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  Greetings, Internet! We return once more to the realm of death and darkness, Australia Silent Hill! We begin our new journey through the very first game to be released, imaginatively titled Silent Hill. Published by Konami in 1999, the game was successful-ish—selling about 1.6 million units according to the fine folks at VGChartz, which you know has the best and most up-to-date information because of that trendy “z” in their name. Unlike the Resident Evil series, the game focused on an everyman character trapped in a nightmare world of dark magic rather than a doofy team of super-duper police officers fighting the results of a chemical spill. As such, the tone of Silent Hill’s horror was trying to be less B-movie and more art house.

  This probably explains why Resident Evil sold about a billion times more copies just about everywhere in the known universe and would go on to become the disgusting mish-mash of genres it now is. You know—because it’s more “approachable” or whatever.

  Anyway! On the last season of Traipsing Through Silent Hill, a heroic trucker-like entity named Travis wandered into the town, rescued a psychic little girl by the name of Alessa, overcame his frankly stupid inner demons (said inner demons being more about his parents than him), and then proceeded to leave the town with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. Alessa, on the other hand, remains a horrible burn victim after… um… splitting her soul in half or something? This half a soul manifested as a baby which was then left on the side of the road to be found by a yuppie couple. I guess.

  This isn’t going to be the silliest thing we’ve encountered. Not by a long shot.

  Anyway, unlike Nullrigins, Silent Hill starts with an attract trailer, so enjoy the hell out of that!

Um... 'kay.

  There’s… just so much to unpack with this.

  First, the title card doesn’t make any fucking sense. “The fear of blood tends to create fear for the flesh.” What the hell does that even mean, game? This is either gibberish or, at best, so obvious a statement as to be trite. I guess that it’s supposed to be ominous what with official creepy buzzwords™ “blood” and “flesh”, but do we really need a line that establishes that people that are squeamish about blood may not be all that willing to die? That’s what this is about, right? “Oh, man, people who are afraid of blood don’t like taking risks!”

  I’m sure someone will give me a long explanation about how it totally makes sense and is actually super pertinent, but I really don’t care.

  I could probably spend the entire post whining about the trailer, but here’s the big thing I need to ask you: with what you know of the Silent Hill oeuvre, especially having just experienced Origins, do you feel this actually sets up the game? I mean, outside of the kickass music and showing the characters, does this prepare the player at all for a descent into horror? I mean, I see an argument between a nurse and a guy in a suit, a woman running through the set of Blood Omen: The Legacy of Kane, a cop taking a call, and a whole lot of driving. The most ominous thing is the suited man with a gun sitting above a puddle of blood. The most supernatural thing is a girl disappearing in front of a boiler. All things considered, this seems less “ghost story” and more murder-mystery than anything else.

  The big things that we need to take out of this introduction are the brown haired guy and his daughter/kidnap victim driving along and getting passed by a motorcycle cop. They pass the crashed motorcycle on the road and continue on, what with the vague time of the game being… um… 1980-ish or something, making a call to the police a little difficult to make on the road. Then a girl walks in front of the guy’s car and he swerves to avoid hitting her.

  Hey, I remember that outfit! That was Alessa!

Are you sitting comfortably?
Are you sitting comfortably? Obviously, all images are copyright Konami, but this is Fair Use, suckas.

  Well, with that we’re dumped out to the title screen. Everything is pretty standard. If you go to the options menu and press R1, you’ll be taken to an additional options screen. It allows you to change the blood color and other things. It actually becomes more useful in subsequent playthroughs, but as of right now we can change Harry’s blood to violet if we deign it appropriate.

  We do not.

  I should also make mention of the fact that Origins also had an additional option menu, but it was significantly less useful. You could change the pattern your light made, but I think that was the extent of the “fun” stuff.

  Well, let’s get started, shall we?

I don't want to imply anything untoward about our hero, but the way he's walking after the accident is... um... problematic.

  Rather than start with a lengthy introduction, we’re dumped right into our hero waking up in his crashed Jeep. He notices that his daughter/kidnapping victim is missing and stumbles out of his car. He walks down the street in a daze before we make the startling jump from pre-rendered cutscene to gameplay cutscene. Our hero stands in the middle of the intensely foggy street, wondering to himself “Cheryl? Where could she be? It’s quiet. Too quiet.”

  First point: his girl’s name is Cheryl, meaning that this is the male yuppie from Nullrigin’s conclusion.

  Second point: my comment about her being his kidnapping victim no longer works.

  Third point: this guy catches on to shit being weird approximately one billion times faster than Travis ever did.

  Since the game doesn’t tell you right away, our hero is Harry Mason. According to the manual, Harry is a writer and professional protagonist. The fact that Harry claims to be a writer is something that never actually comes up at all in the game. So I guess I have to take the booklet’s word for it that it wouldn’t actively lie to me.

  Sadly, I can’t really say I have full faith in what the manual actually says, as it also claims that Cheryl was in the back seat of the jeep, when both the attract trailer and opening FMV directly contradict this statement. It also says that when he swerves to avoid the girl Alessa, the car falls in a gully, which is patently bullshit considering that you can look at your Jeep in game and it’s, like, crashed just off the interstate. I’m not saying that I’d like to be in any accident, let alone this one, but let’s not blow things out of proportion.

Relax. Everyone knows late 90's graphics make things look worse than they are.
Oh, relax. Everyone knows late 90's graphics make things look worse than they are.

  Once I actually get control of good ol’ Harold Mason (which is apparently his full name, something which is also fucking unmentioned at any point), I spend some time playing with the controls. Harry operates using what’s referred to as tank controls, meaning that I pivot Harry in place with the left and right buttons and he moves forward and backward based on where he’s facing rather than the camera. This is both good and bad—I always know which button to push to get Harry to scamper away from danger, but it also feels really clunky and kind of unresponsive.

  But Harry’s an everyman, so I guess that’s actually a point in the game’s favor.

  Experimenting a bit further with the controls, I discover that Harry can sidestep and can do a little backwards hop, which is adorable.

  After running around for a bit, Harry claims to hear footsteps and goes running toward the source. You can actually trigger this cutscene from a pretty far distance away, implying that Harry has superhuman hearing. I mean, you can get this to trigger so it takes a solid ten seconds of running to get to where our hero needs to be. I have pretty good hearing, to be honest, but Harry “Bat Ears” Mason can apparently hear a feather falling from a thousand yards.

  In any case, we see Cheryl through the fog, standing around like a goddamn weirdo. She saunters into the street, prompting Harry to ask where she’s going before asking her to stop. Instead, she takes off running on her stubby legs, prompting Harry to let us begin pursuit.

  I really wish that Harry had yelled “GET BACK HERE, YOUNG LADY!” Sadly, my wish goes unfulfilled.

  She darts into a side street between residential buildings, and we follow. At the end of the not-a-street, we encounter this:

Hm. Well, I don't see anything wrong with this.
Hm. Well, I don't see anything wrong with this.

And stepping through the gate, we encounter this:



  So, that appears to be the remains of an exploded dog. Rather than start screaming, as would be just about everyone’s reaction, Harry just kind of shrugs and wonders what happened. This general confusion will carry over to the rest of the game, suggesting that Harry may have suffered a substantial head injury in the accident.

  Anyway, Harry wanders into an alley connected to someone’s backyard. Wait… why would a residential side street go into someone’s backyard which would then let out into an alley? That… that doesn’t make a lick of fucking sense. Was this town designed, built, and then populated by idiots and assholes?

  We progress further down the alley, which gets darker and darker as we move on. The camera angles also get a bit trippier than we’re used to, but we’ve also only just started playing, so maybe that’s a thing to expect. Eventually, Harry has to light his hand on fire to see, which is a bit unorthodox, but Harry is a wild man who plays by his own rules.

Huh. There's a burning sensation in my flaming hand. Wonder what that's about.
"Huh. There's a burning sensation in my flaming hand. Wonder what that's about."

  Continuing forward, Harry encounters a wheelchair on its side, which he responds to with confusion. Further, he comes across a hospital gurney with a body on it, though hidden under a blood stained sheet. This, too, confuses Harry.

  We push on just a bit further before a cutscene takes over. Harry stumbles upon a crucified body that either has been hanging for a while or was horrifically mutilated before being strung up. Either way, Harry is very confused.

I'd make a joke here, but I'm starting to get concerned.
I'd make a joke here, but I'm starting to get concerned.

Suddenly, we’re set upon by two demon… children… things, while a third draws closer from back whence we came. They attack by either latching onto you and locking Harry in place, or stabbing with their knives. Typically, they will grab you, leading to one of their fellows knifing Harry in the dick.

"Huh. Children? Without faces? What could they want? Knives? Ow, there's a sharp stabbing pain in my thigh. Wonder what that's about."
"Huh. Children? Without faces? What could they want? Ow, there's a sharp stabbing pain in my thigh. Wonder what that's about."

  Getting grabbed does minimal damage. However, getting knifed fucking hurts, so it really is in your best interest not to let either happen. In this case, though, the exit to the alley has been sealed with a chainlink fence, locking the defenseless Harry with three of the little bastard children. The only solution is to let them kill you, although you can actually dodge the little fuckers forever if you’re so inclined.

  And just like that, Harry dies. So much for being a professional protagonist, right, folks? Maybe the next person who comes up will be able to do more than stare at everyday objects with disbelief, but process horrible monsters just fine. Anyway, join me next time for Since When Are Leather Pants Standard Police Issue?

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