Silent Hill Origins Part 1: Trucker’s Delight

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 27, 2008

Filed under: Shamus Plays 48 comments

Warning: This review contains images that are both disturbing and stupid. Mostly the latter. Either way, viewer discretion is advised.

Note that this article was originally published in 2008, and the screenshots were acquired by capturing images from standard-definition television signal. I hope you like enormous pixels.

This is not a scary game compared to the previous offerings under the Silent Hill name. I could end the review there and we could all go back to talking about City of Heroes, but then you might be left wondering why it isn’t scary.

I’ve already had a lot to say on what makes games frightening. One thing I’d add to that is that the player really needs to connect with the main character before you can hope to start scaring them. The player needs to empathize with their avatar, or else the whole game is just a tedious system of resource management and dodgy combat controls. The first few minutes of the game are crucial for building that connection and coaxing the player into immersing themselves in the gameworld even though it’s dangerous and unpleasant. Let’s see how well Silent Hill: Origins pulls this off. (He said, a paragraph after he’d already tipped his hand.)

I'll just leave this partly-jackknifed truck right here. I'm sure nobody will mind.
I'll just leave this partly-jackknifed truck right here. I'm sure nobody will mind.

The game starts off by dropping us into the shoes of Travis Grady, a trucker who is just passing through Silent Hill. Travis has an expositional conversation with another trucker over the CB. Suddenly a robed woman lurches into the road. Travis slams on the brakes. He gets out of his truck, but she’s gone. Then he sees an apparition in his side-view mirror, which looks like a little girl. Then a little girl (seemingly a different one) wanders by in front of his truck and runs off into the fog.

And Travis, for no reason available to the player, takes off after her.

In the original game, Harry Mason strayed into Silent Hill because he was looking for his daughter. In the second, James Sunderland was looking for his dead wife, who’d mailed him a letter. In SH3 Heather was driven to Silent Hill in search of why she seemed to be inadvertently turning the world around her into a nightmare world. Henry Townshend was drawn there in SH4 in order to find an escape from his haunted apartment. They all had reasons why they couldn’t just leg it when the spooks showed up. They all had deeply personal forces (and in the first two, loved ones) which compelled them to stay.

But Travis abandons his rig (which is blocking both lanes of traffic) to go running into the dark and fog in search of a little girl who seemed to be just fine. Ignoring the haunted town for a second, if you’re a grown man you shouldn’t go chasing after little girls in the middle of the night just because they run away from you. That’s what they’re taught to do. You’re a stranger, remember? The game has already established that he has a CB radio in the cab. If he was genuinely worried about her he could make himself a lot more useful by calling for some sort of help. Since she ran down the road he could at least drive after her. But no. He just charges off into the darkness like a dolt.

Travis jogs down the road until he reaches a burning house. Inside, he hears someone crying out in pain.

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with this setup except that the whole thing feels so ADD. We stopped for a robed woman, but then Travis forgets about her and looks for ghosts. But then he forgets about that and chases a little girl down the road. And then he forgets about her and charges into a burning house. We’re several minutes into the game we we still haven’t hit a solid hook. It’s just disjointed weirdness.

Candles.  Always with the candles, these cultists.  The human sacrifice I get, but what's wrong with lightbulbs?  Seems like that would make it easier to read your tome of How to Start a Human Sacrifice Ritual and Then Wander Away to Leave the Victim to be Rescued by a Random Trucker.  (File <strong>that</strong> one in your decimal system, Dewey!)
Candles. Always with the candles, these cultists. The human sacrifice I get, but what's wrong with lightbulbs? Seems like that would make it easier to read your tome of How to Start a Human Sacrifice Ritual and Then Wander Away to Leave the Victim to be Rescued by a Random Trucker. (File that one in your decimal system, Dewey!)

Travis makes his way upstairs and finds a horribly burned little girl. (What, another little girl? The “spooky little girl” thing is already pretty cliche. Here we are five minutes into the game and we’ve already hit the five-bladed razor of spooky little girls.) She says, “Let me burn.” She’s scorched black and shouldn’t even be alive, much less awake and talking.

The kid is completely burned. She’s in the middle of some hocus-pocus scrawled on the floor, which is wood yet not burned. Encircling that is the requisite candle arrangement, still lit and not reduced to puddles by the heat and flames. Out beyond that we have a house, which is currently burning. But the fire has not yet reached this spot, where the girl is already burned. This makes no sense. If I was immersed in the game – if I’d been hooked by this point – I might have blamed the unconventional burning on “magic” or “freaky cult hoodoo”. But I wasn’t sold on the world yet, so this felt like the designer was just careless.

Travis scoops her up and takes her to safety. Just a question here, but if you were escaping a burning, collapsing building, how would you move:

  1. Run
  2. Sprint
  3. Crawl
  4. Mosey

Man, it's so hot in here sometimes I'm tempted to blink or lean away from the flames.  What about you kid?  You hot?  Oh right. Sorry!
Man, it's so hot in here sometimes I'm tempted to blink or lean away from the flames. What about you kid? You hot? Oh right. Sorry!

He’s walking through a burning building carrying a person, but he shows no signs of stress. Apparently the fire isn’t dangerous, the house isn’t filled with smoke, and the air isn’t searing hot and bereft of oxygen, and the girl isn’t any sort of burden. He strolls to safety with a blank look on his face. Yawn.

Once he gets outside, he takes her fatally burned body and drops it in the dirt a few feet from the burning house. So instead of dying of burns she can die when the house falls on them both. Assuming she didn’t asphyxiate on the way through the house. Or succumb to her injuries.

“There”, he says, “safe now.”

I howled with laughter at this. That is not hyperbole. I threw my head back and laughed. I immediately thought of the famous line from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Ah, this is obviously some strange use of the word ‘safe’ that I wasn’t previously aware of.” Indeed, Travis seems to be using the word in the same way it was used in Hitchhiker’s: I have saved you from certain death so that you can live for a few minutes longer in incredible pain and then die even more horribly. You know, that kind of “safe”.

The game is already giving Sam & Max a run for their money in the laughs department. This is probably not the mood they were going for, but I am sort of inadvertently having fun.

Out of ideas for how he can screw things up any further, Travis passes out beside the girl.

We’ll chart more of Travis’ ridiculous journey in part 2.


From The Archives:

48 thoughts on “Silent Hill Origins Part 1: Trucker’s Delight

  1. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Sounds like a good game for jokes.
    I’ll consider trying Silent Hill 2.

    Please hurry with that part two.

  2. Joe says:

    My roommates and I have had similar conversations as to what makes something scary this week; we’ve been watching horror movies in preparation for Thanksgiving. We noted that in most horror films, the characters will consistently do the worst possible action at any given time: “Let’s split up,” “let’s investigate this old cottage,” or “let’s make a run for it even though he’s right there.”
    The conclusion that we came to was that the scariest movie would be one where everybody does everything right and yet the crap STILL hits the fan. Complete helplessness equates to terror, not idiocy.

  3. karln says:

    This (and Yahtzee’s review) actually puts me in mind a bit of the randomised Garfield strips I found via links from the morning’s post. It sounds like they’ve mostly just kind of randomly mixed up ‘panels’ from past SH games without considering whether the result makes any sense.

  4. Dev Null says:

    So true. If you hook people on the character early they’ll work hard to try to explain a few (a _few_ please) of this sort of thing. If you don’t, then it just feels like Mulder and Scully saying “Quick, lets split up and walk around backwards in the dark” yet again. Its worth a laugh, but fails utterly on the scary. I generally find myself cheering for whatever dimly-glimpsed fanged horror to hurry up and come and serve up some just deserts.

  5. Chris Arndt says:

    The real reason I don’t care for most “horror” movies is because what it usually comes down to is some morons and schlubs facing off against a super-villain.

    Then again I caught the end of Scream which apparently was some idiot with a mask and a knife…. who found the father in the family (so much for a duty to protect his family) an easy damsel in distress.

    The Hannibal films I don’t care for because then we have the Joker begging for a Batman.
    And most of these I wonder if a manly man with a gun could have capped Jason or whoever.

  6. Apathy Curve says:

    I hate it when I have to slam on the breaks. They’re so inefficient compared to brakes.

    (I make that mistake all the time when typing, so I couldn’t resist razzing you. Stupid language, English.)

  7. McNutcase says:

    Joe: Everyone does everything right and the crap still hits the fan? That’d be Dog Soldiers, then.

  8. Shamus says:

    I fixed the typo where I accidentally typed “breaks” instead of “Bakeries”, thanks.

  9. Roy says:

    The conclusion that we came to was that the scariest movie would be one where everybody does everything right and yet the crap STILL hits the fan. Complete helplessness equates to terror, not idiocy.

    Ditto. Or, at least, if they do things that we, as the audience, think are stupid, it’s because we have information that they don’t. One of the reasons that Alien is scary is because they don’t act like clueless idiots for the most part. When the chest burster pops out, they split into groups and try to find it, which makes sense when they thought they were looking for something the size of a cat.

    Dog Soldiers! Ah, good times. Barely a horror movie, though. More like an action movie about werewolves. It’s Aliens with werewolves instead of, well, aliens.

    But, yeah. If the hook was going to be coming across the burning building, it seems like it’d make more sense to just have him driving along and come across it. If he’s going to pass out anyway, the truck could “mysteriously” stall out and not work anymore, and, of course, in Silent Hill we all know that the only thing a radio is good for is detecting monsters, so the CB would be useless.

  10. karln says:

    I’d let them off with most of this if it turns out this first section was all a dream. Things are allowed to be random and nonsensical in a dream, although SH1 did at least provide a reason for the PC to go chasing the little girl (he thought it was his daughter). Although, that would be a retrospective letting-off, which doesn’t help the player’s perception of the game until it’s revealed to be a dream :/

  11. Steve C says:

    @2 Joe: Watching horror movies in prep for Thanksgiving? Not the Fall holiday I expect people to watch horror movies for. Planning to kill your family off one at a time or something?

  12. July says:

    I didn’t play it, but I remember hearing that there was a trucker in Homecoming as well. What is the sudden obsession with truckers?

  13. Nova says:

    As a librarian, I’d file it somewhere under ‘209’ – Religious experience, life and practice. Or, possibly, 299 – ‘other religions’.

    Knowing that off of the top of my head is a sign that I have Been There Too Long.

  14. Lady Kat says:

    It’s funny, now that you mention it, it is really weird that Travis just abandons his rig and chases after some little girl for no apparent reason. I’m such a die-hard Silent Hill fan that when I started the game, I completely took the whole set-up for granted. *Of course* he’ll chase after her, she’s Alessa, and this is a Silent Hill game, and that’s what the characters *do*. But now, looking at it objectively, it’s like the developers just sat down and thought, “Oh, the only people who will play this are the ones who already know what’s going on anyway. They’ll get it.” And by golly, they were right. I didn’t even blink an eye at the horrible setup. Alessa? Check. Dahlia? Check. Nightmarish ritual in which a girl is burned alive and stays alive? Check.

    Dang. I just found another reason to hate this game. As if the crappy back and forth between the standard world and the Otherworld wasn’t bad enough.

  15. Paramnesia says:

    SHO sounds like it suffers from standard movie scare tactics and logic, chasing after a strange girl/woman/figure in the dark/fog for no good reason.

    @Joe: There’s also the “Lets go into this spooky building/room and not try to turn on the lights. Our flashlights, which will inevitably stop working or fall fro our Vaseline coated hands — are good enough. I spent part of the weekend flipping through the slew of bad horror films that flood cable around this time of year, and I think my brain shriveled up from Teh Stoopid.

    @McNutcase: Gonna have to see Dog Soldiers now. It’d be nice to see people acting intelligently.

  16. rose glace says:

    >We noted that in most horror films, the characters will >consistently do the worst possible action at any given time: >”Let's split up,” “let's investigate this old cottage,” or >”let's make a run for it even though he's right there.”

    ObRPGConnection: in the multi-genre game Torg, the authors
    recognized that these are stock genre conventions and
    introduced game machanics to _encourage_ PCs to do just
    this sort of thing. having a lone PC die horribly off-camera
    would increase the perseverance of the rest of the group
    (“we gotta do it for fred”) and make the ultimate defeat
    of the Big Bad easier/more certain.

  17. Drew says:

    I linked this here before, but it was the last post in a thread that was long dead. I’ll link it again, because I think it’s worth review given the subject matter of this blog right now. It’s Orson Scott Card’s discussion of the three types of Fear, how they work, and the downfalls of modern writers and filmmakers with respect to fear. I think it gets at exactly what you’ve been saying, Shamus. (link goes to google books)

  18. Joe says:

    @7 McNutcase: Thanks for the recommendation, will add to the queue.

    @11 Steve: Halloween is scary for the sake of it, Thanksgiving is scary for the reality of it. House full of family vs zombie/werewolf/psychic little girl? I’ll take anything but the family.

  19. LazerFX says:

    Best bit in Dog Soldiers is the British Humour…

    Like when one of the soldiers is about to be et by a Werewolf, and he turns round and goes, “I hope I give you the [craps] you [caker]!” ;) (Edited for language :P)

  20. asterismW says:

    “There”, he says, “safe now.” I howled with laughter at this. That is not hyperbole. I threw my head back and laughed.

    I did the exact same thing when watching Pirates III the first time. There Will is, with a sword stabbed through his heart, and Elizabeth flutters around uselessly and says “You’re going to be ok!” I think some fangirls may have given me dirty looks in the theatre, but I was laughing too hard to care.

  21. Kevin says:

    It’s too bad that I really wouldn’t enjoy an endless string of remakes of the first Silent Hill, with the names changed or wearing different clothes or whatnot, because there’s a part of me that wants this exactly. Though I have to say that I really did enjoy Silent Hill 2 a whole bunch. Never got all the way through 3 though…

    I’m curious to know what the “Origins” in the title refers to. Please let us know!

  22. Ian Price says:

    Seeing as I loved Aliens, it should come as no surprise that I also loved Dog Soldiers.

    The main characters in 28 Days Later also showed a high degree of “not doing stupid things for no reason other than an excuse for zombies to kill you.”

  23. Matt K says:

    I picked up the first Silent Hill and man was that creepy. In fact I never got past the school. I’d love to pick up SH2 but I’m not sure I’d fair any better with that one. However I am playing Eternal Darkness for the first time (got a Wii for my anniversary) and it has the right amount of freaky without being a pain to play. Man when the blood drips from the lamps or the books flying.

    Also, off topic but your old news article mentioned that Fallout 3 had little DRM and so you were going to get it. What I’ve been hearing from those that got it early is it in fact contains SecuRom just not the online activation type (better than the Russia version with uses Starforce). Just thought I’d give the head up for those thinking of buying it tomorrow. You can delete this part if this is too far off topic, just wanted to give a heads up (and this is more rumor than anything at the moment since it hasn’t officially been released but I figured better safe than sorry).

  24. Loneduck3 says:

    I wish there was some sort of uncomplicated way you could dub over videogames, to sort of pull a Mystery Science Theater on these bad games. I’m sure if you were “teh haxor”, you could do it, but “haxors” aren’t known for clarity in writing.

  25. MintSkittle says:

    @ Matt K’s off topicness

    Yeah, Fallout 3 has SecuROM, but it isn’t the same crap as is in Bioshock or Spore. From what I understand, it’s just like what was in Oblivion, which just did a CD check.

  26. Matt K says:

    @Mint, it’s actually not the same from what I heard because you cannot make a backup copy of the game. Oblivion you could. Also I know a bunch of people are opposed to SecuRom in general so I thought I’d mention it especially since it contradicts the article Shamus linked a while back.

  27. Dog Soldiers is more like Zulu (or ‘The Battle of Rorke’s Drift’ itself, if you like). With Werewolves.

    They hang enough lampshades on it during Dog Soldiers (Spoon directly mentions Rorke’s Drift, several characters have lines taken directly from Zulu etc.) – and the structure of the film (at least once they’ve arrived at the cabin) is almost exactly the same. On a scene by scene basis, anyway.

    Which is no bad thing, because Zulu is an awesome film.

  28. MintSkittle says:

    I never tried making a copy of Oblivion, and I figured you couldn’t, so you have me there.

    I don’t think Shamus is against SecuROM in general (since he owns several SecuROM protected games), just the oppressive nature of it’s recent iterations (the limited installs, online activation, having to beg for more installs).

  29. Matt K says:

    @Mint, like I said, I figured I’d give everyone the heads up especially since the article Shamus linked said no SecuRom. And I know a bunch of people on this site are opposed to SecuRom in general so, like I said, just heads up. And that’s all I’ll be saying on the matter since this is pretty off topic.

  30. Joshua says:

    Hmm, this set-up for the game’s plot sounds like the same problems I had with the actual Silent Hill movie. Normally, in a story, you should emphasize with the main protagonist. In the movie, however, you were given the impression that the main character(Rose) was a completely irrational idiot, which made it harder to really to root for her later on.

    It sounds like some of the stupid thing that trucker does is similar to the stupid things that Rose does.

  31. MintSkittle says:

    @Matt K

    You’re right. I should shut up now.

  32. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Hmmm…Maybe this trucker guy is pedophile and he just cant resist runing after little girls.

    As for doing things right,wasnt it in scream that we had a guy knowing about all horror movie cliches and did everything right,yet he still died?Also,scream 3,the funniest “horror” movie Ive ever watched.I remember the whole theatre laughing when that knive was thrown.

  33. Will says:

    I’d guess the reason for picking truckers is that they’re believed to live a very solitary existence, making very little face-to-face communication with other people, and driving through remote areas at times of the day when any normal person is in bed. They should see more weird stuff than your average joe. That’s not really the case, but it’s the stereotype we’ve been handed down.

  34. Yahzi says:

    For those of you who want a horror film where the characters do everything right and it still doesn’t help… Phantasm. It’s old, I know, but when the characters discover creepy goings-on down at the graveyard, the first thing they do is go get some guns. Like, you know, any normal American teenage boy. :)

  35. Ian Price says:

    @UP: I never noticed the parallels to Zulu until you mentioned them. That’s totally awesome.

  36. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    I think the word for this kind of thing is “So bad it’s good.”

    Or “Unintentional comedy.”

    Clearly, Travis is some kind of moron. Me, I’d leg it back to that big rig, get on my cell phone (protip: CB radios won’t actually connect you to the police department in this modern day and age; though if you don’t have a cell phone, you can probably get ahold of another trucker or CB denizen who has a cell phone, a landline, a pay phone, or an officer of the law within their reach) and call the cops.

    Then I would put that big rig in gear and get the HELL out of spookville. I would not be stopping for anything. Hell, I don’t think they make spooks big enough to actually stop 18 alloy wheels with a full load if it’s got up to about 60 and the trucker’s not too worried about his paint job.

    You could plow through a huge mob of zombies, actually. Just make sure you lock the doors. Big rigs have a LOT of mass behind them, and they don’t stop easily.

  37. Rustybadger says:

    @36: Actually, in many cases you CAN reach the police via CB radio. Here in Canada, it’s channel 9. While most truckers are using VHF radios now, there are also dedicated VHF emergency channels (for both land and marine). Of course, you’re not likely to reach the nearest detachment or dispatcher via CB given its limited range. But if a cruiser is within a few miles of you, they’ll answer. Oh yes, they will, thank you very much! And then they show you all kinds of nice coloured papers and explain how misuse of emergency frequencies is a Big Deal and then they take away your precious RF booster, the nasssty hobitttses….mumble mumble

  38. Adeon says:


    I think truckers are just a convenient character for these sort of things. They are a regular human who has a valid excuse to be driving alone at night and still be new the area (and therefore not familiar with it or its inhabitants).

  39. MintSkittle says:

    Alright, it’s 3:30 a.m.(West Coast) here, and I need to get this off my chest.

    First, I feel the need to apologize to Matt K for some reason, so Matt, I’m sorry for whatever.

    Second, Fallout 3 SecuROM is an EVIL BEAST. Stupid thing kept telling me I was using a software emulator to run FO3 when I clearly wasn’t. My friends and I spent two hours trying various tricks and tweaks to make it work, even going so far as to muck around in the registry, all to no avail. In a final desperate act, I go looking for a CD crack. Less than twenty minutes later, I’m in game.

    Sigh…in all my years of gaming, this is the first time I’ve been reduced to cracking a legitimately purchased product just to make it work like it’s supposed to.

  40. JKjoker says:

    does it have to be a trucker ? what about a random driver going the wrong way and crashing after he almost hits a little girl ?, it would explain why he is there and why he cant get out (of course, he could just job home :p, the movie at least did the nice thing of showing a huge crater where the road used to be, there is no going back that way)

  41. Noumenon says:

    Hmmm…Maybe this trucker guy is pedophile and he just cant resist runing after little girls.

    Thanks for explaining that. Everyone will be able to identify with the main character now. Problem solved!

  42. Avilan the Grey says:

    Dog Soldiers: The thing I remember the most is the Badass Normal who gets into a fistfight with an enraged werewolf, and WINS.

    I agree with everyone that I generally do not like horror movies for the reason of everyone being an idiot. On the other hand I generally do not like traditional horror (splatter) movies in general. (If I want to see innocent kids splatted, I watch the news. Unfortunately).
    Of course when I was younger I liked them, for the same reason every guy liked them. T&A. The worse the movie, the more of it around. Acting like idiots, yes, but not until they had stripped down properly…

  43. Hotsauce says:

    Commenting here because comments are closed on the “Literacy is not a superpower” post.
    “He was only one character short of “your”, which I assume is the word he was groping for.”

    Actually, and I only say this because I’m kind of a dick, the word was “you’re”, so he was three characters short.

    See how I’m not even mentioning mangling the English language while criticising someone else’s mangling of the English language?

    Oh, wait…

  44. Shamus says:

    Hotsauce: Busted. You got me. I’m fixing that one.

  45. Daemian Lucifer says:


    “Actually, and I only say this because I'm kind of a dick, the word was “you're”, so he was three characters short.”

    Four.’ is a character as well.

    Meh,there are worse things than using txt(disclaimer:I am deliberately not typing e there)speak in english chat.Using english txt speak acronyms while typing the rest in another language,for example.Or,not putting a space after a punctuation mark…

  46. kmc says:

    Woo! Scary things. Almost entirely off the topic of the post: forget playing Origins; go read The Haunted Looking Glass, in which Edward Gorey has compiled his favorite classic horror short stories. I read one story a night. Good luck getting to sleep after that!

  47. Rask says:

    Filed under 291.3.

  48. Hotsauce says:

    @Daemian Lucifer
    Nope, three. ‘You’re’ contains six characters. The guy who corrected himself typed three: ‘*ur’.

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