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  Sally forth, Traipsers! When last we left Harry, he had finished a disjointed conversation with a guy he didn’t know was a villain, explored the first floor of a very abandoned hospital, recovered some red liquid while not having the foggiest idea of why he would do such a thing, and turned on the generators. The generators power the elevator, which sadly revealed that floors two and three are inaccessible. Upon return, however, a fourth floor managed to appear, triggering one of the creepiest and understated moments in a game that routinely confuses blood with legitimate horror.

WithoutWith
I'm just saying that if I ever encountered this in real life, I would probably never stop screaming.

  While most rational human beings would say “GAH! NO!” to this kind of spatial chicanery, Harry is not a rational (or remotely intelligent) human being. As such, he punches that button and girds his loins for terror!

  I absolutely love this moment, by the way. It is one particular moment that not acknowledging something actually works. I know that I harp a lot on this game for Harry’s steadfast refusal to comment on 90% of the weird shit he comes across, and the stuff that he does is just dumb…

I am NEVER LETTING THIS GO.
I am NEVER LETTING THIS GO.

… but this is a good example where not pointing it out is infinitely more creepy and unsettling.

  Just like the “Welcome to Silent Hill” sign not having a “now leaving” equivalent in the credits sequence of Origins, your subconscious picks up on something just being off about what just happened. After your trip to the third floor, you may return to the elevator and just click the fourth without even realizing what happened. Despite the automatic reaction, though, your brain picked up on the discrepancy and by the time you arrive on the newly-generated fourth floor, you’ll know something is wrong.

  Long story short, this is, like, the only instance where not having Harry go “Huh? Was that there before?” was an actual good idea. Compare it to the goofy nightmare Midwich arrival sequence for a good example of what could have been an interesting hint of wrongness being completely ruined by highlighting it.

  To return to the elevator sequence, as a player, you have to go to both floors (in any order) and examine the doors to get the fourth floor button to trigger. It’s just so organic and—while technically forced—feels like a good way to make the players feel like they’re the ones controlling the story rather than, say, forcing them to read a doghouse note before they can look in a doghouse.

  And, yes, if you want to run away after the fourth floor button appears, you can. It’s just that this is the only way to proceed in the game. I like that it’s an option, though.

  Anyway, when the loading screen fades out, we get a brief hallucination of Alessa walking into the shop that the final battle in Nullrigins took place in.

So this is... uh... pertinent... I think... why am I watching this?
So this is... uh... pertinent... I think... why am I watching this?

When we regain control, the hospital looks a touch… off, what with its new and oh-so-pleasant brown aesthetic. The marble flooring in particular has a disgusting thing going on with it, the green marble looking like someone has vomited brown sauce all over it. It’s gross.

This bodes well.
This bodes well.

Investigating the elevator reveals that it is inoperable. That’s… expected, really.

  When we walk out of the vestibule, we’re presented with a hallway full of doors. The second we take a couple of steps, the door locks behind us with a loud and very startling snap.

Oh, look, Harry's panicked. GOOD.
Oh, look, Harry's panicked. GOOD.

The only unlocked door is at the end of the hall, which leads a short hallway that ends in a staircase to the lower levels of the hospital. This hall, unlike the previous one, is pitch black and requires that Harry turns on his light. I’m not sure how this works… the previous hallway didn’t have any windows, but was brighter than—you know what? Fuck it. Alchemilla has now officially transitioned into the nightmare hospital, with a bit more going on with it than before.

By a bit more, I mean a bit darker and a bit browner.
By a bit more, I mean a bit darker and a bit browner.

The door we just closed locks loudly behind us after a couple of steps. Overall, this is a much better jump scare than anything in the school—the sound of a lock is normally innocuous, but here it’s ominous. Further, just who was doing the locking? How did they get behind us so quickly?

  If you are so compelled, you can retreat through both doors before they lock, but there’s no point. It’s just a thing you can do.

  This stairwell will be our main mode of transportation for the time being, what with the elevator being out of order. From here, we have access to all three main floors, barring any unfortunate doors that obstinately refuse to open. But before we do anything else, let’s take a quick inventory, shall we?

Map!
Map!

  I have 203 handgun rounds, 19 health drinks, 8 first aid kits, 2 ampoules, and 52 shells, so I am doing well on my offensive and defensive provisions. What we’re missing is a clear goal, but I guess it kind of makes sense to maybe restart the generator. I mean, the elevator wasn’t working just a second ago, so maybe that means the generator isn’t working again. Or it isn’t in this reality, but is humming along just fine in the fog-tastic Silent Hill. Or something. So our first stop is the first floor to get to the basement to push a button we already pushed in the real world. Or not. I don’t know.

  If nothing else, there may be another weird-ass lizard to kill.

  When I emerge on the first floor, I hear a terrifying moan in the darkness. When I look, I am greeted by this:

Aw, hello little guy! Who's a scrappy little guy?
Aw, hello little guy! Who's a scrappy little guy?

Well, it is a hospital. I suppose it would make sense that there are doctors here. Kitchen knives are a little unexpected, considering that I’m pretty sure that’s against hospital policy, but whatever. This is Silent Hill, where not getting molested during surgery is probably a social faux pas. What the fuck is wrong with his back, though? It kind of looks like a parasitic tumor is growing there. Ick.

  The doctor staggers about in the gloom, heading in our general direction with a shuffling gait. It’s… not too threatening. Nevertheless, Harry senses that this doctor is secretly a communist and must be purged, so he opens fire. After three shots, the doctor rears back. This is probably a sign that it’s HOLY SHIT GOD NO.

OH GOD WHY DID I MAKE HIM MAD
OH GOD WHY DID I MAKE HIM MAD

  That’s right, the fucker takes a cue from every zombie movie post-28 Days Later and sprints at you. If you’re playing on anything above easy mode, the doc will guaranteed charge you after you stagger him (that rearing back I mentioned above), running through your hail of bullets to remove Harry’s face from his body.

  Anyway, the fight ends when Harry plugs the asshole four more times, which is enough to floor the monster. This allows Harry to put the boot to the parasite, ending the thing’s reign of terror once and for all. After cleaning off the bottom of his shoe, Harry wonders where exactly this effective monster design/placement has been this entire time.

  Alright, so these are one of two variants of the main enemies of the hospital: healthcare practitioners of the damned. The other version is a similarly parasitized nurse. All the doctors are male, all the nurses are female, most likely due to gender-related occupational stereotypes. Bucking such tropes, however, is the fact that there are no substantial differences between the two outside of superficial graphical/audio changes. For instance, they both take about seven bullets to knock down, or two shells at close range to straight-up kill, so… um… equality?

  In terms of offense, they have a grapple attack, which A) looks awkward as all hell, B) possibly does minor-to-the-point-of-nonexistant initial but absolutely zero ongoing damage, C) will never happen when confronting a solitary baddie, and D) allows other baddies to close the distance. Unlike the kids (I think), multiple practitioners can grapple at once, which means that you can technically be grappled by every enemy in the room and remain locked in that position. Like, forever.

Just this. Forever. And ever.
Just this. Forever. And ever.

I’m pretty sure this is a glitch, due to the fact that it inflicts no damage as well as the way Harry breaks out of the hold. Our super awesome and in no way goofy-as-hell “writer” swings his arms wildly, which knocks nearby practitioners back, unlike the kids, whose holds were broken by kicking the solitary one holding him. My earlier mention of the demon kids’ having a hole in their AI when breaking free of a hold (they forget to stab Harry and just kind of aimlessly wander for a second or two) may just have been a way to prevent the multi-grabbing situation from happening in the school.

  The major damage dealer is a knife swipe that does considerable harm. Running by is not the best option, since they will pivot in place to track your movements. And since they always go for the stab when alone, you can’t cheese the AI like you could with the demon babies and routinely avoid heavier damage in favor of lighter, hug-based injury. Luckily, Harry’s adorable backwards hop will clear the distance of a knife swing. As long as you have room behind you, you can reliably avoid damage.

  I’m going to probably be shouted down on this, but I do think that the nurse and doctor are the most legitimately unsettlingly designed monsters in Silent Hill. Much in the same way that the not-zombies in Deadly Premonition are effective, all they really did was take the normal human body and make it fundamentally wrong—in this case, giving them a watermelon-sized lump of twitching flesh on their back. The way that they move when not aggro’ed lends a sense of uncomfortable weightiness to the tumor, implying that the humans being controlled are still cognizant of the discomfort of what’s going on.

  It’s also the first sign we have of full-on human beings being turned into something else, something dangerous. The parasite/tumor lends itself to some actual, legitimate symbolic meaning—they are puppets of something larger and more sinister than themselves. Despite the fact that it all unfortunately means jack-shit by the end of the game, narratively speaking, it’s a wonderful bit of less-is-more with monster design.

  Our next stop is to head into the eastern hallway of the first floor. There’s another doctor to slay, which goes much more smoothly than our first attempt at it. The radio clues us into another foe lurking somewhere nearby, but he is of no concern at the moment. The storeroom on this floor has nothing in it, except for the fact that on the way out there’s a loud bang. Nothing happens, no monsters break in, an item isn’t revealed… just a cheap jump scare.

  Golly. For a game touted as being profoundly cerebral, there are an awful lot of jump scares.

  Next up is the medicine room, which has another doctor to murder. Cleared out, we try to enter the exam room only to find it locked. However, there’s a weird little clopping noise—like a couple of shoed footsteps (or a “clop-clop”, if you will).

Harry may not be good, but he is slow. And useless. And kind of stupid.
Harry may not be good, but he is slow. And useless. And kind of stupid.
Also, a sound, Harry? Care to be any less descriptive? "Egad, a thing occurred behind that noun!"

Harry draws attention to it, so I guess it’s important, but why only two footsteps? Did someone on the other side hop? Also, if it sounds like someone, I don’t know, human, is on the other side of the door, why don’t you try communicating?

  See, this is another instance of drawing attention to something is actually the completely wrong decision. Harry is making the player realize there’s someone/something on the other side of the door. We already know that the door is locked as opposed to the lock being broken and inoperable—ergo, we know this is a room we will return to. Playing the shoe sound effect (more than twice, because seriously) as we leave would have been more subtle and put the “did we really hear it?” question into the player’s head. As such, it would then be completely natural to assume Harry wouldn’t just walk over and knock on the door before asking “Is anyone there?”

  The situation we have here? Not so much.

  Or, hell, I just shot a zombie-ish doctor seven times—you’d think that someone would realize that the monsters don’t use guns and that maybe, just maybe, another person is wandering around. Whatever.

  Elsewhere on the first floor, the regular office holds a box of handgun rounds, to replenish the fourteen we’ve wasted on shambling horrors. Sadly, we waste half the box icing another doctor in the kitchen, whose sole purpose is to eat ammo in exchange for a health drink. I guess it’s up to the individual player to decide whether or not it is worth fighting for the health item—I personally don’t think it was.

  Darting around the last doctor, we duck into the director’s office, which contains a Plate of “Queen”.

Um... sure?
Um... sure?

In case you’re wondering, the “Queen” it is referring to is the Queen of Hearts. So, I guess we’ve moved on from The Wizard of Oz to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Anyway, the only other purpose of this room is to provide yet another “breaking item off camera that isn’t actually there” jump scare. Because, you know, these things get scarier the more you rely on them.

  You know what? I was actually set to defend this one—and only this one, really—because this is where we found the smashed bottle in the real world. But the breaking sound effect is really more of a rock or similarly heavy thing breaking. Not, say, a glass bottle full of liquid. Or, hell, even just glass. So, oops, I guess.

  (ACTUALLY, if you killed the doctor outside of this office before heading in, he either revives for another attack or a new one spawns in. Perhaps this sound was an indication of this? It’s not entirely clear, as the last jump scare we had about two minutes ago didn’t spawn an enemy. It’s such a weird decision that is inconsistent to the point of meaninglessness. Further, I maintain that a glass shattering sound effect would be infinitely more effective, even if it was announcing a monster teleporting just outside the office. Long story short—killing the doc before picking up the artifact is a waste of ammo.)

  The last place worthy of our time is the basement, as that’s been our assumed goal for a while now. So we dart out of the way of the last doctor and head on down the stairs to our inevitable doom inconvenience. The basement proper is where we encounter the nurses for the first time. It is also the first time I ignore nurses because I’m sick of wasting a box of bullets every other monster.

Rest assured: they're all quite menacing.
Rest assured: they're all quite menacing.

  The generator is already turned on, so… um, I guess this was kind of a wasted trip? Well, it would be, but there is a reward for coming here—the best weapon in this game or any other: the emergency hammer.

That's it. We've won the game. Pack it in, ladies and gents.
That's it. We've won the game. Pack it in, ladies and gents.

This, including all bonus weapons, is the best melee weapon in the game. And, honestly, I’d take this over the pistol and shotgun nine times out of ten. One heavy, vertical whack will kill an ape, two will kill a nurse/doctor, and that’s all you will ever need to swing it to take out any non-boss monster. Basically, it has the power of a close-range shotgun blast (so all the pellets actually hit the monster) at the maximum effective range of the shotgun with the benefit of never running out of rounds.

Behold the beauty of the emergency hammer, a weapon too goddamn awesome to exist.
Behold the beauty of the emergency hammer, a weapon too goddamn awesome to exist.

  If you opt to use the “flail back and forth” attack, you’ll find that it takes more hit to kill something, but it has tremendous knockback with every hit, making it ideal for any situation where you find yourself mobbed and decide to be brain-dead and kill things instead of running away like a sensible person.

  Now, all this awesome does have a supposed “drawback” in that you can’t move when the weapon is readied—you can only pivot in place. This… isn’t a drawback at all. There is absolutely no occasion where you’d need to move with a weapon prepared when you could just set up shop and let the creatures come to you. The only melee weapon you could potentially move and attack with anyway would be one-handed—which means the knife, which means you’re going to spend more time getting your guts ripped out than killing horrors anyway. Long story short, the emergency hammer, despite all of its fictitiousness, is the best thing ever.

  New monster-mulcher in hand, it’s time to plunder the nightmare hospital’s basement the only way I know how: through wanton murder. The two nurses I ran past earlier are now fertilizer, giving me unfettered access to the morgue. Two more nurses are finishing up shifts in here, until Harry goes and makes them permanent residents. There is a health drink and an ampoule, which will come in handy, I’m sure. Also, Harry manages to comment on something spooky.

I said 'comment', not 'mention anything remotely interesting.'
I said "comment", not "mention anything remotely interesting".

Our hero, folks.

  The other doors are locked, so let’s go and see what the elevator has to offer, shall we? It turns out that the only malfunctioning floor was the nonexistent fourth, so Harry can clamber inside the car just fine. We check out the second floor, only to discover that the vestibule is locked. The third floor? Same thing.

  Sigh.

  BACK TO THE FUCKING STAIRWELL!

  On our way back, there’s one last the doctor we ran past earlier I need to take care of on the first floor. And, in a twist, that actually is the last one I will encounter for the rest of the game. So, yeah, after being introduced to the player for all of one floor of one dungeon, the doctor variant of the parasitized health care professional is forever removed from the game. We only encounter five (or six, if you trigger the respawn after picking up the Queen plate). From here on out, we’ll be getting stabbed exclusively by nurses. I guess it makes sense, considering a hospital would have fewer doctors than nurses, but if there are only these five/six and Dr. Skeeves, that staff party back in Nullrigins was probably super awkward, even without all the sexual harassment.

'So, we gonna go anything about the skulls in the wallpaper, there, Skeeves?'
"So, we gonna do anything about the skulls in the wallpaper, there, Skeeves?"

  You can also check the vending machine in the hall for not one, not two, but three health drinks. You can’t see them, but if you examine it, you get them. I’m pretty sure this is the only moment of its kind in the game, so… neat. I guess.

  We shall break for the day, on the verge of returning to the stairwell. What does this mean for Harry? Find out Friday in the next installment of Traipsing Through Silent Hill: Are Tentacles Standard Hospital Equipment?

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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