Monday, March 31, 2014

Food Review (Chicken Cantina Bowl from Taco Bell)

I've had a good number of these, and I'm surprised I never got around to reviewing what many people believe to be the embarrassment of Taco Bell. For $4.99, this is what you get, per the Taco Bell website:

"Experience our new citrus-herb marinated chicken, flavorful black means, guacamole made from real Hass avocados, pico de gallo prepared fresh daily, roasted corn and pepper salsa and a creamy cilantro dressing, all served on a bed of premium Latin rice. Also available in Steak of Veggie"

And that's what it is. When this item was introduced to Taco Bell way back when, it was soon after I decided to start counting my calories. While I still ate nothing but loads of sodium and saturated fat, I was (and still am) trying to not let myself balloon out. A lot of people probably look at the price for this item and scoff, but the truth is, it's a good value. Not just because of the pretty decent quality of what you're getting, but because of the size of what you're getting. The chicken cantina bowl is, from what I've seen, the heftiest item on the Taco Bell menu, which should also help to explain the five dollar asking price.

I've probably had at least two dozen of these over the past year or two (primarily because of its size and relatively low calorie amount of 540), and I've noticed some consistencies that aren't exactly positives. First of all, all too often it seems like the rice is undercooked. Not terribly, but definitely noticeable. Second, the chicken seems to be dry too many times when I get these things. Why do I keep getting them? They still taste decent. The black beans and corn salsa are always perfectly fine, the guacamole is decent (albeit uninteresting), and the cilantro dressing has a good flavor (although it's a bit salty, but what can you expect?).

If you're looking to fill up and feel a bit less remorse from eating fast food, this is a fair option. Yeah, there aren't too many calories in this cantina bowl, and there's not a lot of fat, but there is a lot of sodium, and it still has chicken that's likely injected with a bunch of mystery ingredients, regardless of what that slut Lorena Garcia says.


+ Good value. Decent amount of flavor. Surprisingly filling.
- Pretty consistently undercooked rice and overcooked chicken.

Food Review (Fresco Crunchy Taco from Taco Bell)

Ah, what the hell am I doing right now. Reviewing something so boring... yes, that's right, the crunchy taco from Taco Bell is getting its own review. To be more precise, this is actually for the fresco crunchy taco. Taco Bell's longest tenured menu item (total mind blower, I bet), the crunchy taco is a simple crunchy corn tortilla with about a tablespoon of "beef", a cup of lettuce, and a teaspoon of pico de gallo. You read that correctly. Taco Bell's crunchy taco has an impeccable, beautiful balance of ingredients!

In all seriousness, it doesn't suck. I prefer the fresco crunchy taco over the regular crunchy taco just because the pico de gallo offers a lot more flavor than Taco Bell's flavorless "cheese", and it's also a couple dozen fewer calories. No big deal. For a dollar, you can't go wrong. It's simple, good, and a measly 150 calories. Taco Bell's delicious combination of a crunchy, often times stale or broken shell, 75% horse meat and 25% cardboard with a bit of wilted, flavorless, only-there-for-color lettuce is strangely compelling. The pico de gallo on top adds a nice flavor and texture to what would otherwise be a very mediocre menu item. I don't normally like tomatoes, but getting this taco fresco style is the only way to do it.

+ A dollar. Pico de gallo in place of flavorless cheese at no extra charge. Good for what it is.
- It's Taco Bell. All the years of ingesting "horseboard" can't possibly be good for my bowels.


Food Review (Chicken Tendercrisp from Burger King)

Alright, I haven't reviewed a food item in awhile, and I basically never review an item that's a mainstay on a fast food menu... but I feel compelled to make an exception for this (although I may do more in the future, sadly).

The Chicken Tendercrisp from Burger King used to be one of my absolute favorite chicken sandwiches from a fast food restaurant. A nice size, tasty breading on it, and juicy chicken. In fact, the Firecracker Tendercrisp, which has been a limited time item a couple times at Burger King, was one of my top two chicken sandwiches, after Wendy's long gone Four Alarm Chicken Sandwich.

What I had today was absolute shit. That's right, I said it, shit. I was shocked, appalled, and confused. I have to say right off that I haven't had a Tendercrisp for maybe about a year, so maybe everybody knows about the change, but this is entirely different from what Burger King used to offer. The first thing I noticed was the pathetically thin patty of chicken. After taking a bite, I noticed the Tendercrisp morphed from a solid piece of chicken breast to the same kind of thing Checkers offers -- a half "sponge" chicken texture, and half chicken breast... some sort of weird ass hybrid. There's a mild chicken flavor, but there's a massive amount of saltines, and the breading doesn't even taste like I remember. What the hell? How did this go from such a solid chicken sandwich to an absolute joke?

Do not buy this "premium" chicken sandwich. It's utter trash. I know only about a dozen people will ever see this review, but if you're curious about this sandwich: DO NOT PURCHASE IT.


+ Honestly, none that I can think of. I mean, I guess it's edible. I didn't die after I ate it -- yet. Hey, there are two tomatoes too... I suppose that's a plus, right? Most places only give you one, correct?

- All else. The patty is half the thickness or less than half the thickness of the Tendercrisp of old, the breading looks similar but doesn't have the flavor I remember, the chicken is half spongy/half chicken breast, and dry. The website claims this thing is 700 calories, but I find that impossible to believe given its size, or rather, lack of size.

Game Review (Second Assault expansion for Battlefield 4)

Battlefield 4's second expansion is one that I figure people will take two sides on -- "I love it!" and "I hate it." It seems popular for FPSs to offer at least one map pack a year with maps from a previous game. Second Assault features four maps that were in 2011's Battlefield 3, but they feature DICE's new Frostbite 3 engine as well as a new look and feel. Also in this expansion, Capture the Flag is introduced to Battlefield 4, there are 11 assignments, 5 trophies/achievements, 5 weapons, and 2 vehicles. Since the majority of people will be buying expansions based on the maps included, that'll be what I focus on here.


Caspian Border: One of my personal favorites from Battlefield 3, Caspian Border is back and it's better than ever with some differences that I really like, though I do see why some people have a beef with it. Caspian Border 2014 seems more "border-esque", as there is now a giant concrete wall running through the map. It's awesome and all, but the Russian (I think? Well, one of the sides) faction has three flags on their side of the wall, putting the other team at an instant disadvantage in Conquest. Regardless of this confusing decision, this map is phenomenal. The huge wall in the middle of the map makes moving around the map interesting, there are scout posts on top of the wall, there's a new tunnel/sewer area, and plenty of new little things that likely makes this my favorite map from the pack, and one of my favorites in Battlefield 4. I realize that sounds sad, but come on... Battlefield 4's disc maps were reaaaally weak for the most part. I have to score this map a 4.5 -- I'd go higher, but the instant disadvantage on Conquest is a bummer. 4.5/5

Gulf of Oman: When this map was announced as a part of Second Assault, I remember seeing a lot of people asking "Why?" Personally, I really enjoyed this map in Battlefield 3 and thought it was incredibly underrated. What am I down about with Gulf of Oman 2014 though? The damn sand storm. It's the Levolution for this map, and while it's a fairly neat idea, it just doesn't work, for ME, for the simple fact that the sandstorm goes on, and on, and on. I think it would be better off to either have the sandstorm come once for less time, and come and go in short durations. Besides the sandstorm, Gulf of Oman 2014 looks essentially the same other than a graphical upgrade. This remains a fun map, but I like it a tick less than Battlefield 3's version just because of the length of the sandstorm. 3.75/5

Operation Firestorm: This is another map that I liked in Battlefield 3 that seemed to be disliked by quite a few players. In Operation Firestorm 2014, the map has a darker look to it, and I believe two new capture points on Conquest that are actually well placed and apparently thought out a good bit before just being added to the map. The Levolution for this map is, for all I know, fire. I don't know what has to be done because I haven't done it, but there are oil spills and fire for the map's Levolution, which makes traveling on foot a bit interesting. The thing about Operation Firestorm on Battlefield 3, at least on the 360, was that the map just looked bland. Operation Firestorm 2014 bumps up the graphics, and makes the game more fun (at least on Conquest) with new capture points. Another super fun map. I don't think many at all will agree with my scoring of this, but I couldn't give a shit! 4.5/5

Operation Metro: Ah... Battlefield 3's version of Call of Duty: Black Ops' Nuketown. The very definition of a love it or hate it map. Well, for me, it depends on the game mode. Conquest? This map is one of the worst experiences ever in an FPS. Rush? Intense, fun, and far less linear as Conquest. Not just that, you get to play on the first section of the map in Rush, which is one of my favorite parts about Operation Metro. The Levolution for Metro is that you can shoot supports that cause the ceiling to collapse on enemies. Nothing huge, but a fun little addition that makes the map a bit more interesting. I haven't gotten a chance to play this map much, unfortunately, just because it never seems to come up in Rush. I make it a point to play it if I see a server where Rush is being played on it though. 3.5/5 


And there you have it. Second Assault is worth shelling out the $15 for, if you don't have Premium. Caspian Border and Operation Firestorm are probably both different enough to please players who aren't into playing old maps, but Gulf of Oman and Operation Metro haven't changed all that much outside of a slightly different color palette and an improvement in graphics. Overall, this is a better expansion pack than China Rising, just because these maps felt more inspired in Battlefield 3, and more inspired here in Battlefield 4.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Game Review (China Rising expansion for Battlefield 4)

I planned on wasting my time typing up reviews for Battlefield 4's map packs, but never got around to it. Well, now I'm committing to it, so get ready for a slew of text and posts about Battlefield 4. Hm. If only I put so much effort into worthwhile things...


China Rising was the first map pack release for Battlefield 4, and was even included for free for those who bought Battlefield 4 at or around launch. While that's a really cool throw-in, it's sort of a slap in the face to those who already planned on getting Premium. Hey, it's nothing new though, the same thing happened with the Back to Karkand map pack on Battlefield 3. As usual, four maps are included in China Rising: Altai Range, Dragon Pass, Guilin Peaks, and Silk Road. That's not all though -- Air Superiority makes a comeback (does anybody actually care?), five trophies/achievements are added, and some weapons, gadgets, and vehicles are also introduced. For $15, the value seems to be there, as you aren't just throwing down three Lincolns for some maps. Of course, the maps are the meat of the expansion, so how are they?

Altai Range: I would say I have played this map more than any other in the pack, as it seemingly kept coming up on Conquest when I was playing it. Altai Range, to me, is the very definition of an average map. Something about it is just very "vanilla." I do like the middle capture location on Conquest, but there are more reasons to dislike this map than like it, I figure. First, air vehicles are a bitch to use due to the relentless anti-air vehicles that can down your chopper or jet in mere seconds. Normally that would just be a *bit* of an annoyance, but on a map that's as open as Altai Range is, it's really hard to outmaneuver the anti-air vehicles, no matter how good of a pilot you are. If you like vehicles, stick to the ground on Altai Range. Besides that, the map just has a rather ordinary sort of layout with a boring color palette. A very, very average map with some aspects that make it disappointing, to be quite honest. 3.5/5

Dragon Pass: This is a map that seems to take place in a swampy sort of location in China. The color of this map is very, ehrm... brown. There are a number of ways to get around, with mountains all around the map, which make it pretty interesting. At the same time, there are some really long sight lines that make sniping easy for people just waiting for some soldiers to walk down a road and across a bridge (hey, to be frank, if you do this, you deserve to get your damn head shot off). The jets on this map aren't nearly as helpful as helicopters are due to the mountains all around, but skilled pilots could do some damage. Dragon Pass has a fair amount of water on it with Ski-Doo dealies to zip around on to get you to where you want to go. Dragon Pass has a pretty interesting look to it and has a couple really fun areas for gunfights, but this seems to be one of the most consistently laggy maps on Battlefield 4, no matter what server I play it on. In spite of that, Dragon Pass still remains a pretty decent map that'll give you some memorable moments. 3.5/5

Guilin Peaks: Gorgeous is the first word that comes to mind when describing this map's design. This one takes place in a Chinese jungle, and it just looks great. There's a cave area that takes up a good portion of the middle of the map with some good elevation. Outside there's a lot of vegetation, a good number of rocks and hills, and a few buildings spread around. While there are choppers on this map, this is likely a map where you will be spending a lot of time on the ground, whether it be on foot or an ATV. The cave area can get hectic when battling over the capture point in Conquest as grenades start flying everywhere and you can't see much of anything -- it's a blast. Rush is also a pretty fun option on Guilin Peaks, despite the fact it may slightly benefit the Defenders. I'd say this is my favorite map from the pack, and one of the better maps in Battlefield 4, period. 4.25/5

Silk Road: I would be surprised if I was the only person that thought of Bandar Desert when I first saw this map. There's a good third of the map that's just a pile of sand leading to the central capture point that has barricades up and a couple hangers. There are also some elevated cliff areas for snipers to look across the battlefield, and for tanks to position themselves to light up infantry below, or shoot at choppers in the sky. Silk Road also has bombers, which are basically perfect for a map like this. Silk Road is a really open map, but there is enough elevation throughout the map that it could make things a bit tricky for a bomber. I don't think many people like this map as much as I do, but something about it is just really fun to me. It doesn't have the awesome aesthetic of Guilin Peaks, but it is the best map for dog fights and long range tank battles, in my opinion. 4.25/5


While Altai Range and Dragon Pass are both rather average maps, Guilin Peaks and Silk Road are worth the price of admission. Guilin Peaks has some awesome infantry gameplay, and Silk Road is great in a tank or in the sky with it being more difficult to insta-kill jet pilots. Add things like a handful of guns, new assignments, and a couple new vehicles (including a bomber), and you have a pretty solid expansion pack. China Rising may not exactly blow your mind, but it will certainly entertain you.