Features

NBA 2K17: The Prelude is a sign of great things to come

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What goes up must come down. Right? The NBA 2K17: The Prelude demo was launched this weekend on PS4 and Xbox One to give fans a taste of what to expect from this year’s entry to the series.

The biggest problem with yearly franchises like NBA 2K is peaking. Series like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty have shown that it is difficult to keep iterating on a game and show significant improvements that would entice players. Which is why Ubisoft is taking a break from making an Assassin’s Creed’s sequel to focus on other titles.


It seemed like only a matter of time until NBA 2K succumbed to the same fate as the once prestigious NBA Live franchise and wound up dealing with the issues of a short shelf life that could lead to gamer fatigue.

I always thought the NBA 2K series peaked in 2014. Or that it would start to experience decline during these recent years, after several improvements to gameplay and graphics. But credit the development team’s tenacity for bringing innovation and attention to detail, because NBA 2K continues to break new ground.

With a revamped MyCareer mode, which promises a cinematic narrative of an NBA prospect’s journey from college to the pros, and a new face-scanning system that makes it easier than ever to put your likeness in the game, NBA 2K17 is shaping up to a be a unique and worthwhile addition to the franchise.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here, as the game isn’t due out until next week, September 16 (for those who pre-ordered, anyway; September 20 is the global release date). For now, I’ll focus on what I can critique.

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Physical gameplay

In the “Friction” trailer that 2K Games released a few weeks ago, we noticed an emphasis on physicality, the kind we see in an actual NBA game. Contact looked much more real, especially off the ball.

It turns out physicality is a huge part of NBA 2K17. Boxing out for rebounds; fighting through screens; dribbling through contact — all of it feels much more real now, thanks to an improved contact-recognition system that ties together with a ton of new animations. Even an opponent swinging his elbow has repercussions and can cause your controller to vibrate.

This combined with my favorite gameplay element from last year, which was the momentum physics when changing direction, shows why, even this early on, NBA 2K17 is the best simulation game of its kind. And it reaffirms that it is in fact light years ahead of the competition.

Gameplay-wise, the latest installment introduces some notable tweaks like a new shot meter, the ability to throw a skip pass across the court, and the ability to rapidly shift your position on defense, which is something I have been desperately hoping for.

MyCareer story mode

I had honestly given up on previous iterations of NBA 2K‘s MyCareer story mode because of the monotonous experience of playing through NBA seasons and answering repetitive post-game questions from the media.

But Spike Lee’s “Living’ DaDream” on NBA 2K16 changed my perspective, as it told an engaging story that featured memorable characters. It was a breath of fresh air. My only problem was that it was too short.

This year, 2K Games is sticking to the same approach but with a different narrative. I haven’t finished The Prelude’s MyCareer mode yet — I’m only up to my last game in college. But I can only hope the development team has a longer story to tell this year. Without spoiling anything I can tell you it is still very detailed and personal, though probably not as intimate as NBA 2K16‘s Spike Lee joint, with the team bringing in a new writer, director, and cast.

This year’s story feels much more mainstream; actors Hannibal Buress, Michael B. Jordan, and others have lent their voices and faces to NBA 2K17. This tells me we will be seeing more Hollywood-driven storylines in the coming years. A rotating roster of writers and directors helming the story also opens up the franchise to more creative possibilities.

Face-scanning in NBA 2K17

It’s probably important that I talk about the new face-scanning feature, which now supports Android and iOS devices. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work.

I first tried face-scanning in NBA 2K15 on Xbox One, using the Kinect camera. I spent several hours in front of the camera, slowly turning my head from side to side to get a decent result, but without success; I always ended up with a deformed version of my face. Which led me to sculpt a face from one of the presets. I wasn’t able to try out the face-scan feature in NBA 2K16 because I got a copy for the PS4 and didn’t have a PlayStation Eye cam.

It isn’t as limiting this time, as for the first time ever, 2K Games is making the feature available to more users by integrating it into the free MyNBA 2K17 app. It’s a godsend for people who don’t own a PlayStation Eye or Kinect, although in my experience, the app is just as frustrating to use.
It still couldn’t generate a decent mold of my face from the pictures I uploaded. This time, however, instead of creating a monstrous mug for me to post on social media, it just shows an error message. Thankfully though, they’ve added even more options now for sculpting faces from presets.

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Early impressions

From what I’ve seen from this prelude, it looks like NBA 2K17 is going to be another success. Once again, the developers have proven that their focus and meticulousness when it comes to translating the NBA game into virtual form are the key to the franchise’s winning record. Their efforts this year serve to create the perfect basketball simulator.

Casual fans might not notice the fine nuances, particularly the new collision mechanic. But hardcore fans of the game and of basketball will be sure to pick up the finer details.

In the end, most of us want our basketball game to be as close to the real thing as possible. And I think once again, NBA 2K17 delivers on that front more so than before.

[irp posts=”10750" name=”Drone assists in 2017 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest”]

Automotive

Tech in Cars: Towards a Safer and Worry-Free Driving Experience

It might just save your life

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Here at GadgetMatch, we appreciate good technology seen on the latest smartphones and power-packed computers. These improve lives and get things done more efficiently. But apart from those, we also recognize technology in vehicles that helps ensure safety and even save lives.

Automotive companies like Ford continues to find ways to make technology relevant to today’s needs of both drivers and passengers. With these tools, Ford was able to enhance not only safety but even comfort and the overall driving experience. Let’s take a look at one of their best-selling SUVs — the Ford Everest — and see what it has in store in terms of safety tech.


SYNC 3

Think back to all the vehicular accidents you’ve heard of due to texting, being on a call, or simply changing the radio station while driving. Ford’s third iteration of SYNC aims to keep your eyes on the road while still keeping you connected.

SYNC 3 is Ford’s in-car connectivity system that allows drivers to use voice commands to effortlessly control and access the Everest’s entertainment system, climate controls, and connected mobile device. By just simply reciting the name, SYNC 3 enables you to call your family and friends and listen to text messages. With this feature, you’ll be able to prevent distracted driving and commit your full attention to the road.

Active Park Assist

There’s no shame in having a hard time parking. I myself still need a few back and forth when space is really tight while parallel parking. And if you have a sizable SUV like the Everest, the driver can be blindsided in certain angles. This is where Ford’s Active Park Assist comes in handy as it basically parks the vehicle itself for you.

This technology helps you find the appropriate space for the Everest and carefully steers itself into the slot through the use of ultrasonic sensors found around the vehicle. All the driver needs to do is to simply switch the gears and take control of the accelerator and the brakes. All the maneuvering will be done by the system. Pretty useful, right?

Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert

Aiming to enhance visibility while driving, the Blind Spot Information System uses a pair of indicator lights on both side mirrors that alert you if there’s a vehicle approaching your blind spot. This way, you know when it’s safe to change lanes and when a vehicle is nearby.

On the other hand, its Cross Traffic alert system is useful for when you back out of parking. Using sensors, it notifies you in three different ways whenever a vehicle is coming from either direction.

Lane Keeping System

Long drives with the family are fun until you’re the only one awake and driving while the rest are enjoying their naps. And in case you also start to feel those heavy eyes, you’d be glad to know that the company’s Lane Keeping System will kick in to potentially save the day.

When the system senses that you’re switching lines without any indicators on, it will give you an alert through vibrations in the steering wheel. Not only that, torque is automatically applied and will nudge the vehicle back to its lane by itself if the vehicle still continues to drift into the next lane.

Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning

Cruise control is such a comfortable feature to have during long drives. Although a common scenario is the series of turning the system on and off due whenever the vehicle in front slows down. Ford addresses this with the Adaptive Cruise Control that senses slow moving traffic and returns to the pre-set speed once the road clears up.

Additionally, another common reason for accidents is when the vehicle in front suddenly brakes. When this happens, Collision Warning will activate showing a brake light warning on the windscreen and pre-charging the brakes. With this, the driver would have a bit more time to react and that split second could just save you from repair costs — or even injuries.

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Features

Huawei ban in full swing: Weekend Rewind

Pretty much everyone is steering clear of Huawei

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Here are the top stories on GadgetMatch this week.

1. Huawei Ban in full swing

This news had everyone buzzing this week: the US government bans Huawei’s dealings on American soil over potential security issues.


The first and biggest domino to fall following the ban is Google blacklisting Huawei from using its Android services. The ban isn’t immediate though as Huawei was granted a 90-day extension so it can work out a long-term solution.

The ban has trickled down to other companies with Intel, Broadcom, and Qualcomm reportedly staying away from Huawei. According to Bloomberg‘s sources, the US chipmakers will freeze their supply deals with Huawei for now. UK-based chip designer ARM is also following the ban since its designs hold “US origin technology.”

The ban inevitably has far reaching effects with some stores and brands in markets like Singapore and the Philippines dropping the brand altogether. This is happening despite involved companies downplaying the effects of the ban.

Huawei is continuing to work with Google for now but the company also announced earlier in the year that it is working on a non-Android operating system for its smartphones. There are no other updates on that front but you can bet development may need to be expedited.

If you’re an existing Huawei user, your device will function as is for the time being. Even if you think about trading your gadget, you may have limited options. GadgetMatch is following the story closely so keep it locked in for updates so you can make an informed choice.

2. Honor 20 launch proceeds despite Huawei ban

The Huawei ban didn’t stop its sister-brand Honor from releasing its latest flagship — the Honor 20 series including the Honor 20 Pro, Honor 20, Honor 20 Lite, and Honor 20 Pro Moschino edition.

Best of the bunch is the Honor 20 Pro whose main draw is its quad-camera setup. It has a main 48-megapixel sensor with an f/1.4 lens aperture (the biggest opening we know on mobile phones), optical image stabilization, PDAF, and laser autofocus. It also has AI tricks like Ultra Clarity and Super Night modes.

Watch our unboxing and hands-on to find out more about the Honor 20 Pro.

3. Xperia exits several markets

Sony’s mobile business hasn’t been able to keep in step with the current players today and effects are showing. Xperia will pull out in other markets including the rest of Asia, Australia, Canada, South America, Africa, and the Middle East.

However, this doesn’t mean Sony Xperia is completely waving the white flag. The company, for now, is focusing on just a few markets: Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Sony is taking two steps back but it has every intention to continue growing its mobile business.

4. MacBook Pro gets annual update

Apple‘s popular line of pro notebooks is getting more powerful with Intel’s new 8th- and 9th-gen Core chips.

The MacBook Pro refresh for mid-2019 greatly benefits the 15-inch model with Touch Bar. The base model now has a 6-core i7 processor and its high-end sibling has an 8-core i9 processor. It can be configured to an even more powerful 8-core i9 chip which can turbo boost up to 5.0GHz.

The 13-inch Touch Bar models also get a processor refresh with the base model now equipped with a faster 8th-gen quad-core i5. It can be upgraded to a quad-core i7 with a turbo boost of up to 4.7GHz.

5. Sony reveals more details about the PS5

Although exact details have been scarce, Sony hasn’t been shy about giving us PlayStation 5 crumbs.

Wall Street Journal tech reporter Takashi Mochizuki was present at Sony’s most recent gaming presentation and took a video of a comparison between the loading times of the PS5 and PS4 Pro. Predictably, the PS5’s was blazing fast.

We already know that the PS5, should it be named that, will support backwards compatibility ensuring that first owners of the console will still be able to play titles released for the PS4. Other than that, we’re still waiting for an official release date.

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Automotive

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo: A Stylish Speedster

It’s your everyday sports car

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One of the biggest factors when buying a new car, apart from function, is how it looks. The impact of that first glance. Something that would make you look twice. Some of us have that desire to break the norm and it seems like Hyundai took note of this demand — and made it fast.

The grille is flanked with LED headlamps partnered with Daytime Running Lights

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster is the second of its generation and now has a more assertive exterior than its predecessor. The most noticeable part? Its redesigned front grille. It now comes in this meshed pattern with sharper edges and, if you ask me, this alone gives the car a more aggressive presence.


Then we go to the rest of the exterior and we see those subtle lines that add to the sporty vibe of this vehicle. From the hood to the wheel arches — these accents make the Veloster look like it’s always moving.

At the back we also have this eye-catching pair of LED tail lamps plus a rear spoiler with the third brake light. Rounding up the whole sporty look is a rear bumper diffuser to improve the car’s aerodynamics.

Other notable details include side mirrors with signal repeaters and sexy 18-inch alloy wheels. If you’re already familiar with the first Veloster, then you’d know that it’s unconventional in a way that it only has one door for the driver’s side while the other has the usual two. Some call it weird. I’d like to call it style.

In terms of features, the 2019 Veloster has the bells-and-whistles for the tech-savvy. There’s keyless entry, a mechanical seat for the driver, telescopic steering wheel, voice commands, and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Those are just some of the things the vehicle assists you with before you start your day. And of course, there’s more for the drive ahead!

Your main hub for music, navigation, calls, and more is an 8-inch floating display. For controls, the steering wheel has buttons for Bluetooth as well as audio and cruise control.

Important driver information and settings can be accessed through the digital dash

In the age of smartphones, charging on-the-go is of utmost importance and with the Veloster, you get more than one option. There are two USB ports up front plus a special wireless charger just below it. Of course, your phone has to support this feature for it to work, but if it does, it feels good knowing you don’t have to fumble over plugging the cable to your phone — while you’re in the car, at least.

And for when you want more light during the day or when it’s simply colder at night, you can open the moonroof and let the breeze roll in. Added comfort creatures like this make the Veloster a package for those who like having fun on the road.

One of the things I love about its interior is how the black and red color of the exterior continues here. Its bucket seats wrapped in leather offer a premium feel for the driver and passengers alike.

The company is obviously keen to details as one can see in the cabin of the vehicle. From the buttons and knobs that reflect its sporty DNA to the ergonomics and materials used to make each ride as comfortable as possible.

Being a Turbo variant, it’s powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. Power is then transferred to the front wheels through a seven-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission. Although unlike Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way, it’s not always “Turbo Time!” for the Veloster. It offers different driving modes depending on what the situation calls for.

There’s Normal, Sport, Eco, and Smart. Eco obviously goes for the most efficient fuel consumption, Smart mode adjusts to your driving habits, Normal is — well, normal. Sport is for Track Day or simply when you want to show off.

Of course, all that speed has to be kept in check with a couple of safety features. The vehicle comes with dual airbags for the front, plus side and curtain airbags. Adding to those are ABS (anti-lock braking system) and an immobilizer for anti-theft.

Having the Veloster as a daily driver made me realize a couple of things. One is that it’s actually fuel-efficient for a car with this oomph when it’s set to Eco or even Normal mode — averaging about 9km to 10km to a liter in the city and up to 16km/l outside the Metro. It may have slight delays when not in Sport mode but it had no shortage of power. And together with its stance and vibrant red color, the Veloster is a certified head-turner.

See more of it in this video:

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