(Any pictures I add to this post will come from the following gameplay. This footage is nothing spectacular, and is not a prerequisite to understanding these posts. If there is ever a point that I am making that requires this gameplay in order to understand, I will include a timestamp so that you can skip the unimportant parts and get straight to the few seconds of relevant footage.)
After a quick pit stop at the first save point, continuing on the trail reveals that the save is only a few seconds away from a gate. Entering this gate brings us to a cemetery, where we meet a new character.
(Cutscene begins at 1 minute, ends at 3:30)
There is not much I want to say about this scene, but I find it odd that the first thing Angela does upon being startled is apologize for… nothing? The next thing that stands out to me about this scene is when Angels repeats the word ‘lost’. I think it is the way that the she drags out the “La” sound, and her mouth movements seem strange as well. Angela slipping and referring to her mother as Mama, is worth noting, but I’ll get to that much later.
The Grey Mile
Anyway, we meet Angela and then continue onward, exiting the graveyard. Exiting the graveyard begins the longest stretch of uninterrupted play time in the entire game: six minutes and twenty seconds of pure walking. There are no distractions on this road save for the sound of footsteps behind James. There are no enemies to fight, alternate paths to take, items to collect or points to examine. Simply James, the fog, and unsettling music, and unexplained sound of grass being crunched underfoot. There is merely one gate that serves as a short load screen. After this gate, we continue walking until we reach we finally emerge on the streets of Silent Hill. This long walk encapsulates the philosophy behind every aspect of this game: Less is more. This philosophy will be demonstrated time and time again as the game continues, but this is the first major instance of it. The lack of interesting events and sights on this walk creates an atmosphere of uneasiness, as nothing overtly threatening ever happens, but the possibility of danger always exists just beyond the edge of the fog. The developers could have certainly made this walk more frightening by adding monsters or other threats, but straightforward horror is not what this game is about. It was certainly a risk to place this long stretch of absolutely nothing right at the start, but the atmosphere established by its inclusion was certainly worth it. This trek also serves to isolate the player: the walk takes so long that by the time you reach the town, it feels like you have entered a place cut off from the world at large. The path is also so long and tedious that it deters players from making a return trip; moving forward is the only real option.
Once on the streets, a dead end to the left prompts us to instead go to the right.
This the first point of interest since leaving the graveyard nearly seven minutes ago (at walking speed), along with the shadowy figure in the fog that James notices at this point. Mystified by the shadowy figure in the fog, James decides to follow the trail of blood. From reaching the streets, to finding this blood mark, to reaching the shadowy figure takes another roughly three minutes and twenty five seconds. This, in turn, means that the walk that begins after leaving the graveyard takes just shy of ten minutes to complete, with only a single load screen and this clue on the ground near the end of the walk to break up the monotony. This walk into town was a risk due to its lack of interesting gameplay, but what is lost in fun gameplay is made up for in an opressive, isolated atmosphere.
The Combat Sucks
Following the blood leads us past the next save point, which also has two health drinks placed near it. Past the save is the end of the long walk, where we encounter the shadowy figure seen near the blood mark.
Faced with monster, James grabs a plank from some nearby debris, and gives the monster a few solid whacks.
Combat in this game sucks. James’ attacks have long wind ups, long recovery times, he has no interesting combos such as in a game like Devil May Cry, he doesn’t have a wide variety of attacks, and the tank controls just make the whole ordeal even less entertaining. A few guns will become available over the course of the game, but this is certainly no Resident Evil 4; the gunplay here sucks as much as the melee combat. The combat, however, is perfect. This is a slow, suspenseful horror game, so it makes perfect sense that the combat is not engaging and action packed; having high octane action would run counter to the atmosphere that makes the game so amazing.
With the monster defeated, James picks up a malfunctioning radio. which is dispensing some distorted, garbled speech. With the collection of the plank and the radio, I remembered to show off the letter from Mary, as well as her picture.
With the monster dead, we are now faced for the first time since leaving the graveyard with a lack of direction on our next objective. James’ only guess as to what Mary meant by the ‘special place’ is Rosewater Park, so our only option is to head there.
(This map is from a later point, where I already reached the park. Hence the check mark on it)
Vachss Road, where we kill the monster, is a dead end; we have to turn around and head back to Lindsey Street. The most obvious path to the park from the start of Vachss Road is to just continue down Lindsey Street to Nathan Avenue, then continue on Nathan until you arrive at the park. There is one snag in this plan, however.
The entire road has collapsed into a bottomless void, so we have to seek an alternate route. Nealey Street also intersects Nathan Avenue, but Nealey has similarly become impassable. The only other road that connects to Nathan Avenue (the road Rosewater Park, and hopefully Mary, is located at) is Munson Street. Katz Street and Saul Street both intersect Munson, but both are blocked off. With all the obvious routes blocked, the only option is to wander the streets searching for a clue. Saul street has an RV you can enter that contains a note sending you to Nealey’s Bar, which in turn contains a map directing you to Martin Street. Martin Street is only a short walk from where we killed the monster (Vachss Street), so you are quite likely to go down this road as soon as you being exploring. Martin Street is also hard to miss when looking at the map: It runs clean through Sanders and Katz, but ends in the middle of the town instead of continuing to Nathan. No other street on the map is such an obvious dead end, causing it to stand out. The shape of Martin Street, as well as its proximity to Vachss Street, ensure that players will take notice.
Whether you get the clue from the bar, or head straight to Martin Street like I did, you will encounter a corpse holding a key.
The map tells us that there are two apartment buildings, Woodside and Blue Creek, but examining the key in the inventory screen will show a tag that says Woodside. With the key in hand, we head to apartments, pick up the map, and save the game.
Wandering the streets is not exactly a gold mine for content to analyze, but the apartments fortunately are. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you next time.