Tag Archives: resident evil

Digital Draughts: Resident Evil 4 with Flying Dog Brewery’s The Fear

On Saturdays through the month of October, we will be cross-posting the latest video game and beer pairings from Chip’s new blog, Digital Draughts!  Normally written on a semi-monthly basis, Digital Draughts will feature frightening and fantastic pairing posts through October as a treat for you, dear readers!

Please be sure to subscribe to Digital Draughts for future beer and video game pairings, and follow the related Instagram account for all of the pours and plays between the main posts!


There are times when I encounter a new experience and I can immediately tell that my attitude has been altered.  A previously undiscovered book becomes a new manifesto for my reading preferences, or the first taste of a new cuisine refines my palate.  But not all life-changing moments feel as though your status quo has totally shifted.  It can take years of additional experience before the proper perspective can settle for a particularly transformative incident.

When I first tried the components for today’s pairing, I enjoyed each of them at face value: the latest in a beloved survival horror series and a solid seasonal beer from an established craft brewery.  Now, with over 11 years since my first play and nearly 8 years since my first taste, I want to revisit these experiences with an updated perspective.

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My love for pumpkin-flavored treats is a well-documented psychosis.  From my first taste of pumpkin pie as a child, I was hooked on the taste of gourd and spices.  So it makes sense that I would enjoy the seasonal beers of autumn as an adult.  However, restrictive distribution routes limited my first pumpkin beer options to bland offerings from domestic beer companies.  It took a massive relocation to provide me with the opportunity to try a pumpkin brew with a some bite to it.

It was the label that first drew me to Flying Dog Brewery’s seasonal beer. Ralph Steadman’s surreal and terrifying artwork of a snarling canine beast loomed from the packaging.  The side of the bottle featured an equally aggressive piece of copy; daring the drinker to, “learn to embrace THE FEAR that consumes you.”  I heeded their advice and took the challenge of this imperial pumpkin ale.

At the time, The Fear was unlike anything I had ever drank.  Instead of a sub par beer with cloying allspice/cinnamon flavor, I was treated to a hearty ale with intense flavors of ginger and baked pumpkin.  The Fear set a new standard for pumpkin beers, which I was surprised to be met so quickly by other delicious seasonal craft offerings.  With so many other interesting autumn brews on the shelf, my dance card became quite full, leaving little room for The Fear in the years to follow.  But I made sure to clear a recent evening to check in with the brew that started my journey down the dark path of pumpkin beers.

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The Fear pours cola brown framed with a red-orange hue and topped with a fizzy toasted marshmallow head. The spices used in this brew are at the forefront of the aroma, as a strong nose of ginger and nutmeg lead into mild notes of baked pumpkin with a dash of cinnamon.  The ginger continues to lead with a tangy bite at first sip.  This kick of spice quickly dissipates into a pumpkin bread body with a toasty finish and a hint of dark chocolate. As The Fear is an imperial ale, the piquant bite of 9.0% ABV is present, but well-balanced against the pumpkin pie flavor.

After sampling dozens of autumn brews over the years, I am pleasantly surprised to find The Fear stands out from the crowd.  Its strong ginger flavor and roasted pumpkin notes are still delicious and unique.  With a glass of this striking beer by my side, I was ready to hook up the GameCube and take on the mission to save the President’s daughter once again.

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Resident Evil 4 hit store shelves during the latter half of my junior year at college.  Around that time, I had found my gaming tribe at school and we were all eager for the latest in our preferred survival horror series.  Even though each of us had pre-ordered our own copy of the game, we all gathered at a single apartment to watch the game unfold.  Across multiple televisions in a single room, we each began our journey as Leon Kennedy.

Despite playing as a protagonist from a previous entry in the series, this game did not feel like the Resident Evil to which we were accustomed.  Instead of the foreboding hallways of a derelict mansion or the oppressive destruction of a city under siege, Resident Evil 4 dropped us in the wide open villages of rural Spain.  Gone were the mindless zombie enemies, replaced by mad villagers who could utilize weapons and actually dodge our attacks.  Even the core gameplay was changed; placing the camera over Leon’s shoulder and increasing the options within the combat mechanics.  The whole experience felt more like an action movie than a suspenseful thriller, which turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.

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I fell hard for Resident Evil 4.  I loved the increased action and expanded verb set, but also appreciated that the tension remained throughout the experience.  Even though Leon was a well-trained government agent, he was still regularly challenged by the maniac hordes of the Los Illuminados cult.  In addition to the main storyline, there were extra gameplay modes that kept me in great competition with my friends.  We regularly tried to compete for better scores in the Mercenaries survival mode and all of us raced to collect the tiny virtual figurines offered at the Shooting Gallery.  We played through the story again and again, trying to find every collectible, upgrade each weapon, and generally speed through the game with greater ease.

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Resident Evil 4 was a great game to discover and play with friends by my side.  But once I left college, I rarely found the time to replay this game that I had so enjoyed.  I dabbled with the sequels that followed, but there were so many other survival horror games spilling onto the market that I wanted to try.  To further complicate matters, there was a distinct split in the survival horror genre following Resident Evil 4.  Some games leaned into the action elements, forgoing any sort of suspense and subtlety and focusing on mowing down horrific monsters with bigger and bigger guns.  The other side of this coin gave up on empowering the player; purposefully placing you in terrifying situations with little resources or hope of surviving.

As it turned out, I started preferring the more cerebral and suspenseful horror games, which pulled me further away from the series that started me on this path.  So I was very curious to see how my feelings had changed towards Resident Evil 4 after playing so many other titles within the genre.

Right from the start I noticed one thing had changed drastically since the last time I played Resident Evil 4: my skill level.  I am downright terrible at this game.  I struggled to make well-aimed shots at my enemies, often wasting piles of bullets and dying repeatedly to basic scrubs that were previously no problem.  Despite this refreshed difficulty, I am still enjoying the tension provided by the combat.  Every encounter with basic enemies is a challenge to effectively eliminate targets while avoiding being overrun.  It’s a balance that remains impressive even years later.

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The visuals and sound design are equally stunning, in spite of their age.  The expressive character models and amazing lighting still look good, even when upscaled from the GameCube’s A/V output.  The story and voice acting have not aged as gracefully, with some truly hammy lines popping up time and time again.  The main villain of the game sounds like a discount-store Dracula impersonator, and some of our lovable ally’s dialogue has only become more uncomfortable over time (“I see the President has equipped his daughter with ballistics, too”).

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Quick-time events continue to be a massive frustration, often creating easy-to-fail scenarios that contribute nothing worthwhile to the game.  I was surprised how little I enjoyed the boss encounters when playing again.  Instead of feeling like clever puzzles or strategic battles, fighting major enemies felt like obnoxious bullfights; running around a tight arena and unloading massive amounts of ammo in lumbering meat walls. Alternatively, my love of the item management system has only become more acute; every moment spent arranging ammo and recovery items in that briefcase felt like a delightful little puzzle game break.

Overall, Resident Evil 4 doesn’t hold the same sense of wonder from the idyllic days of playing with my friends in college.  I no longer have the time to invest in this massive game and its many additional modes.  However, playing Resident Evil 4 after so many other lackluster survival horror titles makes me further appreciate what an impact it had on my personal taste and video games as a whole.  This game became my benchmark for quality of design and the joy of play in the survival horror genre.  I am pleased to find that Resident Evil 4 remains as that standard even after so much time has passed.  Minor complaints aside, I still recommend Resident Evil 4 for anyone looking for a great action title or survival horror game, which pairs very well with the spicy bite and tasty pumpkin notes of The Fear.

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Resident Evil – Peace of Mind

The save rooms in Resident Evil cause a contradiction in player emotions.  On the one hand, these areas serve as a refuge from the monsters that would cause harm to protagonists Chris and Jill.  There is an unspoken rule that zombies cannot cross into these rooms, so the player has some time to collect their thoughts and plan ahead.  There is often ammunition or healing supplies located in the save rooms, as well as item boxes where one can stock up on necessary supplies.  A sort of calm exists in these spaces.

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However, Chris and Jill will eventually have to leave these peaceful zones in order to complete the game.  The momentary respite for the player is quickly replaced with the tension of preparing to depart.  It is very common to avoid killing any zombies in the mad dash to a save room, leaving these menacing creatures lurking just beyond the door.  Any tranquil thoughts have to be cleared away in order to psych yourself up for the next battle.

Aptly titled Peace of Mind, the theme for the save rooms in the first Resident Evil matches these conflicting emotions.

A soft string section tries to ease the player’s mind, while otherworldly tones instill a feeling of foreboding.  The music is just off-putting enough to keep folks from relaxing.

The save rooms and their related characteristics continued across most of the Resident Evil series, and each sequel included appropriate music to match.  A recent micro episode of Retronauts presents all of the save room themes in a seamless playback, providing listeners with a chance to hear the musical transition of this classic series in a single sitting.  Be sure to check it out, along with the other fantastic episodes of this retro-gaming podcast!

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Let’s Dance Boys

BayonettaPartyLaura – Bayonetta is not a game I should like for so many reasons: the story (which is as generic as it is incomprehensible), the excessive gore, the obscenely oversexualized heroine. Plus, I never finished it the first time because the angels were starting to show up in my nightmares.

But I just love this game so much.

I wanted Chip to play this game because he needed to understand why Bayonetta holds such a tender place in my heart. And because we have two copies of Okami and nothing to play them on, so this was the next best thing.

AngryKratosisAngryChip – Among the list of video game series that never really held my attention, God of War is the most surprising of the bunch.  It has everything that I should enjoy: the entire pantheon of Greek mythology, over-the-top action, and a heavy metal-inspired soundtrack that gets the blood boiling (and dripping as well).  But try as I might, I simply could not warm to the series protagonist, Kratos, mainly due to his permanently dower demeanor.  He just never, ever seems to be having a good time.  Granted, the entire plot of God of War revolves around Kratos avenging the death of his wife and child, which hardly makes for a light-hearted tale.  But one would think that a man who once reveled in battle and the slaughter of his enemies would at least wear a smirk while performing the brutal (albeit elegant) killing of dozens upon dozens of monsters.  Instead, Kratos just grimaces and grunts an always-angry path of revenge towards Mount Olympus.

For some time now, I have longed for an action hero who actually takes pleasure in dispatching their foes.  A character who relishes each moment of combat, turning every battle into another chance to show off and have fun.  Maybe an anti-hero who brandishes inventive weapons and a devil-may-care attitude.  Someone like… (pause for dramatic effect and glasses flourish) Bayonetta.

BayonettaSmirkDeveloped by Platinum Games and released in 2010, Bayonetta could be considered a spiritual successor to Devil May Cry.  The director, Hideki Kamiya, certainly said as much in a Gamespot interview: “… it’s been eight years since [the first Devil May Cry (DMC)], so of course I wouldn’t create a game that hadn’t progressed from those days! Of course, if there hadn’t have been DMC, there wouldn’t be Bayonetta, which has evolved from DMC.”  Thankfully, Kamiya did not just settle into making yet another Devil May Cry sequel starring a white-haired, half-demon, twenty-something slacker.  Instead, the director gave his character designer three simple rules for creating the titular Bayonetta.  First, the game must feature a female lead, which was already a huge departure from most action titles of the age.  Keeping with anti-hero fashions of the day, Kamiya insisted that the main character be a sort of modern witch.  It was the final caveat that helped to establish the gameplay that would set Bayonetta apart from the archaic light-medium-heavy weapon conventions of action games: the heroine must use four guns.

BayonettaDesignTake a moment to consider the sort of character you would personally design from these restrictions.  Oh sure, the first two are rather simple to implement, but what about the four guns rule?  Where would you put the other two guns?  Would the character use all four firearms at once, or only two at a time?  Lead character designer, Mari Shimazaki, had her own vision for this quad-weapon style: Bayonetta would use the other two guns as the heels of her boots.  This design choice was nothing short of brilliance, as Bayonetta could now break-dance fight her way to victory.  Every battle in Bayonetta is so entertaining and full of delightful flourishes that I never felt like I had to slog through the combat to find the fun in this game.

BayonettaFightMuch of the joy in combat also comes from a wide array of weapon types.  Over the course of the game, I fought with shotgun-endowed high heels, a cursed katana, a demonic cobra-whip, and even a pair of magical ice skates, which deliver frosty spin kicks as Bayonetta glides around her foes.  Platinum Games ensures that each weapon gets its time in the spotlight, as there is no sort of level-up system for weapons.  Since the player does not have to choose one weapon to strengthen over the course of the game, he/she has the option to utilize any tool of destruction during each moment of play.

Outside of battle, Bayonetta is as strong and stylish as each of her weapons.  She is not the sort of woman to be relegated to the role of sidekick or kidnapped-love-interest.  While some of her personality and character can be described as blatant fan-service, her flirtatious nature and over-the-top sexuality are never displayed as weakness, rather as a source of empowerment against those who would bring her harm.  Bayonetta has a coy grin on her face through most of the game, and this delight in her actions translates so well to keeping a player engaged and happy right along with her.

BayonettaHang-OneAlongside all of these features are plenty of inside jokes and references at which we game connoisseurs may have a boisterous laugh.  The currency of Bayonetta is angel halos, but these golden rings look suspiciously familiar to anyone who played Sonic the Hedgehog.  There are levels in the game which are throwbacks to the Sega classics Super Hang-On, Fantasy Zone, and Space Harrier (each of which feature retro tunes as the soundtrack).  And there are plenty of references to the games previously developed by Hideki Kamiya, which include Resident Evil, Viewtiful Joe, and Okami.  So whether you are relatively new to gaming, or an old soul such as myself, Bayonetta has got you covered.

I could go on and on about the things I loved about Bayonetta, but in the end, all of my enjoyment of this game comes down to the sheer fun I had while playing.  While so many other action games seem to have some section where I say, “Well, here is the crappy part of the game, time to get a sandwich” I never had to say that about Bayonetta.  Just like its heroine, I kept a smile on my face, kicked some ass, and just danced to the music.

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Chris Redfield

For most individuals, Resident Evil was the first survival horror game they were exposed to.  The struggles in that creepy old mansion in the Arklay Mountains set the standard for so many games to come.  But over the years, the feeling of helplessness at the threat of an unstoppable evil force has been replaced with the sort of scenes you get in an over-the-top action film.  The darkened hallways and abandoned labs have been replaced with brightly lit villages and fiendish pharmaceutical facilities (yay, alliteration!).

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Many of these changes could have come with the shift in what people are afraid of in society at large.  The old days of mad scientists toiling away in their lab to perfect Godless abominations is long gone.  Now, there are real fears of biological weapons on a large scale, and the madmen who were once solitary in their crimes now come with entire countries and selfish organizations to back them.

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While such changes in atmosphere have been accompanied by drastic improvements in gameplay, I often reminisce to earlier days when I was frightened to drag poor Chris Redfield down that long hallway, knowing that something would jump out at any moment.  In fact, Chris Redfield can serve to show just how much of a change has occurred in survival horror over the last 10 years.

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Observe the old Chris Redfield of the Racoon City Police.  Fit to help citizens in need, but ill-prepared for an entire zombie onslaught.  Now  take a look at Mr. Redfield from Resident Evil 5: member of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance. Right at home in a modern war film, this  man is ready to get to da’ chopper.

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Through the passage of time, Chris Redfield has gone from unassuming hero cop to hulking steroid freak, ready to fight ANYTHING that would stand in his way.  For example, a boulder as big as a freaking SUV:

No wonder he had to fight The Hulk in Marvel vs Capcom 3.

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