Sunday, December 23, 2012

Food Review (Loaded Grillers from Taco Bell)

Beefy Nacho Griller: This one, to me, is the least interesting of the three (not to say any of them are really original). Beef, nacho cheese, and crunchy red strips. Taco Bell's just taunting all of us with this thing. It's almost a Beefy Nacho Burrito, but it has the flavorless red tortilla strips instead of the cheese ones. I dislike this one mostly because the strips are nothing but a soggy mess once the bread gets grilled. Why even bother with them? Unless you literally eat your Griller instantly or in the restaurant at Taco Bell, it'll be mush by the time you get home. Still tasty and of a good value, but nothing new here. 3.75/5

Loaded Potato Griller: Yikes. It scares me to see that a lot of people like this one best. The potatoes at Taco Bell are pretty decent (I get their taco or the side of potatoes time-to-time), but this burrito is nothing but a salty mess to me. It's potatoes, nacho cheese, sour cream (I always get minus sour cream in burritos.), and bacon. Oh. Bacon. That should be good. Nope. In the past Taco Bell has tried putting bacon in/on things, but their bacon is awful. It's bacon bits straight out of a container and they're unappetizing... they add almost nothing but salt to an already salty Griller. This could be a tasty one if Taco Bell used "real" bacon. Not sure I'd have this one again. 3/5

Spicy Chicken Griller: Chicken, sour cream (not for me), and Lava sauce. It's a simple little concoction, but it's awesome. The chicken has a citrus flavor, and the Lava sauce brings a good heat. The first time I tried it I didn't think it was so hot, but the second time I felt a good burn. It also seems like this Griller tends to have more weight to it than the other two, so you get more for your money. 4/5

A pretty good promotion from Taco Bell, but I'm still waiting on the damn bastards to make the Beefy Crunch Burrito (or even the Beefy Nacho Burrito, I guess...) a PERMANENT MENU ITEM. I'll be going to Taco Bell quite a bit to take advantage of these cheap 99 cent Grillers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

9 Ways to Get Good (or Better) at Black Ops 2

So, you're a noob. If you aren't a noob, you're a good player that's looking to maybe get a little bit of an edge in Black Ops 2. Whatever the reason is, you're likely here because you want to play better at the game. I'm here to suggest some things that ought to help you improve your game dramatically within a short amount of time. The list of these tips aren't in order of importance, so don't worry about that.

1.) Play with friends and communicate. This one should be an absolute no-brainer. If you're just going out and playing any game mode other than a Party Game or Free-for-All by yourself, you're likely to lose many games and end up frustrated. If you want to see your win/loss ratio climb (and even your K/D can if you have a communicative team), then you'd better get a group of at least 4 people in each match you play. I understand that most game modes are 6v6, but a group of 4 and 2 randoms will beat a group of 6 randoms just about any time.

2.) Use smaller Scorestreaks. What I mean by this is, don't bother trying to get the K9 Unit or the Swarm ... chances are that you'll never get those once. Instead, use things like the UAV/Hunter Killer/CUAV/Care Package/Lightning Strike. My personal combination tends to be UAV/Hunter Killer/Lightning Strike because I find it most effective overall, but to each their own. These Scorestreaks are easily attainable in any game mode -- assuming you go for the objective -- and you'll have a streak almost at all times.

3.) Use guns appropriate to the map. With these Black Ops 2 disc maps being as small as they are, an SMG will be perfect on nearly every map... even a shot gun can be super effective on a number of them. On maps with some longer sight lines (and there aren't many of them), and assault rifle will work a bit better. Overall though, an SMG is probably the type of gun to use right now in Black Ops 2 until Treyarch either nerfs them a tad, or releases larger maps as DLC.

4.) Don't use random perks. If you're playing most objective game modes, you're going to want to play smart. I personally love to run a class that has Ghost AND Flak Jacket in the first slot, Cold Blooded in the second slot just because, and then Tactical Mask in third. These perks (especially Ghost, Flak Jacket, and Tactical Mask) work wonders in objective matches for too many reasons to count. Ghost allows you to flank (Don't stop moving with Ghost, otherwise you'll show up on the radar), Flak Jacket will take the brunt of explosives, and Tactical Mask renders all tactical grenades other than EMPs useless. In game modes like Headquarters and Hardpoint, I feel like those perks are essential.

5.) Likewise, don't use random equipment. And to add to that, don't bother wasting a Pick 10 slot on a grenade if you never toss them. Like the perks I listed above, I find that things like Shock Charges and Bouncing Betties work fantastically when defending objectives. If you don't get a kill, you at least get a hit marker that'll let you know where to look and possibly get the kill.

6.) Switch button layout to Tactical. I decided to do this soon after starting to play Black Ops 2, and I haven't looked back. What this does is switch the "panic knife" button with the crouch button, making it easier to drop shot. Drop shotting tends to be useful when someone unexpectedly comes around the corner, or when you're getting shot in the back and need to duck down quickly. Many people consider(ed) this a "douchebag" tactic (including me), but I decided, if you can't beat them, join them. I don't drop shot too often, but it seems to work a good bit when I do decide to do it.

7.) Learn the maps. Another basic strategy. Running around on Hijacked with a sniper is a terrible idea ... for the most part. I've seen people do it and get a good K/D, but a K/D doesn't mean a thing in an objective mode. If I die from a sniper in this game, I tend to feel pretty good about my chances for winning, since that player is way more than likely not helping his team. Also, you'll want to learn key choke points, and also some nooks and crannies to "camp" in when an objective is nearby. You should definitely look around for headglitching locations. It shouldn't be too difficult -- Treyarch has seemingly put them everywhere on just about every map.

8.) Try League Play. It's there for a reason. Whether you consider yourself a "serious" Black Ops 2 player or someone that plays pretty much exclusively for shiggles, League Play is there for you. Granted most people playing it will be playing to win, you'll be paired up with people of similar skill levels, so you don't have to worry about getting "pubstomped" when playing in random matches.

9.) Finally, experiment with classes. Don't bother asking what a friend uses as his primary, secondary, equipment, or anything else ... he/she may not have the same play style as you do. So rather than do that, mix and match with the Pick Ten and figure out what guns/perks/equipment suits you.

These 9 ways to improve in Black Ops 2 are just a few of many. If you want to ask for more tips or maybe want to play Black Ops 2 with me, send me a message on Xbox LIVE (OrdealByFire). My friend list will be full, so yeah. Send a message first.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Food Review (Bacon Portabella Melt from Wendy's)

I'm not sure of this burger's state as I had it a couple weeks ago now, but I'm pretty sure it's a limited time item. The Bacon Portabella Melt throws a Wendy's burger patty on a bun with bacon, mushrooms, and cheese sauce.

The first thing I noticed about this burger was just how pathetically tiny it was. I'm used to fast food restaurants giving smaller portions by the year, but this looked junior sized. I haven't gotten a burger from Wendy's for awhile, so maybe they shrank again, but this was pitiful.

Luckily, it tasted good. Wendy's hamburgers admittedly aren't my favorite, but this is a burger I'd get again. Wendy's bacon is above average as far as fast food bacons go, but its the combination of that artificial cheese sauce and the mushrooms that make this worth getting.


+ Bacon! ... albeit average bacon. The mushrooms -- they're the highlight.
- The size - or LACK of size - of the sandwich.

Food Review (Grilled Chicken Parmesan Sandwich from Burger King)

This is a late review seeing as how the limited time offer is over with now, but I'll be reviewing it regardless.

I read a few reviews here and there and I saw a lot of people displeased with this sandwich, so I figured I'd offer my own opinion. Basically, I chose to get the sandwich grilled because I figured the breading on the chicken would just all soggified with the marinara on it.

First of all, I think Burger King probably has the best fast food grilled chicken. Many places have their grilled chicken seasoned with nothing but salt, but Burger King's has a distinct grilled taste to it, so that helps this sandwich a lot. The marinara sauce is obviously not of the best quality (it tastes like it was out of a can), but it's tolerable. The only issue I have with this sandwich is the parmesan shavings that add absolutely nothing but calories and a waxy texture.

I'm actually sort of disappointed this was a limited time item. I had a couple sandwiches, and I'd probably get more now and then if they were still available.


+ Burger King's chicken.
- Waxy, flavorless cheese.

Food Review (XXL Steak Nachos from Taco Bell)

Back in May, I remember reading that XXL Nachos were "coming soon", and they're finally out. I'm not a huge fan of getting nachos at Taco Bell, but decided to get the 1 pound steak nachos for $6.

True to the name, this is a big plate of nachos, and it's loaded. The chips are topped with steak, melted cheese, nacho cheese, guacamole, beans, pico de gallo, and sour cream. After opening the box, I was somewhat pleased with what I saw. It had a good bit of heft to it, but I wasn't too happy with typical Taco Bell's fashion of putting all of the toppings right in the middle. This resulted in a soggy mess between the time they made it and the short ride home. The steak is very "meh", and I didn't get very much at all. The huge globs of sour cream, guacamole, and cheese in the middle blended together and made a warm, not-so-appealing goo. Due to its sheer size, the last quarter or so of the nachos were cold by the time I was finishing.

The XXL Nachos aren't awful, but I'd rather get a mix of things for $6 at Taco Bell than settle with this. Taco Bell, I'm STILL waiting on the Beefy Crunch Burrito -- or at least the Beefy Nacho Burrito.


+ Certainly XXL.
- Half soggy chips, half crispy chips. Probably not worth $6, despite its size. Nothing new.

Food Review (Crispy Chicken CBO from McDonalds)

When I first saw advertisements for the CBO, I didn't think it would be that great. Cheese, bacon, and onion on a burger/chicken sandwich. Big deal. It's been done only about a billion times before. I opted for the crispy chicken CBO and it's the best chicken sandwich I've ever gotten at McDonalds. Granted McDonald's isn't my go-to fast food restaurant for chicken, this surprised me. The bun is -- apparently -- whole grain and isn't normally used at McDonalds. It also has a hint of sweetness to it, which I approve of against the saltiness of the bacon. The bacon isn't that great (it seems microwaved, to be honest), but the onions, and especially the sauce, make this a sandwich well worth ordering.

I haven't had the angus CBO, but I think it would be fine. Not quite as good as the crispy chicken (the sauce just goes really well with it), but no doubt tasty.


+: The bread. The sauce. The sandwich as a whole.
-: On its own, the bacon is underwhelming. Small. Somewhat expensive for what you get.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Disc Maps - 360)

Aftermath is one of the first maps many people saw in the game. It's a medium size map with a bunch of burning debris. This map looks quite a bit like a Modern Warfare 2 or 3 map in the way that it's designed and how it plays. It's not awful, but I have found nothing great about this map. Like Downturn in MW3, this map's a pretty big letdown. In MW3 I thought "Sweet! A New York map!" and it was awful. Now in this game I get to say "Sweet! A Los Angeles map!" and say just about the same thing. Meh. 3.5/5

Cargo is another one of the earlier shown maps. Cargo has a really nice feel to it, and it also plays well on seemingly every game mode due to its size and fairness to both teams regardless of spawn. It's not the best looking map in the game, but that's not what matters at all (I'll be bringing that up again in just a little bit...). Probably the most balanced map on the disc. 4.25/5

Carrier is terrible. What more can I say. It seems that in every Call of Duty there's that ONE MAP that I can't stand, and it's Carrier in Black Ops 2. The whole map is a clusterf*ck, and I find it super difficult to see enemies due to the colors of it. Most definitely a map I'd rather pass on than play in any situation, in any game type, on any day. Its only decent quality is the roofed portion of the map, and that part is tiny and pretty much completely insignificant for that reason. 3/5

Drone is a map that I feel will be very under-appreciated, and overlooked often. It's medium sized like many of the maps in this game, but it features a good bit of close quarters fighting as well as some long site lines. Drone is unique in that it has doors that automatically open up when you get near them in some areas. This is a fun map with a little bit of everything. 4/5

Express is the only map that I have noticed to have an "environmental hazard" ... at times during matches, a bullet train will speed through the map. Obviously, if you get in the way, you'll die ... so don't get in the god damn way, you turd. Express feels like Stadium from Black Ops 1 and Terminal from MW2 and 3 blended together. Why? It's mostly the aesthetics. Like Drone, this map has a good balance of long sight lines and some tight corridors. 4/5

Hijacked. Oh, Hijacked. How lovely you look. How frustrating you are to play. Had Treyarch decided to stretch this yacht out and widen it a bit, it would have made for a fantastic Black Ops 2 favorite, like Nuketown in the original Black Ops. Instead, it's a map with miserable spawns that causes rage-filled matches. The addition of the underground area should help, but it doesn't because almost nobody goes down there. In fact, I feel like few people even know it exists. Looks hot, but you'll rage a lot. That's Hijacked in a nutshell. I'll give it a fairly generous 3.5/5

Meltdown feels a lot like Nuke from Counter-Strike and Radiation from Black Ops. Not just because of the locales, but because of how sections of all three maps play. I'm not quite sure what  game types would be best here, but I do know that Team Deathmatch plays really well. Camping seems to be a bit of an issue on this map as opposed to some others, but the spots are obvious, and enemies can normally be picked off fairly easily. 4/5

Overflow is one of a few maps that doesn't come up all-too often in Black Ops 2. It has a pretty bland color palette and it doesn't look like it'd be much fun, but it just is. Overflow will likely go under the radar and be one of the forgotten maps in this game, but it's enjoyable. I'd much sooner pick this map over, say... CARRIER. BLEGH. 3.5/5

Plaza is another map that doesn't pop up in matchmaking often. I've also heard a lot of people groan when it has come up, and I'm not very sure why. I feel like this map both looks and plays like a Party Games map, but that's not a bad thing. It's one of the few maps in this game where you can run around the entire map and be effective with a shotgun or a hip-fired SMG. 3.75/5

Raid is just a really great map for seemingly any game type. Domination, Hardpoint, Search and Destroy... etc. It's not a map that makes me jump up when it gets selected, but it's suitable for anything. Not only that, but it's easier than most maps in this game to make call outs (Basketball court. Fountain. Kitchen. Garage), and that helps it. 3.75/5

Slums, like Overflow, is a map that doesn't look all that appealing, but plays wonderfully. I wouldn't be surprised to see this be a favorite disc map. Slums is a pretty small and very tight map with danger around just about every corner. You probably don't need me to tell you that if you're playing an objective game mode, you'll want to put on a Flak Jacket, because things can get pretty hairy. Slums is an ideal shotgun/SMG map as well. 4.5/5

Standoff is probably my most played map in Black Ops 2 for whatever reason, but I don't mind. It's not too bad. It's one of the bigger medium maps -- if you follow me -- and features a decent number of places for snipers to hang out. I find that Standoff looks like a map that could be in Call of Duty 2 or World at War. Makes for rage-tastic matches on Domination due to the ease to spawn camp, but it's treated me pretty well outside of that. 4/5

Turbine, correct me if I'm wrong, was the first map that Treyarch showed to the public. Byfar, Turbine is bigger than any other map in the game ... and that's unfortunate. I want more. The layout of Turbine is fantastic, and it seems that people don't camp too often on this map. This map has played well in some objective matches I've played, but it's best in good ol' TDM, I think. 4.25/5

Yemen will be another favorite of the community, I think. The map isn't very large, but there doesn't seem to be (m)any spawn issues on this map as opposed to some others, and it just has an interesting design that has made, and will surely make for, some great matches. Yemen's really fun and great on literally any game mode.

While most of my scores for these maps are average or slightly above, the overall collection of these maps is great. Treyarch had a better collection of maps in Black Ops 1, but this isn't a bad showing. I just have a couple questions. Where are the snow maps? Black Ops had a good number of them on-disc. And secondly, and more importantly, where are some bigger maps? Most of these maps seem to be very similar in size, and Turbine is the only one that I'd describe as large. I get that a lot of the community likes smaller maps where they can hipfire from any position and get a kill, but not everybody does that. I expect more large maps in DLC though, so I'm not that worried about it.

So that's it. As said, not many truly excellent maps, but only one that I truly dislike. Treyarch, unsurprisingly, has done a nice job for the most part compiling maps for this disc.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - 360)

Black Ops 2 has arrived. Just over two years since one of my favorite Call of Duty titles was released, Treyarch is back at it with the sequel. Rather than taking place in the 1960's though, this game hikes to 2025 and takes you on a ride. Here's my review. Not to worry, there won't be any spoilers... although there will be heavy emphasis on multiplayer.

I won't tell you about the story of Black Ops 2, but I will tell you how this Call of Duty is different from those previous. Rather than going from A to B to sometimes C, Treyarch makes this game less linear this time around. You have options of what you want to do/where you want to go, and they even affect the mission in minor ways. Your decisions won't completely change the story, but they're a wise addition that should have been added at least a couple years ago. This inclusion makes you feel like YOU'RE playing the game, rather than making you feel like the game is playing YOU. Without ruining the campaign for all of you, I can tell you that this is a game that's single player you will definitely want to go through ... especially if you played the original Black Ops.

Zombies. Well, I have to admit -- don't hurt me -- I wasn't a big fan of Zombies in Black Ops because I felt like the first handful of rounds was a complete waste of time and dragged on needlessly. This time around though, there's actually a STORY to Zombies ... imagine that. While I'm still not high on the game mode, I like it a heck of a lot more than I did in the last game, and I can guarantee that those that loved Zombies before will only enjoy it more. Don't think that's possible? Wait until you play the game. Also, for you stat addicts, Zombie stats will be tracked on Call of Duty ELiTE.

And the thing most people buy Call of Duty for ... the multiplayer. There are countless things to say about this. You'll have anti-CoD people tell you that this is the same game as last year. And the year before. And the year before that. Well, that's frankly not true. Black Ops 2 innovates almost as much as Call of Duty 4 originally did. Like the first Modern Warfare, Black Ops 2 may change the series forever. The whole Pick Ten system in this game is an ingenious idea that will seriously make you think when making classes if you want to compete. If you find that you don't ever use your secondary, add a fourth perk. If you don't throw grenades, add another attachment to your gun. The ability to customize your experience in this way will make you hungry for more unlocks and experimentation. As for the actual game play itself, the game just feels good. The main issue I have with this game is the same problem I had with MW3 -- lag compensation. Modern Warfare 3's was worse, but Black Ops 2 definitely has it, and it will make you have some really hot and cold matches.

Treyarch doesn't stop there, though. Black Ops 2 has now introduced a brand new thing called League Play. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a newbie to the series, you'll be able to form a clan and face other clans with a similar skill level, thanks to Treyarch's skill-based matchmaking. If competing in heated clan wars isn't your thing, you can of course still hop into a random public match.

Also added to Black Ops 2 is what many people are calling "CoD Casting" mode. With this, you can view live streams (or previously recorded versions) of matches. This is going to be a useful feature to many ... especially those that are looking to learn techniques that the more seasoned Call of Duty players use.

Treyarch has done with Black Ops 2 what many people have long begged them to do: Change the series up. A lot of fans and critics felt that Call of Duty was releasing nothing but $60 map packs every year... I have to say, Black Ops 2 ought to shut those people up. From the ability to make personal choices in campaign, to the better-than-ever Zombies mode, to the most balanced multiplayer experience Call of Duty has probably ever had (At least since CoD 2), there's something here for anybody to love. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is one of the best of the series.


+: "Personalized" campaign; Zombies; Pick 10 system in multiplayer; Awesome weapon/perk/grenade/equipment balance online.

-: This game is nearly flawless and has added a lot of innovation, but I'm beginning to feel some FPS burnout; Multiplayer maps don't feel as great as I thought the Black Ops 1 maps did; Lag compensation is very obvious at times online.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Game Review (Halo 4 - 360)

It's here. It's finally here. After what I thought was a disappointment in Bungie's final Halo game, Halo: Reach, 343 Industries has taken the helm for a new trilogy. Halo 4 takes place after Halo 3, which was released over 5 years ago now. How is this game different?

As far as multiplayer (That will be the highlight of my review, sorry for the campaign fans), 343 has implemented a lot of things from Call of Duty. Don't let that scare you though if that idea doesn't sound good to you -- it works flawlessly in Halo 4. While the perks seem to run the multiplayer in Call of Duty, what truly should be the difference -- the gun -- is what truly matters in Halo 4. Unlike Call of Duty, there doesn't seem to be any overpowered "perk" in this game. Some of the guns seem to be excessively powerful, but they all have downfalls. Whether that downfall is a small clip or something else, 343 makes sure nothing in the game is gamebreaking, which is impressive. Something that should also be noted is that everybody in multiplayer now has the ability to sprint for a limited time, which makes the gameplay faster paced and more frantic. That inclusion, unsurprisingly, only makes this game better.

The maps in the multiplayer mostly range from good to fantastic, with not even one map that I would say I truly dislike. The maps here have a vast variety from small to large in size, and snowy to grassy. My personal favorite has to be Exile, which is a fairly big map that makes for hectic Capture the Flag matches, and it just looks and plays phenomenally.

If you enjoyed Firefight from Reach, I'm sorry to say it's not returning. Instead though, 343 has included Spartan Ops. In this free mode, content will be released weekly with several episodes for you and your friends to play in. While the missions are fairly entertaining, I'm not quite sure what the purpose of them is, mainly because they seem to end before you even start going.

As for the campaign, I won't spoil a thing, but I will tell you that this is probably the best campaign yet in the series. The voice acting is better than ever, the humans' facial reactions are spot on, and there are -- thankfully -- very few parts in it that aren't fun. I can also tell you that this is one of the hardest campaigns I've played in a shooter... at least on its highest difficulty setting, Legendary.

I tried to keep this review relatively short. There is a lot to say about this game and its contents, but I wouldn't be able to do the game justice. Rather than have you waste 20 minutes reading this review, I'd rather give you that time to go out and get the game if you haven't already.

Halo 4 won't exactly change the genre, but it has taken the essences of Halo 3 and the good portions of Halo: Reach (Did I mention there's no Armor Lock in this game?), and made one of the best online gaming experiences for this generation. It could well be the closest thing you'll find to Xbox LIVE multiplayer gaming nirvana.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Game Review (Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Criterion, 2012) - 360)

Graphics: Most Wanted has plenty of pluses and minuses graphically. When I first saw this game for the first time I thought it looked outstanding. Once I got it, I was underwhelmed. It still looks good, but nothing like the videos. Edges of cars and the environment have a choppy appearance, and the city in the distance really looks like a PS1 or PS2/Xbox game. When it comes down to the races, sense of speed, and the cars themselves though, it looks fairly impressive... especially with how the framerate holds up -- for the most part -- when there are a bunch of cops and/or crashes on-screen. The temporary blindness when looking into the sunset or when coming out of a tunnel is also a nice effect. 4/5

Sound: Again, positives and negatives here. First, some positives: The cars sound awesome, especially if you have a pair of headphones for your 360 (Tritton, Turtle Beach, etc.). The way the cars echo in tunnels and in alleyways is great. It's nice to see Criterion add things like that to the game. The soundtrack, I think, is pretty good. It has a nice mix of dubstep and hard rock that only add the experience when in a race. The downside I have with the soundtrack already is that in just about 3 hours of playtime, I have heard some songs 5 times already. I'm not sure how many tracks are in the game, but my assumption is that it isn't many. If you don't like the song list, you can turn it off completely, or use your own playlist. The biggest downfall -- and it's not really a huge one -- with NFS:MW would have to be the police chatter. It's always the same routine ... "What make and model? What color? We need more cops. These guys aren't messing around. These guys are good." It's really rather redundant, and it's a shame, because it could have added a lot to the game. 4/5

Fun: My first impression of this game wasn't all that great. I was pretty underwhelmed. The more I explored the city, unlocked cars, completed races, and especially tried out the multiplayer, the more I enjoyed it. While the game only contains 41 cars, there is enough to do with each of them to keep you playing this game -- even on single player -- for quite a decent while. The biggest downfall of this game is probably the single player, surprisingly enough. It's been a lot of fun so far, but after just a few hours of playing the game, I'm almost halfway done with getting all of the Most Wanted cars. I really just wish Criterion/EA added more content to the disc. Thankfully, the multiplayer makes me forgive this lack of single player depth. The challenges in multiplayer are, for the most part, very entertaining. While the online isn't without flaws (They're rather minor things, but you'll pick up on them quite quickly if you decide to hop online), it's definitely entertaining, and playing this game without the Online Pass would take away a LOT of what Most Wanted has to offer. 4.25/5

If you have any interest in racing games, you have to get this game. After zipping through the city and thinking I had seen everything, I explored areas I had no idea existed. Fairhaven is a vast, fun city to race around in, and it's only better with friends or even randoms. It may not be without its problems, and it could use a bit more depth, but this exhilarating, essential sequel to Burnout Paradise makes Need for Speed: Most Wanted a must-buy for adrenaline junkies.

Pros: Multiplayer -- in short bursts, variety of Fairhaven's landscapes, varied car list.
Cons: No cops in multiplayer, minor online bugs, 41 cars seems a bit low, short single-player experience, city's just too small.


EDIT 11/1/12: The more I play this, the more I wonder why it's $60. It's no doubt an entertaining game, and I'll be playing it for awhile before selling it, but it's too much money for what it is, really. The single player story is nonexistent. The Most Wanted races are easy to attain Speed Points to play, and easy to complete. The city is fairly interesting despite its small size. The multiplayer is fun, but only in short bursts.
I originally gave this game about an 8.5, but I think I'd really give it more of a 7.5. Fun, but I don't see it lasting a long time. Hot Pursuit was the same way. For whatever reason I gave that game a 9, even though I had beaten it to 100% completion and lost interest in just over a week, as fun as it was.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Drop: September)

This is it -- the final month of downloadable content for Modern Warfare 3 (Or at least what we're lead to believe will be the last bit of DLC). August was probably the most disappointing month for Elite as far as I'm concerned, but after seeing some leaked images of this month's maps, I actually looked forward to September 5th.


Boardwalk: This map takes place on a boardwalk on the Jersey Shore. Yes, it looks as cool as it sounds. It's a medium sized, mostly close-quarters map that has a handful of snazzy buildings to go into, such as a club, a laser tag lobby, and an arcade. Not just that, but you can go on the beach and go underneath the boardwalk. I was most looking forward to this map of the three from this month, and it hasn't disappointed me yet -- I'd probably go as far as saying this is my favorite map for Modern Warfare 3. Not only does this map look insanely neat, but it plays perfectly to my play style. The only reason I won't give this map a 5 is because the one far side of the map near the club there's a pretty pointless area I don't see anyone going at, as it's so far away from the action. I'm pretty sure its only real purpose is the original spawn at the beginning of the game. Anyway, yeah. Boardwalk is a brilliant map in just about every sense. It's just a shame you'll be too busy killing people to get a chance to see the map. Pro-tip: Private match. 4.75/5

Gulch: Gulch is set at an abandoned mining town in Utah. When I first saw some pictures of this map, I was intrigued. But with a name like "Gulch", I figured the map would be pretty large ... and indeed it is. The map itself looks great. The color of it, the water flowing through the center, some of the buildings... but the problem I have with Gulch is the same problem I have with most maps in this game -- the spawns. After my first match on Gulch, I could see this would be a problem. A map of this size, and you'll still die within a second and a half of spawning. I literally had a Kill Cam show a guy spawn, push his right stick right, and kill me instantly. Not only that, but Gulch has countless areas to sit up on around the map, which is great for snipers, but terrible for people trying to get out of spawns. Snipers will hop up in these areas and wait like vultures until you move. This could be a really good map, but it just doesn't all work. It's not terrible, but it's definitely frustrating. I probably set my hopes a little bit too high on Gulch. 3.5/5

Parish: Here we have the map I was most unsure about when I found out about these three maps. Parish is in New Orleans, and contains a church, a bar, and a slew of military vehicles that are scattered around, particularly on the "oceanic" side of the map. There's not much to be said about this map in my opinion, other than that to me it feels like a typical Infinity Ward map. This one's mostly close quarters and plays fairly well, but it's just not extremely memorable as far as its appearance goes. I'd say the size of this map is about the size of Boardwalk, probably a little bit smaller. I was surprised in my experience that some people on the other team were actually trying to snipe on this map on Kill Confirmed. Really...? Well, I think you can guess which team won. Anyway, Parish is decent. It doesn't look as purdy as Boardwalk or Gulch, but it plays better than Gulch, I'll give it that. For that reason, I'll slip it a 3.75/5


And that's all for Modern Warfare 3's Elite Content Drops. That was a pretty quick nine months... This final 'drop' actually let me down. Regardless of the pretty decent scores, I was just overly excited when I saw these maps after the terrible month that was August. Still, Infinity Ward concluded MW3's DLC with a pretty decent bang. Not a bang that you'd hear from a .50 Cal, but a bang nonetheless.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Game Review (Rock Band Blitz - 360)

People have been shouting at Harmonix to make a new Rock Band game since they released Rock Band 3 in 2010... while this isn't a sequel, it's an interesting spin-off that will turn anybody into a junkie after just a few songs.

The idea of Rock Band Blitz is relatively simple: You're a one man band, and it's up to you to get multipliers for the guitar, bass, drum, vocal, and, occasionally, key tracks to get the highest possible score using only two buttons to hit notes for each. Also at your disposal are items that you can use to help aid you in your quest for that number one leader board spot.

That's the simplest way to describe the game... but if you haven't seen it, then the description means nothing. The game is just mesmerizing -- the way the track goes along a city street. How the colors glow. Unfortunately, you'll find yourself so immersed in the game as you play, you'll seldom even notice the neat backdrop Harmonix laid out for you. What makes the experience even better are the menus. They're really simplistic, but look great, and are easy to go through... what else could you really want? It fits this arcade-style Rock Band game well.

The soundtrack in this game, as you'd expect, is quite varied. You have fun.'s overplayed "We Are Young", Elton John's "I'm Still Standing", "One Week" by Barenaked Ladies, "Give it Away" by Red Hot Chili peppers, along with 21 other tracks (You can also play ALL Rock Band songs you have saved to your hard drive). When I first saw the set list, I felt it was a lot of hit and miss. The inclusions of P!nk and Kelly Clarkson put me down, but the truth is, those two songs; along with a good portion of the others, are actually a lot of fun to play. Even if you don't like some of the songs in Blitz, the game is $15 with the ability to export the game to Rock Band 3 for free. Well, how about that?

Harmonix has proved with Rock Band Blitz that music games aren't dead. Blitz is easily in my top handful of XBLA games, and I see myself playing this for months and months. If the addicting game play wasn't enough, Harmonix's Rock Band World app on Facebook has every stat you'd want to know about how you're doing in Blitz. What your rank is on specific songs, your score, how many gold stars you have, your total Blitz cred... it's deep. If you have any interest in music whatsoever, you have no reason to not download this game.


+: Simple, yet complicated, addicting game; All Rock Band songs on your HDD will work; Rock Band World; Great value.

-: Unable to play offline/when Harmonix ever shuts the servers down, this game will be virtually unusable; No true, LIVE multiplayer; It's not possible to say, "Just one more song..."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Game Review (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - 360)

After eight long years, Valve has finally decided to release a new Counter-Strike... this time, it's Global Offensive, and it's on PSN, XBLA, and, of course, Steam. GO brings back eight old-school maps (with slight tweaks and new textures), and also adds eight new maps that are only playable in their new games modes: demolition and arms race.

To be honest, there isn't much in Global Offensive that wasn't in Source, other than a newer look, new guns, and new maps ... it plays about the same way, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you've played Counter-Strike, you know the deal -- it's the Counter Terrorists versus the Terrorists across all modes. In "Classic Bomb" mode, the Counter Terrorists must kill all of the Terrorists or defuse the bomb before the bomb site is blown up. In "Classic Hostage" mode, the Counter Terrorists have to extract the hostages to the safe zone. Both modes are great, but I have a minor gripe: It bothers me that there are only two measly Hostage maps. Office and Italy are both good maps, but I could have used more.

The new Demolition mode is pretty great. It's sort of hit and miss, but mostly hit. Basically, for every round you get a kill, your gun switches. That's cool and everything, but the line-up of guns never changes. I'm not sure why, but that's a minor annoyance I have. One more thing that irks me is that the Demolition maps can only be played in -- you guessed it -- Demolition. Why you can't play them in the standard Classic Bomb mode is beyond me. The maps are definitely smaller in Demolition, but I would have liked to play most of them in some other modes. Regardless of being unable to do that, the new maps are all great from what I can tell, so I'm not sure why I'm complaining.

[Arms Race I'll review whenever I play it.]

Graphics: 4/5 Since it's an XBLA game, and for a game that takes just under 2GB to put on your HDD, this game is pretty impressive to me. Some textures are a bit bland on certain sections of the maps, but from my experiences, the game's been running smoothly. I can't complain for it not being a disc.

Sound: 3.5/5 Very average ... it sounds like Source to me, with almost no changes at all. I'm pretty certain they even use a lot of the same voice overs from bots in this game, too. It's not terrible, but Call of Duty and especially Battlefield 3 sound better. Then again, that shouldn't come as a shock to anyone.

Control: 4.25/5 NO AIM ASSIST. It's really great, in my opinion. If you can't aim, you'll get absolutely destroyed from a distance. Sure, you can hip-fire up close, but that's rarely that effective. A nifty button that's been added for this version of the game is the ability to press RB and do a 180 to turn around if you're getting shot in the back. The game as a whole feels old and clunky, but there's charm in that to me... in some sick, twisted way.

Fun: 4.5/5 And of course the most important thing, the fun. It's been too long since we've had a Counter-Strike game on the Xbox, and it's a sight for sore eyes with all of the other modern shooters on the market. Global Offensive will be a great game for months to come, assuming the core of Counter-Strike fans stay online.

Overall, I can see Global Offensive being one of the top purchases on the XBLA. If you enjoyed any other version of Counter-Strike, this is just that. Be warned that it's nothing like Call of Duty or Battlefield or many other shooters, but more like SOCOM, which I welcome to the Xbox 360. The inability to be in party chat while playing is sometimes irritating, but sometimes you actually get on a team full of GUYS and not CHILDREN that help you out. Hopefully the trial will sift through the real Counter-Strike players and the Call of Duty only players, and the cry babies will be gone from the game forever. CS:GO has its fair share of flaws, but for fifteen measly dollars, I don't see why you wouldn't get this game. We can only hope now that Valve updates this game for the 360 as they will for the PC.


+: Great alternative to other military shooters, classic Counter-Strike gameplay, ability to play as a BOT when you're dead, a lot like Source but expanded upon, it's on XBLA.

-: No in-game party chat allowed, server problems early on, can't play any map in any mode (nothing new), some other question marks, including: how long will this last on XBLA...?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Drop: August)

How I've DREADED August since realizing there would be zero multiplayer maps... two Spec Ops missions and a new 'Chaos' mode are all we get this month. So what's the verdict? Well skip to the bottom of the page if you're that damn impatient. Jesus. Anyway, here we go, starting with the achievements.

Beat "Special Delivery" on Veteran - 15G
Beat "Special Delivery" on any difficulty - 15G
Use one of each care package in "Special Delivery" - 15G
Use only one self-revive in "Special Delivery - 25G
Beat "Light 'Em Up" on Veteran - 15G
Beat "Light 'Em Up" on any difficulty - 15G
Stab five stunned enemies in a row on "Light 'Em Up" 45G

First up, Special Delivery. In this mission, one player takes control of an osprey gunner while the other proceeds on foot attempting to get intel, and rescue a hostage. The interesting thing about this mission is that the player on the ground can call in a care package that the osprey gunner drops. This wasn't a terribly difficult mission even on veteran, but it was definitely a lengthy one. As the player on the ground, you really have to be careful when advancing. Your best bet is to take a few steps forward, and then back, in an attempt to trigger the enemy spawns. 3.5/5

Next, Light 'Em Up. This mission takes place at Makarov's castle dealie. The first part has one player in a helicopter blinding enemies and shooting them up, while another has to take out others on the ground while picking up intel. After getting four pieces, you join your partner on the helicopter and fly to another part of the level, where you have to rescue a hostage. This took quite a bit of time initially, but your best bet -- even on veteran -- is to do it as quickly as possible. I mean, get all four pieces of intel within 90 seconds. Don't bother lollygagging, because the enemies respawn. This is more frustrating and time consuming than Special Delivery, but it's more fun overall... everybody likes a challenge, right? 3.75/5

As for Chaos mode, I have to be honest. I have no interest. I played Survival a decent bit when the game first came out (mainly to get the achievements, but also because the idea appealed to me more than Zombies), but haven't touched it since, MOSTLY because I want to be able to play with 3 other people, not just one. Lame. From what I've gathered, people have told me it's essentially Survival mode made 'arcade style', and limited to only a few MW3 disc maps. Alright ... this sounds like it'd be great to the 27 people in the world that are fans of Survival mode, but who else really cares? I know I shouldn't rate something I haven't even played, but I'll rate Chaos mode the same way I'd rate Survival mode ... about a 3.25/5. It's fun, but it gets old quickly, especially since you can only play with yourself or one other person. 3.25/5

Overall, a terribly disappointing month for any ELITE Premium owner. The Spec Ops missions are pretty fun, but once you play them once, that's over with. Because of that, there's no replay value outside of Chaos mode, which I don't think all too many people play. August is easily the worst month ELITE's had to offer so far. It's stupid that Infinity Ward doesn't even pay attention to what the players want. A month without a single multiplayer map is insanely ridiculous. I can hope for some more 'free' content like we got with Terminal, but I won't hold my breath. At least the final month, September, looks promising...


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Drink Review (Mountain Dew: Dark Berry)

A limited release, Mountain Dew: Dark Berry was released to coincide with the movie "The Dark Knight Rises". Though I have no interest in Batman or anything related to him, and haven't since I was six-years-old, I got a 20oz bottle of this because I like Mountain Dew time-to-time.

To me, this almost just tastes like Voltage. Maybe with a little bit of berry on there, but there's nothing about this that stands out to me... It just tastes 'okay.' I was expecting a super grape-y flavor, but I didn't get much of any of that. Maybe some sour, like the Pitch Black Mountain Dew. It's not bad, but I won't miss it once it's gone, considering we already have Voltage year round.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Drop: July)

Better late than never -- a little over a week ago, the July Content Drop came out with the likes of multiplayer maps Decommission and Offshore, and the Spec Ops Mission Vertigo. The Modern Warfare 2 map Terminal also came out this month, but as it isn't considered part of ELITE's content, I won't include it in this review. First, the achievements for this month...

Complete Vertigo on any difficulty - 15G
Complete Vertigo on Veteran - 20G
Kill all Juggernauts after they land on Veteran - 25G
Destroy all helicopters in Vertigo - 15G

When I initially saw the picture of Vertigo, I wondered why they chose that to be a Spec Ops map rather than a multiplayer map ... and I STILL wonder that. It's a nice night time map that takes place on top of what I believe is a hotel. After time on the roof, you rappel down to the outside main entrance and fight some enemies. It's a really cool mission, really. The achievements are all easy with the exception of one -- beating the mission on Veteran. I'd say this mission is as hard or harder than last month's Arctic Recon mission. The other two achievements (since you get both 'Complete Vertigo on...' achievements when you do it on Veteran) are pretty easy. The Juggernaut one is simple so long as you play with two people... one person throws a flash, and the other unloads with a Pecheneg. Voila, you win. The helicopters one can easily be done if you go on the easiest difficulty BY YOURSELF. I got that achievement my first try. Not a super awesome mission, but it looks nice. 3.5/5

Decommission's a map that looks quite a lot like the Spec Ops mission Smack Down... not exactly, but it certainly resembles it. It's a medium/small sized map that is, frankly, overly frantic on game modes like Domination. The capture points are very close, and it's hard to keep more than one flag held down at a time. Because of the size of this map, you'll find yourself getting spawn killed and spawn killing others quite often. If you can get past that though, Decommission is actually a pretty fun map... which surprised me. When I did my first run through in a custom match by myself, I was expecting it to be a dud. Thankfully, it isn't. 3.75/5

If you played Ghost Recon Future Soldier, you'll recognize the feel of Offshore. It takes place on some sort of rig in the ocean. The size of this map is shockingly gargantuan due to its several floors, stair cases, twists, and turns. Normally I despise large maps, but Offshore makes for some entertaining games, especially with objective game types. Because of its size and numerous corners, there aren't many places people are willing to camp, so if you hate campers -- who doesn't? -- you'll likely approve of Offshore. 4/5

Overall, July is a pretty good drop. Maybe I've just desperately been missing real, true multiplayer maps, but these ones seem to play well. While I'm disgruntled with Infinity Ward for not making Vertigo a multiplayer map, Decommission and Offshore are both solid enough to make me be okay with that decision.


DVD Review (The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season)

It came out awhile ago, but I just recently got it and finished watching the episodes and bonus features. Unlike any other DVD review I've done, I won't bother to review each individual episode this time, but I'll instead list some of season fourteen's highlights, as well as some of the duds.

I can say right away that I was surprised by this season. After season 10-ish, I haven't really enjoyed any of the seasons on DVD... bland stories, weak jokes, and just general mediocrity. For season fourteen though, I was happy to find that I actually LIKED a lot of the episodes.

Before watching any of the episodes, I read a lot of people's reviews complaining that Homer is beyond dumb in this season... that his IQ had dropped 30 points, and that he changed for the worse. While there are gags in some of the episodes that make Homer come off as a complete dummy, most of the time the jokes were still funny to me, so the new Homer didn't bother me this season.

The season as a whole is average or slightly better throughout ... I found myself rating most every episode between 3.5 and a 4.25 rating out of 5. My favorite episodes of the season include "Treehouse of Horror XIII" (Mostly in part to the 'Send in the Clones' bit), "Helter Shelter", "The Dad Who Knew Too Little", "Three Gays of the Condo", and "Dude, Where's My Ranch?". Those five episodes I gave 'season high' 4.25s to. The worst episode, and the only one to get a 3.25 from me, is "Pray Anything". It's just a boring episode with very little to chuckle at. Regardless, the season averages about a 4/5 for me. Even though I wouldn't call a single episode from this season GREAT, I'd willingly watch most of these episodes a second or third time over again.

As for the bonus features, they're like the menus -- based almost entirely around Treehouse of Horror episodes from seasons past. I don't have any issues with this, but I don't understand why they haven't just released a Treehouse of Horror I-XX or XXII box set or something. I assume they'll do it at some point...

The other features include the usual... commentary on every episode, art galleries, and deleted scenes. I haven't and usually don't watch episodes with commentary, so I can't comment on how they are, but apparently Matt Groening isn't in many of the episodes.

Overall, The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth season is the best season to me since the tenth. Although nothing about this season will blow you away, you'll more than likely approve of more episodes than you disapprove.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Drop: June)

May's content drop for Modern Warfare 3 had a lot of stuff in it, including a new game mode called Face Off. For June's DLC, Face Off maps are back -- supposedly for a final time -- along with another Spec Ops mission worth 75 achievement points total. First, the achievements for said mission:

Stay Frosty 15G - Complete "Arctic Recon" on any difficulty.
Sub Zero  25G - Complete "Arctic Recon" on Veteran difficulty.
dr0n3d 35G - Complete "Arctic Recon" in under 3:30.

As I've yet to play Arctic Recon (Early issues with being unable to play it), I'll have to review it some other time. BUT, that doesn't prevent me from reviewing the Face Off maps -- HURRAH ... ... ...

First off alphabetically is Intersection, which takes place at an intersection in what seems to be New York City. Quite simply, this is the best looking and most fun to play Face Off map yet. While Getaway last month looked really good, the spawns absolutely ruined that map for me. Intersection is perfect. There are four main buildings on Intersection -- a bank, a library, a movie theater, and a pizza place (which has two floors). This not only makes it easy to call enemies out, it also makes this one of the bigger Face Off maps, which ALSO helps with the spawns which are normally horrendous in this game type. Not only is Intersection hands-down the best Face Off map, it is one of the best maps in the game period. 5/5

U-Turn is the first of the three that I played in this content drop. Upon spawning, it reminded me instantly of a condensed version of Ambush from Call of Duty 4 in that there is one risen, central street, with two areas on either side. U-Turn is very, very average, but made pretty bad by the absolutely atrocious spawn system. I've killed a guy or been killed by a guy twice within 3 seconds several times on this map already and I've only played it a handful of times. The key here is to NOT RELOAD after every kill, because the spawns are really just that bad. Even with good spawns though, U-Turn wouldn't be that great of a map. 3/5

Vortex is a very Call of Duty 2 or 3-esque map. It takes place on what seems to be a farm in the southern U.S. state. The map gets its name from. Well... look at the sky when you're playing the map. Anyway, Vortex may seem like a big map, but you'll really want to stay away from the center of it and stay around the barn/chicken coop, otherwise you'll find yourself in no-man's-land. Vortex is one of the better Face Off maps because although -- SHOCKER coming up -- the spawns aren't perfect, it's big enough to make it playable, unlike many of the original Face Off maps. 4/5

While I was pretty disappointed with Infinity Ward not giving us any true multi player maps this month, two of these Face Off maps are worthy of playing, and although I haven't gotten the chance to play Arctic Recon yet, I haven't been too disappointed with any of the Spec Ops missions released to date. June isn't the best content drop to date, but there have been worse.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Game Review (Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Multiplayer Maps - 360)

I reviewed the game, and now it's time for what you could be spending days playing on -- the multiplayer maps. Future Soldier has only 10 maps, but they vary a good bit.


Alpha is a medium sized map that takes place at some sort of industrial plant. Alpha is intriguing in that there is a catwalk snaking throughout a good portion of the map, which encourages sniping. Still, there isn't much cover up there, so it's pretty easy to be taken out. Although it isn't terrible, Alpha just looks bland, and the games played on it are normally just average. 3.5/5

Cargo seems to be inspired -- at least in part -- by Call of Duty 4's Wet Work map. It is a short, narrow map (because it takes place on a ship) which makes it somewhat difficult to flank on. Wet Work was my least favorite map (after Shipment) in Call of Duty 4, and Cargo may well be my least favorite map in Ghost Recon. The way the map is designed makes it, as I said, difficult to flank, and the map itself just isn't very fun on the game modes I've played it on. 3/5

Harbor reminds me, at least in part, of Noshahr Canals in Battlefield 3. While the map is really laid out nothing like it, the look is somewhat similar to the first section of that particular Battlefield map. Although it doesn't seem to come up too often in the playlist, Harbor -- like the other two maps -- is just "meh" to me. Basically takes place near a harbor, obviously, and there are a lot of boxes to sit behind for cover. Not very interest, and just very bland, to put it simply. Playable, but not great in any sense. 3.25/5

Market is another map that reminds me of a map I played in a game in the past... SOCOM II's Crossroads. Again, while it feels pretty much nothing like it, I get the vibe when I see the map. While pretty much no map could ever surpass the greatness that is Crossroads, Market is one of my favorite maps on Future Soldier. It's similar to Alpha in size (to be honest, most of these maps are pretty close in size), to give you an idea of how large it is. I really enjoy Market because it has several distinct areas, it's memorable after one playthrough, and it just has a great layout. 4.75/5

Mill was one of the beta maps -- along with Pipeline -- but that doesn't really affect me because I never played the beta in the first place. Mill seems to be the most dreary on-disc map, but I suppose that's the way it should be, since part of the map takes place in a mini cemetery. Along with the cemetery there's, you guessed it, a mill, a few bridges, and what I believe is a dry-lake bed. As gloomy and Gears of Wars-y as this map feels, it's certainly enjoyable. 4.25/5

Overpass is one of the smaller maps in the game ... I think. Overpass has a street running through it, with two rows of buildings on either side. The street is a prime target for snipers, so you won't want to be out there long, as there is also minimal cover. This is a great map to rock a shotgun on, as there are a lot of corners and close-quarters combat, with not many long sightlines (Unless of course, you're in the middle of the map). After several plays, I'm still enjoying this map quite a bit, and it's one of my personal favorites. 4.5/5

Pipeline is the other beta map. While it was the first map I played in Future Soldier, it doesn't seem to come up in playlists all too often, which is a shame, because I actually don't mind it. Pipeline is a map that you can really use any type of gun on, due to there being several areas of the map where particular weapons are ideal. If you're indecisive though, go with an assault rifle. Not an incredible map, but fun, and I wish it would show up more online. 4/5

Rig is one of the biggest maps... at least it feels like it, due to the many levels and staircases on it. Rig, like Pipeline, is a map that you can get away with any gun-type, depending on which area of the map a particular objective is on. Snipers can lay out on the helipad and get a good view of a nice portion of the map, and shotgunners can run up and down stairs to blast peoples' heads off. Whichever you choose, you'll likely have a good time with Rig, because it hasn't disappointed yet on Conflict. 4/5

Sand Storm is the largest map in Future Soldier. While the image they show of this map in the game makes it look pretty bland, it's actually pretty awesome, and has one of the most unique feels of any of the others. One back part of the map has a large jet and a hangar, and another has a bunch of tents and sandbags for cover. Periodically when playing the map, a sand storm will come and decrease visibility for a time, which is sure to frustrate snipers without a thermal score. While you'd think a large map would be a bad idea in a game like Future Soldier, this one works, and works well. 4.25/5

Underground immediately reminded me of Rat's Nest from Halo 3... if you played that map, you'll likely see what I'm talking about. Underground seems to come up more often than any other map in the game in playlists, but I don't mind -- yet -- because I thoroughly enjoy it. It has some long sight lines and windows for snipers to go to on the outskirts, but the majority of the map encourages some shotgunning and SMGing skirmishes... I love the Rainbow Six-y/GoldenEye feel Underground brings as well. 4.25/5


As you can see, not many stellar maps, but there are also very few "stinkers" in there. I could go without Cargo and even Harbor, but the rest of the maps are good or better, which can't be said for a good number of shooters out there. I'm looking forward to future maps in the form of downloadable content, and hope we get at least three packs. What I hope for even more though, is for the Future Soldier community to stay alive. Anyway, that's getting a bit off-topic ... overall, I'd give Future Soldier's maps a solid


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Food Review (Beefy Nacho Burrito from Taco Bell)

Released on May 23rd, Taco Bell has released the Beefy Nacho Burrito.

Like I have with previous promotion items from Taco Bell, I got the Beefy Nacho Burrito minus sour cream. The release of this comes a few months after the re-discontinuation of the ever-so-popular Beefy Crunch Burrito, which was my personal favorite Taco Bell item ever. It seems like Taco Bell is teasing and trolling us hard with the release of a burrito that is as similar to that as this one is (The only differences being different chips and no rice).

For the price, you can't really go wrong. While it's only three things when I order it (Cheesy Frito things, cheese, beef), it still tastes pretty good, even if it's a bit salty for my tastes. It's not a huge burrito -- in fact I feel like it's smaller than the Beefy Crunch was -- but you can't complain for 99 cents. If I had never had the Beefy Crunch Burrito, I'd probably be in love with this one and make it part of my regular order. But that's not the case. The Beefy Nacho Burrito is all fine and good, but I'll likely not get another one, just in hopes of potentially getting the Beefy Crunch back for good.

Verdict: 3.5/5

The BCB made a burrito with a crunch a necessity to me, so I DO like this, even though it seems a bit sodium heavy. Where in the hell is the Beefy Crunch?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Game Review (Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier - 360)

I initially remember seeing this way back at E3 2011 and thought it looked pretty interesting, but didn't have any plans on buying it when I realized Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 were already coming out in the fall. Using their heads, Ubisoft decided to delay the game until now.

Future Soldier takes place -- shockingly -- in the future. As there is a lot of new equipment as well as modern, this game has a very half realistic, half fantasy feel to it, and it's really rather a good thing. As soon as I started playing, I felt as though this game was like Gears of War with a military skin, and I still sort of do feel that way. To me though, that isn't an insult at all, because Future Soldier manages to play very well -- almost like a Gears of War mixed with SOCOM, with added elements from games like Battlefield (Squad spawning).

The graphics in this game are hit and miss, depending on what you're looking at. Generally speaking, they look pretty impressive -- especially when you're up against a wall with an LMG trying to mow you down. From a distance or really close though, the textures are pretty bad. But the graphics really aren't that important... the game play is.

When playing the campaign, definitely do it on co-op. Actually, when doing ANYTHING in this game, do it with people that will talk. Communication is important in most online games, but it's really essential in Future Soldier. In campaign, the A.I. will generally get the job done, but they take awhile to do it. What I like to do is play with people you know, look down your sights, and synchronize a shot in slow motion to take enemies out. It's simple, effective, and fun. The campaign is also a bit of a challenge, as the A.I. will try flanking you... so don't take your sweet time, because you'll find yourself dead on the ground. Probably the best thing about campaign (co-op or not), is that on most missions, you can choose to have an all-out firefight, or go through as stealthily as possible -- it's really up to you. 

The online multi-player is what I was most interested in, and I figure what most people wanted to play. Why wouldn't you when there are 20 MILLION weapon customization options? I didn't play the beta, but some people in videos on YouTube said it was pretty enjoyable and likened it to "SOCOM before it sucked." That comment alone basically made me decide to give it a try. While the controls took a bit of getting used to after playing Battlefield and Modern Warfare, I eventually got used to them, and really started enjoying myself after just a couple matches. One thing I have found though is... if you don't have many friends to play with, I really suggest you pass on this game. Considering most people don't use headsets or are in parties when playing, you'll just get extremely frustrated with their idiotic decisions. Unlike a game like Call of Duty, you need friends to play Future Soldier.

As I said early on, Future Soldier feels quite a bit like Gears of War, which isn't a bad thing in most every aspect, besides when trying to escape enemies. At least once or twice a match I'll find myself getting shot at, decide I have to run away, and die because I either: Get stuck on a wall, can't run, or hop over an obstacle when I don't want to. As annoying as this can be at times, it still isn't enough to ruin the game, because the cover system for the most part is very effective.

As much as I enjoy this game, it's certainly not without its problems. Here's a list I've noticed already:

1.) As mentioned, the cover/running system can feel "sticky" or wonky at the worst possible times.
2.) When in a squad of any number with friends, it's not too rare to find yourselves in different squads and/or teams.
3.) Head shots are way too frequent -- I've gotten one-shot killed from across the map with the AK-74U too many times to count already.
4.) Some games after completion don't show up on your stats at all.
5.) You can't actively see anybody's rank, and the number of stats are limited.
6.) Some pretty serious lag issues online... the game either has virtually no lag, or is laggy to the point of being unplayable.
7.) Some guns (ACR and M14) seem way more powerful than anything else in the game early on, and grenades should be nerfed a tad as well. While capturing an objective, an enemy can simply lob a grenade and either kill you or knock you out of being able to capture it.

There are a few other issues I have with it, but even with those flaws, Future Soldier remains very entertaining, as working as a team can be very rewarding. I enjoy the sometimes long-lasting duels or all-out firefights, as well as the seemingly endless customization for your weapons. If you have a small group of friends and are looking for a new LIVE game to play, you should choose Future Soldier. With a patch or two, this could be the best shooter in recent memory. Somehow, someway, it finds itself to be a unique and incredibly fun alternative to the likes of Battlefield or Modern Warfare.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Drops #9-12)

Since the ELITE content has been released, it's really been up and down. April was a pretty mediocre month, so surely May will be better... right?

First of all, there are six new achievements to unlock in the two new Spec Ops Missions:


Don't Tread On Me (15)
Complete the "Iron Clad" Special Ops mission on any difficulty.

High Roller (25)
Complete the "Iron Clad" Special Ops mission on Veteran difficulty.

Not a Scratch (35)
Finish with your tank at full health in the "Iron Clad" Special Ops mission.

One-Four-One (15)
Complete the "Kill Switch" Special Ops mission on any difficulty.

EMPressive... (30)
Complete the "Kill Switch" Special Ops mission on Veteran difficulty.

Helipocalypse (30)
Destroy 6 helicopters in the "Kill Switch" Special Ops mission.


On top of the two new missions, Iron Clad and Kill Switch, there's a multiplayer map called Oasis, and four Face Off maps: Aground, Erosion, Getaway, and Lookout. If you don't know already, Face Off is a new game mode introduced this month by Infinity Ward that is simply a playlist that puts you against a stranger, or you and someone else against two other people. IW claims the four Face Off maps were made specifically for that game mode, and so they're relatively small. I should also let you know that in Face Off, only Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed will come up. The playlist currently says Team Defender, Domination, and Search and Destroy are included, but they aren't. Anyway, on to the review.

First of all, the Spec Ops missions. Iron Clad is a mission in which one person is on foot to destroy barriers with C4 while the other covers you with a tank. This mission and its achievements aren't too difficult, even on easy. In fact, I feel as though any competent dyad would be able to finish it in just one try. Iron Clad, due to its straightforward nature and simplicity, gets a 3/5 from me.

Second up is Kill Switch. This mission is more complicated, interesting, longer-lasting, and fun than Iron Clad. Unlike Iron Clad which feels as though it has just one part, in Kill Switch one player has two parts, and the other has three. For the player on the ground, you basically just have to stay alive and let your partner do the work. The other player starts off as a sniper, providing cover fire from some scaffolding. After a little while, the sniper then controls a reaper while the other player sets up the EMP. Once the EMP goes off, it's up to the two players to work their way to the dock. On the way though, you'll have a small swarm of enemies, including two Juggernauts. Kill Switch took about 3 tries for me to complete, but it was still quite fun. I'm pretty positive I'll never play it again in my life, but it was one of the best Spec Ops Missions I've played to date. 4/5

Oasis is the sole true multiplayer map this month, and most likely what most people will be playing. Although I admittedly haven't played it much to get a real great impression of it, it certainly isn't only aesthetically pleasing, but laid out nicely as well. It's a medium sized map with a couple key choke points, and not too much "verticality." The main problem I have with this map so far though -- and you'll see a similar complaint in my review of Erosion -- is that there's one spot of the map where I expect a BUNCH of camping whenever it comes up in playlists. Though I can't explain precisely where it's at, you'll know when you get online. Regardless of that problem, I see Oasis being a fun map on several game modes, from S&D to Domination. 4/5

Aground is the first of the Face Off maps; well, alphabetically, anyway. Supposedly this map takes place on the shores of Scotland, but it could be based on Maine for all I know. Looking at this map first glance, it looks pretty ordinary. Bland. But after playing it, it really is mostly good. The cave/rock area is a great vantage point, making it possible to see almost anyone anywhere on the map. The big problem I have with Aground -- and with most of the Face Off maps -- is that the spawns are atrocious, even with 2v2. If you get a double kill on your enemies, don't assume you're free to reload in the open... you'll really want to take cover anywhere you can and do it, otherwise you more than likely will be killed instantly. Besides the sometimes unbelievably bad spawns, Aground remains an average Face Off map. 3.5/5

Erosion is map number two, and the first one I played. In the small number of matches I've played, I have a strong feeling this will be the most camp-filled map in the Face Off playlist. If you want a tip as to where most of the enemies will be sitting, 10:1 they're perched up in the building that's around the center of the map on the second floor. While getting killed from there is a commonplace, it's just as easy to flush them out with a grenade, or pick them off as their heads go to the windows. I said all that and forgot to describe the map... basically, the description's in the name. Erosion just looks like ruins; plain and simple. Not a very good description, but that's about all I can come up with. If you've played SOCOM II and Halo 2, think of it sort of as a combination of Ruins and Warlock, respectively. While I actually like the looks and layout of this map, I feel I'd be hard pressed to find a twosome that wouldn't camp on it. For that reason... 3.5/5

Getaway is a map that, when I saw it, I expected greatness. From what I understand, it takes place in some super rich guy's pad and backyard on the coast of Brazil. Of the four Face Off maps, I feel like this is probably the smallest. As much as I wanted to call this my favorite DLC map, I won't be able to, simply because the spawns are easily the worst I've seen on any map in any Call of Duty ever. Period. If you die, you can usually expect to die at LEAST one more time right away. You know when someone's camping your tactical insertion...? It feels like that. Even if you aren't using one. Because of the maps size and layout, no matter where you spawn, you're almost always going to pretty much be in the enemies cross hairs when you spawn. And if not when you spawn, within 2 seconds. Getaway looks fantastic, but I really just wish Infinity Ward would have expanded on it and made it a full multiplayer map instead. It's still entertaining and the gunfights are frantic, but it's, in a way, a waste. 3.75/5

Lookout takes place in some bunker in Afghanistan, if I remember correctly. If it isn't the smallest map of the four, I'll just guess that it's second after Getaway. Even though this map seems bland on the surface, it's really rather fun. There are a decent number of bunkers to run in and out of to get away from enemies and regroup with your team mate if you need help, and the rock on the ... southern? ... side of the map, like in Aground, gives an excellent view of virtually the map in its entirety. When running around Lookout be careful and be sure to watch the minimap, because if you step outside of the map -- like I did once -- you'll be blown up by a land mine. Whoops. Sort of like Aground, it's a fun map, and it's laid out nicely, but nothing about it is really at all jaw dropping. 3.5/5


Overall, I'm definitely pleased with May's content. The four Face Off only maps is a disappointment because they could have all made for entertaining full-on multiplayer maps if they were expanded just a little bit, but they are what they are, and they're still fun to play. Oasis is a map worthy of dozens of plays when online with friends, and even the two Spec Ops missions are pretty good as well. While all the numbers together don't average out to it, I'd give May's drop a 4/5 due to the sheer amount of solid content. While, like I said, the whole Face Off thing could have been entirely done without, May may be the best release of Modern Warfare 3 DLC yet.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Drops #7 and 8)

After the above-average month of DLC for Call of Duty last month, I was expecting nothing but good stuff for April. Seeing on the Content Calender that it would be two maps, I was really hopeful. Unfortunately, Infinity Ward doesn't deliver this month.

For April, ELITE Premium members get Foundation and Sanctuary. Sanctuary is a really large map that takes place way up on some mountain in Greece. Foundation on the other hand takes place at a cement factory in Korea. Sound exciting? No? Well, they're not exciting.

Sanctuary as I just said is a huge map. Right when you think you've seen it all, there's another section to explore. As big as it is, it isn't very sniper friendly. Instead, I feel like assault rifles (or SMGs or maybe even shotguns more-so) would dominate on this map. The thing is, the map is mediocre. Like Liberation, it's way bigger than it needs to be. Considering the average game of Call of Duty consists of a 6v6 match, you can expect a lot of camping, very few kills, and hardly any action. Sanctuary would be an above average map if it were a reasonable size, but it isn't. For that reason, 3.25/5

Foundation at first glance looks like a bland blend of Radiation from Black Ops with Carbon from MW3, but smaller than both. It's a better map than Sanctuary is, but it still fails to impress me. Not only is the map blech with its gray look, there's nothing extraordinary about it. Nothing new. It's just there. I mean, I guess it's cool to have a map based in Korea in the game, but why does it have to be so mediocre? I will say I like Foundation on Domination, as there are several good choke points to kill and piss people off, but overall, it's fairly forgettable. 3.5/5

April isn't a terrible month for ELITE Premium members, but it's sure to disappoint most. Two maps -- neither of which is exceptionally impressive -- and that's all you get. I don't know about you, but I'd take one GOOD map (Like Black Box) a month over two average/bad maps as these two are. Looking at the Content Calender, May will give us FOUR maps... so I expect something better then.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Game Review (Hanging With Friends - App Store)

Hanging With Friends (HWF) is a guessing game. You go one-on-one with a friend, and each of you get a slew of random tiles. You take turns churning out a word, while guessing what your friend put down. You each start with five balloons -- whenever a person guesses a word incorrectly, a balloon pops. The last player with balloons is the winner.

Simple, yet potentially addicting. I liken this game to Wheel of Fortune without the fortune wheel. Instead, the fortune here is not popping all of your balloons and falling to an untimely death. HWF is yet another fun little "With Friends" game made by Zynga, and it should be an insta-download if you own an iPhone, or even an iPod Touch.


(Not rated higher only because it seems that there is only one theme to play on, and you need to spend cash to get new characters, balloons, etc.)

Game Review (Flight Control - App Store)

In Flight Control, you act as... a flight controller. Who'd've guessed? In it, you have to land jets, helicopters, and smaller aircraft to certain landing zones. While it sounds pretty simple, things get tricky quickly, as several things come flying on the screen in no time.

In order to even be mediocre at this game, you'll need to know just when to time the landings of your aircraft. Flight Control is what most App Store games are: casual, with the ability to play a match in just a couple minutes, and stop. The graphics are simple but nice to look at, and the song that plays at the menu is actually very relaxing. At the price of a mere ninety-nine cents, Flight Control is an app that everyone of any age should own.


Game Review (Draw Something - App Store)

Draw Something is a game by omgpop, identical to their on-the-website game called Draw My Thing. It's available on the App Store with advertisements for free, or ad-free for 99 cents.

Having played Draw My Thing on, I knew what to expect when downloading this game. All this game is is a game of Pictionary, where you and a friend take turns guessing each others pictures to earn coins, which you can use to get bombs (used to get new words to draw, delete letters when making a guess at a word) or buy more colors to draw with.

Draw My Thing is as fun of a game as you'd think, but it's not without problems. First, you don't even get all the colors of the rainbow when you first start the game. A few colors I know you don't start off with that can be imperative when trying to draw certain pictures are green, brown, and purple. How are you supposed to draw the statue of liberty accurately without the color green? Fortunately though, if you buy the game, you at least get 400 bonus coins to purchase a color pack.

I'd recommend downloading this if you like quick one to two-minute games with friends. And even though Draw Something is lacking in a few places, it seems that with an update that'll be out soon, many issues will be fixed - only making this game even better. For what it it is, and the price that it is, you can't go wrong. This game is drawsome.


Hardware Review (LifeProof case for iPhone 4/iPhone 4s)

Along with my iPhone 4s, I decided to nab the most expensive -- and so I assumed best -- case at Best Buy: the LifeProof for $80. While the price seemed sort of excessive, I thought that would mean I'd basically not even need to get insurance for the phone.

I was wrong ... and also right. I'll give my first impression, followed by my latest impression.

When I first saw it in the store, I thought it looked nice; well built, nice design, et cetera. Once I got home and opened the box, I was sort of scratching my head. My initial thought was, "Wow. This case looked a lot better when it was in the box.", followed quickly by, "Where in the hell are the instructions to get my phone in this?"

The box has a little note that says to go to the LifeProof website to see how to get the case together. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you do this. What I DON'T recommend is water testing it. I know that sounds stupid to say, but I really can't stress that enough. I'll go on about that later.

Before you throw your phone in your case, make sure it's impeccably clean. If you're like me, you'll focus on the tiniest spec of dust in the corner of the screen. Do you really want that to be there for the time you have your phone? I didn't either, but I soon found out that it's seemingly impossible to get your phone in the case without at least one little tiny piece of dust finding its way to the screen. It's frustrating, but just leave it be ... again, I'll tell more about that later.

Later the next day, I noticed a few things: First, some dust was in my screen... being a waterproof case, I was a bit perplexed as to how that could have snuck itself in there. Second, I was getting weird rainbow streaks on my screen that wouldn't go away. Frustrated, I opened my case and saw that the back portion of the case was a little bent, and I guessed that is how the dust/air got in. I also figured that I was getting the rainbow streaks on my screen because I was pushing on it several times to get my phone out of the case to keep cleaning it before I finally put the case together.

I wound up taking the case back to Best Buy to get a new one, and had no hassle. Really, just take these tips:

1.) Don't bother waterproofing your case. Look at the yellow seal, see if it's in tact, and then just get your phone in there. Assume LifeProof knows how to make the case you paid $80 for properly.

2.) Don't put your phone in and out of the front cover too many times before putting the back on and locking it. I did this with my first case, and I feel like this caused me to stretch out the front cover, causing the annoying oily-rainbow streaks. If you absolutely must, do it two times tops. Really just make sure the inside of the case is as clean as possible, as is your phone.

3.) Don't open up your case. Once you snap it together, leave it that way. Forever. With my first case, after I waterproofed it, I attempted to open it up: it was an absolute pain in the ass. I felt like I was breaking it, even though I opened it the same way LifeProof's website recommended.

4.) Use the headphone adapter. When I went driving around after I got my phone, I unscrewed the top part of the case where the headphones go in, and simply put in my iPhone headphones. I realized after dust got in my case just what that adapter was for. Had I actually watched all the LifeProof videos on the site, I'd've known that. So unless you want to get dust on your screen, use the adapter.

If you do those four things and don't make the mistakes I did, your phone may really be virtually life proof. I've brought my phone in the shower, and it has worked flawlessly. I've yet to drop it, but from what I've seen in a YouTube video (YouTube "LifeProof case drop test... it's the first link.), the phone can be dropped from about 5 feet and remain completely in tact. While I doubt the LifeProof case could survive more than a 10 foot fall or a throw to a wall, it could still likely do a lot more for you than some of the other cases on the market, due mostly to its resistance to water... I'm personally looking forward to trying to film a clip underwater with it once summer comes along.

While at first I felt like the LifeProof case was a complete disappointment and waste of money, I came to the conclusion that my ignorance and a possible design flaw (I noticed that the bottom connector flap of my first case was a weird yellow material, while my new one has a black almost memory foamy material.) caused my first case to essentially be a dud. After going back to Best Buy and getting another LifeProof case, I can say that - for now - I'm satisfied. The case is simply but sleekly designed, it isn't bulky so it's easy to get in and out of your pocket, and it's been durable thus far. If you're going to get a case for your iPhone 4 or 4s, I'd recommend spending the extra $20 or so to get the LifeProof.


5/24/13 Update: Two things. First of all, after about 4 or 5 months of having my case, I noticed a crack on the hard plastic charge port door. I contacted LifeProof, and they pretty quickly sent out a back-of-case replacement. When I got it, I mailed my broken case back -- cost me nothing, and happened smoothly. Just today (a little over a year after having the case) that the top right corner of my phone, the rubber portion, near the sleep button, is cracked and peeling. I assume this is from constantly putting it in my pocket and taking it out, but it still shouldn't happen. I'm glad I noticed it, because I don't trust to take my phone in the water at this point. I've also started to notice slight scratches on my case which have created rainbow-esque stripes on my screen, which is pretty annoying... and I take care of my phone the best way I know how.

For an $80 case, it's hard to recommend... it works well for awhile, but crumbles before I'm elligible to get a new phone. If this case lasted just two years before taking a crap, I'd probably be more okay with it. As it stands now, I'd give this case a 3/5. It doesn't completely suck, right now, it's merely shock proof, and not water proof.

Hardware Review (iPhone 4s)

The iPhone 4s was released back in October and is of course the successor to the iPhone 4. Just how good IS the iPhone 4s, and how exactly does it differ from the iPhone 4?

From the looks of things, the iPhone 4 and 4s look almost exactly the same. The only way you can tell the difference physically is by looking for the antennas near the top of the devices, because the slits are in different parts of the phone. Other than that, the 4 and 4s look identical. What's not identical, is what's inside. Here are a few differences:

Camera: iPhone 4 has a 5mp camera with 720p video recording. The iPhone 4s has an 8mp camera with 1080p video recording.

Processor: iPhone 4s is supposedly "twice as" fast due to its dual-core processor.

Battery: Tends to last a bit longer in the iPhone 4.

There are a few others, but those are the main ones. Oh yeah, and the iPhone 4s has Siri. Siri seems pretty awesome when you see advertisements for it, but the reality is, it's just not that useful. The time it takes you to answer a question -- if she can even answer it to begin with -- you could Google it in a shorter amount of time. There are some good uses for it, but Siri shouldn't be the reason you get a 4s.

Personally, I never had an iPhone before, and the only things I had remotely similar were the iPod Touch 1st and 2nd generations. Obviously, there is no comparison in the speed, or picture quality. If you're scared of dead pixels, then don't be scared of getting an iPhone 4s (or even 4), because it has "retina display." What this is essentially is a super-HD screen, with virtually non-existent pixels. I was sort of shocked when I looked at the screen on this thing then went back to look at my iPod Touch 2nd gen and saw just how mediocre that screen looked in comparison.

Like I said, I haven't had a previous iPhone, so I can't tell you how much more of an improvement is from a personal standpoint, but I can tell you that from what I've read, it seems that the iPhone 4s is different from the 4 for the few reasons I stated above: processing power, camera quality, and the addition of Siri. All three are nice to have, but it's not a huge leap forward from the iPhone 4 in my opinion. Still, the 4s is a great device, and the never-ending apps on the App Store just make it an addicting little gadget. If I have any issues with it, it's just that the battery seems to die extremely slow. I DO use it a lot, but I feel like I have to almost charge this thing TWICE a DAY. Like I said though, it's probably because I use it copiously.

+: Screen quality, pages load quickly, most everything else.
-: Siri's not nearly as awesome as its cracked up to be, battery life's kind of below average.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Drops #4, 5, and 6)

Another month, another release of DLC for ELITE Premium members. Welp, March has the biggest content month yet, with the release of two "all-new" Spec Ops missions called Negotiator and Black Ice, the multiplayer map Black Box, and 6 achievements worth 160 points. The achievements are listed below:

Skilled Negotiator (25)
Complete the Special Ops mission "Negotiator" on Veteran difficulty.

Shotgun Diplomacy (15)
Complete the Special Ops mission "Negotiator" on any difficulty.

Not on My Watch (35)
Rescue all the hostages in the Special Ops mission "Negotiator."

Ice in Your Veins (35)
Complete the "Black Ice" Special Ops mission on Veteran difficulty.

Slippery Slope (15)
Complete the "Black Ice" Special Ops mission on any difficulty.

A Baker's Dozen (35)
Run over and kill 13 enemies with the snowmobile in the "Black Ice" Special Ops mission.

First things first, the Spec Ops missions. When I heard Infinity Ward was going to be releasing Spec Ops missions, I pretty much immediately rolled my eyes. Really? Missions that I'll play once and never again? I also feel like IW had to add the six achievements just to get people to PLAY the missions. To be honest, they're really the only reason why I cared to bother with them.

The first thing I did was went and played Black Ice. I won't spoil what goes on with this mission ... you'll find it out yourself ... but I will say that this is an extremely easy mission to complete, even on Veteran. It took me just four tries to get through this, and every time I died, it was because of the beginning, simply because there's zero cover. It's a decent mission, but it's very simple, and also short as well.

The achievements for Black Ice are pretty straight forward... beat it on any difficulty, beat it on Veteran, and run over 13 people with the snow mobile. The first two need no explanation, and the third is pretty easy... all you need to do is put the difficulty down to one star, and take your time mowing people down. If you're having trouble getting 13, go up to snow mobiles and stop, so the enemies get off theirs. When they do... RUN 'EM OVER. Black Ice is what it is... an average Spec Ops mission. For that, I just give it a 3/5.

Next is Negotiator... when I played this, I did it with a friend (unlike Black Ice, which I did solo). This mission is a bit longer, and a lot more difficult than Black Ice. The first two achievements for this one are simple enough to understand (see above), but Not on My Watch and simply completing it on Veteran WILL be a challenge. For Not on My Watch, what you're going to want to do is just put the difficulty to the lowest level, and progress bit by bit through the mission. Each time you fail, restart, and go from there. Eventually, you'll learn where to hide, and when to save hostages. Playing on Veteran is quite the chore, and I found it to be one of the most difficult missions in all of the Spec Ops missions in the game. Explaining how I did it would be fairly confusing, but I'm willing to bet there are some helpful guides on YouTube at this point. Really though? The best advice I can give is for you to just be PATIENT. Negotiator is more challenging than Black Ice... for that reason alone, I give it a 3.5/5.

And now, the thing that most people care about; the multiplayer map, Black Box. The whole deal with this map is that the President's plane has crashed in a wealthy neighborhood. It's a fairly big map that in some spots strongly encourages sniping. There's the crashed Air Force One on one side of the map, and also three main buildings with two floors that you can go inside. While the map will be a favorite for snipers, guns like the MK14, Type 95, M16A4, or even any other assault rifle will work well if you have decent to good aim. Black Box mostly contains long sight lines - save the close-quarters sections when not outside - so SMGs and shotguns are not ideal. Unlike Liberation, which seems to be big just for the sake of being big, Black Box is made and made well. Visually, and in the way that it plays. In the few matches that I've played on Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, and Domination, it's played pretty well. Of course, there are a fair number of campers that simply refuse to go for the objective, but not enough to ruin the map entirely. Black Box may well be my favorite piece of DLC so far in Modern Warfare 3. It's not mind-blowingly awesome map, but it's one that's worth playing several times over (4.5/5).

While the two Spec Ops missions are just what I expected (that being "meh..."), Black Box has been a pleasant surprise, and it's sure to be a pretty popular map online. This month of DLC has surely been Modern Warfare 3's best to date, and I can only hope that things just get better from here, after the previous two fairly disappointing months.


Friday, March 09, 2012

Food Review (Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos taco from Taco Bell)

Moments ago, I consumed my first Doritos Locos taco from Taco Bell. Before its release, Taco Bell advertised a LOT. Its Facebook page had pictures plastered everywhere (as did its website), and they even had a midnight premier for crying out loud. So the burning question is... how does it taste?

I'll get to that in a bit. First of all, the Doritos Locos taco costs $1.29, and describes itself as, "A crunchy taco made with premium seasoned beef, crisp lettuce, and real cheddar cheese, in a shell made from Nacho Cheese Doritos® Chips." So yeah, all it is is a crunchy taco that has a Doritos shell.

And now the answer to the burning question ... meh. First of all, although Taco Bell claims this is a shell made from Nacho Cheese Doritos, it's not true. The shell is much too thin to be a real Doritos shell, and if you've ever had one before, you'd notice this instantly. As for the shell's seasoning, I really couldn't even taste it until I licked it off my fingers. When you're eating it, it just tastes like you're eating a taco with extra salt on the shell. Basically, it's just alright.

If you want a taco from Taco Bell that's a little more than ordinary, I recommend the Volcano taco, as it just tastes better. The whole Doritos shell thing isn't nearly as big of a deal as Taco Bell makes it out to be. I say it's certainly better than a typical hard-shell taco, but it doesn't deserve to be a main-stay on the menu before the oh-so wonderful Beefy Crunch Burrito.


Update: This was my rating for the regular Nacho Cheese DLT ... with sour cream, I'd give it a 3.75/5.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Game Review (MLB 2K12 - 360)

MLB 2K's potential final hurrah as Xbox 360's only MLB game is that of MLB 2K12. Since MLB 2K4's release 8 years ago, I've played roughly 6 of the 8 editions of the game. Of the versions I've played, 2K7 remains my favorite, despite its large number of glitches. The graphics were, in my opinion, the best in the series, and the soundtrack was also really good. Anyway, 2K12...

Let's start with the graphics. As I said a full two lines ago, I thought MLB 2K7 had the best graphics. The fans didn't look so great, but the players looked decent, and the jerseys looked really nice... why with the whole blowing in the wind and whatnot... MLB 2K12 just looks average at best, with more negatives than positives. Let me start with the positives here, as there is just... one positive.

+ Stadiums (Even though Comerica Park is lacking its new scoreboard, and there are STILL generic-only minor league and Spring Training ballparks.)
+ Shadows on the field (It's been in the game for a couple years now, but it's still nice to see that shadows move in over the field as the game goes on.)
- Jerseys (The dark/royal blue that is used as the primary color for teams like the Yankees is not the right color at all ... it looks more like New York Mets blue.)
- Player models (A vast majority of the models look atrocious, with few actually looking like their real-life counterparts. Where are Ryan Roberts and Prince Fielder's tattoos?)
- Animations (I'm still seeing a lot of the horrendous animations from years' past. What's going there, 2K?)
- Frame rate online (It's not terrible, but it's noticeable, and WILL cause you to swing badly on some pitches, and over or under run a LOT of balls in the outfield or infield.)

Yeah... MLB 2K12 may not be the best looking game - in fact, it's far from it - but it's alright looking, to be fair.

To me, 2K11 had a pretty good soundtrack, with some quality songs from a lot of unknown bands, for the most part. This year, 2K Sports has a soundtrack consisting of indy, rock, rap, and even dubstep. If you've got eclectic taste, you can appreciate a good number of the songs in 2K12, but it's pretty average overall. Below is the setlist in MLB 2K12:

Atmosphere, "Just for Show"
Bass Drum of Death, "Get Found"
Explosions in the Sky, "Trembling Hands"
G-Side, "Put Me in the Game"
Grouplove, "Colours"
JEFF the Brotherhood, "Shredder"
My Morning Jacket, "Holdin' On to Black Metal"
Pretty Lights, "Hot Like Dimes"
Skrillex, "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites"
Telekinesis, "Please Ask for Help"
The Cool Kids, "Boomin'"
The Joy Formidable, "Austere"
The Vaccines, "If You Wanna"

Recognize many of those bands? I didn't either... only about three of them.

I may as well get into the other sounds in the game, starting with the commentary... if you liked 2K11, you'll like it again this year. 2K12 brings back Gary Thorne, John Kruk, and Steve Phillips with "over 80 hours of new commentary." Even though I've only played a few games, I've yet to hear anything repeated ad-nauseum, so that's a good thing. As for the crowd in this game, they're as depressing and emotionless as ever. Hey there champ, hit a walk-off homerun, didja? Yeah well, the home team doesn't give a fuck because they - apparently - aren't paying attention! They hardly react when you get a clutch hit, be it game winning or not, and that's also frustrating. They don't get up and cheer, you just hear a slight clap as if you're at a golf tournament. Why they haven't ever really improved this over all these years is beyond me.

Now that I'm done with that vent... the controls. MLB 2K12's controls tend to be more frustrating than anything else. Primarily, the fielding. If a ball is blooped into the outfield and you have a chance to catch it, if you at all twitch the left stick in the wrong direction, you have virtually no chance of getting to the ball because I guess the outfielders aren't athletic enough to turn around. Online, this is made worse due to the lag - especially the "throw bars" that come up on screen. When you're playing in an online match, you have to release it early to time it properly and get a "green" throw to wherever you're throwing it.

For pitching, I have no problems with it, other than that it can be considerably difficult to get a perfect pitch, especially when dealing with the occasional lag that pops up when playing online. I feel like I should say more about the pitching, but if you played 2K11, you know what to expect.

The hitting in this game feels right and wrong, all at the same time. Getting your timing right and smacking a ball to left field or over the right field wall feels pretty rewarding, but when you hit the ball the same way over the same part of the plate and get out, it's sort of depressing... but I guess that's baseball. The biggest problem I have with the batting in this game is that you will knock COUNTLESS balls foul, often times many in a row. Whether you swing at a ball over the plate or way outside, you'll be hearing "And that's a foul ball." over and over again. I know foul balls are pretty common in the MLB, but it just feels way too excessive in 2K12.

Aside from the countless things I pointed out about this game that I didn't like, MLB 2K12 remains a decent, playable baseball game. The ugly player models and animations as well as the rubber-band A.I. can take away from the experience quite a bit, but 2K Sports has at least made the game tolerable. The pitching can actually be FUN and rewarding when you strike a batter out when you need to, the commentary is better than The Show's, and the menus look about as good as ever. Even though MLB 2K12 is far from a perfect baseball game, it's not too shabby of a final effort from 2K.