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  Greetings Traipsers! Welcome back to the world’s crappiest neighborhood in the world’s crappiest resort destination! When last we left Harry, he had investigated the “other church”, which subsequently caught fire. This, somehow, launched him up the street and into the hospital exam room back with Lisa, who proceeded to blather on about the ominous past of the town, which was so ominous that she ended up saying nothing substantive at all. Then this happened:

This is what we call a 'back to the drawing board' line.
This is what we call a 'back to the drawing board' line.

And then we faded to black.

  Harry wakes up, as he is wont to do, with tetanus and HPV thanks to being face-down on a floor made of viscera and rusty chain link fencing.

Pictured: A typical Sunday morning.
Pictured: A typical Sunday morning.

Keep in mind, there’s a perfectly good couch behind him, but the developers plopped his stupid ass on the floor. He takes a moment to wonder about what the fuck, only to end up questioning whether what’s going on is real or not.

'My brain is making pictures and words happen and I don't get it!'
"My brain is making pictures and words happen and I don't get it!"
Also, he isn't shocked at waking up on the floor in a dingy basement. Thought I'd point that out.

Now, this I can appreciate. He seems to actually acknowledge events around him in a way that implies that he’s more than just a random idiot that we’re unfortunately lumped with. I mean, look at that abstract thought! It’s even a fair assumption to make!

  It would be, anyway, if the supposed surreality of the nightmare world was actually something that Harry reacted to more than once in a while. Or if the game made an emphasis on the surreal nature of events rather than the “horrific” aspects of them. Instead, the most we get out of Harry, for the vast majority of the game, is just shock at random things that he finds questionable. I don’t buy the whole “it’s like being in a dream” thing, because there’s nothing to suggest it. We’re dealing with trippy shit, to be sure, but nothing smacks of “dream logic” or anything of its ilk.


Today's Celebrity Guest: Eddie Izzard!

  I’m not sure how the game could have corrected it, but it seems that actually having Harry behave like a human being would have done wonders to actually make the narrative more dream-like. Or how about that moment in Midwich where we teleport between floors? That could have been a recurring theme of the level, giving it a nonsensical, ephemeral quality. Or even had one hallway that looped on forever? But whatever.

  Harry wonders what to do next, since the road is out and Cheryl might be the thing that Cybil saw floating above the bottomless chasm. He thinks his next course of action should be to head to the hospital to ask if Lisa knows how to fly or, perhaps, if she knows an alternate route. And thus ends the cutscene.

  Free to wander about, the very first thing the camera focuses on is a fresh Flauros mark on the floor, which I guess is a bad thing if you happen to be a cultist, but is good news if you’re some average joe living anywhere but Silent Hill.

Pictured: Something that we're supposed to stop for some reason.
Pictured: Something that we're supposed to stop for some reason.

There isn’t a whole lot to do here. Harry won’t comment on anything—the couch, the mark on the floor, the corpses on the wall, nada. So the only thing to do is to ask the terrified nurse if we she knows an alternate route that somehow skirts a potentially limitless void between here and the southern side of town.

  With that in mind, we head out of the antique shop and onto the street, where we are now in dark-n-rainy Silent Hill. If memory serves, this means that enemy spawn rates skyrocket, so that’s something to look out for. To confirm this suspicion, the very first thing that happens is that I’m accosted by a simian who knocks Harry down but, due to my amazing stick-flailing action, is immediately thrown off before it does any damage to me. Harry is also able to get to his feet and plant the emergency hammer deep into the beast’s spine, teaching it a valuable lesson in whether or not it should attack people (it shouldn’t).

  The other thing that I discover on the way to the hospital is that dogs have been given a very gross makeover.

What's wrong with your face?
What's wrong with your face?

They now have the pleasant look of roasted flesh and heads that appear to not actually be heads. They’re still easy to dodge by running in a straight line, although they have increased physics-defying in-air mobility, so if you decide to change direction after they leap, you’re probably taking a hit. On top of that, they get a significant power boost, but there aren’t too many situations where you’ll be expected to duke it out with them. And even if we did, we have more than two hundred bullets with which to end their gross, oven-crisp lives. They also take the same amount of punishment before falling as the non-charbroiled dogs did, so if push comes to shove, we can knock them right the fuck over.

  The road ends in an abyss (SURPRISE), so we have to take a detour into the mall. I also take a moment to appreciate how the rain water collects on the chain link streets, only to fall into the void. It’s some classy shit.

Well, I think it's neat.
Well, I think it's neat.

  The mall is… fucking boring. We don’t really have anything to access on the first floor. Outside of the escalators, there are a bank of televisions that are predictably off. However, when we try to board our non-functioning ascendatory device…

  As you can see, Cheryl is… um… bound to a chair? And doomed to forever repeat the same thing that she said on the phone, I guess? I… think… this implies that Cheryl is in some kind of danger, but… I mean… that was kind of already implied, maybe? But also, Cybil just saw her floating across Bachmann road toward the lake, so…

  Fuck it.

  So, outside of the Flauros that appears after the televisions simultaneous tune themselves to KPLOT, there are a bunch of different symbols that pop up. Don’t worry—they won’t really be relevant outside of some guest appearances later. The best part about sticking around to watch the monitors (you’re free to go after Harry shouts “Cheryl!”), you get the first indication that Cheryl and Alessa are connected.

Behold! Our... like... first pertinent moment of subtlety.
Behold! Our... like... first pertinent moment of subtlety.

It’s a relatively brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it image, but I have indeed seen what you have done there.

  Now, imagine if you’re playing this game first like a good little consumer—that is, you didn’t go the Origins-first route. This is your first and only chance to really start making the connections between Cheryl and Alessa. I mean, sure, the girls look alike, but this is our only substantial sign of what the storytellers have in mind. It’s kind of neat. A little too subtle, but neat nonetheless.

  There’s also the Flauros that appears. I wonder—is a digital reproduction of the Flauros just as potent? Or does it not work as well as whatever the fuck Alessa is doing?

  Anyway, we have nowhere else to go but up, so let’s head to the second floor. The radio starts to freak out the moment the loading screen finishes popping us where it needs to. Before we find out what’s making that racket, we can take a detour into a jewelry shop and pick up some rifle ammunition and a first aid kit.

  Rifle ammunition? Oh, hell yeah.

  Freshly provisioned, we sally forth into the darkness and discover the source of the noise—a grub chewing on a corpse.

Well, this is the second worst restaurant I've been to.
Well, this is the second worst restaurant I've been to.

Gross.

  Moving forward to put the beast out of its misery, we find that the walkway collapses under Harry’s wispy 98-pound frame. We recover in a gigantic litter box or something.

I don't joke about such moments of sublime terror.
I don't joke about such moments of sublime terror.

And then Harry is attacked by a caterpillar.

You have to learn that I'm not kidding about these things.
You have to learn that I'm not kidding about these things.

  So… this is a boss fight. Or a miniboss. Or whatever.

  The fact is that we are now fighting a fucking caterpillar in this fucking horror game renowned for its cerebral approach to horror. Fuck.

The horror.
The horror.

The caterpillar spends most of its time beneath the surface of the kitty litter, rising only to hock a floating ball of yellow-green something at our hero.

The horror.
The horror.

It can also do damage by… um… running into you. Because reasons.

The horror.
The horror.

It tends to do both of these silly things at once, but you can tell the difference between which one connects because Harry spazzes out hilariously when hit with snot, but just staggers when headbutted.

The horror.
The horror.

This is the extent of the fight.

The horror.
The horror.

  Melee weapons are mostly ineffective, as only the head is vulnerable, rendering the timing of your attacks really finicky. Further complicating things is that if you are standing on the litter when it surfaces, it will almost immediately dive back in after doing its drive-by sneezing, meaning that you either choose to risk getting hit for a clean shot or dodging and forgoing attacking the dopey-looking thing.

  The solution is to actually stand on the collapsed walkway, which forces the caterpillar-from-someone’s-really-shitty-hell to take extra-long between surfacing and submerging. This will allow you to get a couple extra bullets in its dome. If you insist on melee, use the emergency hammer, wait until you hear it surface, do Harry’s emergency backward hop, prep the attack, and beat its head in when it draws near. It takes about 31 handgun bullets or nine blows with the hammer to cause it to curl up, then crawl away in defeat before smashing its way out of the mall’s front doors. This also creates a convenient escape for Harry to continue his journey.

Sure, I can totally see this happening after a caterpillar takes 31 bullets to its face. Why not?
Sure, I can totally see this happening after a caterpillar takes 31 bullets to its face. Why not?

  I love how the game cuts away when the thing smashes through the doors, because doing the off-screen transition from intact to broken glass is far easier than actually animating anything.

  I further deeply enjoy how A) the fucking sand pit in a mall is completely unexpected and totally stupid (not even a plastic fort to show there was a kid’s play area or something? C’mon!), B) our exit was barred by a glass door surrounded by pre-smashed glass windows, all of which Harry could have broken himself with his arsenal and escaped unmolested should he have chosen to do so, and C) there was already a Harry-sized hole he could have crawled through.

YOU DID THIS ON PURPOSE.
YOU DID THIS ON PURPOSE.

  DEVELOPERS: Either give us legitimate barriers or stop loading us up with weapons that would make smashing obstacles a perfectly advisable course of action. You know what could have worked here? The caterpillar could have created a traversable tunnel in its escape. Why did you think this was the superior idea? The worst part is that you designed the arena—someone had to spend time designing the walls, and that person deliberately chose to have a gaping hole in the door. Why the fucking hell would you have made glass doors already have a GODDAMN HOLE IN THEM!?

  Whatever.

  Insect threat nullified, we take a moment to explore the arena and discover the last firearm available in a non-New Game + run through—the hunting rifle. The range on this monster is preposterous by Silent Hill standards. The downside to using this weapon of little-bits-of-destruction-in-singular-increments? You have to be stationary to use it. Well, that, and ammo is extremely limited, meaning that if you’re using this on anything other than the final boss, you’re fiercely fucking yourself over.

  Oh, and it is precisely as powerful as the emergency hammer/shotgun. Its range is literally the only thing going for it. I tested it out on the caterpillar just for a lark—nine rounds. I have no clue why they have three weapons with identical damage output, two of which have essentially the same range. People rag on Nullrigins for having so many melee weapons—at least the occasionally did different shit.

  The other “benefit” is we get to see Harry attempt to look like a badass and fail miserably.

Harry, unclear on where we get the phrase 'shouldering a gun' from.
Harry, unclear on where we get the phrase 'shouldering a gun' from.

Kids, never fire from the hip unless you want to find out how easy it is to miss your target. Or how violently you can land on your ass.
Now, there are other rifles that are within reach of the mall’s gun store, which I guess is a thing that happens. See, this would be a moment where maybe grabbing a second one would be beneficial. Why? Well, you could give one to Cybil or perhaps Lisa, the unarmed nurse. Sadly, however, Harry will only steal the one on the sandy ground.

'Oh, but the other stuff would be stealing. This is just lying there. I mean, it's basically litter.'--Harry 'Flexible Morality' Mason
"Oh, but the other stuff would be stealing. This is just lying there. I mean, it's basically litter."--Harry "Flexible Morality" Mason

  Fuck you, Harry.

  Fully geared up and ready to face the darkness anew, join me next time for: Two Boss Fights in Two Updates; What Gives?

BONUS: If you want to watch the nearly ten minutes of the rambling in the 'other church', boy howdy, are you in luck!

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

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