Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Food Review (Dollar Cravings Menu at Taco Bell)

Hey, Taco Bell's released something new again, and this apparently isn't for a limited time -- the Dollar Cravings Menu at Taco Bell is their new dollar menu and it features a handful of fairly diverse items all for, you guessed it, a dollar. (I have not and will not review the dessert options on the menu since I'm not interested in them.)

First of all, the 440 calorie Beefy Fritos Burrito. I was looking forward to a re-release of the Beefy Crunch Burrito for this menu, but Taco Bell has instead given us this.
The Beefy Fritos Burrito is obviously similar to the Beefy Crunch Burrito in that they share a few ingredients, but the flavor is actually quite a lot different. First of all, there's no Mexican rice in this -- just that white cilantro stuff. Secondly, there's no sour cream. I don't mind that all that much because I can do without warm sour cream... it tends to weird me out. Third, no damn Flamin' Hot Fritos. What you get here is a half-hearted attempt at a Beefy Crunch Burrito, and a slap in the face to those who've been wanting the Beefy Crunch Burrito. Is there anything inherently wrong with it? No, of course not. As a matter of fact, if the Beefy Crunch Burrito was never a thing, I'd really like it. As it stands, this is just a fairly mediocre burrito. It tastes fine and it's one of the better values on the Dollar Cravings Menu, but this doesn't replace the Beefy Crunch Burrito. Period. 3.5/5

Next up is the Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla. I think mostly everybody has tried an overpriced, more-tortilla-than-filling quesadilla at Taco Bell, but this 180 calorie snack version comes in with a weight with less than that of a crunchy taco, and offers up shredded chicken.
Not a very good picture just because you see nothing inside of it and you get no idea of its size, but it's maybe six inches long -- anyway, there's not much going on with this. You get Taco Bell's shredded chicken, cheese, and chipotle sauce. Simplicity can be a good thing, but it's not here. If you haven't ever had the shredded chicken at Taco Bell (I had in the past), know that it is very salty. That alone makes this a Dollar Cravings item I'd not get often at all... I expect the beef version to be quite a lot better for that reason alone. While I don't care all too much for this quesadilla, it is a much better value than Taco Bell's regular quesadilla in the sense that with this you get all the filling without those useless end pieces that have basically nothing in them. 3/5

The last thing I ordered off the Dollar Cravings menu on my first visit was the "new" Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito... ay, there's a mouthful. Why not call this thing the CBRito? I say "new" by the way because this 420 calorie burrito has been on the menu before.

Along with the Beefy Crunch Burrito, one of the best values on the Dollar Cravings Menu, and a really good option for the vegetarians who eat at Taco Bell. It's a pretty simple burrito, but it's tasty and pretty filling thanks to the serving of beans. Since I had the now-defunct (thanks a lot, Taco Bell jack offs) Volcano Burrito and Beefy Crunch Burrito though, it always feels like something's missing when I bite into a burrito at Taco Bell and don't get a crunch. Still, the flavor's there. Cheese, check. Beans, check. Rice, check. The jalapeno sauce adds a bit of "oomph", though it's not super noticeable with the nacho cheese already in there, on top of the fact that I didn't get much of the sauce in my burrito in the first place. I enjoyed it, and I'd have it again. 3.75/5

The Beefy Mini Quesadilla, which comes in at 210 calories turned out to be quite a lot better than the shredded chicken variety. While it has the same ingredients, it's quite a bit less salty, and there's more and better flavor. The value of it isn't nearly as good as one of the burritos on the Dollar Cravings Menu, but the chipotle sauce is tasty and works better with Taco Bell's beef than the already hugely salty shredded chicken. It's not very filling, but it's got some pretty nice flavor, all for just a buck. 3.75/5

The 240 calorie  Spicy Potato Soft Taco was a massive disappointment for me. I've tried it twice now, and I just can't appreciate it because my Taco Bell simply doesn't know how to make their potatoes. Both times I've ordered it, the potatoes were stale and super hard. The chipotle sauce is as tasty as ever, but it just can't save those cold, should-have-been-in-the-trash-days-ago potatoes. The worst thing I think I've ever had at Taco Bell. 1.5/5

Last up, the Spicy Tostada... this is one of the last things I ordered and as it turns out, it's one of my favorites on the menu... actually, it probably is my favorite. At 210 calories, you're actually getting a pretty hefty tostada. Honestly, I think my Taco Bell loads them up more than they should, because I find it hard to believe it's only 210. Few items on the Cravings Menu have tomatoes and lettuce, so it's sort of... "refreshing" to have them on this tostada, which is slathered in beans and chipotle sauce. A great value at a buck. 4.25/5

And that's the menu (for the most part). I haven't had the Triple Layer Nachos, or Cheese Roll Up yet, but I'll add to this once I do. Well... I have had the Triple Layer Nachos (See review here) and the Cheese Roll Up, but I haven't reviewed the latter yet... and a re-review of the nachos wouldn't hurt. I guess I should say I haven't had them off this menu yet. More to come.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Should I buy Destiny or Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare?"

This is a question I've seen asked on forums and also seen in comment threads on random website articles as well as YouTube. It's also a question that I've been asking myself. Well, the struggle is real.

You may be asking, "Why not just buy both, you sack of shit?" There are plenty of answers to that question, but I'll give my two top reasons. First of all, and most simply, I don't have the time to fully enjoy one game (more than likely), so I certainly wouldn't have the time to enjoy both. Second, and it's sort of a continuation of that, there's a kind of obligation to purchase the "Season Pass" for any game that I get because I feel like I'm not getting the full game otherwise. I absolutely despise these obvious cash grabs, but I cave every time. Rather than spend about $220 on two games that are fairly similar (at least in that they're both FPS's), I'd rather buy one with its DLC, and then two other games -- preferably from a separate genre.

Anyway, Destiny. Blah, blah, blah, it's the same company that created Halo, it takes elements from Mass Effect and Borderlands, it's one of the most hyped games of the year. As for Advanced Warfare, you know what to expect from Call of Duty in general, so I doubt I need to explain. Assuming you came here knowing nothing, the big thing with Call of Duty this year is the addition of Exo Suits that allow you to essentially jet your way around the map, giving the ability to have vertical gunfights rather than just horizontal ones. I'll go ahead and help you guys (and hopefully myself) out with this simple chart:

Get Destiny if:
1.) You are a fan of MMO's on any level, as Destiny has a big open world (er, worlds) with the ability to customize your character with different armor and abilities.
2.) You enjoy playing single player. The great thing about Destiny is that there is only one ranking system. What I mean by that is it doesn't matter if you play more multiplayer than single player or vice versa, because your character's experience is cumulative. Destiny's single player is certain to be far less linear than Advanced Warfare's, with many more hours to be played in it.
3.) You have friends. While you can obviously play this or Call of Duty without friends, many games are made better with them -- especially Destiny, as you can do raids and quests with them and it just feels more unique and fun than the usual squadding up and playing matchmaking on a set-map in Call of Duty. If you do enjoy doing that, Destiny still allows that, because the game's deeper.
4.) You have a PS4. If you can't decide but have a PS4, maybe you should go with Destiny. It's been confirmed that the PS4 will get loads of timed exclusives (up to at least a year) for some of its DLC, and it's rubbed quite a few Xbox One owners the wrong way.

Get Advanced Warfare if:
1.) You prefer simplicity. Some people may actually be turned off by the amount of things to do in Destiny and just feel completely overwhelmed and unable to decide what they want to do.
2.) You like Call of Duty: Yes, you read that correctly. Sure, the Exo Suits will change things up a lot, but it's still Call of Duty at its core with likely the same feel from the guns and the usual perks. These past two "ifs" are the big conundrum I'm personally having. I have a love/hate personality with this franchise. I get on Call of Duty for not changing, but I'm almost wishing they didn't change this year. Kill me.
3.) You don't like Call of Duty. "Wait... what? Did I read that right?" Yeah, you did. The Exo Suit options ought to change the gameplay pretty significantly. I mean... just look at some gameplay. Call of Duty was always a fast paced game (depending on your lobby, anyway), but it's taken to the next level this year. Advanced Warfare should feel quite a lot more like an arena shooter and unlike any Call of Duty in recent memory.
4.) You have a One. Like number four in my last list, One owners should be getting better treatment with Advanced Warfare. The past few years, Xbox owners have gotten DLC about a month earlier in Call of Duty than the PlayStation has. Keep in mind that the timed DLC and DLC as a whole is likely to be less significant than what PlayStation gamers are getting with Destiny on the PS4, so this point isn't as strong as it is for PS4 owners considering Destiny. Are you following me?

There are a few things to help you out if you're having trouble deciding. Hey, maybe I made it harder, in which case, I'm sorry. It's really not as simple as putting a list together and figuring out what you want to do. I can't say, "If you want something that feels new, get Destiny" or "If you want something familiar, get Call of Duty." I suppose I could, but the truth is, Call of Duty ought to feel quite different this year for the first year since probably the original Modern Warfare.

For me, I think I'm starting to convince myself that Destiny's the game I should get (I tried not to be biased in this post, but I feel like it sounds like I am). As a PS4 owner, I'll get more content sooner, if I don't like the competitive multiplayer I can fall back on the quests/single player experience, and the game comes out in September rather than November, so I don't need to wait an extra two months to play a new game. I'm still not 100% sure, but if you see a review some time in September for Destiny (or don't), you know my decision. But, as always, it's a matter of personal preference. As more announcements are made and gameplay is released, a decision should be easier to make for all of us having this "first-world problem."

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Game Review (Dragon's Teeth expansion for Battlefield 4)

After the previous pretty mediocre map pack, I was looking forward to Dragon's Teeth assuming it couldn't be worse than Naval Strike... as it turns out, I wasn't disappointed. Dragon's Teeth, of course, includes five trophies/achievements and four maps, along with a new game mode, five weapons, and two gadgets. As usual, I'll be sticking to reviewing the maps.

Lumphini Garden: Phenomenal infantry map. There's a bit of water that can be driven through with what I call the Ski-Doos, but there aren't any assault vehicles on Lumphini Garden, and the map doesn't need them. This map has quite a few distinguished places, including the city, construction, station, and pond areas. While I'm not too fond of the (in-conquest named) Facilities area of the map, hardly any map is perfect. That area of the map can see a good amount of gunfights, but it's a predictable "let's-camp-the-building" capture point. The rest of the map has a great aesthetic to it, and it also plays awesomely. A great start to Dragon's Teeth so far, and one of the best maps available in Battlefield 4, period. 4.5/5

Pearl Market: Another phenomenal infantry map. While Lumphini Garden lacks ground assault vehicles (what else am I gonna call them?), Pearl Market offers one per team, but they're super cumbersome and don't impact the way the map plays all that much. Anyway, I could type about Pearl Market for ages... I'm just super impressed with it, in a big way because it's finally a map where a player can use a PDW or shotgun effectively without being frustrated. While there are some large open street areas on Pearl Market, it's very simple to get around the map with a PDW or shotgun by running through buildings or on the roof tops. Yes, roof tops -- while it would sound like this would mean there's a ton of camping/sniping, I haven't had anything but nonstop action in my matches on Pearl Market. Another great example of a map that doesn't need tanks or helicopters to succeed in Battlefield. This is also one of my favorite maps available in Battlefield 4. 4.75/5

Propaganda: The map that I think was shown off the most prior to the pack's release, Propaganda's a rare white (snow) map in Battlefield 4. In a typical Battlefield map pack, this would be a very good map, I think, but when it's in the same pack as Lumphini Garden and Pearl Market, it doesn't quite stack up. Unlike the previous two maps, Propaganda does have tanks... though they don't influence the map in a huge way in most matches, mostly because they're a bit of a chore to maneuver outside of the main street through the middle of the map, though they can stray away. The middle street area of Propaganda feels as if it's there just so DICE had a reason to add tanks to the map, but they could have just done without the street entirely and excluded the tanks and the map may have been a bit more successful. Still, Propaganda is solid overall, despite the oft-dead street area of the map. 4/5

Sunken Dragon: Here's one I'm a bit stuck on because at times it can be a lot of fun, and other times the action just stops and the map feels boring. First of all, if you didn't already know, Sunken Dragon offers a Levolution much like Flood Zone, where water flows through the center of the map when triggered. Alright, been there, done that. That doesn't bother me as much as the fact that Sunken Dragon seems to really drag when you're in the center of the map on Conquest and the only way off is to swim across water. Since it's as isolated as it is, it's a bit difficult to get away without getting sniped by one of five or more enemy snipers. Besides that area of the map, most of Sunken Dragon is a blast. It's not a bad map at all, it's just that the rest of the map pack is better. 3.75/5

In a way, I'm disappointed. Not in Dragon's Teeth, but in pretty much knowing that the final map pack for Battlefield 4 can't be better than this one, as this is easily the best pack so far. Add in the insta-favorite Bulldog assault rifle as well as the already popular Deagle as unlockables, and you've got icing on your proverbial cake.


Monday, August 04, 2014

Game Review (Naval Strike expansion for Battlefield 4)

This came out awhile ago, but I realized I hadn't ever typed up my no-one's-ever-gonna-read-it review for it, so here it goes. China Rising was a solid map pack, and Second Assault had a few winners, so Naval Strike has to do quite a lot to impress me the way the previous two map packs did. First of all, the smaller things -- Naval Strike adds five new achievements/trophies (no surprise at all there), 11 new assignments, five weapons, two gadgets, two vehicles, four maps, and a new game mode exclusive to Naval Strike maps, Carrier Assault. I could review each individual thing in the pack, but I'll focus on what most people get the map packs for... the maps. As usual, I'll hit them alphabetically.

Lost Islands: Probably one of my least favorite maps in the map pack, Lost Islands is the map distinguished by a plane crashed in the middle, with several little islands scattered around. This map, to me, is a bit of a cluster and doesn't seem particularly inspired. Sure, you have the airplane in the middle, and the neat little waterfall area, but nothing else really feels new or particularly exciting -- it's generally bland. The village capture point in Conquest as well as the bunkers can get a bit hectic, but like most maps in this pack, travelling around is a bit of a pain in the ass given the needless lack of transport vehicles. There'll likely be plenty of times where you're standing or walking around waiting for something to spawn so you can delve back into the action. 3.5/5

Nansha Strike: This is definitely the least inspired map in Naval Strike, as far as I'm concerned -- so uninspired, in fact, that it uses the same storm levelution we've all already seen in Paracel Storm. Nansha Strike is the map I've played least in this pack, and that's the main reason. If you want to talk about a truly mediocre map, this would be it. Nansha Strike just feels like it was created alongside Paracel Storm, and the latter won in a DICE poll and wound up being the disc map, while this one was made to be DLC. It's not awful (not quite anyway), but it is most definitely a bore. 3/5

Operation Mortar: Here we are -- "the one with the cannon." As it turns out, the map is a good one with or without what many look at as a gimmick (it kind of really is...). The map pack may be called Naval Strike, but helicopters can shine on this map as well. The elevation of the "castle" area of this map makes it a good map for helicopters, but the attack boats prevent the helicopters from being overwhelming. Really, it's a map with a pretty perfect balance of vehicles and infantry battles. The on-ground vehicles may seem a bit unfair at first, but with the map being so busy/full of hills and islands, if anything, the ground attack vehicles are frustrating to use if you're playing against a competent team. Operation Mortar may well be my favorite map from Naval Strike. 4.25/5

Wave Breaker: A close second with Operation Mortar as my favorite from the map pack. There are a few reasons why I really, really like Wave Breaker. First of all, while it has a number of islands (like any other map in this pack), these ones are generally a bit bigger and offer more character/serve more of a purpose than some of the islands on, say, Lost Islands, where the itty bitty islands seem to be there just to fill some space. The second reason I really like Wave Breaker is the awesome area that, I guess, is inside the mountain in the middle of the map. Things get pretty rowdy in there, and it makes Wave Breaker feel like it's two maps in one. The downfall of Wave Breaker is the island near "C" on Conquest. If you're stuck there, chances are you won't see too much action, and there never seems to be a vehicle to get around when you need it most. I love the aesthetic of Wave Breaker more than any other map in the pack, but that fact keeps it from being my favorite of Naval Strike. 4/5

Naval Strike is a map pack that, as a whole, is rather "eh." Having a whole map pack dedicated to water vehicles never sounded like a good idea in the first place to me, but it turns out it wasn't all that bad. Nansha Strike and Lost Islands are maps I could do without, but Operation Mortar and Wave Breaker are worthy additions to the Battlefield 4 map line-up. Of the map packs released thus far, Naval Strike is probably my least favorite, but it's still a pack worth getting -- especially if you enjoy the naval aspect of Battlefield 4.