What Cigar Does Big Boss Smoke? – 6/29/2013

Snake-Smoke-0-1024x811Big Boss is one of the most iconic video game characters for his duel role as a hero and a sympathetic villain. With Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zero and The Phantom Pain on the horizon, gamers are excited to once again take on the role of the Legendary Soldier. Yet one thing some gamers have always wondered is what cigar does Big Boss smoke?

A lot of gamers have asked this question on message boards but no clear answer has ever been given. Most people have just listed common cigars followed by a discussion about what cigarette Solid Snake smokes and after that everyone just gives up. Someone has even asked this question on Answers.com to no avail.

Besides being an avid gamer (also a Metal Gear-fan) who has written about video game culture; I’m also an avid cigar smoker and a cigar critic in the Bay Area. I’ve had the opportunity to sample a verity of premium cigars, meet respected people in the cigar industry, and blog for the Campbell Cigar Club.

To answers this great cigar riddle I visually examined the cigar Big Boss is smoking in the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, then compare and cross match it with other cigars. With the small details given, the cigar Big Boss is smoking has the following details:
* It has a pyramid figure (often mistaken for a torpedo figure)
* It has a mild to full-bodied strength (based on the cigars texture)
* Its of Cuban origin

The cigar brand, Habano (a reference to the Cuban state tobacco company, Habanos S.A.), is obviously fictitious. However given the amount of details and hidden content in the series, the cigar has to be inspired by a real brand.

With the details presented, I have speculate that the cigar was inspired by the H. Upmann No. 2 along with some details of the Montecristo No. 2. Both brands are among the most popular and sought after Cuban cigars while being almost identical. Besides being having a pyramid figure and identical ring gauge, the two cigars also share a similar designed cigar band. Both cigars are also well known for having a smooth draw along with a cream and ceder flavor.

It’s also no accident that the cigar Big Boss is smoking is inspired by an H. Upmann as it was also the favorite cigar of President John F. Kennedy. A day before authorizing the trade embargo against Cuba; President Kennedy had Pierre Salinger, White House press secretary, acquire 1200 H. Upmann’s. The Kennedy Administration is also credited with establishing the modern special forces to combat the rise of communists insurgences in Asia and Latin America.

With the historical context along with his background in the Special Forces and being a protege of The Boss; it could be speculated that Big Boss was given a few H. Upmann No. 2 as a gift from President Kennedy.

This is however not the same cigar he is smoking in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Despite several good opportunities to examine the cigar band, I was unable to identify or guess the last cigar Big Boss smoked in Guns of the PatriotsI was able to identify the cigar smoked in The Phantom Pain. After closely examining the cigar featured in the trailers and E3 previews, its obviously a generic Cohiba based on the yellow, white and black decor of the the cigar band.

All the conclusions are based on the details presented and critically analyzed using my knowledge of premium cigars. Other gamers who also have a rich knowledge on cigars are welcomed to present their own hypothesis on what cigar Big Boss smokes.

Written for GameBeats
Original Article: What Cigar Does Big Boss Smoke?


Review: Max Payne returns to the Mac after a decade – 6/23/2013

The box cover for 'Max Payne 3'

The box cover for ‘Max Payne 3’

It’s been almost a decade since Mac gamers took on the role of Max Payne and waged a bloody vendetta against organized crime. Now one of gaming’s greatest tragic heroes has returned.

Set eight years after the events of the last game, Max Payne has retired from the NYPD and hit rock bottom with a drinking problem while being haunted by his personal demons. In an attempt to start a new life, he takes an offer to work as private security for the Branco family in São Paulo, Brazil.

However things don’t go well when a street gang called the Comando Sombra kidnaps Fabiana Branco, the wife of Payne’s employer. Payne and his partner, Raul Passos, make several attempts to rescue her only to end in failure. During the course of the game, Payne uncovers a series of political corruption in São Paulo that put him at odds with a right-wing paramilitary forces and the police.

Like with its predecessors, Max Payne 3 has taken the gritty tone that is affiliated with the film-noir genre and infuses it with the choreographic action that has become synonyms with the works of John Woo. The game broke from the traditional location for a more tropical setting but was successful in keeping the film-noir tone.

New to the series is the multiplayer that will allow players to establish private groups with up to five friends or join public groups. Players will have to work together to complete tasks and earn XP points.

Unlike the console and PC version, Max Payne 3 for the Mac is not completely flawless.

Mac gamers may have played Max Payne back in 2001 but Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne was never released for the Mac OS. Hence gamers will a little lost with the story with the absence of the events of the last game. Also the multiplayer may feel empty due to the limited gaming market of the Mac.

Despite being a game that was originally released on all major systems back in 2012, Max Payne 3 is a very relevant game that Mac gamer will enjoy.

Final Score: 4/5

Written for Digital Journal
Original Article: Review: Max Payne returns to the Mac after a decade

Yippee ki-yay: The legacy of Die Hard games – 6/23/2013

die-hard-arcade-cI would like to talk about the video game history of one of the greatest action films of all time, Die Hard.

Hopefully, you were lucky to skip the awful A Good Day to Die Hard, the latest sequel in the gun-happy franchise. Don’t even bother renting it. It’s not worth it.

Like the James Bond spy series, Die Hard has become a significant part of cinema, electronic entertainment, and literature (yep). The film we all love is an adaptation of the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, which itself was a sequel to another book, The Detective. That novel, however, had already received a silver-screen adaptation staring Frank Sinatra in the main role.

Die Hard is the classic story of New York Police Department detective John McClane going to Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife for Christmas. Things don’t go according to plan, however, when a group of terrorists take over the Nakatomi Plaza in an attempt to steal $640 million in bonds.

The film became a hit after its release while ultimately cementing itself as a hallmark of modern American cinema. Die Hard is such an iconic film that the Smithsonian Institution features the undershirt worn by actor Bruce Willis, who portrayed McClane in the film.

Die Hard has had a checkered history when it comes to interactive entertainment. One would think that making a game based on the archetype of the modern action film would be easy. Instead, attempts have been rocky.

Most gamers will have good memories of wasting quarters playing Die Hard Arcade during the ’90s. The beat-em-up title started out as Dynamite Deka in Japan and released later in North America with the new name and film license.

The game had a similar story to its theatrical counterpart. A group of terrorists led by White Fang took over the Nakatomi Plaza building and kidnapped the president’s daughter. Players take on the role of John McClane and Chris Thompsen as they fight waves of enemies in an attempt to foil White Fang’s evil plot and rescue the girl.

Another classic game in the franchise was Die Hard Trilogy, a retelling of the first three Die Hard movies through different types of gameplay. Die Hard was a third-person shooter that had the player battling terrorists and rescuing hostages in the Nakatomi Plaza. Die Hard 2 was a rail shooter that had the player fighting waves of bad guys who had taken over Washington D.C.’s Dulles airport. Finally, Die Hard with a Vengeance had the player go on a joyride through New York City finding and defusing explosives.

Trilogy’s success inspired a mediocre sequel, Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas, which used the same gameplay concept but with an original story that was very forgettable. Sadly, the next installment, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, was a slow-paced first-person shooter that was less of a tribute and more of an insult to the first film’s legacy.

Finally, I come to the most recent McClane interactive adventure, Die Hard: Vendetta for the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, and Microsoft Xbox. This time, the action hero went up against terrorists spearheaded by Piet Gruber (son of Die Hard’s villain Hans Gruber) on the streets of L.A. The first-person shooter received mediocre reviews, but looking back, one might have some appreciation for the game’s fast-paced action.

It’s disappointing to see how nobody has bothered to make another Die Hard title. Any developer should create a game based on the original film using stealth action and an open-world setting that retells the classic story while reuniting the original cast (similar to 007: From Russia With Love).

Die Hard has been a significant part of pop culture. While the last movie failed to live up to its legacy, hopefully, the gaming industry could give it another chance.

Yippee ki-yay, mother f***er!

Written for GameBeats
Original Article: Yippee ki-yay: The legacy of Die Hard games

‘Metal Gear Solid V’: Will gamers be playing as Snake or Jack Bauer? – 6/9/2013


Konami shocked the gaming community when it unveiled that actor Kiefer Sutherland will play Snake (aka Big Boss) in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The news comes after months of speculation when its was learned that David Hayter, the actor who has provided the iconic voice of Snake since Metal Gear Solid, will not return.

Obviously fans were shocked by the change up and have been sharing their mixed reactions. Some have welcomed the change as a new perspective on the character while others are furious that the game has rejected the spirit of Snake. Its common to find gamers having some doubt that Sutherland could bring the same character motif as Hayter. The fans do have a valid point.

When gamers get the chance to play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain; will it feel like they are taking the role of Snake (aka Big Boss) or the role of Jack Bauer?

Despite his reputation as an respected screenwriter; Hayter’s performance as Snake has been engraved into his legacy (like Sean Connery as James Bond). Meanwhile Sutherland is iconic for his role as Jack Bauer in the acclaimed series, 24an espionage-themed drama that focus on the 24-hours time period of Agent Bauer and members of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU).

The linguistic dialect and its personal traits of a character have always been driven by the actors who have portrayed them. Yet the problem presented is the actor who has been synonyms with Snake is being replaced by an actor who is synonyms with another iconic character. While they may be iconic heroes admired by action buffs; Jack Bauer and Snake are two different characters.

On the surface; Snake was influenced by the character Snake Plissken (played by Kurt Russell) from the classic John Carpenter film, Escape From New York. After the events of Snake Eater, Snake (aka Big Boss) has become a character driven by resentment who at first is trying to find a purpose to fight. By the start of Peace Walker; Snake has established his own private army to provide needed service regardless of nations or ideologies. Meanwhile he seeks to fight for a cause that he believes in which brings him into conflict with his former colleagues. Hayter’s performance gave Snake the same kind of tone projected by Kurt Russell but with a more dramatic respectability.

Unfortunately Bauer as a character is nothing like Big Boss.

Jack Bauer is the personification of a hero America needed to look up to in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He is a loyal government agent who has to do what is necessary to protect American citizens from terrorist threats. Like Snake; Bauer shares a similar military background with his involvement in clandestine operations as a member of Delta Force. During the series, he has made so many personal sacrifices while his loyalty has been tested at the hands of incompetent bureaucrats, trusted colleagues and crooked men of power. Sutherland’s performance as Bauer has developed a character that is guilt ridden and trying to overcome past regrets.

Therein lies the problem; Sutherland’s performance as Snake may not be the character gamers want but instead a projection of Bauer. For gamers who have been playing the series from the beginning we have grown accustomed to having Hayter as the voice of Snake. But by using Sutherland; gamers are going to have a radically different mental projection of Snake. At best gamers could play a Snake that has become more battle harden in a way that only Sutherland could depict. Or gamers may have a mental projection of two characters morphed into one.

In the end all speculation games have will be put to rest upon the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Written for GameBeats
Original Article: ‘Metal Gear Solid V’: Will gamers be playing as Snake or Jack Bauer?

Review: Barefoot Coffee is a hidden oasis for the coffee connoisseur – 6/7/2013

Hidden away at the tip of Downtown Campbell is an oasis for the coffee connoisseur and a patron of the local arts. Barefoot Coffee has brought its cultural flavor to Campbell.

Walk by and one will be marveled by the bohemian atmosphere of the art work that decorate the walls. Enter the shop and you are immediately welcomed by the coffee aroma along with a greeting from the friendly staff.

However describing the staff as “friendly” is poor understatement as if I’m comparing them to a friendly bartender. On the first visit I was a complete stranger to the staff but by the third visit I have become a recognized customer. They know what I like and at times offer new alternatives just to intrigue my curiosity.

Barefoot Coffee has a good selection of coffee and tea that is prepared fresh when you order. There are no pre-made tubs or over priced tea bags; brewing coffee and tea is a respected craft that can be tasted in every cup.

Just please don’t butcher your coffee with cream and sugar or you have lost the natural flavor.

The staff takes pride in their craft it can be tasted by the quality of the coffee. Be aware that quality isn’t cheap and if price is an issue than one could happily walk across the street to what ever Starbucks isn’t crowded or the Jack N’ Box down the street.

Best of all there is no bar near Barefoot Coffee; hence you don’t have to worry about being harassed by the drunks and creeps.

Barefoot Coffee is not only the best coffee shop in the area but it’s the measuring stick I use to rate other coffee shops. This is the perfect little oasis to hide at during a wonderful weekend afternoon.

Final Score: 5/5

Written for Digital Journal
Original Article: Review: Barefoot Coffee is a hidden oasis for the coffee connoisseur

Review: La Aurora 1903 Preferidos Diamond – 6/4/2013

Campbell Cigar Club is happy to be open for business once again after two weeks of remodeling. Hope most of you fellas survived the time.

To prepare for the re-opening; Bass visited his buddies at J.M.G. International when he was given some good news, the  La Aurora 1903 Preferidos Diamond had finally arrived.

We first learned about the La Aurora 1903 Preferidos Diamond back in October. It was during a special dinner at Taverna Bistro with Guillermo Leon, President of La Aurora S.A. The event was an opportunity for Bay Area cigar merchants to learn about current La Aurora products and what to expect in the future.

The La Aurora 1903 Preferidos was released during the 2012 Holiday season but due to popular demand we were unable to acquire a box until now.

La Aurora 1903 Preferidos Diamond is a full body cigar made using a Dominican filler with a Dominican Maduro binder and wrapped in a Connecticut Broadleaf. The cigar comes in a collectible tubos that is colored metallic black and decorated with an oval that bares the La Aurora logo.

The guys at Campbell Cigar have always enjoyed a cigar from La Aurora while the La Aurora 1903 Preferidos line has always been an excellent cigar. The Diamond is no exception as this was our overall rating:
Bass – 9/10
Stan – 9/10
Random Customer 1 – 8/10
Random Customer 2 – 10/10

One has to admire its dark wrapper and oily texture before lighting it. At the first puff we already were intrigued by the mix of hazelnut and chocolate flavor of the cigar. As the cigar progressed the hazelnut and chocolate flavor would fully develop while an ceder flavor can also be tasted.

La Aurora 1903 Preferidos Diamond was the perfect cigar to smoke in honor of the grand re-opening of the store. Campbell Cigar will be selling the La Aurora 1903 Preferidos Diamond for $29 (not including tax) per cigar and supply is very limited.

Written for Campbell Cigar Club
Original Article: Review: La Aurora 1903 Preferidos Diamond