Friday, December 12, 2014

HopCat Detroit Review

I know you've been waiting. Wipe the crusty eye boogers from your tired eyes, HopCat is finally here, and it's as fantastic as advertised. Okay so maybe they don't advertise it as fantastic, but they may as well.

Hearing that Detroit was going to be having its very own HopCat earlier this year was one of the highlights of my year ... alright, I don't have much to look forward to, I'm sorry. Really though, when I visited HopCat in Grand Rapids for the first time last December, I was impressed not only with the massive beer list containing "been there, done that" year-round brews and of course the "whalezbro" bourbon barreled beers kissed and made by Jesus himself, but also with the food.

This HopCat location is going to be a Detroit staple for years and years -- I honestly see no reason to believe it wouldn't be. While I'm not too high on its location (next to a McDonald's in Midtown, where there's not a ton going on at the moment), the restoration of Detroit will likely soon put it smack dab in the middle of a thriving city. I admit, even I rolled my eyes with the last bit of that previous sentence, but who knows, right?

The building itself is gorgeous -- it's a fairly old building with some history, but it's been renovated almost top to bottom with only a few original bits left in to give it an antique-ish feel that's definitely a different look compared to the original HopCat. The Huma Room (named after one of Michigan's best IPAs ... if you don't know what it is, please slag off) doesn't look as awesome/unique, but it hosts bands regularly, and thats the floor's main draw. I'm not sure if bands perform only on certain days or what, but I'm a fan of live music in a bar... especially when the bar is two floors, and its possible to -- in this case -- go downstairs if you don't want to listen to some jam-diggities. Considering it's icy as all hell outside, they aren't letting anyone in the beer garden right now, but I imagine it being an awesome spot to drink a doesn't-taste-like-piss beer before a Red Wing playoff game or Tiger game next Spring/Summer.

HopCat has too many pros to count. First of all ... every tap is a pro. If you want some bladder juice urine trouble, because every tap here is dedicated to craft beer. It'll likely be Michigan-centric, but I definitely expect to see dozens of "fancy beers" on-tap from around the world. At the grand opening, there were well over 100 craft brews from one of my personal favorite breweries, Short's. If you want to try a beer that'll make you ask, "What? This is a beer? Really?" and then say, "Damn, that's good!", you'll like Short's. There are also 30 taps in the Huma Room on the second floor, HopCat's Facebook page said, bringing the total taps at HopCat Detroit to 150. If you can't find a beer that interests you on their tap list at any given time, you shouldn't be drinking beer.

The food is everything you'd expect if you've visited another HopCat location... well above average and much better than your typical bar. They feature some amped up bar classics, as well as some eclectic creations you may not have even known existed. Of course, HopCat isn't just a "typical bar." It's an experience. It's a place that welcomes anybody of any background. So long as you're 18ish (or preferably 21), you'll love HopCat and not feel out of place.

The service here is surprisingly good for a place that has just opened up. It's not perfect, but I wouldn't expect it to be right at opening with the building packed and the employees just getting started. Still, it seems as though the owners have gotten it right. I'll be wanting to visit HopCat just about any time I'm in Detroit. I'm not looking forward to the likely inevitable 60 minute waits just about any time I go, but it'll be worth it.

Now make like a tree and LEAVE! I'll see you at HopCat.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Drink Review (Surge)

IT'S BACK! It only took about twelve years, but it's back! Buy it while you can get it on Amazon and do NOT buy a case for $60 like assholes are doing.

Anyway, the drink! I figured I'd type up a quick review since there aren't too many reviews of it out there. Basically, I'm sure you've seen the can by now -- it's the classic Surge "splat" looking logo on the lime green can. It looks really sharp, and I'm super glad Coca-Cola didn't put on that awful looking second label they had for Surge. As for the drink itself, it's like I remembered: a radioactive green color.

The smell of Surge is like Mello Yello and Squirt blended together... there's nothing else to it, that's the best way of describing the aroma on this. As for the taste, it's more of the same, and that's not a bad thing. I'm not a huge, huge fan of Mello Yello or Squirt on their own, but blended together (seemingly), it creates a really tasty and pretty unique citrus drink. The finish on Surge is much better than Mountain Dew, for comparison -- I find Mountain Dew to have a somewhat harsh carbonation, but Surge is more smooth. Not to say it's flat, but it's way easier to "slam" if you'd rather do that than savor each sip (FOR SHAME!). The aftertaste on Surge also tastes more... real, and better than Mountain Dew. It's an orange kind of flavor that wants you to take another sip, rather than a stale, strange, super artificial flavor that wants you to take another sip.

Hopefully Surge is back and not for just a limited time, and not just exclusive to Amazon -- I was fortunate to get three cases for just $35 total thanks to a pair of  Bing Rewards $5 Amazon gift card codes, and I plan on drinking most of my cans ... not selling them at insane mark-ups like so many other people. I'll make no bones about it and say that, yeah, my score is likely influenced a good bit by the label alone. But I'll also say that it's an easy drinking, good tasting pop (soda for you other people out there) that even people who have no Surge nostalgia would enjoy.

+: It's Surge! (Really does taste like Mello Yello mixed about halfsies with Squirt)
-: Scalpers, exclusive to Amazon and sells out quickly.
?: Is it permanent? Why less caffeine per ounce than when it was initially released?

4.5/5

Monday, October 06, 2014

Game Review (Super Smash Bros. 3DS - Nintendo 3DS)

Man, it's been a long time since I've reviewed any 3DS games. Why? Well... I just don't buy many games for it. Since getting my Nintendo 3DS with 3D Land for Christmas 2011, I've just gotten Mario Kart 7, Pokemon Silver and Pokemon White (Yes, I know they are DS games), and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. While I've gotten some good playtime out of my 3DS, I've never been one to play handheld games hours on end -- alright, I'm trailing off. Henceforth with the review!

I've seen a lot of reviews describing the gameplay of Super Smash Bros., but if you're here, you know what the game is about. What makes this game different? Well, there are a few new modes in there that I think most people, honestly, don't care much about. Smash Run is the thing people have talked most about, and basically, you pick your fighter and run through a randomly generated stage collecting random power-ups and ultimately facing a random boss. Is it fun? It's not AWFUL, but the sheer amount of -- you guessed it -- randomness makes it a game mode that could use some work. Maybe a patch could make Smash Run better, I don't know, but as it stands now, it's nothing all that special.

Another new thing that's kind of interesting (if it's your bag) is the ability to customize your fighter -- change his/her clothes, the character's strength, speed, and defense, and even the certain attacks. It's a pretty nifty addition to the game, but it feels like something only a niche of players would use. It just seems that if you're playing with "serious" SSB players, customizing your character's abilities is just something that would be a "no-no." Regardless, this is an interesting addition that'll no doubt make a fair number of players happy.

Solo mode is back and is better than ever. Instead of fighting a predetermined line of fighters, you can choose who you want to fight, how many coins you want to "bet" that you'll beat the mode (more coins equals higher difficulty), and so on. It doesn't change the mode dramatically, but there was nothing that needed fixing -- these few improvements have only made an already solid mode more fun.

The real things that matter in Super Smash Bros. though are the fighters and stages, let's be honest... and in SSB 3DS, there's a pretty great variety in here. Starting off, there are over thirty characters to choose from, with a good number more to unlock as you simply play the game. There are also a lot of challenges that you can complete. Some of them are just for fun, but to get certain trophies and unlock certain stages you need to (to my understanding) finish some of the challenges. These challenges aren't generally super difficult at first, but they become ridiculous as you play on.

SSB 3DS has some of the best graphics of any Nintendo 3DS game out there. Not only do characters and stages "pop", but it moves at an almost perfectly consistent 60 FPS to boot, despite what's going on on-screen. Ah... the screen... speaking of the screen, whether you're on a 3DS XL or, worse, a regular ol' 3DS, you'll have some trouble seeing what's going on when playing with four fighters who are spread out all over a stage. It's often hard enough seeing what's going on on a TV screen, but on a tiny 3DS screen, it can be just about impossible to tell what item is on the ground, or even where your character is at certain times.

The controls for SSB 3DS are actually pretty good. I was worried about my hands cramping while using my regular 3DS, but I haven't had that problem -- but luckily (...or not-so-luckily...), I have pretty small hands and don't death grip my 3DS while I play. While I and most any person would prefer to play SSB 3DS on a GameCube controller, the buttons are all quite responsive, and the analog stick is usually fine, although I have found that sometimes my fighter doesn't know whether to run or walk. Someone with big hands will likely find quite a few things to dislike about this mobile version of SSB, but I'm generally fine with it all.

The list of characters and stages in SSB 3DS are many and varied. As usual, all fighters have the same button combinations for attacks, but the attacks they do are often quite different. This is great for veterans and new players alike because it takes a skilled player to master the timing of certain attacks, but any newbie can hop right in and have fun with the game... which leads me to the stages, and even items. Some of the new items in this game are nothing but annoying insta-kill weapons. Thankfully, items can be toggled on or off at will. While the majority of stages are great fun, some have "events" on them that are likely to peeve most people. Again though, these stages can be played with these "hazards" off.

There's plenty more to talk about with SSB 3DS, but I'd like to try keeping this from becoming a novel. All that you need to know is that this is probably the best SSB yet. The only reason I say "probably" is because it's actually a bit frustrating that this can't be played on a bigger screen with a proper controller. Despite that, Super Smash Bros. 3DS is a very good game with a huge cast of fighters, a wide variety of mostly super fun stages, and a lot of fun to be had. It's a bummer that even local fights with friends can be laggy (good luck finding a lag-free match on WiFi), but if you don't mind playing against AI (which is quite decent, actually), there are hours upon hours of playtime to be had in SSB 3DS.

+: Loaded with content, great frame rate, hours of fun to be had, a "Smash"ing good time... eh? Eh!?
-: Too frequently laggy local or online multiplayer, stage hazards, "noob" items, small screen, cramped controls.
?: Will we get DLC?

4.25/5

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Food Review (Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Tim Horton's)

Okay, so... who actually eats at Tim Horton's? Probably nobody, really. But since I had a $15 gift card given to me, I decided to go and try the spicy chicken sandwich and their cream of broccoli soup. My total was $7.19 which was kind of high, but when I saw the amount of food I got, it was actually a pretty fair price.

The spicy chicken sandwich is a nice size -- the chicken patty (yeah, patty, not chicken breast) is a little bigger than the bread. The chicken has a pretty hefty amount of seasoning on it, with a nice buffalo mayo sauce on the bun. There's a little bit of lettuce and a couple tomato slices, both of which were really fresh -- no limp, pale lettuce or slimy yellow tomatoes here. The seasoning and mayo on the chicken sandwich were very good, and actually presented a good heat. Far too often at fast food restaurants or in national chains, spicy options aren't actually spicy. If you're a fan of spicy food, definitely get this sandwich -- it won't let you down. No, it won't make you cry or pant, but it should make your nose run a little bit.

At first bite, I was disappointed -- not in the flavor at all, but just in the fact that, as I said, Tim Horton's uses a chicken patty rather than a solid piece of chicken breast. For the price I paid, I would expect a premium cut of chicken. Even though this sandwich uses some frankenchicken, it actually does taste pretty decent.

The cream of broccoli soup is about what I had expected... fairly mediocre, maybe a bit better. I mean, it's a plus over something like Campbell's, which is waaay too salty and runny.

It was all tasty enough to make me definitely want to go to Tim Horton's again in the future for some food, but again, the fact that the chicken is of the "sponge" variety, despite its surprisingly good flavor, is making me give the sandwich the rating I'm giving it.

+: Tastes pretty good -- the seasoning, mayo, bread, and tomatoes and lettuce are nice.
-: Premium price for a not-so-premium product.

3.75/5

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Food Review (Dollar Cravings Menu at Taco Bell)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.75/5

Monday, August 04, 2014

Game Review (Naval Strike expansion for Battlefield 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.75/5

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Game Review (Battlefield Hardline BETA)

I was fortunate enough to get a closed beta  code, and I've played the beta for  a few hours. I'll try to keep this relatively short. First of all, the beta features a single map, "High Tension", which is  a map that supposedly takes place in downtown Los Angeles. There are also two modes in the beta: Heist and Blood Money. Heist is like a twist on Capture  the Flag where the Criminals must bring loot to the escape point, while the Police need to prevent it. In Blood Money, two  teams of criminals work against each other to see which can get the most cash. In both matches, the games seem to go  by fairly quickly, meaning you can play more games in Hardline than you likely could in Battlefield 4 in the same amount of time. For me, that's a positive.

My first impression of Hardline was something along the lines of, "Hm, this is pretty decent." Hardline's color palette is surprisingly... bright? I guess? I've seen some people say the game looks cartoonish. Personally, I like this look, as it suits the more-arcadey-than-Battlefield 4 feel of Hardline. Honestly, I feel like it has a Call of Duty-esque thing going on, but at the same time, it still feels distinctively Battlefield... just a bit more fast paced. Confusing? Not sure how else to word it for you. I  really appreciate  the level of recoil on guns in Hardline -- that's what really makes it feel  more like Battlefield rather than Call of Duty.

The map that's in the beta is alright, even if it's a bit uninteresting. It's a city with a few buildings you can go in, but it seems small. Since there are only 16v16 teams in the beta though (will it be like that in the full game?), the map feels barren in spots. If Hardline does support 64 players, it's going to be hectic to say the very least, as High Tension doesn't feel like it'd play well with that many.

While Hardline is like Battlefield in many ways (imagine that!), there  are a few key differences. First of all, there aren't really any assault vehicles. Sure, there are a few turrets on  vehicles that you can use, but there aren't any heavily armored assault  helicopters or tanks rolling around.  Second,  you pay for weapons and  gadgets more than  you actually unlock them. I don't mean that you do this in a Counterstrike sort of way, because whatever you buy is permanent, not just for a  single  match.

I've enjoyed  Hardline the bit  that I have played it.  It's obviously hard to form much of an opinion based on a single map beta, but it's  a game I'd potentially purchase. Many  are crying  that the game should be Battlefield 4 DLC because it feels like a mod, but that makes no sense. Does Battlefield 4 not feel like Battlefield 3? Comments like that make no sense to me.

If you're looking for something a little different, Hardline could be a great option when it releases. It's Battlefield with a nice little spin on it. If the game runs as  smooth at launch as it  has  on the beta, it may be worth being a day one purchase.

4/5

Monday, June 09, 2014

Food Review (Quesarito from Taco Bell)

Taco  Bell's  probably  my  favorite  fast food   chain.  Not  because they  innovate  or   sell quality food, but  because  their  uncanny ability  of making cardboard and  horse  meat  taste good for a reasonable   price works for me.  While  I'll  always be pissed at  Taco  Bell for refusing to make the  Beefy Crunch Burrito a permanent menu  item, the Quesarito is here... and guess what,  it's a permanent addition to  the menu.

For $2, I   was  pleasantly  surprised with the  size of the  Quesarito. It   has a   decent heft to  it,  and you  definitely  get  your  money's worth  for  the  size  of it alone.  But  how does it  taste?

Well, what  the  hell.  It's Taco Bell.  What can I tell  you.  Meat,  cheese, sour cream,  and  the  suddenly-put-on/in-everything-at-Taco-Bell-now  chipotle  sauce  in  a grilled  tortilla.  I've seen  comparisons   to the Beefy  Five Layer   Burrito,  but this   is  different in that the  tortilla is  grilled here,  there aren't  any  beans, and this  is bigger. I  personally prefer the Quesarito   to the Beefy Five Layer  because  the former has some  texture to it.

There is  nothing  incredibly original about the Quesarito at all, but  the price is fair, and  it's  quite filling. I could see   myself getting  these time-to-time,   but   really  Taco  Bell.  Let's get  real. Why in the  FUCK is  the Beefy Crunch Burrito still  not around,  and  why did you ever  end   the  Volcano Menu? Too  many options   on   the menu?  It's made me go from  having  Taco  Bell  religiously,  to   being  a fairweather  observer,  but that's  not   for this review.

The Quesarito:  It's not  bad, but it won't turn  you on.

3.5/5

+ Good  value,  it's grilled,  there's nothing inherently   bad about it.
-  Nothing   new,  and why is it an automatic permanent  menu item? Really?

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

DVD Review (The Simpsons: The Complete Eleventh Season)

In my reviewing of The Simpsons seasons, I somehow forgot to do  season  eleven, so here it is. Season eleven of the show is when most Simpsons fans seem to agree that the show went down hill hard. Personally, I've found episodes worth watching more than once in many of the show's seasons. While I'll agree that  there's nothing quite like seasons 1-10 of the show, there's still plenty to like about season eleven.

Most of the good  episodes  in  season eleven  are near the beginning of the season, a few of  them presumably being carried over  from season ten's produced  episodes. As to be expected, there are some duds in this season worth pointing out: Saddlesore Galactica and Kill the Alligator and Run are notoriously unpopular  episodes  from this season  and show in general, the latter being a surprise, considering it was written  by Simpson legend John Schwartzwelder.

Per usual, you'll find  a   nice amount of  bonus features  throughout the boxset,  as well as commentary for every episode. As   a whole,  season eleven  is worth getting, in my opinion, even if you consider yourself a pretty modest Simpsons fan. While the quality of about the first two discs is much better than the last two as a whole, there are some solid episodes and great  jokes throughout the entirety of the season.

3.75/5

Friday, May 09, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 05, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/5

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

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

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Game Review (Mercenary Kings - PS4)

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

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

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

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

3.75/5

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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Food Review (Kraft Homestyle Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese)

I saw one of these bastards on the shelf at Kroger. Since I occasionally get in the mood for awful macaroni and cheese (Easy Mac and the like), I thought this could be worth trying.

First thing I noticed from the back of the box is that this is 380 calories -- alright, not bad -- but it also somehow has half the recommended daily sodium. So long as it tastes good, I could be fine with knowing a salt lick is in my bowl. Well, it doesn't taste good at all. First of all, the portion of noodles is tiny. The picture is a bit deceiving because it's a close up, but I think the total amount of noodles is about half a cup. Seeing such a small amount of noodles in the bowl with three different packets had me confused. Well, apparently, there's a seasoning packet, a "cheese" packet, and bread crumb packet. The "cheese" packet (I use quotations for obvious reasons) is surprisingly big, and I just wondered why there was so much cheese for so few noodles. I wound up using maybe 3/4ths of the "cheese" before throwing the rest out, and then put the crumbs on top.

I'm really not sure I've ever had worse tasting macaroni and cheese in my life. Not to say it has a bad flavor, but it tastes like salty noodles with a bit of American cheese in it. The worst part about the whole thing has to be the bread crumbs. What the shit is that? The texture is unpleasant like sawdust, flavorless, and off-putting.

"Homestyle"? Really? If I went to your house and your mom or grandma served something that tasted like this, I'd slap them. It's bland, the bread crumbs don't add anything positive, the portion size is pretty small... I've said enough.

2.5/5

+ It looks good, right? And it doesn't taste *bad*
- Salt is basically the only flavor; the bread crumbs suck; Homestyle? LOL.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Food Review (Fresco Steak Burrito Supreme from Taco Bell)

Yes, another one -- a random review of a random permanent item on the Taco Bell menu. This is the Fresco Steak Burrito Supreme, which runs at a pretty steep $3.39. This is also available in chicken, or you can get a regular Burrito Supreme with beef, steak, or chicken for presumably the same price. I'm not sure though, since I haven't had one in ages.

Alright, so... what differs in the Fresco variety of this burrito is that, as far as I know, it pulls out the cheese and sour cream and replaces it with pico de gallo. Doing this spares about 70-90 calories on the burrito depending on the variety you get. For me, this is a better option, just because I'm generally not a fan of sour cream inside of a burrito. I mean, it gets all warm and disgusting and makes me think of man juice or some shit. As for the cheese, I can do without that as well, because Taco Bell's cheese is pretty flavorless and does nothing but add fat and calories. I don't normally like tomatoes, but pico de gallo I actually really like... it adds a much more interesting depth of flavor over the waxy cheese.

Okay I went off there. The burrito itself is described on the website as:

This Taco Bell Fresco burrito is a warm, soft flour tortilla wrapped around marinated premium thick cut steak, hearty beans, tangy red sauce, crisp shredded lettuce, diced onions, diced ripe tomatoes, and pico de gallo.

...Wait. "Premium" thick cut steak? Look Taco Bell, I enjoy your food (for shit knows the reason), but how exactly are you allowed to say this steak is "premium"? It's porous. It has an odd texture. It doesn't really even LOOK like meat. So either I've been eating the wrong kind of steak my whole life, or Taco Bell is full of shit -- I'm guessing the latter. Anyway, as it turns out, the burrito isn't too awful. It comes in at 232g, which is the equivalent of 2.5 standard crunchy tacos, and with 350 calories. So it's a decent amount of food, but when you consider the price of this thing ($3.39), I'd actually hope for more.

It tastes alright. Taco Bell's steak is what it is, and that's meat that makes you question what animal it came from, with a not very steak-like texture. It's not bad though, and as I said, reasonably filling. There's enough texture going on here with the beans, weirdly chewy "steak", and pico de gallo to keep it fairly interesting. I suppose it's a good "healthy" option from Taco Bell (if you want to call it that), but I'd sooner get two times the food for about $1.50 more and get a Cantina Bowl.

3.25/5

+ Decent size. Reasonably good what-you'd-expect Taco Bell kind of flavor. 350 calories.
- Weird ass "steak". $3.39 is a bit high. It's pretty mediocre as a whole.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Show Review (MLB Off the Bat on MTV2)

I don't review shows much at all anymore, but I couldn't pass up this opportunity. MLB Off the Bat is a show on MTV2 that features Major League Baseball players doing non-baseball activities. I was skeptical, but I thought it could be a pretty good show, given the fact that I like baseball. As it turns out, this show is absolute shit. There is nothing good about this show whatsoever. It's scripted beyond belief, it's not funny, it's awkward at times, and most of all, it consists of nothing but an excess of general douchebaggery. The hosts aren't amusing in the slightest, and the show as a whole is pretty painful to watch. I wasn't expecting much at all from a show on MTV2, but this is absolutely brutal. Baseball fan or not, save yourself the time -- there's no way that this shitty ass show lasts more than one short season.

1.5/5

+ MLB!
- Cheesy, lame, pathetic, etc.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Drink Review (Red Bull: The Red/Blue/Silver Edition)

"Are you fucking serious? Reviewing goddamn Red Bull?"

When you've got nothing to do, you need something to do. I haven't done one of these maligned "Drink Reviews" for probably two years. Here goes nothin'...

I picked these up with a regular Red Bull for a total of $8, since they were on sale for $2/4 at Kroger (for a single 8.4oz can).

The first time I sipped one of these, I was put off by the ridiculously terrible artificial flavor, but it grew on me. It's also a bit tart/sour, which I wasn't expecting. It makes it more interesting to drink and takes away from some of the sweetness (27g of sugar in a can, waddup!?).

If you do get one of these, just don't look at the ingredients. Sucrose and glucose of course, but then plenty of other for-a-science-experiment ingredients thrown in. All-in-all, it has almost the same nutrition label as a regular Red Bull.

None of the three taste all that great, but they're alright. My first thought was that these would probably be good in some sort of mixed drink. I'd sooner take a regular Red Bull over any of these three varieties.

3.5/5

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Food Review (Premium Grilled Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich from McDonald's)

That's a mouthful. Per the McDonald's website,

"Thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, caramelized grilled onions, white cheddar*, crisp leaf lettuce and fresh tomato top our grilled chicken breast fillet. Served on an Artisan roll with our Big Mac secret sauce."

And that's how McDonald's describes this thing. There's also the option to get a fried chicken version, or a burger. I opted for the grilled chicken just because it's what I was in the mood for. For the fried chicken, you're looking at 760 calories per sandwich. The hamburger is 720, and the grilled chicken variety is 590. I chose to get this sandwich after reading some relatively positive things about the burger version. My overall impression is that it's alright. The chicken is actually a solid piece of meat (as usual when you get "premium" meat), the bacon doesn't taste microwaved, and the roll is actually really good. The caramelized onions are a nice touch, but I don't care for the bitterness they give with the grilled chicken. I figure it'd work better with an actual hamburger. The white cheddar (notice the asterisk in the description) basically can't be tasted at all, and only add a bit of texture and enhance the look of the sandwich. The piece of lettuce I got was tiny, but I did get two tomatoes.

It's alright. I just have too high of expectations for fast food sandwiches since I've started going out more often. The bacon is improved from what I remember McDonald's bacon being, the chicken was juicy and hot, and the whole thing tasted pretty good, but I wasn't blown away.

+ The bun is soft with some sweetness and isn't all dry like McDonald's usual sesame seed buns. There are two slices of decently sized bacon. Chicken was good, albeit salty (naturally).

- Only slightly above average in the grand scheme of things. Slides all over and is messy in general because of the slippery grilled chicken patty. Piece of lettuce was tiny. Grilled chicken version probably isn't the best choice.

3.5/5

(Almost a 3.75)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Food Review (Chicken Cantina Bowl from Taco Bell)

I've had a good number of these, and I'm surprised I never got around to reviewing what many people believe to be the embarrassment of Taco Bell. For $4.99, this is what you get, per the Taco Bell website:

"Experience our new citrus-herb marinated chicken, flavorful black means, guacamole made from real Hass avocados, pico de gallo prepared fresh daily, roasted corn and pepper salsa and a creamy cilantro dressing, all served on a bed of premium Latin rice. Also available in Steak of Veggie"

And that's what it is. When this item was introduced to Taco Bell way back when, it was soon after I decided to start counting my calories. While I still ate nothing but loads of sodium and saturated fat, I was (and still am) trying to not let myself balloon out. A lot of people probably look at the price for this item and scoff, but the truth is, it's a good value. Not just because of the pretty decent quality of what you're getting, but because of the size of what you're getting. The chicken cantina bowl is, from what I've seen, the heftiest item on the Taco Bell menu, which should also help to explain the five dollar asking price.

I've probably had at least two dozen of these over the past year or two (primarily because of its size and relatively low calorie amount of 540), and I've noticed some consistencies that aren't exactly positives. First of all, all too often it seems like the rice is undercooked. Not terribly, but definitely noticeable. Second, the chicken seems to be dry too many times when I get these things. Why do I keep getting them? They still taste decent. The black beans and corn salsa are always perfectly fine, the guacamole is decent (albeit uninteresting), and the cilantro dressing has a good flavor (although it's a bit salty, but what can you expect?).

If you're looking to fill up and feel a bit less remorse from eating fast food, this is a fair option. Yeah, there aren't too many calories in this cantina bowl, and there's not a lot of fat, but there is a lot of sodium, and it still has chicken that's likely injected with a bunch of mystery ingredients, regardless of what that slut Lorena Garcia says.

3.75/5

+ Good value. Decent amount of flavor. Surprisingly filling.
- Pretty consistently undercooked rice and overcooked chicken.

Food Review (Fresco Crunchy Taco from Taco Bell)

Ah, what the hell am I doing right now. Reviewing something so boring... yes, that's right, the crunchy taco from Taco Bell is getting its own review. To be more precise, this is actually for the fresco crunchy taco. Taco Bell's longest tenured menu item (total mind blower, I bet), the crunchy taco is a simple crunchy corn tortilla with about a tablespoon of "beef", a cup of lettuce, and a teaspoon of pico de gallo. You read that correctly. Taco Bell's crunchy taco has an impeccable, beautiful balance of ingredients!

In all seriousness, it doesn't suck. I prefer the fresco crunchy taco over the regular crunchy taco just because the pico de gallo offers a lot more flavor than Taco Bell's flavorless "cheese", and it's also a couple dozen fewer calories. No big deal. For a dollar, you can't go wrong. It's simple, good, and a measly 150 calories. Taco Bell's delicious combination of a crunchy, often times stale or broken shell, 75% horse meat and 25% cardboard with a bit of wilted, flavorless, only-there-for-color lettuce is strangely compelling. The pico de gallo on top adds a nice flavor and texture to what would otherwise be a very mediocre menu item. I don't normally like tomatoes, but getting this taco fresco style is the only way to do it.

+ A dollar. Pico de gallo in place of flavorless cheese at no extra charge. Good for what it is.
- It's Taco Bell. All the years of ingesting "horseboard" can't possibly be good for my bowels.

4/5

Food Review (Chicken Tendercrisp from Burger King)

Alright, I haven't reviewed a food item in awhile, and I basically never review an item that's a mainstay on a fast food menu... but I feel compelled to make an exception for this (although I may do more in the future, sadly).

The Chicken Tendercrisp from Burger King used to be one of my absolute favorite chicken sandwiches from a fast food restaurant. A nice size, tasty breading on it, and juicy chicken. In fact, the Firecracker Tendercrisp, which has been a limited time item a couple times at Burger King, was one of my top two chicken sandwiches, after Wendy's long gone Four Alarm Chicken Sandwich.

What I had today was absolute shit. That's right, I said it, shit. I was shocked, appalled, and confused. I have to say right off that I haven't had a Tendercrisp for maybe about a year, so maybe everybody knows about the change, but this is entirely different from what Burger King used to offer. The first thing I noticed was the pathetically thin patty of chicken. After taking a bite, I noticed the Tendercrisp morphed from a solid piece of chicken breast to the same kind of thing Checkers offers -- a half "sponge" chicken texture, and half chicken breast... some sort of weird ass hybrid. There's a mild chicken flavor, but there's a massive amount of saltines, and the breading doesn't even taste like I remember. What the hell? How did this go from such a solid chicken sandwich to an absolute joke?

Do not buy this "premium" chicken sandwich. It's utter trash. I know only about a dozen people will ever see this review, but if you're curious about this sandwich: DO NOT PURCHASE IT.

1.5/5

+ Honestly, none that I can think of. I mean, I guess it's edible. I didn't die after I ate it -- yet. Hey, there are two tomatoes too... I suppose that's a plus, right? Most places only give you one, correct?

- All else. The patty is half the thickness or less than half the thickness of the Tendercrisp of old, the breading looks similar but doesn't have the flavor I remember, the chicken is half spongy/half chicken breast, and dry. The website claims this thing is 700 calories, but I find that impossible to believe given its size, or rather, lack of size.

Game Review (Second Assault expansion for Battlefield 4)

Battlefield 4's second expansion is one that I figure people will take two sides on -- "I love it!" and "I hate it." It seems popular for FPSs to offer at least one map pack a year with maps from a previous game. Second Assault features four maps that were in 2011's Battlefield 3, but they feature DICE's new Frostbite 3 engine as well as a new look and feel. Also in this expansion, Capture the Flag is introduced to Battlefield 4, there are 11 assignments, 5 trophies/achievements, 5 weapons, and 2 vehicles. Since the majority of people will be buying expansions based on the maps included, that'll be what I focus on here.

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Caspian Border: One of my personal favorites from Battlefield 3, Caspian Border is back and it's better than ever with some differences that I really like, though I do see why some people have a beef with it. Caspian Border 2014 seems more "border-esque", as there is now a giant concrete wall running through the map. It's awesome and all, but the Russian (I think? Well, one of the sides) faction has three flags on their side of the wall, putting the other team at an instant disadvantage in Conquest. Regardless of this confusing decision, this map is phenomenal. The huge wall in the middle of the map makes moving around the map interesting, there are scout posts on top of the wall, there's a new tunnel/sewer area, and plenty of new little things that likely makes this my favorite map from the pack, and one of my favorites in Battlefield 4. I realize that sounds sad, but come on... Battlefield 4's disc maps were reaaaally weak for the most part. I have to score this map a 4.5 -- I'd go higher, but the instant disadvantage on Conquest is a bummer. 4.5/5

Gulf of Oman: When this map was announced as a part of Second Assault, I remember seeing a lot of people asking "Why?" Personally, I really enjoyed this map in Battlefield 3 and thought it was incredibly underrated. What am I down about with Gulf of Oman 2014 though? The damn sand storm. It's the Levolution for this map, and while it's a fairly neat idea, it just doesn't work, for ME, for the simple fact that the sandstorm goes on, and on, and on. I think it would be better off to either have the sandstorm come once for less time, and come and go in short durations. Besides the sandstorm, Gulf of Oman 2014 looks essentially the same other than a graphical upgrade. This remains a fun map, but I like it a tick less than Battlefield 3's version just because of the length of the sandstorm. 3.75/5

Operation Firestorm: This is another map that I liked in Battlefield 3 that seemed to be disliked by quite a few players. In Operation Firestorm 2014, the map has a darker look to it, and I believe two new capture points on Conquest that are actually well placed and apparently thought out a good bit before just being added to the map. The Levolution for this map is, for all I know, fire. I don't know what has to be done because I haven't done it, but there are oil spills and fire for the map's Levolution, which makes traveling on foot a bit interesting. The thing about Operation Firestorm on Battlefield 3, at least on the 360, was that the map just looked bland. Operation Firestorm 2014 bumps up the graphics, and makes the game more fun (at least on Conquest) with new capture points. Another super fun map. I don't think many at all will agree with my scoring of this, but I couldn't give a shit! 4.5/5

Operation Metro: Ah... Battlefield 3's version of Call of Duty: Black Ops' Nuketown. The very definition of a love it or hate it map. Well, for me, it depends on the game mode. Conquest? This map is one of the worst experiences ever in an FPS. Rush? Intense, fun, and far less linear as Conquest. Not just that, you get to play on the first section of the map in Rush, which is one of my favorite parts about Operation Metro. The Levolution for Metro is that you can shoot supports that cause the ceiling to collapse on enemies. Nothing huge, but a fun little addition that makes the map a bit more interesting. I haven't gotten a chance to play this map much, unfortunately, just because it never seems to come up in Rush. I make it a point to play it if I see a server where Rush is being played on it though. 3.5/5 

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And there you have it. Second Assault is worth shelling out the $15 for, if you don't have Premium. Caspian Border and Operation Firestorm are probably both different enough to please players who aren't into playing old maps, but Gulf of Oman and Operation Metro haven't changed all that much outside of a slightly different color palette and an improvement in graphics. Overall, this is a better expansion pack than China Rising, just because these maps felt more inspired in Battlefield 3, and more inspired here in Battlefield 4.

4.25/5

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Game Review (China Rising expansion for Battlefield 4)

I planned on wasting my time typing up reviews for Battlefield 4's map packs, but never got around to it. Well, now I'm committing to it, so get ready for a slew of text and posts about Battlefield 4. Hm. If only I put so much effort into worthwhile things...

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China Rising was the first map pack release for Battlefield 4, and was even included for free for those who bought Battlefield 4 at or around launch. While that's a really cool throw-in, it's sort of a slap in the face to those who already planned on getting Premium. Hey, it's nothing new though, the same thing happened with the Back to Karkand map pack on Battlefield 3. As usual, four maps are included in China Rising: Altai Range, Dragon Pass, Guilin Peaks, and Silk Road. That's not all though -- Air Superiority makes a comeback (does anybody actually care?), five trophies/achievements are added, and some weapons, gadgets, and vehicles are also introduced. For $15, the value seems to be there, as you aren't just throwing down three Lincolns for some maps. Of course, the maps are the meat of the expansion, so how are they?

Altai Range: I would say I have played this map more than any other in the pack, as it seemingly kept coming up on Conquest when I was playing it. Altai Range, to me, is the very definition of an average map. Something about it is just very "vanilla." I do like the middle capture location on Conquest, but there are more reasons to dislike this map than like it, I figure. First, air vehicles are a bitch to use due to the relentless anti-air vehicles that can down your chopper or jet in mere seconds. Normally that would just be a *bit* of an annoyance, but on a map that's as open as Altai Range is, it's really hard to outmaneuver the anti-air vehicles, no matter how good of a pilot you are. If you like vehicles, stick to the ground on Altai Range. Besides that, the map just has a rather ordinary sort of layout with a boring color palette. A very, very average map with some aspects that make it disappointing, to be quite honest. 3.5/5

Dragon Pass: This is a map that seems to take place in a swampy sort of location in China. The color of this map is very, ehrm... brown. There are a number of ways to get around, with mountains all around the map, which make it pretty interesting. At the same time, there are some really long sight lines that make sniping easy for people just waiting for some soldiers to walk down a road and across a bridge (hey, to be frank, if you do this, you deserve to get your damn head shot off). The jets on this map aren't nearly as helpful as helicopters are due to the mountains all around, but skilled pilots could do some damage. Dragon Pass has a fair amount of water on it with Ski-Doo dealies to zip around on to get you to where you want to go. Dragon Pass has a pretty interesting look to it and has a couple really fun areas for gunfights, but this seems to be one of the most consistently laggy maps on Battlefield 4, no matter what server I play it on. In spite of that, Dragon Pass still remains a pretty decent map that'll give you some memorable moments. 3.5/5

Guilin Peaks: Gorgeous is the first word that comes to mind when describing this map's design. This one takes place in a Chinese jungle, and it just looks great. There's a cave area that takes up a good portion of the middle of the map with some good elevation. Outside there's a lot of vegetation, a good number of rocks and hills, and a few buildings spread around. While there are choppers on this map, this is likely a map where you will be spending a lot of time on the ground, whether it be on foot or an ATV. The cave area can get hectic when battling over the capture point in Conquest as grenades start flying everywhere and you can't see much of anything -- it's a blast. Rush is also a pretty fun option on Guilin Peaks, despite the fact it may slightly benefit the Defenders. I'd say this is my favorite map from the pack, and one of the better maps in Battlefield 4, period. 4.25/5

Silk Road: I would be surprised if I was the only person that thought of Bandar Desert when I first saw this map. There's a good third of the map that's just a pile of sand leading to the central capture point that has barricades up and a couple hangers. There are also some elevated cliff areas for snipers to look across the battlefield, and for tanks to position themselves to light up infantry below, or shoot at choppers in the sky. Silk Road also has bombers, which are basically perfect for a map like this. Silk Road is a really open map, but there is enough elevation throughout the map that it could make things a bit tricky for a bomber. I don't think many people like this map as much as I do, but something about it is just really fun to me. It doesn't have the awesome aesthetic of Guilin Peaks, but it is the best map for dog fights and long range tank battles, in my opinion. 4.25/5

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While Altai Range and Dragon Pass are both rather average maps, Guilin Peaks and Silk Road are worth the price of admission. Guilin Peaks has some awesome infantry gameplay, and Silk Road is great in a tank or in the sky with it being more difficult to insta-kill jet pilots. Add things like a handful of guns, new assignments, and a couple new vehicles (including a bomber), and you have a pretty solid expansion pack. China Rising may not exactly blow your mind, but it will certainly entertain you.

4/5

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Food Review (Chili Cheese Fries and Chipotle Ranch Chicken Loaded Grillers from Taco Bell)

Well, that was one hell of a long title. The original three Grillers (Beefy Nacho, Spicy Chicken, Loaded Potato) came out quite awhile ago. With the senseless removal of the Volcano Menu, the Spicy Chicken Griller has been scrapped, and these two have been added -- both $1 for a limited time.

The Chili Cheese Fries Griller is pretty simple: chili, nacho cheese, and potatoes. It's been awhile since Taco Bell has had chili nationwide, so there's something for people to get excited about. I thought this was a pretty good Griller, and at a very good size -- I think somebody overstuffed mine, not that I mind. This Griller is a lot like the Chili Cheese Burrito, just that this adds potatoes, which adds an extra bit of texture and flavor. While I'm not crazy about Taco Bell's chili, it's still good for what it is. Between this potato-centric Griller and the Loaded Potato one, this one is quite a lot better. 4/5

The Chipotle Ranch Chicken Griller I was hoping I'd like a lot, since it was replacing the Spicy Chicken one, which had lava sauce. It's certainly good, but it's not new at all. I'm fairly certain it's the same sauce that's on their Smothered Burrito. That's not a bad thing, but it's nothing I haven't had from Taco Bell before. I actually like the addition of the sour cream in this Griller as well. 4/5

These are definitely my two favorite Grillers now. The Beefy Nacho one is boring, as it's just meat and cheese with soggy red strips, and the Loaded Potato one is okay, but really salty with unappealing pieces of "bacon". Both are well worth a purchase. At the $1 price, it's a no-brainer.

4.25/5

Friday, January 03, 2014

DVD Review (The Simpsons: The Complete Sixteenth Season)

For the past fifteen seasons I've reviewed (that nobody has read), I've reviewed individual episodes. This time, I'm thinking... nope. I just finished watching the 16th season, and have gathered the following thoughts:

It's alright. It's not nearly as bad as I was expecting, and it's not half as bad as so many people lead me to believe it would be. The main problem I have with some of the episodes in this season are the same as ones that I have in seasons a bit prior: jokes that go on and on and on and aren't even funny (I call them Family Guy jokes), Homer still doesn't work at the nuclear plant (he even jokes about it in one of the episodes), the plots are less than stellar in a number of episodes, and "Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass" has absolutely brutal guest voice acting.

As for the bonus features, the commentaries are there as usual, there's storyboard art, deleted scenes, commercials, and all of that predictable good stuff. Also, on disc three, there's a bonus episode from season 23. On disc four, there's even audio of a table reading of "Thank God, it's Doomsday". Below are my three favorite and three least favorite episodes from the season (in no particular order unless noted):

Best:
Heartbroke Kid
Don't Fear the Roofer
Thank God, it's Doomsday

Worst:
Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass
Pranksta Rap
She Used to Be My Girl

My best list isn't as accurate as my worst -- I find that the good episodes in season sixteen are fairly consistent, but I guess I picked out ones that I felt were most memorable. As for the worst, wow. There are probably five episodes in this season that I would have paid not to have in this DVD set. She Used to Be My Girl isn't so much painfully bad (as most of HaNHMP is) as it is forgettable, and Pranksta Rap is a combination of the two.

Any Simpsons fan will want to pick up this season. There are some good jokes throughout a pretty sizable number of the episodes, and that makes it worthy of a purchase. Be warned though, this season (like many after about season ten) features an awful lot of "What the hell were they thinking?" moments and entire episodes.

3.5/5

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Food Review (Grilled Stuft Nacho from Taco Bell)

It's seemingly been eons since Taco Bell has released a new item, and I was pretty excited when I saw that something fresh was coming out -- until I read the details of the Grilled Stuft Nacho (GSN). Sigh...

"The Grilled Stuft Nacho is nacho flavors all wrapped up and grilled to perfection in the shape of a giant nacho chip, with seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, our new zesty nacho sauce, crunchy red strips, and cool reduced-fat sour cream."

Alright, Taco Bell. So it's the Beefy Nacho Griller? Oh, no it isn't, there's a "new zesty nacho sauce." The GSN looks like a Crunchwrap Supreme wrapped up in a gimmick -- I mean triangle. Alright, fine, a triangle... that's cool, I guess? If you've had Taco Bell in the past few years since they've needlessly thrown their artificially colored bright red strips, you've probably already had this "new" item. As said, the only thing that's "new" is the zesty nacho sauce, but I'm under the impression that it's nothing but their nacho cheese sauce mixed with the volcano sauce... both of which they've had on their menu for years. The difference being that this "new" sauce isn't spicy at all, while the volcano sauce has a bit of a kick to it.

How does it taste? Well... fine. As expected, the crunchy red strips become soggy red strips unless you eat the thing either in the restaurant, or while driving. I suppose the shape is something that'd appeal to kids, but it seems incredibly stupid to come out with and advertise as "new." Byfar the most appealing thing about the GSN is definitely the price. At $1.29, you really can't go wrong. The size of this thing is decent, but it only weighs in (according to the Taco Bell site) at about 140g, which is about the weight of a Cheesy Gordita Crunch. Coming in at 570 calories, I'm confused as to how the Smothered Burrito (which is about 2.5x the weight) is only about a hundred more calories.

I'm rambling. Anyway, the GSN is a perfectly fine promotional item from Taco Bell, but you won't fall in love with this thing like, say... the BEEFY CRUNCH BURRITO.

3/5

+ The price.
- While it isn't at all bad, the "new" sauce doesn't seem new at all; Gimmicky; Nothing exciting.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Joel McHale on VGX -- Painful.

"...I know the difference between 'Miss Pacman' and 'Mizz Pacman'..."

Moments into the show, it was evident that the whole thing was going to be a mess. Joel McHale's try-hard, unfunny sex jokes were cringe worthy. I'm pretty sure that if you make sex jokes and people have a straight face, you're the worst "comedian" ever, and need to find a new occupation. How is this guy famous? Why did Spike think it'd be okay for him to be on? I could rant for paragraphs and paragraphs, but it'd be a waste of time.

For the love of Christ, give me back G4TV/G4TechTV/whatever sort of actual *GAMING NETWORK*... Spike TV is awful as hell, and this whole VGX garbage shows that they have a faux interest in games.

Suck testicles, Spike.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Game Review (Battlefield 4 Disc Maps)

I've been playing Battlefield 4's maps for almost three weeks now, and have a pretty good feel for them so far. I usually review maps closer to initial launch, but I waited for the PS4 version of Battlefield 4 to come out, and didn't think to review the maps until now. Off we go.

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Dawnbreaker: Sucks that I'm doing these maps alphabetically, because otherwise, I'd probably save Dawnbreaker for last... truth is, I think it may be my favorite map on-disc, which is probably unusual, because I feel like a lot of people loathe it. I can understand why if you love to fly jets (why the hell are they on this map anyway?), but weaving through the skyscrapers in a helicopter and roaming the streets in an LAV is some fun stuff. Not to mention I love the variety on the map as far as map elevations. I wasn't expecting to care for this map based on what I initially heard of it, but it's grown to become one of my unquestioned favorites. I give this map a 9, simply because it seems fantastic compared to the vast majority of the maps on-disc. 4.5/5

Flood Zone: One of the maps I was really intrigued by, because I thought the whole Levolution idea of the map being flooded and having to travel around on boats would be awesome -- and in theory, it should be awesome. The problem I have with this map is pretty simple... there just aren't enough boats around. If you're stuck in the water, you're done for. There are some ledges to crawl up onto, but then you have to jump in the water again to get on another ledge, and so on. When you're actually at the parking garage or on one of the many roofs (or in a boat!), Flood Zone is actually a pretty fun map. I don't love the layout, but it's a pretty decent map. Hey, there are certainly far worse ones on the disc... I'll get to those soon. 3.5/5

Golmud Railway: *Shudder*. That's about it. This map is literally a battlefield. A battle... on a field. It's about as fun as it sounds. Most of this map is flat (with a few small hills), and it's the very definition of an uninspired map. There are few landmarks to make the map stand out, and it's just a bore to play, generally. The few little "towns" on Golmud Railway keep the map from being a complete dud, but it's still pretty bad anyway. Just a very generic, bland, un-fun map. Not much else to say about this one. 2.75/5

Hainan Resort: Fun stuff -- especially on Conquest Large (Surprise, surprise!). Hainan Resort has an incredible layout that balances a good amount of infantry fighting, naval warfare, and a little death from above. The flag points in Conquest Large are in memorable locations, and it's just a well-made map as a whole. Additionally, unlike Flood Zone, you don't get stuck in the water (in most areas) and feel like you're inevitably going to die. Another pretty fun map on a disc of general mediocrity. 4/5

Lancang Dam: Just a prime example of a Battlefield 4 map... EH. It's playable and alright and fine and okay, but it's not a map that comes up and makes you say, "Ooo, I like this one." The idea of an island out in the water away from the dam makes the map more interesting, and there can be some pretty intense naval battles, but it's generally a pretty bland experience, albeit not bad. There are some fun fights to be had on the ground as well. 3.75/5

Operation Locker: The one map that has no vehicles on any game mode by default, I didn't think I'd like Operation Locker... well spank my diddly, this is one hell of a fun map. Try playing this on Conquest (or Obliteration), and just watch the utter shit storm that ensues at choke points. Really, in all of my hours of Battlefield gameplay, I've never seen such intense gunfights among so many people in one area. It can definitely get insanely hectic, but that's what I like about this map -- there's little to no breathing room. Not a map to play constantly (not for me, I'd probably get a headache...), but awesome to have as an option to go to time-to-time. 4/5

Paracel Storm: I saw hours of gameplay of Paracel Storm, and I thought it looked phenomenal... almost like a new version of Wake Island. The big thing with Paracel Storm is probably its Levolution, which, naturally, creates a huge storm, and causes a battleship to crash into one of the islands. The waves will frustrate snipers and those on the water as the storm rolls in, because it can make controlling a ship or a boat very difficult, and hard to snipe from island to island. This is just a very fun map for people who love rolling around on a boat/ship or in the air. There are some nice little areas to have some intense gunfights, but the vehicles and Levolution (that's actually worthwhile, unlike some maps) really make this map. 4/5

Rogue Transmission: Kind of the same story as Golmud Railway for me, but a little bit better, as it's more memorable, and it seems like somebody older than eight years old designed it. The big thing about Rogue Transmission that makes it stand out is the satellite (?) on the map... that's really what makes it better than Golmud. Other than that, it's a very "meh" map with a few areas with buildings and nothing super spectacular. I will say that this is a good map for tanks/LAVs to roll around on. Not so much for air vehicles though, as it's really hard to get away. 3/5

Siege of Shanghai: Anybody who's anybody has seen Siege of Shanghai in some fashion. Like Paracel Storm, it's one of the few maps with a Levolution that actually changes the map fairly significantly. I've played a lot of this map between the beta and full version of the game, and I still enjoy it -- I think that's the sign of a well made map. I love the map more when the skyscraper is still in tact, but it's entertaining both ways. Siege of Shanghai may also be the best map for tank v. helicopter battles, and it's fun just to watch them. 4.25/5

Zavod 311: This reminds me of the one DLC map in Battlefield 3... I can't think of the name. Anyway, this is an underrated map, I think. However, Zavod 311 is a prime example of why Levolution is mostly just a gimmick. Sure, a little pathway gets blocked off, but it doesn't change the map all that drastically. Zavod is also one of the few maps where it may be possible to be in the air with a helicopter for more than fifteen seconds, as it's fairly easy to get away from spots... BUT, be wary of trees, since, you know, they're everywhere. A fun medium-ish sized map that actually sort of plays small/intimately. I like it. 3.75/5

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Altogether, Battlefield 4's maps are just alright. There are a few stand outs, I suppose, but not really any maps (other than Dawnbreaker) that I'd consider a future classic. It's sad to say, but I hope that the maps DICE heldback from being on-disc for DLC are more fun than the lot of these, because otherwise I'll be a sad, sad, boy. All-in-all, Battlefield 3's disc maps were a decent bit better than those offered here in Battlefield 4.

3.75/5

Friday, November 29, 2013

Game Review (Mario Party: Island Tour - 3DS)

As an early Christmas present, my sister got Mario Party: Island Tour. I had told her about the low scores, but she didn't listen -- and I can't blame her. Mario Party games never get very high scores, but still tend to be entertaining, even if based largely on luck. Mario Party: Island Tour is much of the same -- maybe a bit less.

The biggest difference with Island Tour as opposed to other Mario Party games is that most of the boards do away with stars and coins and just involve one player getting to the "finish line." This is weird and somewhat disappointing, but worse yet, you only play a mini-game every three turns, rather than after everybody has one turn. Thankfully, there is a mini-game mode for people who want to do that. While some of the mini-games are cute and good for a laugh, the big issue with it all is that at least half of them seem to be chance games, where there's no skill involved. The same can be said for a lot of the game boards, which favor luck over skill. Mario Party games and even Mario Kart games tend to do this at times to let people in last place catch up, but it's a bit much in this game. If you don't mind finishing last simply because you picked the wrong place to stand in a mini-game or happened to land on a "?" on a board, then you'll be fine. Basically, don't take Mario Party: Island Tour too seriously. As annoying as the lack of stars and coins on most boards is (as well as the emphasis on chance over skill/real thought), the $40 price tag is perhaps the biggest turn off here. This game features 7 boards to play, as well as (I believe) about 80 mini games. That seems like a decent amount, but the games don't last long while you play them. $30 would be much more reasonable, so I'd recommend buying this game on sale.

As I said, if you can tolerate getting screwed no matter how well you're playing, and like playing brief games of Mario Party, this game's not too bad. The biggest thing this game has going for it is its Mario-themed charm. A decent amount of the mini-games are entertaining, but this is probably the weakest Mario Party yet that I have played. It's a game that's not great. Really, I'd consider it "barely decent." I wouldn't run out to buy Mario Party: Island Tour, but I believe it's better than most critics seem to think it is... it makes me wonder if they even played a Mario Party before.

3.25/5

+: It's a Mario game; Some mini-games are pretty fun; Good in short bursts.
-: Not enough content for the price; Too many "been there, done that" and chance-fated mini-games; Doesn't feel too Mario Party-esque with the omission of coins/stars on most boards.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Game Review (Flower - PS4)

Flower originally came out in 2009 on the PS3 (I think?). It is also available to play on Vita, and now on PS4. For $6.99, you can play the game on all of those consoles. Additionally, if you already had the game, you get it for free on PS4. I don't expect this to be the only PS3 game that'll be upgradable on PS4 for free (if you previously paid for it).

Graphics: Flower is an incredibly simplistic looking game -- the whole game will take up maybe 2GB on your hard drive. The best looking thing -- er, things -- in Flower are the blades of grass. The way they ripple in the wind is great. Secondly, the vibrance of all the colors along with the soothing feel of the pedals through the wind is incredibly relaxing. Anything else in the game doesn't look particularly good, but that's not a big loss. Flower isn't so much about the graphical detail as much as it is about the flow and color, which are both great. 4/5

Sound: I'd find it hard to believe that there's a more calming game out there. The music in this game is simplistic, but mesmerizing. If you used to take yoga or have thought about it, Flower should work just fine. The sound of the wind with the subtle music and notes that play every time you bloom a flower could lull you to sleep -- in a good way! 5/5

Control: Six-Axis is what you use to control the game. The only time you use a button is when you bloom your initial flower, start a level, or use the wind. The control from the start was pretty much perfectly fluid -- very responsive, and don't require massive movements. Using Six-Axis makes the game feel even more "floaty" and relaxing. 5/5

Fun: While the game is only about an hour long (yes, you read that right), it's a prime example of quality over quantity. I can tell you that the majority of the time while playing this game, I found myself so relaxed that my mouth was left open. If you're looking for a unique, fun experience to take up a portion of your day, Flower will more than likely entertain you more than an evening at the cinema would... and for a little less money.

4.5/5