  You get your first suit of power armor very early in the game, which I wasn’t a huge fan of.  I haven’t used my suits of armor more than a handful of times, because they made me feel overpowered, as well as the fact that I didn’t spend all that time creating my characters look just to cover it up with a big metal helmet through the whole game.

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I am a dog person in real life, so it makes sense that in the game my character would use Dogmeat as a companion whenever possible.  When I first found him, mere minutes into the game, my first thoughts were “YAAAY PUPPY TIME” followed shortly with “I need to find him some armor.  Wait, is there even armor for dogs in this game?”  After my 60+ hours, I have finally found the last pieces to make Dogmeat look like the wasteland rock star he is.

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There are downsides to having Dogmeat as your companion, though.  The biggest downside, in my opinion, is that Dogmeat can be hurt.  It’s not a bad gameplay mechanic, because an invincible companion would be stupid.  Its a downside because seeing a raider kick my dog, and hearing his pained whine, sends me into an uncontrollable killing frenzy.  A bloodlust that can only be sated by the complete annihilation of all living entities in the vicinity of my puppy.  Also, I have wasted so many valuable stimpacks because it pains me so much to see my poor Dogmeat dragging himself around, barely able to move after a big fight.

A second downside is that now, when a raider sends an attack dog after me, I kill the raider and let Dogmeat handle the dog.  I then praise Dogmeat after he rips the other dog’s throat out in an epic finishing move.  QUIT JUDGING ME!

Really the only gameplay reason why Dogmeat sucks is for the sneaky type players.  If you shoot at an enemy, he runs in, thirsting for blood.  It makes sneaking much more difficult, and it may be a problem among all companion AI. Having only used Dogmeat, I can’t comment on that.

The biggest new mechanic that they added to the game is the addition of “Settlements,” and it’s a doozy.  Think player housing, x1000.  In the first 10 hours I played, I would bet that at least half of those hours were spent just customizing my first settlement, not knowing that I would be able to get other settlements in the future.  Truth be told, I have no idea how many settlements are actually available, but there are a ton, and you can customize every single one.  When you first get a new settlement, it’s usually a trash covered pit of junk, and it’s your job to change that.  From clearing out fallen trees and piles of tires to building new houses, trading depots, salvage stations and supply lines, to keeping your current settlers happy, it’s all up to you and your creativity.

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So, because you have to build power lines, water pumps, houses, turrets, guard posts, etc., you need materials.  You get materials from getting rid of all those fallen trees and tires, sure, but the good stuff comes from exploring the wasteland.  Everything in the game can be salvaged.  This has changed the loot mechanics in a very interesting way.  Now, when you are in that final room of a long quest, having just killed a boss, you will be more excited to pick up that desk fan for its sweet, sweet screws rather than the missile launcher sitting on his dead body.  It is a very smart way to make all that junk you see sitting around useful, and you will wish you maxed out strength to carry it all home with you.  I did not, so I found myself loading up Dogmeat with as much as he could carry just to get a little bit more back to my settlement.

Along with crafting for your settlement, you can also use materials to upgrade your guns, clothing, and power armor to suit your playstyle.  One thing you can’t craft, however, is ammunition.  It sucks, and is something I hope that they will patch in later on.

The game isn’t perfect, I have run into a few bugs, but not nearly as many as others have claimed.  Because I am playing the PC version, every bug I have encountered was easily fixable by using a console command or two, but I imagine those bugs would be pretty irritating for you console peasants out there.  Also, the radio is entertaining for the first hour of the game, but after the fourth or fifth play through of “Atom Bomb Baby”, you will find yourself switching to the classical station, or putting pandora on while you play.

So, how would I rate this game?  It’s a really great game with a solid storyline and no shortage of things to do.  The positives far outweigh the negatives.  With that said, I give the game 9 out of 10 Dogmeat throat-rips.  I highly recommend buying this game for PC if you have a system that can handle it, as there will be a ton of mods released in the coming months to fix the bugs and add all new gameplay elements.

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Thanks for reading!  Let me know if you agree with me in the comments below.

 

Atom Bomb Baby – A.K.A. My Experience with Fallout 4