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.