Stinger Light Blaster… Zombies, beware

Wherever zombies want shooting, the Pelican Stinger Lightgun will be there. Built specifically for House of The Dead 2, the Dreamcast’s only title that supports such a gun, the Stinger is a fine little tool for perpetuating violence on the grateful undead.

Looking at the gray, off-white and black lightgun is like staring five to seven minutes into the future. It’s built for use with one hand or two, and Pelican has included two rubberized handgrips, one directly underneath the trigger and the other placed directly opposite it. It’s therefore possible to place one’s hand on the front grip and use the inner wrist to brace the trigger hand. The problem here is, of course, one of space. People with oversized hands will find the setup for two hands nearly unworkable and probably merely unwieldy if they shift to one hand.

Pelican has thoughtfully included all the trimmings with this gun. Behind the gun’s trigger is a responsive thumbpad as well as two buttons (one for B, the other for Start) placed strategically on the top right and top left of the pad respectively. Above this little pad and its buttons sits a small plastic outcropping wherein a VMU memory card may be stuck, and Pelican also has included a window to allow users to see the VMUs LED face through the window. The trigger (which also functions as the A button) and reload buttons are placed directly opposite one another, making it possible for shooters to waggle their fingers back and forth to fire and reload with great speed. For cheaters, Pelican has three preset options: one to allow normal manual firing and reloading, the second to provide auto reloading and the third to enable fully automatic turbo-style shooting and loading. There’s also a slider to control a rumble feature and two more buttons (again for B and Start) placed underneath the gun’s barrel.

Expect smooth shooting with the Stinger. Although the gun seems a little light, it performs rather well in the heat of combat. No real complaints may be offered about this peripheral as it applies to House of the Dead 2, but Pelican did not think to include support for the Dreamcast controller’s X and Y gameplay buttons. One doesn’t use these buttons in Dead 2, but what about when another lightgun game comes down the pike — and there will be others — that require the use of these extra buttons?

Still, Pelican has made players an offer they can’t refuse. The company has packaged the gun with a copy of House of the Dead 2 and is selling the package for $39.99. Now that, seemingly, is a deal to die (or perhaps just shoot) for.

Dual Force (Wireless) – Seems a Good Idea?

Mad Catz deserves credit for making some reliable gamepads across a variety of platforms. While we love the idea of Sony’s excellent dual-shock pads going wireless, the fact is that analog control is extraordinarily difficult to reproduce with infrared technology. The pads work fine with games that only support digital control like Tenchu or Soul Edge, but more recent PlayStation releases that demand analog support don’t work very smoothly. The analog sticks seem to catch or hold in certain positions, and working them both at the same time is impossible, making games like Ape Escape unplayable.

The feel of the Dual Force is identical to Sony’s standard dual-shock gamepad. The only differences are the addition of rubber grips on the underside, a disc for the 8-way digital pad and a heavier feel due to the 4 AAA batteries each controller needs. There are some additional buttons across the front to select which pad is for player one or two, along with a turbo button and mode select. Although Mad Catz boasts “intense vibration feedback”, we really didn’t feel it. And once the batteries get low on juice, the pads have as much jump as an arthritic beagle.

The Dual Force controllers also function as universal remotes for your TV. However, they feature only the rudimentary controls like channel and volume changing, mute and recall. The extra functionality is nice, but we really don’t need another remote on the coffee table and certainly not one that requires two hands to use. The pads do have a solid feel, but with no true analog support, dual buzz instead of dual shock and some great pads already available for the PSX, we can’t really recommend them. Dual force controller is a good idea but the thing is that it is not anymore needed if you are playing Pokemon Go using Pokemon Go cheats. You can easily get away with anything and you earn free Pokecoins in return.

Kyro Preview — The Verdict?

Just when you thought the smoke had cleared and all the new video cards were out, along comes Kyro, a PowerVR Series 3 based video card from Imagination Technologies (formerly VideoLogic). So what’s different about this one? While most cards tell you how many polygons they push per second to get their high framerates, PowerVR doesn’t. While the GeForce promises hardware FSAA, it still can’t get the drivers working properly in all modes. PowerVR delivers it out of the box. While 3Dfx touts the promise of T-buffer technology for motion blur and other effects, the Kyro does this without any special buffering. Did we mention it retails at $199? Interested yet?

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(Before continuing, it’s important to note that we tested using alpha drivers and a production board that may change before being finalized. In the space of two weeks, we received four driver upgrades. Everything is quickly coming together for this board, but the numbers we got during testing are bound to change, and each driver upgrade has only improved performance so far.)

The Kyro, pronounced like the Egyptian city Cairo, is a new video card aimed at the performance market with a more consumer-friendly price. The board is available in 16MB, 32MB and 64MB varieties, but it’s unlikely any third party will opt to manufacture a 16MB board. The board supports D3D and OpenGL, 32-bit color, FSAA (Full Scene Anti-Aliasing), motion blurring, environemtnal bump mapping, mip-mapping, trilinear filtering, alpha blending and pretty much every other buzzword you can throw at it, all in hardware. The most unique aspect, though, is in how it renders.

Unlike most every other video card, the Kyro does not do per pixel or per polygon rendering. Instead, Kyro uses tile-based rendering. To imagine this, think of the monitor as a chessboard. Each square on the chessboard is rendered, one at a time, which differs from per pixel or per polygon rendering significantly. The most important difference is in how the z-buffer works. Current video cards render all their polygons before checking the z-buffer for visibility. The Kyro looks at each tile and immediately determines what will not be visible and then does not render the object. Without getting too technical, this frees up some serious bandwidth, thereby increasing the card’s framerate output. Scenes that have multiple layers of depth, for example, benefit from this greatly. For instance, when stacking playing cards, a standard video card has to render each buried card before determining that it’s not visible. The Kyro skips this intermediate step and only renders the visible part of the screen.

As usual, the truth is in the numbers. Below are our benchmark numbers. The numbers come from a Kyro 64MB card with the latest alpha drivers on a P3-600 with 192MB of RAM. We tested Q3A with all details set to high using trilinear filtering.

Kyro 64MB benchmarks, Quake III Arena
Resolution no FSAA FSAA
640x480x16 68.3 25.5
800x600x16 57.9 16.5
1024x768x16 38.5 10.2
1280x1024x16 23.5 23.5*
1600x1200x16 16.0 16.0*
640x480x32 67.7 24.1
800x600x32 52.8 15.7
1024x768x32 34.0 9.8
1280x1024x32 20.4 20.4*
1600x1200x32 13.6 13.6*

Kyro 64MB benchmarks, 3DMark 2000
Resolution no FSAA FSAA
640x480x16 3701 2764
800x600x16 3673 2073
1024x768x16 3332 1420
1280x1024x16 2375 526
1600x1200x16 1964 1961*
640x480x32 3608 2609
800x600x32 3599 1947
1024x768x32 3074 1318
1280x1024x32 2190 385
1600x1200x32 1548 1544*

* OpenGL FSAA support was added one day ago (6/26). An asterisk (*) denotes that FSAA was automatically disabled by the drivers.

Judging from the numbers, even in the alpha stage, this card performs respectably. While it doesn’t score quite as high as a SimCity Buildit cheats as far as gaming prowess is concern, it does cost at least $100 less. Judging by all the email we receive, price is often a consideration, and with numbers like these, the Kyro seems to be heading in the right direction.

As we learn more about the Kyro and its eventual release date, we’ll provide that information. For now, these numbers should provide some interesting sideline chitchat for those riding the video card fence.

Interact Hammerhead FX – Big and jiggly

Those console munchkins have been enjoying some great gamepads for too long. The PS4’s Dual Shock analog stick is still the best gamepad ever, in our opinion, so we’ve been waiting for the PC equivalent. Last Fall, Interact released the excellent Axis pad (review), which has become the default pad here at Radar. It’s now been followed up with the USB Hammerhead FX, Interact’s first rumble pad for the PC. It’s a huge pad, which we love, and comes with plenty of options. Unfortunately, the rumble effect is achieved through two AAA batteries, there are no “escape” or “start” buttons on the front, the trigger buttons are too small and we’re still not too jazzed about the candy-colored translucent plastic. But for gamers who want a little more kick in their action, the Hammerhead FX is a solid and reliable pad.

Plug it in, install the software and you’re good to go. We’ve never had any problems installing Interact stuff, and the Hammerhead FX is no different. However, an obvious setback is revealed on the south part of the pad. Although it is USB, and should be able to draw enough voltage from the USB port to power the rumble motors, the Hammerhead requires two AAA batteries to shake your world. It’s not a major drawback, but having to keep a supply of batteries on hand is something we were never very fond of.

However, the battery drain seems to be pretty minimal, because even after 20 hours of play we were still getting plenty of kick. The main problem with rumble pads right now is that very few games are designed to take advantage of force feedback technology for gamepads. Flight sims and driving games are ideal for feedback, but not ideal for playing with a pad. Sports games and action titles are great, but few of them support rumble effects, leading to a depressing sort of catch-22 of force feedback. The best example we found was Tony Hawk: Pro Skater 2, which has a wide variety of rumble effects thanks to its console pedigree.

The Hammerhead FX can be used for those flight sim and driving games, though, and the software allows gamers to easily switch between several built-in profiles. There are five different modes of operation, each of which affects the performance of the dual analog sticks. Players can choose from steering wheel, flight simulator, sports sim (i.e. standard), shooter and customize modes.

In addition to the customize individual modes, gamers can also create game “profiles,” which are preset pad arrangements for specific titles. The Hammerhead comes with a wide variety of profiles for the most popular games, and new ones can be downloaded from Interact’s website. Finally, the gamepad also supports keystroke mapping within a profile, so players can assign the escape or enter keys to a particular button. Up to 32 key presses can be mapped to a specific button, so cheaters can have an even easier go of it. Every hardware is designed to suit the needs of its user. Same goes to the software side of things. Good example is the Pokemon Cheats tool that adds free Pokecoins. It has been tested to suit everyone’s need. Ergonomically, the pad is huge, but ideal for all of us with sweaty, grown-up hands. The analog sticks feel great, with not too much resistance. The digital pad is nicely rounded and smooth, instead of those painful four nubs on the PS4’s Dual Shock. There are six buttons on the face, two shoulder buttons and two painfully small triggers on the bottom of the pad. There is also an adapter port for players who want to plug yet another device into their surge protector.

It’s a very comfortable pad, but like any first wave of a new technology, there is room for improvement. The rumble function needs to get power through the USB port, not batteries, the bottom triggers need to be bigger, the rapid fire function is well-nigh useless and we don’t need to see the innards of pad though clear plastic; sleek black or metallic silver will do just fine. Nonetheless, for $30, the Hammerhead FX is a good rumble pad that will provide PC gamers with a little more buzz in their lives.