Silent Hill Origins Part 4: Dang Kids

By Shamus
on Nov 3, 2008
Filed under:
Shamus Plays
We rejoin trucker Travis Grady as he continues his journey to transcend stupidity itself. Last time he was wandering around the sanitarium, bashing monsters and developing his repertoire of dumb looks. Let’s see how it goes…

There are two new monsters to face here, and the differences between them are instructive:

Sweet mother of NASCAR, this gul-durned shadow is kickin’ my backside somthin’ <em>fierce</em>. (Sorry about the image quality here, but it is sort of hard to really  capture a good shot of a shadow of an invisible man in a dark room while it’s kicking your ass.  Just trust me, this sucker is freaky.)
Sweet mother of NASCAR, this gul-durned shadow is kickin’ my backside somthin’ fierce. (Sorry about the image quality here, but it is sort of hard to really capture a good shot of a shadow of an invisible man in a dark room while it’s kicking your ass. Just trust me, this sucker is freaky.)
The first is a remnant. It looks like a not-particularly-comfortable restraining device. It seems to float through the air as if the wearer was invisible, but when you sweep the flashlight beam over it the thing casts a humanoid shadow on the wall and you can see its crazed movements and flailing limbs. Naturally the closer you get the larger the projected shadow will appear. And naturally this will freak you the hell out if you’re not ready for it.

The other monster is the carrion, a big lumpy… monster thing. Online guides say it looks like roadkill, but given how you need to fight the sucker at a distance and your flashlight beam has the coverage of a dinner plate, I’ve never actually gotten a good look at it. But this seems to be an exception to the rule that obscuring the monster makes it more frightening. I’ve never been all that scared of it. It just looks like a big lump to me. A big, mean lump with a cheap-ass lunge attack that can knock off half your health before you can say, “When was the last time I saved, anyway?”

The carrion is the larger and more dangerous, but the remnant is the one I dread running into the most. The way its shadow looms over Travis gives me what psychologists refer to as “the heebie-jeebies”.

Do consult the controls before you begin playing.
Do consult the controls before you begin playing.
Eventually Travis starts uncovering secrets about his past. He’s tied to this place in an important way, and bits of his family history are buried here. This is exactly the sort of thing the game should have been doing right at the outset. The fact that I had to slog through three hours of gameplay before it became meaningful or personal is a major shortcoming. It’s the reason my previous posts have been crass mockery instead of analysis. The game has placed the cart about an hour in front of the horse by not giving me a reason to explore the Sanitarium until long after I’d arrived and been kicked around by its inhabitants.

The sanitarium is much larger than would seem necessary for a town this size. Either Silent Hill needed an extraordinary supply of places to treat the insane, or the place served a much larger area. Either way, there is a lot of territory for Travis to cover. There is also a lot of backtracking and fussing about with puzzles, as you do in these games. But we still don’t know why Travis is bothering with the place. It is revealed that:

Travis’ mother was an inmate here. She tried to kill Travis when he was a little boy, thinking he was possessed.

After trying to kill herself and her son in a fire, she was brought here, where she oscillated between mildly eccentric and flaming bonkers. She also claimed to be able to travel to another world through mirrors.

I haven’t looked it up on Gamefaqs or anything, but I’m pretty sure Travis takes damage when he tries to think.
I haven’t looked it up on Gamefaqs or anything, but I’m pretty sure Travis takes damage when he tries to think.
Now, that’s an interesting bit of family trivia, and if I were Travis I might sit still while someone explained that to me. But I wouldn’t really be keen on entering the ninth circle of hell and letting a menagerie of freaks chew my face off to learn it.

We can’t ever tell how Travis feels about all this. He didn’t have a good reason for coming here before this was revealed, and so we don’t know why he’s staying. I don’t need it all spelled out for me, just enough to make it clear that he is looking for something and that he feels strongly about it. I wouldn’t mind if his reasons were part of an ongoing mystery. I do mind that he doesn’t seem to have any reasons at all. Watching this guy amble through this rotten howling madhouse with a blank look on his face and no obvious goal is really starting to bug me.

What’s the deal, Trav? What are you doing here?

A storage area!  Thank goodness.  I’m down to my last five crowbars, three hammers, four wrenches, and seven tire irons.  Time to stock up.
A storage area! Thank goodness. I’m down to my last five crowbars, three hammers, four wrenches, and seven tire irons. Time to stock up.
Combat is hard. These two or three at a time monster fights are just brutal. While Travis unloads his hardware store (last time I counted he was carrying three televisions and two typewriters) in the face of one of them, the rest gnaw his buttocks off. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but I’ve made several trips to the Game Over screen by this point, and save points are spaced about a half hour apart, give or take. As I’ve said before, getting a game over is an immersion-breaking, game-shattering drag.

For me, part of the problem is how volatile and unforgiving combat is. Enemies hit hard, and just a couple of knocks can take Travis from hale to frail. He gets staggered for a long time when he gets hit, which means he’s probably going to take another hit. I emerge from most fights either unscathed or dead, because there’s not much room for small mistakes. Making an error in timing when facing two foes is very deadly. Earlier titles had the nickel-and-dime fights doing less damage. Over time it felt like monsters were wearing you down and driving you to the edge. The combat here is better at creating stress, (oh no! It’s been ages since I last saved!) but a good bit worse at creating suspense and hesitation borne of dread.

The game also seems to have abandoned the tense solitude I experienced earlier and replaced it with a Doom 3 style “monster in every room, two in the hallways” approach to level design.

Travis spends more time face-down in the sanitarium than is probably good for him, me, or my controller.  But he’s resilient enough with the help of the load screen to brute-force his way through the oddly-shaped forces of evil.
Travis spends more time face-down in the sanitarium than is probably good for him, me, or my controller. But he’s resilient enough with the help of the load screen to brute-force his way through the oddly-shaped forces of evil.
I can’t tell if my deaths are because I’m fighting things I shouldn’t be fighting or if I’m just not as proficient with the controls as the designers demand. I was able to beat Silent Hill 2 & 3 on normal difficulty, (I chickened out and went for easy in Silent Hill 4) but this game is just too frustrating. I’d take the coward’s way out and bump the game down to easy (I value my time far more than my pride) but there’s no difficulty adjustment. Unsurprisingly, this one-size-fits-all approach to adjusting difficulty doesn’t actually fit all that well. Oh, and the usual rules about cheat codes still hold true.

As frustrating as this is, I know there is a whole sub-group of players out there who want to crank the game up to super-extra-impossible because they enjoy the challenge, and those people are doubtless going to be bored by this. Those difficulty settings in other games exist for a reason, Konami. What were you thinking?

Look kid, everyone knows that rugrats like you have all the answers in movies and videogames.  You’re like, this walking plot-point oracle. So when you show up and don’t say nothin’ it <em>really</em> gets on my nerves.  Now cough up the info before I tan your hide.
Look kid, everyone knows that rugrats like you have all the answers in movies and videogames. You’re like, this walking plot-point oracle. So when you show up and don’t say nothin’ it really gets on my nerves. Now cough up the info before I tan your hide.
Between his guns, his blunt weapons, and his mastery of the save / load system, Travis shoves his way down into the corrupted guts of the sanitarium and finally defeats the ghost of his mother, taking the form of a tortured zombie in a spiked cage which turns the place back to “normal”. He also gets another chance to talk to the ghost girl that keeps cropping up. She never answers him, which makes me wonder why he bothers.

On his way out into daylight, Travis finds a movie ticket in the lobby. Right. Let’s head off to the movie theater for no reason!

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20626 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Wow…

    The main character must have ADD.
    There’s no other explanation.

    Actually, no. People with ADD don’t deserve to be put together with this guy.

    EDIT: “I haven’t looked it up on Gamefaqs or anything, but I’m pretty sure Travis takes damage when he tries to think.”

    This is pure hilarity. Well done.

  2. Avaz says:

    “I haven’t looked it up on Gamefaqs or anything, but I’m pretty sure Travis takes damage when he tries to think.”

    I also laughed at that line. :)

  3. guy says:

    Indeed. Us people with ADD do not wish to be associated with this guy.

  4. Dev Null says:

    Maybe Travis does this dumb stuff because he is possessed. By an Evil Spirit. Who would be you, except you are screaming at him to NOT be such a dolt for a change. So by _another_ evil spirit.

  5. Mari says:

    Not ADD. If he had ADD he would have already gotten bored with Silent Hill and moved on. No, Travis apparently has OCD. How else to explain his nonsensical obsessive compulsion to explore a town that he never knew he had any connection to until three hours into the tour?

    And I monitor-spewed on Travis’s thinking damage.

  6. pffh says:

    Has anyone stopped to think that maybe the cargo in his truck was supposed to be delivered to someone in Silent Hill and the good and honest truck driver Travis is only trying to find him?

  7. Matt C. says:

    Poor guy obviously got his brain damage from the first bout of smoke inhalation as a child. Still, a warning label on the box about the main character being special-olympics-eligible would have been nice.

    Thanks Shamus, you have saved me money again.

  8. mos says:

    Wait, does he really go to the movies afterwards?

  9. Joe says:

    @Dev Null: so, I guess that means that his mom was right all along? She was afraid that if she didn’t do something about Travis, some day he’d hunt her down and kill her?

    So the description of this game should be “You play an evil demonic force that possesses a poor imbecile named Travis and force him to mercilessly hunt down his poor defenseless mother until you can fulfill her predictions and do away with her.”

  10. @pffh:

    Has anyone stopped to think that maybe the cargo in his truck was supposed to be delivered to someone in Silent Hill and the good and honest truck driver Travis is only trying to find him?

    If that is the case, why did he abandon his truck, why wasn’t that explained in the storyline (since it would be kind of important), and why is he wandering around like a lost child instead of actually searching the town?

  11. Illiterate says:

    Spectere — Asking questions like that is like screaming at the screen while watching Blair Witch

    “FOLLOW THE GODDAMN RIVER! STOP CROSSING IT YOU MORONS!”

    The drama is predicated on the protagonist(s) being stupid. Not “pound in a light bulb with a hammer” stupid, but “french kiss a light socket” stupid.

  12. Kevin says:

    Should I assume that this game is NOT created by the same writers who worked on previous SH games?

  13. NobleBear says:

    @ Mari (5) Yeah, OCD. Or, were he a GURPS character, he’d have the curiosity disad at -15pts.

    @Shamus: Thank you, I’m enjoying your series on the game thus far. :D

  14. MuonDecay says:

    Travis is actually a developmentally challenged adult who still basically possesses the mind of a child.

    He dressed up as a trucker and stole a truck because he wanted to be like his daddy, who was a trucker. Then he saw something distracting and took off trying to find it again like a 6-year-old chasing a butterfly.

  15. Shamus says:

    Kevin: Correct. Yahtzee said it was an American team. Others have said it was Canadian. I haven’t checked myself, but I will note that on the map it lists locations such as Trauma “Centre” and it refers to your flashlight as a “torch”.

  16. Telas says:

    Before the Canuckleheads jump all over you, Canada is part of (North) America.

    But you knew that, and were just trying to start a pre-election US-Canada flamewar, weren’t you? ;)

    Great review, as always. I think if I *had* to play this game, I’d provide my own MST3K running commentary in the voice of a down-vest and meshback cap wearing good ol’ boy: “Hay mayun, whut’s this we got here? That there house is a’far? Well, lemme just go see ’bout that!”

  17. Mari says:

    Just looked it up (probably should have done that before commenting) and Climax is the studio that developed with Konami. A penetrating perusal of Climax’s website reveals that they’re apparently British as all their job openings are in Portsmouth.

    PS @Telas – “American” is usually understood to be “United States of America” rather than “North America” isn’t it? Or am I just…well, US-centric in my thinking?

  18. Shamus says:

    Telas: When I said “Americans” I was thinking of Yahtzee’s review, where he talked about “Americans” screwing the game up, and showed the game wearing a cowboy hat.

    And of course everyone knows that’s what we wear. All the time. :)

  19. Adam Greenbrier says:

    @Joe:

    So the description of this game should be “You play an evil demonic force that possesses a poor imbecile named Travis and force him to mercilessly hunt down his poor defenseless mother until you can fulfill her predictions and do away with her.”

    That would actually be an interesting twist in the game although it would be a bit meta to make the player a demon. But man, I’d like that.

  20. So I guess we can expect the next protagonist in the Silent Hill series to be a former stripper?

    Who’s now driving dump trucks?

    Who lost her pet chihuahua?

    And who can carry 10 blow torches in her g-string?

    Leslee

  21. LintMan says:

    About cheat codes, these days, you basically can’t expect them to be useful or available at all, except in the straight FPS genre.

    The most ridiculous instance of cheat codes I’ve seen is in Supreme Commander, which includes a full suite of cheats, *but only for multiplayer/skirmish*. Gee, thanks!

    But for instances like you describe here where the difficulty is ruining the game, there’s always trainers to resort to. IMHO, games are for fun, and once the difficulty saps the fun away, what’s the point? If a trainer gets you past the unfun parts so you can enjoy the fun stuff, go for it.

  22. Miral says:

    That’s exactly why I’m stubbornly refusing to get any of the latest generation consoles (since there isn’t any third-party cheat software out for them yet). At least with PC games, if you get stuck somewhere and there aren’t cheat codes, there’ll almost always be a trainer — and if not, it’s not hard to make your own.

    But if the trend of oppressive DRM keeps up, I might just have to stop being a gamer. That’d suck.

  23. Alex says:

    Would somebody PLEASE make a game with the “controls” described in the 2nd picture from the top? I will personally fund it’s development through a series of sexual favours if need be.

    Come on people, let’s make it happen! =P

  24. Dys says:

    Incidentally, and I have no reason for saying this here rather than in the comments of any one of the dozens of other survival horror posts, and there’s a fair chance it’s already been said… all angles covered? Right. Play Dead Space, it scares the everloving hell out of me.

  25. Chris says:

    I don’t mind being killed in games if I feel like I deserved it. And that’s the key thing in my mind. We don’t mind being “killed” as long as the game is “playing fair” or at least creating the illusion of being fair.

    But being arbitrarily killed in hour-long gaps between save points just doesn’t feel like a legitimate challenge to the player and so it sets off unfairness alarms. We can all take a certain level of frustration up until the point we run into an immersion-destroying game design decision or terrible combat controls.

  26. Don J says:

    It looks like the Canadian/American/British development team thing has been sorted out already, but for the record, we do use the spelling “Centre”, but we don’t refer to flashlights as torches.

    Some other handy notes: we have elevators, not lifts, we eat chips, not crisps, and we use more u’s than our honourable southern neighbours do. Colour, theatre, poutine.

    Sorry, I got carried away there, seeing which words would get squiggly red underlines from Chrome. :-)

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