Star Wars is one of the most recognizable entertainment brands with a huge cult following 38 years after the first film was released. The gaming studio DICE is also a great studio with a reputation for making fantastic large-scale multiplayer shooters. So you’d think putting these two together you’d get a home-run of a game but for some odd reason, Star Wars Battlefront isn’t the game it should be. Instead, it’s an online-only bare bones multiplayer shooter.
DICE for the uninitiated, are the studio behind the critically acclaimed Battlefield series, a game known for its online multiplayer. It features large scale maps, destructible environments, vehicles, and objective based modes that encourage team work. Battlefield also features a character class system: assault, engineer, support and recon classes. Each class has unique abilities, for instance engineers can repair vehicles while support units can revive fallen soldiers. The Battlefield games also feature an unlock system that encourages you to play more to gain more weapons and more customization features, like skins for your guns, new camo for your soldier or new attachments for your weapons. Battlefield has been my favorite multiplayer shooter because of all these things. All in all, if any studio was going to make a new fantastic Star Wars game, DICE would be it.
But DICE played it too safe. Star Wars Battlefront feels like an introduction to online shooters for the casual gaming audience which in itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are nine multiplayer modes with some of these multiplayer modes having up to 40 player battles (so 20 v 20). Each mode has up to four or five different maps based on the Star Wars worlds Tattoine, Hoth, Endor, Sullust and Jakku. You can choose to either be a Rebel soldier or a Stormtrooper and as you level up you unlock new weapons, gear and abilities. When you’re fighting you’ll also come across various items you can pick up on the battlefield which includes things like shields, turrets or the ability to control certain vehicles. Once in a while though, you’ll come across an item that will let you take control of a hero or villain like Han Solo or Darth Vader, depending on which side you’re fighting for.
What can be said about the Call of Duty franchise that hasn’t been said before? For better or for worse, the games don’t really evolve much. I enjoyed last year’s Advanced Warfare, I thought the campaign mode was fun and I enjoyed maneuvering with the EXO suits. It gave the game a sense of verticality that it was missing. Going into a Call of Duty game you already know what you’re going to get. So I expected a short, but fun, adrenaline filled campaign mode, great multiplayer and a decent zombie mode. Sadly, what I got out of the game was something much less. It’s disappointing how far the campaign mode strayed from what they created in Black Ops II which had had branching paths and multiple endings, and had a narrative that was captivating and intense. There’s a lot of content in Black Ops III, but it’s a case of quantity over quality.
I primarily enjoy playing single player games. So the first thing I did going into this new Call of Duty was just that. You start off by creating a character, choosing the gender and then a face. The problem is the majority of the faces all look the same. Not sure why they didn’t include a simple feature that allows you to pick a face and then a hairstyle or something along those lines. Being able to choose to play as a badass woman was cool though. But then I got referred to as “him” within the first few minutes of the game and that should give you an idea of how much attention went into campaign mode. It’s pretty lazy all around. The Call of Duty games aren’t known for their writing, but they have a reputation for being enjoyable. The campaign in Black Ops III was paced weirdly, the tutorial levels were too long and when major things happened, the game didn’t really do a good job at building any suspense or any sort of climax. Things just sort of happen. On top of that the narrative seems to be pieced together by borrowing basic themes and ideas from other games, like Deus Ex Human Revolution. Your character has a set of special abilities, some of them are cool like being able to control enemy robots or making enemies explode, but some of them are lame, like sending a swarm of cybernetic flies to distract human enemies. If you’ve played Bioshock, these should feel familiar, because they work kind of like Plasmids. When you finish a mission you’re sent back to your base where you’ll be able to walk around and interact with computers to upgrade your abilities, customize your character, look at the collectibles you’ve found or read more about the narrative, which is cool but I didn’t really care enough for the story to really spend my time there.
So what are some things that I liked in campaign mode? There were some fun firefights, some of the abilities you get are cool to use and the game ran incredibly smoothly. One other thing I really appreciated was the fact that you can play campaign mode in split-screen with a friend. It’s nice to see developers still include this especially when you have 343 Industries removing split screen from Halo 5, which I personally thought was a really dumb move since split-screen was such an important part of the Halo games. But I digress, that’s a different post for a different time. Finally, it was cool seeing Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica) in the game, I hope she does more work related to this industry.
So it’s pretty known fact that most players will spend most of their time in multiplayer. Unlike the campaign mode, I enjoyed my time playing against other people. Multiplayer mode in Black Ops III is slightly different than its predecessors. The biggest change in multiplayer is that you now have to choose from a set of characters called “Specialists”. You start off with four to choose from and you unlock more as you level up (there’s 9 in total). Each Specialist has their own personality, look, their own set of abilities and a unique special weapon. It’s a shame that you can’t customize them much. You unlock different kinds of cosmetic equipment as you play with them, but it just takes too long to unlock anything. There also isn’t a large variety of armor either. Another slight change in multiplayer is that the game doesn’t automatically unlock weapons for you as you level up. Instead “unlock tokens” make a comeback. You gain experience and level up, and you’re awarded with unlock tokens that you can use to unlock new weapons. You still get rewarded for using a weapon consistently with attachments, like scopes or paint jobs. There’s also a good variety of maps (12 to be exact) and most importantly most of them are fun. Like I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed Advanced Warfare and I enjoyed the way you were able to move through the maps. I think they’ve improved on that in Black Ops III, but instead of Exo suits you’ll be using thrusters, which is a momentum based system, allowing you to jump more than once, wall run and slide across the ground. All in all, multiplayer is pretty solid.
Zombie mode is now fully fleshed out and has its own campaign mode called Shadows of Evil. You take control of one of four characters who are voiced by Hollywood celebrities like Jeff Goldblum and Ron Perlman. You’ll be navigating through the fictional Morg City slaughtering zombies while you try to stay alive. This mode is only cool if you’re playing it with other people, it’s not worth investing your time in if you don’t have friends to experience it with. You can go online and play with random players but it’s not as fun, especially if you can’t properly communicate with them.
At the end of the day it’s unlikely Black Ops III will win over any new fans. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of the franchise then chances are you’re going to enjoy this and you’re going to welcome the new (albeit slight) changes to multiplayer. The question remains if the game has the longevity that the previous games had, especially since customization is extremely limited. Specialists are a cool addition, but I don’t believe they really change multiplayer enough. There’s a ton of content here, but there’s no real reason to go back to the campaign mode once it’s over and the zombie mode can be frustrating if you have no one to play with. I’m personally sticking with Destiny for my first-person needs because that game just has more things I enjoy. It’ll be curious to see what direction Call of Duty goes from here now that they’re futuristic. How far will they go? Or will they go back in time and bring back their World War II games? Or maybe they’ll play around with a time travel mechanic and develop a game that features World War II and futuristic stuff? Time will tell.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III was supplied by X-Cite. The game is available on PS3 (online only), Xbox 360 (online only), PS4, Xbox One and PC.
For those of you who don’t know, I was in charge of posting video game related posts in the now defunct Entertainment section of the blog. Since Mark merged that section with the rest of the blog, I’ll now be writing about video games in the B-Sides section while posting reviews of major game releases here on the main page. Last week Mark was able to hook me up with his contact at X-Cite who will now be sending me games to review on the blog every now and then, first up is Guitar Hero Live.
Guitar Hero became a massive phenomenon when it was first introduced back in 2005. Six games were released, 12 if you include the specialized versions of the series like Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Guitar Hero Smash Hits. All those games were released within the span of seven years between 2005 to 2011. That’s nearly two games a year, which is a crazy number for such a short period of time. So when Activision announced Guitar Hero Live, it wasn’t a surprise that most people felt skeptical about it.
My only real experience with Guitar Hero prior to this was Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock at a friends house. And all I remember of that game was playing Muse’s Knights of Cydonia over and over again, trying to get a perfect score. It was a lot of fun and I could see why people obsessed over it and why Activision milked it for all its worth.
Guitar Hero Live is meant to be a fresh new take on the whole franchise. A reinvention. There are two main aspects to the game. Guitar Hero Live and Guitar Hero TV. Guitar Hero Live is the single player “campaign” mode where you play as a guitarist for different bands that Activision created for this mode. Each band plays a specific genre of rock, so the folk-indie band for example plays songs from real bands like The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men.
Like the name suggests, you’ll be playing live shows with these bands. Activision filmed a lot of footage to flesh out this part of the game. If you’re doing well in the song crowds will cheer, bop their heads to the song and your bandmates will be rocking out. If you start screwing up, crowds will start booing and yelling things at you while your band mates look on at you in disappointment or just insult you in some way.
I enjoyed this mode, it’s fun, it’s silly. The presentation is great, it feels fantastic when you’re playing a really challenging part of a song and the crowd erupts in joyful glee when you nail it. I just wish there were more songs and that it lasted longer. I’m also confused to why Rihanna and Skrillex would be in this guitar focused game, but they are.
After you’re done with Guitar Hero Live, you’ll be spending a chunk of your time in Guitar Hero TV. Guitar Hero TV is an online only mode and is equivalent to old school MTV. You’ll find two channels that play music videos non-stop throughout the day. Each channel has their own set of programs. So there’s a program that just plays heavy metal songs while another just plays indie hits. These channels play music videos all day and you can jump in and play whenever you feel like it. Since this mode is online you’ll be competing simultaneously with other players who are playing that same song. At the end of each song you gain experience points and coins. Every time you level up you unlock various things like special abilities and player card designs. You’ll be able to spend coins in various ways, for example you can spend coins to increase specific stats like how often your special ability recharges. You can also spend coins to buy more play tokens (which I’ll discuss in a little bit).
Guitar Hero TV also includes the song catalogue which includes over 100 tracks. To play any of these songs you need to use a play token. The biggest point of focus in this mode are the play tokens. Every time you play a song, you use a play token. They’re limited. There are three ways to get play tokens. Every time you level up, the game gives you a bunch of tokens. If you save up enough coins you can buy them. Or you can use real money and buy tokens. The game also offers 24 hour unlimited play for the entire song catalogue for $6. One word to describe play tokens would be “controversial”. Some people hate it, some people get it. I’m in the latter. The reasoning behind Activisions micro-transactions in Guitar Hero Live is that they want to avoid what they did in the last generation. They don’t want to keep releasing Guitar Hero games or release a ton of paid DLC like Rock Band. Instead they want to build Guitar Hero Live as a platform. New songs that will be added to the game will be added for free. This direction doesn’t seem so bad compared to Rock Band where each song costs $2. We’ll see how it works out in the long-term but so far I’m optimistic.
Putting all that aside, the game is fun. If you weren’t a fan before, I doubt this will change your opinion of it. But if you did enjoy the previous games, this game feels like a step up and a step in the right direction. I had a blast playing on my own and I also had fun playing the game in a group (Mark really sucks at it btw). If you attach a mic to the console, lyrics will pop up on screen and the game will keep score on vocals. You don’t actually have to own a proper mic either. A Playstation Camera or headphones/earphones (like the iPhone ones) with mics work. There’s also an official Guitar Hero Live iPhone app you can download on your phone that will connect to the game and turn your phone into a mic. You can also get a second guitar to add a second player and compete against one another. The game also does well for people who don’t normally play video games. I had guests over on the weekend and one of my guests doesn’t normally play any video games, but they were hooked on Guitar Hero the moment they grabbed the guitar.
My biggest concern isn’t with the actual game but with the plastic guitar. The guitar itself looks good and it feels good to hold. But after playing the game over the weekend, one of the buttons was already giving me problems. Thankfully it was an easy fix. I had to open up the fret board (11 screws) and I found that there was some dirt on the inside of the button. Once I put it back together, the guitar was working like new.
Overall the game is a ton of fun and it’s something I’ll be playing for quite some time, especially when I have guests over. Hopefully they’ll add some Queens of the Stone Age or Foo Fighters, because this game could definitely use more of that. There’s a bit of an imbalance when it comes to the song selection in the game, there are too many recent hits and not enough grunge and alternative songs.
You can find Guitar Hero Live at X-Cite for KD31.9 which is a pretty great deal since it’s being sold for $99 in the U.S. My review copy of Guitar Hero Live was also provided by X-Cite.
Last week I was having brunch with a friend at Cheesecake Factory in Avenues when I spotted two kids on drift boards playing around. My friend hadn’t seen one before but I had a couple of weeks earlier when I was in LA. I didn’t really know what they were or what they were called but the way the kids were going at it, it looked like it was a lot of fun. So I turned to my friend and told her I needed to find out who the dealer in Kuwait was so I could get one to review. Not exaggerating, literally less than 5 minutes later I get an email from a company called ClaroTek who were introducing a drift board to the Kuwaiti market and wanted to see if I would be interested in trying it out. I looked over at my friend and I was like you won’t believe this but guess what…
I ended up meeting the guy and picking up the Cybord drift board later that day. He gave me a brief background on the Cybord as well as instructions on how to use it and once we were done meeting I went back home to try it out. Getting on the drift board the first time is freaky, your first aim obviously is not to fall off but that requires you to put all your trust into a Chinese made device that you’ve never used before. That makes the first couple of minutes the most difficult but once you’re up on the board and moving around the learning curve quickly speeds up and within 5 minutes you’re riding around as if you’ve been doing it for months. The device is very intuitive and requires very little body movement to work which is why when you watch people on it you wonder how they’re controlling it. Thats because to move all you need to do is press down on your toes gently, if you want to turn right you just push slightly more on your right toe, if you want to stop you flatten your feet, to move back you move some weight towards your heels. It’s all done with very minor movements.
These things can also go pretty fast, the Cybord can go up to 12km/h and has a battery that will make it last 15-20km. The whole thing also weighs just 10KG. There are many different brands of the drift board and they all look exactly the same. What sets ClaroTek apart from the rest of the competitors in the local market is that they’ll be selling them at Xcite and will have AAA warranty which basically covers accidental damage amongst other things. That’s why ClaroTek chose Samsung batteries for the Cybord, to increase the reliability of the device.
After using the Cybord for a week, this is what I think. I can’t believe they’ve managed to take the Segway and squeeze it down to the size of a skateboard. The technology is impressive and compared to the Segway, the drift boards are really cheap. Riding it is a lot of fun but my favorite use for it was pacing up and down my apartment while chatting on my phone which brings me to the issue I have with these boards, I wouldn’t know where to use them. As a kid it’s a no brainer, kids will love riding and playing with the drift board and they wouldn’t mind doing it in public because they’re kids. As an adult it’s different, first of all you’re bound to look like a douche riding around on one of these things in public like say a mall. And if you’re not riding it inside malls where else would you ride them? Kuwait doesn’t exactly have fantastic sidewalks and when they do not all the sidewalks have the wheelchair slopes so you’re going to end up getting off and on the device a lot. The only outdoor places I could think of riding the boards is the Gulf Road sidewalks but I’d rather walk, cycle or run them not cruise up and down on an electronic board. On the other hand ClaroTek were telling me they sold a bunch to a company who have a huge warehouse and so they will be used by their employees to move around quicker. That to me makes a lot more sense than riding around Avenues.
The Cybord will be available at Xcite soon but you can preorder one right now from the ClaroTek website. They come in four colors and they will be selling them for KD229 including the 1 year AAA warranty. Here is a link to their website with all the details [Link]
Now since I don’t have any use for the review unit I’ve decided to give it away to a lucky winner. If you’re interested in winning the Cybord just answer the following question in the comments: What is the name of the company that gave me the review unit?
Rules: The comments will be closed tonight. Winner will have to pick up the Cybord. Only one entry per person and please make sure you use a working email since the winner will be contacted by email. If winner doesn’t respond, another winner will be randomly chosen.
Update: I closed the posts for comments at 6AM. I used random.org to choose the winner and it’s comment #102 by V. Email has been sent, if winner doesn’t respond in 24 hours a second winner will be chosen.
The brutally honest review below was making its way around whatsapp earlier today:
Review by Mark Stableford (Kuwait) 10th July 2015
This has to be one of the worst, most confusing and incompetent airports on the planet. Departing, there is not one single check-in hall, but four – each at completely different ends and corners of the airport. You can only get into two of them from the outside, while the other two are burrowed deep inside where you would not expect them, each of them again at different ends of the airport. It is completely confusing and time consuming to find where to check in, involving walking in and out the building (bearing in mind its 50c outside) and across large distances through what looks like a refugee camp. It takes many visits and missed flights to eventually get some idea of the layout and check in process. If you do manage to check in, you then have to encounter a myriad of incompetent, slow and lazy barriers from security through immigration. If your boarding pass is printed on a piece of paper instead of cardboard, you will be sent back to do your check-in all over again.
On arriving in the country you can spend hours trying to get through immigration along with teaming masses of other poor souls (South East Asian migrant labour) with people running between queues as one is closed whilst her majesty there takes a phone call, wanders off to the toilet, or just simply closes up her booth having lost interest. You can end up at the back end of a queue again many times doing this. The airport completely lacks any signage or common sense. Asking for help or information is a pointless waste of time. Nobody knows, or nobody cares (unless you are lucky enough to find an Indian or Philippino member of staff), but then they are almost always completely powerless to help. Its also filthy.
Unfortunately it sums up almost Kuwait infrastructure and management. What a contrast to places like Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Worst of all, this was not too many decades ago the most advanced and progressive country in the region. What a absolute shame. 0/10 is all this miserable horror of an place deserves. Unfortunately the minimum one can give is 1/10.
The average score for the airport is a 2/10. We need the new airport now more than ever. [Source]
I’ve been driving the new Mustang for over three weeks now while vacationing in sunny California and I’ve driven the car over 5,000KM in these three weeks. I figured it was about time I write a review but in summary, I’ll tell you I’m impressed.
Before coming to LA I had decided that I wanted to rent a Ford Mustang convertible. I knew I wanted a convertible and figured if I got a Mustang I’ll also be able to get a post out of it since the car was on my to do list anyway. All rental companies usually promise you a certain vehicle or similar one and I really didn’t want to rent a Mustang but then end up with an ugly Chrysler convertible. So I called up a few rental places to see if any could guarantee me a Mustang and found one that did. Turned out they were located right next to the Glendale Fighting Club, Ronda Rousey‘s gym so that was pretty cool.
The Mustang I’ve been driving isn’t fully loaded, it doesn’t have a navigation screen and the sound system is pretty shit. But, the car was still a lot of fun to drive and I drove it, a lot. I had the 4-cylinder 2.3L turbo engine which pumps out 310hp while saving me a ton of money on fuel yet still sounding pretty good in the process. Fuel economy is one of the things I loved about the car even though its not an option anybody cares for in Kuwait. The second thing I loved about the car is how comfortable it was. I drove the car on a three day long road trip from LA up the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1) to San Francisco and then east into Yosemite National Park before heading back down to LA for a night and then driving back out again the next day to Las Vegas for the weekend and then back again. Thats a lot of continuous hours sitting down over a bunch of days and not once did I feel uncomfortable or have any kind of back pain. And thats coming from a person who hates sitting in the same spot for a long time. It blew my mind away and I truly believe the Mustang has to be one of the most comfortable sport cars in the market right now. It’s a great daily drive on both the open roads where the car is fairly fast but also easy to drive in traffic and god damn have I been spending time in traffic here. It’s horrendous! Literally every trip takes me between 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes and I’m not exaggerating. I actually miss Kuwait traffic. A LOT.
The car does have some faults though like the convertible soft top doesn’t have a great seal for one thing. On the highway it brings in a lot of outside noise and when getting my car washed, water was somehow managing to find it’s way inside the car. It’s also super slow to open and close and it will only work if you’re at a complete stop. Since we’re in Kuwait you shouldn’t get the convertible anyway plus the hard top version looks better. The second issue I had with the car was the quality of the material. The car I rented had only a few thousand miles on it yet two weeks in with the car I noticed one of the buttons on the steering wheel had started peeling. Kinda makes me concerned about the interiors long term durability. Finally the last major issue I had with the car was the legroom. Well it’s a half problem, nobody can sit behind me while I’m driving not unless I’d have to change my seating position which I obviously wouldn’t want to. But, on the other hand, I had a friend who sat in the back behind the passenger seat for five and a half hours on our way to Vegas and she didn’t complain at all so it can’t be that bad.
Would I get the car? I want to say yes but I’ll have to say no. The kind of people who tend to buy and drive Mustangs in Kuwait are… not sure how I can say this politely… I just won’t say anything. The other issue is the price. The Mustang starts at KD11,700 for the V6 engine in Kuwait while the version I drove starts at KD13,700. If you want a convertible the dealer has one available right now but they’re selling it for KD18,500. I don’t think they’re worth that much money frankly. In any case if you want to find out more about the car, check out the dealers website [Here]
Last week after posting my review on the Lexus IS 350 I got a phone call from VW regarding the Golf since I had left a comment about how they don’t want me to drive their cars. Awhile back I had sent them a couple of emails requesting to test drive the car but no one had ever gotten back to me. Actually one person did the first time I sent an email and they told me they didn’t have the car available for a test drive, but they’d call me back once they did. The second email just never got through due it turns out to a technical glitch from their side. The marketing manager was fairly apologetic about that and told me they had a Golf GTI ready and that I could pass by and pick it up anytime I wanted to. So an hour later I was leaving the VW dealership in a hot red hatch for the weekend.
I have a personal connection with the Golf. My granddad in Lebanon had the original Golf MKI which my family used to use during our summer holidays. It was a great car, compact and really reliable. The car I believe was a 1977 model but stayed in the family up until the late 90s. When I moved to Lebanon for university my first car was also a Golf, the MKIII. It was the car I learned to drive on and in the two years I had it, I managed to get 14 flat tires (stupid potholes) and 7 accidents. Sounds bad but it’s because of the Golf I’m a much better driver today. The car then moved on to my sister who continued the tradition of carelessly driving into giant potholes as well as hitting other cars. Sadly though, she still sucks at driving today. The Golf took a lot of abuse before we finally sold it. I still miss the car and wish I still had it but it’s probably in a better place now. Since then the Golf has gone through four facelifts and the current model is the Golf MKVII.
So yeah I love Golfs and I was in love with the current model even before driving it. And now after spending the weekend with the car I’m seriously contemplating getting one. I tend to do this with every car I test drive which isn’t healthy obviously, I even did it with the Ferrari 458 Spider and the McLaren. You can just imagine the conversation I had in my head trying to convince myself how it’s possible the 458 could replace my FJ Cruiser as my daily driver. Most of the time though the itch wears off a few days later and I start looking for another car to test drive. This time, I’m not sure if the feeling is going to go away.
The new Golf GTI is just a blast to drive. The seating position is fantastic, the handling is ridiculous and it just takes a few minutes to feel super confident driving it. I was also driving like a douche, cutting people off and trying to squeeze between cars. Its how I used to drive my own Golf and I guess I was just reliving the old days. Because of the extremely accurate handling, Golfs are known to be great for “inbetweens” which is the art of trying to squeeze yourself between two cars by creating a new lane between them. Luckily, no sideview mirrors were lost in the making of this review. Seriously though the car is so much fun to drive and the more powerful Golf R is supposed to be even more fun which is insane.
One thing that surprised the hell out of me was the car’s AC. I wouldn’t usually mention the AC in a review but this past weekend the weather was really hot and the car spent a lot of time parked in the sun yet the AC was so powerful it would give Toyota a run for their money. On the other hand I found the sound system disappointing with really boomy bass, a small claustrophobic screen and no navigation. For those of you who’re interested in the back seats, there’s pretty good legroom and like all Golf’s the rear seats fold down turning the already large trunk into an IKEA friendly one.
There are two Golf’s available to purchase in Kuwait, the Golf GTI and the Golf R (they don’t get standard non GTI or R Golfs). The Golf GTI in Kuwait comes fully loaded with features such as the performance package, auto parking, rearview camera and sunroof and costs KD10,600. If I was getting the GTI I would custom order it (which is possible) and not have the auto parking option (because I can park myself) and instead get the upgraded sound system with navigation. The Golf R is the most powerful version of the Golf with more horsepower than the GTI, an all wheel drive system, upgraded sound system with navigation and leather seats. But the Golf R also costs KD14,800.
I’m having a real hard time trying to decide if I’d be willing to swap my FJ for the Golf. I’ve already been researching Golf bike mounts and roof bars that can hold wakeboards. But, I’ve also kinda gotten used to being able to drive over anything and on anything so thats going to be something hard to let go of. If you’re interested in test driving the Golf or if you’re looking for more information, then check out the dealers website [Here]
One of my favorite blog perks is that whenever I see an interesting car, I can just contact the dealer and request to take it out for a test drive. I’ve been lucky enough to drive nearly all my favorite cars and all the dealers have been extremely good to me. Well most at least, Audi and VW don’t seem to want me to take out their cars for some odd reason (VW put me in a Golf already!). This past weekend I took out a car that recently sparked my interest, the Lexus IS 350 F Sport. When I had my surgery on my ankle a couple of weeks back I was being driven around in my dads Lexus LS. It was my first time in his car and I was sitting in the backseat playing with the massage option thinking I could live like this. It was comfortable, quiet, had a ton of leg room, it was everything my FJ Cruiser wasn’t. But I also knew that if I end up getting an LS that would basically mean I was admitting I was getting older. That was going to happen. A few moments later we pulled up to a traffic light right next to a new Lexus IS. The new Lexus IS has been out for awhile now but it only really caught my attention for the first time that very moment. I suddenly started loving the way it looked and a few days later I contacted the dealer and asked them if I could borrow the car for the weekend.
Before picking up the car there were two things I was hoping for, one the car wouldn’t be maroon since I believe thats the ugliest color on the car, and the second is that the interior wouldn’t be beige. Luckily my prayers were answered and they even handed me the keys to an F Sport version of the car which looks and is a lot cooler than the standard version. I’ve never thought of Lexus as exciting, but their new IS and NX cars are just so hot. Once I got in the car I fell in love with the interior as well, it’s very minimal with clean lines and all tastefully put together. The digital dashboard board is inspired from the Lexus LFA sports car and physically moves. I’ve never seen that in a car before, you can choose to have the speedometer in the middle with information running on both sides or with a press of the button have the speedometer slide to the right to reveal a larger screen with information displayed. Very cool.
Most of the cars I take out to review I start to fall in love with as I spend more time with the car. With the Lexus IS, I fell in love with the car as soon as I got in it, and was still in love with it when I had to give it back. The car is just really comfortable to drive and I think it’s one of the hottest looking 4-doors in this price bracket. But the best part about it is the fact that its a Lexus so you know it’s going to be reliable. I’ve got a friend who drives at 12 year old Lexus that still looks new and she’s only now considering getting it replaced. Their cars are bulletproof.
The only thing that probably let the car down is the lack of features. The fully loaded Lexus IS I drove didn’t have any of the new features you would find on the new luxury cars like lane keeping assist, collision detection, blind spot information etc… It wasn’t a major let down for me but it could be for people who care about these gizmos more than the way the car looks. The sound system on the other hand was one of the best I’ve heard in a car and surprisingly was brand-less. It was just their standard 8 speaker sound system but yet I found the sound impressive.
In Kuwait the dealer has three different IS models, the IS 250, the IS 350 and the IS 350 F Sport. The main difference between the IS 250 and 350 is the engine size while the main differences between the IS 350 and IS 350 F Sport are mainly visual upgrades like spoilers, sportier seats, larger wheels, the digital dashboard I mentioned earlier and a few other things. The price of the IS 250 starts at around KD12,000 while the top of the line F Sport is around KD16,900. Would I buy this car? Yes in a heartbeat. If I was in the market looking for a 4-door sporty looking sedan then this would be right there on the top of the list. For more information on the Lexus IS you can check out the dealers website [Here]
Last week I posted about a new restaurant that opened called Bao. Well the same owners opened up another restaurant right next door called Haute specializing in gourmet hot dogs. I passed by a couple of days ago to try it out and unlike my visit to Bao, this time I left disappointed.
The interior of Haute is pretty trendy looking with graffiti on the walls and lots of bright red everywhere. The place was empty when I passed by but it wasn’t lunch nor dinner time but somewhere in between. Their menu had 7 different hot dogs to choose from, they all used the same beef hot dog but each had different toppings. I like my hot dogs very simple so ordered the classic which came with just ketchup and mustard (KD2.000).
When I first saw pictures of the hot dogs on their instagram page, I thought I would have an issue with the bun they were using. It didn’t look soft in the photos but in reality they were and they also turned out to be the best thing about the hot dog. The hot dog itself on the other hand was disappointing. According to their instagram, their hot dogs are smoked and made in house using the finest beef. But I didn’t like the flavor of it and thought it tasted very average. So for my hot dog fix I’ll continue to stick to Shake Shack for the time being.
Like Bao, Haute is located in Sharq near the Sharq Police Station [Here is a Map]. They’re also currently open from 4PM to 10:30PM. For more information you can check out their instagram account [Here] and here is a link to a clearer shot of their [Menu]
Last night a new restaurant opened up in Kuwait City called Bao that serves Chinese-style steamed buns (hence the name). Whenever a new restaurant opens up that brings something new to Kuwait I’m usually all over it which was the case here. I’ve had steamed buns before in Kuwait at Street by Al Makan, but to have a place that just focuses on them, even better.
The restaurant is cute looking with around 7 or 8 tables. They had just opened last night so there were only a few other tables occupied when I passed by. I looked at the menu and ended up ordering the following dishes:
Tamarind Drumstick KD2.700 Buttermilk deep fried boneless chicken drumsticks dressed in tamarind glaze.
Coconut Shrimp Bao KD2.000 Coconut crusted shrimp with sweet chili aioli and pickled cucumber and crispy carrot.
Brisket Bao KD2.000 10 hours slow cooked brisket with crispy onion, red chili and ranch sauce.
Sweet Potato Sticks KD1.000
They also brought me a complimentary salad to try:
Pomelo Salad KD2.700 Cubed avocado, pomelo, pomegranate, red cabbage, shredded cucumber and mint with crunchy edamame, tossed with a tangy sweet dressing.
The orders started coming out randomly with the brisket bao being served first followed by the complimentary salad, then the drumsticks, then the sweet potato and finally the coconut shrimp. I can’t fault them on that since they had literally just opened a couple of hours earlier, so obviously the kitchen still don’t have the timings down.
Everything was pretty good with the two bao’s I had ordered being delicious. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the salad, but I’m generally not a salad guy with only a very few salads I like anyway. Right now they only have 9 different types of bao’s to choose from but once the restaurant officially opens they’re hoping to have around 16. One thing I really wanted to try but resisted were their desserts. They had two kinds of bao’s available, one involved fried donuts and a vanilla ice cream glaze while the other involved deep fried banana drizzled with Nutella. Both looked very tempting but decided to save them for my next visit. I ended up paying KD10 including drinks and tip. I was pretty full but if I hadn’t ordered a starter I think I would need three bao’s to fill me up. So price-wise, I wish the bao’s were like half a KD cheaper each.
Bao is currently in their soft launch phase with their opening hours being from 4PM to 10:30PM. They’re located in Kuwait City near the Sharq Police Station [Here is a Map]. All the photos in this post were taken from their instagram page since the lighting at night wasn’t great so my shots sucked.