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THE PULL LIST (VOL. 9)
”The Pull List” is a feature column mixing the most noteworthy topics in pro wrestling, comics, books, Movies & TV Blu-Ray releases, and video games along with reviews and commentary in each category.
2016 MOTY TOP 10 LIST
This is a running list of the top matches of 2016 ranked at ****1/2 or higher. This list is based on what I’ve seen so far and I will be updating the list as I catch up on my wrestling viewing for this year. I will eventually make a separate post of my entire 2016 MOTY list and keep it updated regularly. I will also update the top 10 list in this column.
2016 Match of the Year List
(1) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn, NXT, “NXT Takeover: Dallas,” April 1, 2016. (*****)
(2) IWGP Hvt. Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada, NJPW, “Wrestle Kingdom 10,” Jan. 4, 2016. (*****)
(3) Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr., EVOLVE, “EVOLVE 58,” April 1, 2016. (*****)
(4) Chris Hero & Tommy End vs. Sami Callihan & Zack Sabre Jr. in an EVOLVE Tag Team Title Tournament First Round match, EVOLVE, “EVOLVE 53,” Jan. 22, 2016. (****3/4)
(5) IWGP IC Champion Shinsuke Nakamura vs. A.J. Styles, NJPW, “Wrestle Kingdom 10,” Jan. 4, 2016. (****3/4)
(6) NEVER Openweight Champion Tomohiro Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata, NJPW, “Wrestle Kingdom 10,” Jan. 4, 2016. (****1/2)
For this review, I played the PS4 version of the game.
On the heels of the average “EA Sports UFC,” “EA Sports UFC 2” brings about major improvements all-around that make this one of the most complete MMA games to date. The game looks good, plays fantastic standing and on the ground for the most part, and the visuals are incredible. This is a big improvement over the original installment of this series under the EA Sports banner.
One of the things that drove me crazy about “EA Sports UFC” was the high amount of flash knockouts and needlessly complicated ground game. That’s all gone this year in “EA Sports UFC 2.” Punches land with a satisfying fun and both online and offline, I noticed that KOs were much harder to come by than in the original game. Overall, the gameplay can lean on the technical side and needs to strike more of a balance between arcade and simulation. At times, the game seems too technical and can lack the fun factor that casual gamers might seek. The stamina meter depletes rather quickly if you spam punches and kicks. At times, it seemed it depleted too quickly, but on the flip side, the stamina meter is a nice counter to online opponents that like to spam big punches and kicks.
Luckily there’s a more arcade-like Knockout mode. Once you connect with a certain number of unblocked shots to the head, you can knock out your opponent. This mode is fun and will definitely be something to utilize if you’re playing with friends at home.
The very first thing I did when playing the game for the first time was fire up an exhibition match between Connor McGregor and Nate Diaz. I punished Diaz with blow after blow to the head and he wouldn’t go down. The fight went four rounds before I finally finished him off with some big punches after stacking his guard on the ground. It’s fun to have an all-out slug fest that lasts and involves a lot of strategy, but ultimately it doesn’t seem balanced when you score a KO and when you don’t.
The ground game in the first installment of this series was nothing short of frustrating with a series of joystick manipulations to maneuver on the ground. This time around that’s been scrapped with an intuitive ground game that allows you to naturally move in the offensive and defensive position on the ground. In the previous game, I would get flipped on my back when I was in the mount position. This caused me to stop playing “EA Sports UFC” for good.
For the latest installment in this series, I really enjoyed the ground game, although the tutorial still leaves you guessing how to succeed with some uncomfortable shoulder button mechanics combined with the right stick when it comes to blocking transitions on the ground. It really doesn’t feel natural and hopefully EA Sports can improve this in the next edition of the game. Despite not being able to naturally block transitions, it’s still possible to escape sticky situations on the ground.
I wasn’t a fan of the new submission mini-game. Instead of using directional joystick presses to either tap out your opponent or escape a submission, something more natural should have been implemented. This mini-game took me out of the action when it came to finishing my opponent with a submission. A big display coming on the screen that completely eliminated the visuals of the game for the most part just feels like something that should be scrapped in the future.
When you play exhibitions or in Ultimate Fighter mode, you’re given an on-screen guide that shows how to do everything you need to do to succeed in the game. This is a huge enhancement, as there’s a steep learning curve for all facets of the game, but once you master them all, it becomes second nature to pull off every difficult punching combination and parry.
The game comes complete with over 250 male and female fighters. They look fantastic and fight like their real life counterparts. The entrances and visuals are stunning. The commentary with Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg is adequate and enthusiastic, but it could use more variety. I was a bit surprised with the high rating given to C.M. Punk, but maybe EA Sports is privy to scouting information from Punk’s camps prior to his injury that I don’t have access to.
The new game engine is great and the animations for punches and strikes look natural and land with an impactful thud. In addition, knockout animations aren’t canned, so there are some great looking knockouts that see your opponent go to the ground in a pile just as you would expect to see on TV.
There’s a lot to do in “EA Sports UFC 2” when it comes to game modes. You can do so much, but the mode that kept me while getting into the game was Ultimate Fighter mode. You can either take a skin from an existing fighter or create your own in this mode. Although I wish the game was livelier while training for upcoming fights and sharpening the skills of your created fighter, this mode really helped me become familiar with the controls before going into other game modes. Your created player in this mode has a shelf-life, so it’s best to finish your fights as quickly as possible. Once the meter in your career mode fills up, your fighter retires.
There’s also the debut of an Ultimate Team mode where you can take up to five created fighters and improve their skills by collecting cards. You can get by without actually having to spend money in this mode, but this kind of mode just doesn’t seem like a natural fit, as it does for soccer, football, hockey, and basketball games.
Overall thoughts: 8.0 – “EA Sports UFC 2” is a fantastic game. It has some shortcomings in certain areas, but this game is fun to play and a huge improvement over the previous installation in the series. The game can be a bit too technical at times and relies on a deep control system. With some tweaks, the controls and gameplay would strike the perfect balance between simulation and arcade. In addition, some improvements in the submission game and Ultimate Team mode, this franchise could go to the next level and be worthy of mention alongside the very best sports simulations in existence. Thumbs up.
EA Sports UFC 2 is currently available for Xbox One and PS4 online and at most retail stores where video games are sold.
NEW MOVIE BLU-RAY RELEASE
RIDE ALONG 2 (Blu-Ray, DVD, & Digital HD combo pack)
“Ride Along 2,” comes on the heels of the successful original cop-buddy movie “Ride Along” and instead of coming back with a fresh script with funny scene after funny scene to match the pace of the first movie, the sequel sputters with an average script and uninspired performances from most of the cast minus Kevin Hart, who single handedly makes the movie watchable thanks to his hilarious ability to make any slapstick scene worth watching.
When I wrote “Ride Along 2,” comes on the heels of the last movie, I’m not joking. Hardly any time has gone by and now Ben (Hart) is a rookie on the force. James (Ice Cube) plays the straight man to Hart’s silly character and he’s the detective that Ben aspires to be one day. Ben is going to Marry James’s sister soon, so Hart dubs them the Brothers-In-Law. James doesn’t think Ben has what it takes to be a detective and thinks this trip to Miami will prove that once and for all.
James’s sister convinces him to take Ben along with him to chase down a drug trafficker in Miami. The plot is basically identical to “Ride Along” except Ben is no longer a security guard. The new additions to the cast are Olivia Munn as a tough cop/possible love interest for James and Ken Jeong as a hacker.
The movie begins with a promising gun fight and the scenes in Miami are nicely shot, but the laughs just aren’t there consistently. Hart’s performance in this movies is the highlight, especially when he hams it up while he and James are infiltrating a party as they pursue their target in Miami. His encounter with an alligator in the backyard of the party after falling out of a window is hilarious.
Another highlight of the movie is a car chase through the streets of Miami that sees Ben use videogame vision, as he’s a huge gamer. The movie goes back and forth between Ben’s videogame vision and real life vision as Ben and James are chased by bad guys. When Ben switches his mind to videogame mode, the film looks like Grand Theft Auto. This scene is the most brilliant thing in the movie and it’s a shame more ideas like this one weren’t used.
Ken Jeong is largely wasted in his aforementioned role. Jeong largely plays a similar character in most movies he appears in. He was tremendous in The Hangover franchise, but the script gives him nothing to sink his teeth into here. Munn is fine in her role, but nothing in the script does anything to create sparks between her and Ice Cube. She adds some much needed sex appeal, but for someone that’s very funny, she brings almost no laughs to the table.
Elsewhere, Sherri Shepherd is a highlight as Ben’s nagging wedding planner. Shepherd and Hart have great chemistry bickering over the phone as Ben tries to balance chasing down bad guys while away from his fiancé with planning his wedding. There’s a particularly funny gag revolving around the flowers being used at the wedding between Shepherd and Hart that will get some laughs.
As for the Blu-ray extras, “Ride Along 2” is loaded with extras and add value to this release. The DVD and Blu-Ray versions of this release include directory commentary from Tim Story, which gives a lot of insight into some of the big action scenes in the movie and the previously mentioned videogame/reality car chase through the streets of Miami.
The highlights of the Blu-ray extras are The Ride Along Roundtable with producer Will Packer, director Tim Story, Ice Cube, and Kevin Hart and Ride Along with Kevin Hart. They discuss what it was like being on set day-by-day and it’s interesting to hear them discuss the process of making “Ride Along 2.” It’s also great to listen to all four men talk about how rewarding it has been to turn “Ride Along 2” into a franchise, as they genuinely seemed humbled by the fact that they were able to make “Ride Along” on a small budget and turn it into a box office hit.
Ride Along with Kevin Hart shows Kevin Hart interacting with the cast and crew behind the scenes. It’s a lot of fun to see Hart keeping things lively as he jokes around with Ice Cube and Story amongst others on set. Hart is a lot of fun to watch on screen and he definitely appears to have been the life of the party while this movie was filmed.
Overall thoughts: (6.5) – This movie was a letdown. With two performers like Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, it should be easy to make a hilarious movie. Fortunately for “Ride Along 2,” Hart’s performance single handedly makes this movie a slight thumbs up. There are some good action and car chase scenes in this movie, but the laughs come few and far between at times. Thankfully the movie allows Hart to showcase his ability to do slapstick and be hilarious.
You can purchase “Ride Along 2” on Blu-ray, DVD, & Digital HD is now available to purchase at most retail and online outlets.
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