Friday, March 23, 2012

Food Review: Taco Bell's Locos Tacos

When I first heard about Taco Bell's new Loco Taco, which is a regular taco but with a shell made out of Doritos, I couldn't believe that I hadn't ever thought of it and also couldn't believe that it hadn't been invented sooner. It's that obvious and genius.

You can imagine what this is. Imagine a bunch of doritos smushed into a shell shape, and then filled with taco bell regular taco stuff. That's what it is. It's good, I just wish it were as good a food item as it is an invention. I wouldn't make a special trip for it. And this is coming from someone who makes reference to Taco Bell menu items in regular conversation. So, yes, it's good, but no, don't go out of your way to get it. Just pay the price ($0.30) to upgrade your regular taco to it the next time you're there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

MLB 12: The Show vs. MLB 2K12

For those looking for an MLB baseball video game to play this season, you have two choices: MLB 12: The Show and MLB 2K12. This review is written mainly for those people who are trying to decide between the two games. And being that I am not a professional reviewer, but rather an average dude like you, you may get some value from this. I will divide this comparison review into 6 elements: Gameplay, Graphics, Animation, Presentation, Sound, and Fun Factor.

Gameplay: As gameplay is such a broad topic for any video game, I'm going to sub-divide it into the four main categories most relevant to baseball: Batting, Pitching, Fielding, and Baserunning.

Batting: You may have heard that batting in The Show is more difficult than in 2K. That is an accurate statement. However, with time and practice, batting slowly becomes easier in The Show. I can't really say the same for 2K-- it's just fairly easy and never really changes from that. Of course, in either game you can adjust sliders and difficulty to make it easier. I think the sense of reward in hitting is better in the Show because you really have to exercise patience and wait for your pitch. However, in this way, The Show is not as much a "pick up and play" game as 2K, which is something important to note if that's what you're looking for. In 2K, where and how well a ball is hit seems less connected to where a ball was actually pitched and hit than in the Show. For example, I can constantly hit pitches that are low or outside (or both) 400 feet. It doesn't even seem to matter which hitter I have. That seems a bit unrealistic. In The Show, it seems more like good pitches (and even some bad pitches) can't be hit well regardless, or it's at least rare. What I see in batting overall in both games is that players can be streaky, but in 2K it seems like you can overcome that streakiness to a degree if your timing or guesswork is good.

Pitching: There isn't really any other way to say it: Pitching is better and more fun in 2K. Even the most ardent Show supporters will generally agree with this statement. With either analog or classic pitching, 2K's version is easier and more rewarding. You can hit your spots much more consistently. I wish the same could be said for The Show, where pitching can be engaging and rewarding, tends to be merely functional, but at times can be hair-pulling frustration. Perhaps I played too much MVP 2005, but to me, if you hit the meter perfectly, you should hit your spot, or dang close to it. 2K does this. The Show does not. I can't even tell you how many times I've missed my spot by a fairly large margin even though I hit the meter what I felt to be close enough to perfectly. And that is even with the sliders (pitch control and pitch consistency) fully turned up to my advantage. So, it can be maddening, so much so that I make occasional use of the option to fast forward to the next half-inning. And so it's worth pointing out here that, oddly, this is where The Show still can manage some advantage. Because I would guess that most gamers prefer hitting to pitching, and 2K doesn't offer a fast forward option.

Fielding: The two games are largely the same in this regard. They both have a tendency to feel a little floaty at times. They both can make it unrealistically difficult to throw unless you adjust the default sliders. It's odd that they are so similar in this regard, but perhaps it's because this is (I'm guessing) the most overlooked portion of a baseball video game.

Baserunning: Again, here the games are not very different, except in terms of how baserunners are controlled. The Show uses a button plus icon system, while 2K uses a select runner and press trigger system. Both work fine. In some cases you might prefer one way, then the next day prefer the other way. I don't really think one is better than the other, just different. I will note, however, that default running in 2K seems a tad too slow, so you will want to adjust the slider.

Graphics: There isn't much in the way of comparison between the games. This is one of two areas where The Show is leaps and bounds better than 2K. If you'd never played either, you would play 2K and say, wow, those are pretty good graphics. And then you would play The Show and say, wow, those are phenomenal graphics. They are that much better, but I want to also emphasize that 2K's graphics are not garbage. And in terms of simply playing a game of baseball, either will serve. Each game realistically represents the stadiums, day and night game lighting, and the fans. In all of these cases, the Show is better. Where 2K is by far the furthest behind, however, is in the player models themselves. More specifically, some (but not many) of the player's faces in 2K are anywhere from not very recognizable to downright inaccurate. I have yet to see this be the case for the Show. If this isn't a big deal for you, then I think the graphics element are neither a deal breaker for 2K nor a deal maker for The Show.

Animation: I know not everyone will feel this way, but for me, this is very nearly a deal breaker for 2K. The animations are that bad. They can be clunky and awkward as to be nigh unto unwatchable. It is the one and only way in which this game is truly ugly, and I don't use that word lightly. And, unfortunately, animations are part of nearly every play (other than a strikeout, walk, or homerun). The animations are virtually never an issue in The Show. Everything looks so much more fluid and natural. Sure there is the occasional throwing off the wrong foot by an infielder, but that is really about it.

Presentation: People tend to say 2K presentation is better, and while I would agree with that, The Show is really not too far behind. For me, presentation is a lot more than commentating. It's having relevant statistical data on screens at batter walk-ups. It's accessibility to around-the-league data in game. It's also commentators talking about these things. In this regard, both games do it well, 2K just does it better. I will note, however, that in the Show you can mute any (or all) of the 3 broadcasters individually. You can only mute all or none of the broadcasters in 2K. And I can't stand listening to Steve Phillips and John Kruk. Thus, when I play the game, I set the game audio to "In the Stands." It's a little more immersive anyway and some people in the crowd say funny things sometimes. In the Show, I only mute Eric Karros.

Sound: See also what I wrote about Presentation. I don't really understand assigning a really significant grade to sound in a non-guitar-hero-type video game, but I understand many people do it, so here goes. As far as realistic sounds of the game, both do it well, but a little differently. I would say the advantage goes to the Show but only slightly. The main beef I have with the Show is sometimes special moments don't feel as special as they could based on crowd reaction. You may read that and say "hey, that's a big deal." But then consider that the majority of the crack of the bat sounds in 2K sound like the bat broke, even when it didn't. This seems worse than a sometimes lacking crowd. (Of note, every crack of the bat sounds good and authentic in The Show.)

Fun Factor: In the end, this is why we play video games, right? This is all people really want to know. 2K is a fun game. The Show is a fun game too. They just both get there in different ways. If I could only pick one game to play, I would pick The Show. But if someone picked the game for me and picked 2K, I wouldn't be sad.

These are many words for just two games. In the end, I say you will have fun with either game. I think the Show is better, but not by miles and miles like many (most?) on the Internet would have you believe. If I could change only one thing about 2K, it would be the animations, and if I could change another, it would be the player models. If I could change only one thing about The Show, it would be pitching consistency, and if I could change another, I wouldn't change anything else. So, take that for what it's worth.