We resume our nonsensical journey with Travis Grady, a trucker turned ADHD firefighting paramedic ghostbuster. Part one is back that way. When we last left our
hero special-needs truckdriver, he’d rescued a girl from certain death by helping her to escape to a different certain death. Then he passed out.
Besides, this is fun. More fun than playing the game, anyway.
Travis awakens and it’s daytime. He’s on a bench in Silent Hill. He remembers the girl and decides to go to the hospital and see if he can annoy her some more. (He wants to know if she’s all right.)
No she’s not all right you bumbling, dim-witted, lamebrain. She was doomed before you scooped her up and loped outside with her. She was cooked. The best hospital in the world would be hard-pressed to coax a day or two out of her. You drool-soaked, cross-eyed, dunce.
Having failed to present the player with a compelling protagonist or mystery, the game sends you off to the hospital. Now, the hospital is an iconic place in Silent Hill. Everyone remembers their first trip to the hospital. It’s arguably the signature area of the series. It was a major part of almost all the other titles in the series, as well as the movie. But it’s something you build up to. It’s the headlining band, not the opening act. This game just has no patience. It hasn’t even bought me a drink yet and already it’s trying to get my pants off. And I’m really sorry for that metaphor.
Travis keeps looking for her, even after he arrives at the hospital and finds the place is bereft of life and brimming with decay. He’s attacked by one of the once-inspired-but-now-required zombie nurses. And he still keeps looking for the girl. Why? The game hasn’t filled in his backstory yet, but I’m pretty sure Med School isn’t a part of it. I didn’t see a medical degree hanging in the cab during the opening sequence. There’s nothing he could do for her, even if she was here and even if the place wasn’t infested with the malignant manifestations of the Otherworld. Come on, Trav. The place is deserted, man. Why don’t you go and see what’s going on with your truck? It has a CB, remember? Is this your big plan? To wander around a haunted hospital bludgeoning nurses with a sledgehammer looking for someone who is either dead or Not Here?
Here? It’s just monsters recycled from other iterations of Silent Hill. Travis is a man so dull he has other people’s nightmares.
Combat falls somewhere between tedious and exceptionally tedious. Weapons degrade. Some weapons (like typewriters or televisions) are single-use. Travis can lug around an entire municipal building worth of office supplies in his puffy jacket, but once he chucks something at a foe it vanishes and he can’t pick it up again. Weapons shatter after just a few hits. As soon as a weapon is thrown, or it breaks, Travis reverts to bare-knuckled combat. You need another weapon at this point, which is easily accomplished by:
- Press inventory
- Cycle through the different classes of items using R1 and L1 until you reach “weapons”.
- Cycle through the weapons until you find the one you want.
- Select it.
- Now scroll down and select “equip”.
- Press circle to back out of inventory selection.
- Press circle again to dismiss the inventory screen and return to the fight.
Then three swings later your weapon breaks and you get to do it all again. This is not fun, it’s not intuitive, and most importantly it’s not scary. Fighting horrors can be a thrill, but not if the game keeps yanking me out of the experience so I can screw around with the menu system two or three times during every fight. (You can select weapons without going to the menu, but then the game keeps running and the foes get in a few cheap shots while you try to decide between the cardboard tire iron or the balsa wood crowbar.)
I really don’t see the point of the breaking weapons. The game hands you blunt instruments by the wheelbarrow load, so you don’t have to worry about running out. This isn’t a resource to manage, like “health drinks”. It’s just a needless annoyance. Travis can carry three dozen clubs and hammers, they fit in his jacket, and they snap after a few swings, necessitating another trip through the inventory screen obstacle course. You could make the gameplay more realistic and more interesting and less annoying by just making objects more durable. In particular, a sledgehammer should be more or less unbreakable in the hands of a human, no matter what you’re hitting. I mean, that’s its job.
The usual excuse offered up is that survival horror combat is supposed to be difficult. But you want it to feel difficult because it’s desperate, panicked, primal, and chaotic. Here combat is fumbling, silly, tedious, time-consuming, and annoying. Hit detection is dodgy at best, and when it malfunctions it seems to go against Travis. I managed to get behind a nurse and take a free swing at her. My attack passed right through her. Still facing away from me, she attacked the empty air in front of her, and injured me. (And don’t even get me started on fighting two foes at a time, which is like trying to juggle bricks while handcuffed.)
The deeper he goes, the more corrupted the hospital becomes. Eventually he goes through a mirror and finds himself in a world of blood and rusty metal. All is black on the other side, and he sees the world and his foes through the swinging cone of his flashlight beam. The walls seem to scream at him as he drags himself from one dreadful metal cage to the next.
Travis crawls down into the insane core of the hospital and then fights his way back out into daylight and sanity. A boss fight is involved, if you didn’t see that coming. He awakens in the lobby and meets a nurse (a normal human one) who tells him in no uncertain terms that the little girl is dead, for sure.
Since Travis no longer has any reason to hang around the town, he dashes back to his truck and high-tails it to safety before anything else unnatural happens. He stops at the first chain hotel he sees and checks in. It’s the middle of the day and he probably can’t even afford the place, but he throws down a credit card and nearly runs over the cleaning lady on the way to his room. He showers for an hour and a half and then calls room service and orders one of everything. That goes double for booze. He slams down a hot meal and falls asleep with the TV on and the curtains open.
Wait. Actually, that is incorrect. Travis does not attempt to leave Silent Hill. Instead he heads for Cedar Grove Sanitarium. He has absolutely no motivation or justification for doing so, but the nurse mentioned it in passing during their conversation. Damn the main character and his will to live, we have cutscenes to unlock! Onward to the Sanitarium!
We’ll find out how that goes in part 3.
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Deus Ex and The Treachery of Labels
Deus Ex Mankind Divided was a clumsy, tone-deaf allegory that thought it was clever, and it managed to annoy people of all political stripes.
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.
Are Lootboxes Gambling?
Obviously they are. Right? Actually, is this another one of those sneaky hard-to-define things?