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.