Friday, May 09, 2014

Food Review (Chicken Cool Ranch Dorito Locos Tacos from Taco Bell)

Taco Bell's going right along with their shredded chicken -- it looks like they're going to do what they've done with their XXL "series" of limited time items. XXL burrito, XXL taco, XXL quesadilla, XXL nachos, etc... now we've had the shredded chicken smothered burrito (a now seemingly permanent item that I get fairly often), this shredded chicken DLT, and likely some shredded chicken quesadilla and nachos in the pipeline. As a matter of fact, Taco Bell's currently testing what are essentially spicy chicken taquitos. Anyway, onto this review.

First of all, there are two varieties -- the Chicken Cool Ranch DLT Supreme and the Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch DLT Supreme. The difference between the two is that the former has Taco Bell's been-around-forever avocado ranch sauce, and the latter has Taco Bell's a-bit-more-recent-but-still-nothing-new chipotle sauce. I'll refer to them as CCR and SCCR. One has 170 calories, and two has 200.

Both of these tacos are actually a decent size -- I got more chicken on these tacos then I get beef when I rarely order a Dorito Taco. Therein lies the problem: these should-be crunchy tacos become pretty soggy because of the chicken. The CCR is my less favorite of the two. The avocado ranch sauce doesn't add much of anything to the flavor, and the already-there sour cream makes it equally as pointless, since they're both supposed to be there for "balancing."

The SCCR is the one I'd have again. I've liked Taco Bell's chipotle sauce since they've had it, and it works really well with this taco. Also, the sour cream doesn't come off as an afterthought, because it actually cools down the heat a little bit. In fact, I'm pretty sure the CCR was thought of after the SCCR just to give a second "new" option. Both had enough flavor that I didn't think it was necessary to add any hot sauce to them -- the SCCR one especially. Not to mention that they were both already salty enough: the salty Doritos shell, the sodium soaked chicken, and the kidney killing chipotle sauce will have you downing water after eating them, despite their good flavor overall.

I liked both varieties, but I like the taste of the spicy one more, and the sour cream doesn't feel unnecessary like it does on the other.

3.5/5 -- Chicken Cool Ranch DLT (The one with avocado ranch sauce.)
3.75/5 -- Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch DLT (The one with the chipotle sauce.)

Monday, May 05, 2014

Game Review (MLB '14: The Show - PS4)

MLB The Show is a series I first -- and last -- played in '06. At the time, I left the game feeling unimpressed for reasons I don't quite recall, but I did get a free hat out of it, and the Tigers wound up making it to the World Series that year. Having an Xbox 360 since the Summer of '06, I haven't played The Show since its inaugural go. Since the Xbox One isn't even getting a real baseball game this season, I'm glad to have chosen to get a PS4.

One of the most important things for many people getting a game on a next-gen console that's already on a last-gen console are the graphics, and there's no denying that. The Show '14 is a game that, to me, doesn't look as great as, say, NBA 2K14 (for the sake of comparing first year next-gen sports games). The biggest flaws in this game, outside of the soon-to-be discussed commentary, pertain to the graphics... and there's quite a list. First of all, the majority of player faces look nothing like their real life counterparts. The MLB 2K series didn't have particularly great faces (I recall several well-known players having randomized ones), but the ones that were done tended to look pretty good. In this game, when a hitter stands in the box, don't be surprised when you need to direct your eyes to the bottom of the screen just to get a glimpse of who the hell's hitting. On the plus side, the batting stances -- for the most part -- are incredibly well done, and help in identifying players. A nit-pick I have is that players who have tattoos (Prince Fielder, Yadier Molina, Miguel Cabrera, etc.) don't have tattoos, and that's something that I sincerely hope changes in '15. Again, I know it's wrong to compare, but NBA 2K14 has tattoos, why can't The Show? Other things I noticed include the fans. While it's great to see far more original faces in the crowd so it looks more realistic, the fans don't look at the action on the field. Instead, they always seem to be looking towards center field. This has always been a thing in baseball games, but I was hoping for a change. Lastly in terms of graphics, there's also a fair amount of clipping that I noticed in this game. For instance, the bat boy sits on a chair that goes through his body, and when you see a pitching go adjust their pants, their hands go through. Fans also fill up the stands and are just as rowdy in Houston in the middle of August as they are in the middle of a pennant race. This is a common thing in most sport games, but it's something I'd really like to see addressed next year, as it's just incredibly unrealistic outside of Opening Day in many parks. Again, many people may consider these nitpicks, but they're things that are impossible to not notice.

The sound in the show is about on-par with what was seen in the past, when comparing to previous games' YouTube videos. That is to say, the soundtrack is still good, but not great, and the commentary is, as it always has been, absolutely uneventful, bland, boring, trash, and any other negative adjective you can think of. Personally, I don't understand it, at least on Matt Vasgersian's side of things -- the guy calls a game well on TV, but in this game, he sounds like he's deliberately trying to be unexciting, and it will more than likely make many players of The Show '14 want to mute the commentary for yet another year. The stadium sounds are all fine and good, but the sound as a whole is underwhelming, due in large part to the worth-muting commentary.

The game as a whole is a lot of fun, despite the shortcomings graphically and with the commentary. It has a nice simulation feel that the 2K series lacked (which felt part simulation, part arcade), and a fair amount of game modes to keep you entertained. One of the biggest additions to The Show '14 is the ability to use quick counts, which can shorten game times considerably. I don't plan on ever using it, but it could certainly be something worth checking out if you don't have about an hour to dedicate to a single game. The most significant downfall to this game as a whole has to be any online game mode, as there is unbelievable lag that renders the game virtually unplayable. For me, this isn't a huge loss, as I play 98% or more of my games against the CPU, but it makes it impossible to have an enjoyable match with somebody online.

In its entirety, the game plays very well, but the commentary and fairly unimpressive graphics have left me only a bit more than content with this offering. Most of this review would seem like nitpicking with nothing but negativity, but after hearing Ramone Russell talk about how the whole team making this game are "perfectionists", I've seen plenty of flaws (subtle and not so subtle) in this game, most notably the notoriously monotone and uninteresting commentary. I'm looking forward to what MLB: The Show '15 will bring -- hopefully we get a new cast for the commentary, because this commentary is flat out stale, and the commentators are a good part of what makes a baseball game entertaining. Just look at the MLB 2K series; the only reason why the series was playable (outside of the intuitive pitching mechanics) was the great commentary. The Show '14 is a must-buy and no-brainer for any PS4 owning baseball fan, but I can't overlook the graphical flaws and, to be blunt, awful commentary.


+: Pleasant presentation overall; saves transfer year to year in most game modes; solid controls; all-around the best baseball game I've ever played.

-: Dreadful commentary; Diamond Dynasty saves don't transfer; basically unplayable online, which should cause players who normally play online to be hesitant of purchasing this game; some bugs, including a lot of clipping(that sticks out a lot in a baseball game), annoying animations from the players, and fans who have faces of men, but female bodies... what the.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Game Review (Mercenary Kings - PS4)

Being the PS4 free game of the month for PlayStation Plus members, this was one of the first titles since the PS4's monthly "freeleases" that piqued my interest. A side scrolling late '80s looking shooter? Sign me up! I wasn't sure what to expect from the game, but I was interested enough to give it a download.

Graphically, Mercenary Kings is very simple, and looks as if it were made almost thirty years ago. It's a clean looking game thanks to the HD quality though. There's a bit of blood and gore goodness, but I'd actually prefer more. There's a decent amount of variation between levels, and while the color palettes change and a few new enemies arrive, the gameplay truly doesn't change all that much, but more on that in a bit. Despite the simple graphics, there are occasional hiccups in online play, but they're few and far between, and hardly an issue.

The sound isn't much, and is about what you'd expect from a game with this look. There is a bit of voicing done in here, but mostly you'll be reading text on-screen. Simple and fine and good, but hardly the reason anybody would buy Mercenary Kings.

Mercenary Kings is a pretty simple game. It's a side scrolling shoot 'em up and collecting game. You'll find yourself picking up every bit of loot you can find to beef up your weapons and trying to come up with the best possible combination for your weapon of choice. While I probably wouldn't be too interested in this game if it were just single player, its redundant gameplay is easy to forgive and forget when you're playing with a friend, two, or three. Mercenary Kings has several ranks and missions to go through, probably thousands upon thousands of weapon combinations, and fairly memorable enemies, regardless of the fact that many later in the game are just reskinned versions of ones you've killed before. It's not a game that requires much more than pressing square and avoiding attacks, but it has a surprising bit of depth, and is an entertaining multiplayer experience.


+ Plenty of content, including a lot of guns, ranks, levels, and abilities.
- Not to be played for long periods of time due to its repetitiveness; not-so-great when playing alone.