(In honor of the holiday, I thought I’d bring up one of my favorite games ever, since it’s seasonally appropriate. Given the age of the post, there’s a few things to note: Silent Hills is no longer a thing, Metal Gear Solid V already came out, but Allison Road looks like it might fill the void.)
I’ve been playing P.T. of late. Lovely little thing. Inspired at least one near accident of the washing-the-pants variety. Very pretty, ripe for all kinds of conspiratorial discussion (such as the ideas presented here, which are at least amusing.) Overall, I found it pretty enjoyable (even if the last puzzle is ridiculously frustrating and no matter how much I hate Norman Reedus), though it gives me a perma-sadface since it’s going to be another 2 years before we actually get to play the finished product, and that’s assuming Hideo Kojima doesn’t keep dragging his feet and push Metal Gear Solid V back, thus pushing Silent Hills back.
But this isn’t actually about P.T./Silent Hills. I’m feeling rather nostalgic, and instead have been thinking about the second-best video game ever crafted by human hands. That being Silent Hill 2.
I loves me some Silent Hill 2. Has everything I could want. Moody, dreary atmosphere. Jump scares. The creeping terror that makes you go “LOL. Nope!” and skedaddle instead of opening a door. And the steadily intensifying worry that you may in fact be playing a murderer who deserves to be filleted by angry demons. (Oh, sorry. Spoiler warning. But seriously, there’s a statute of limitations on that sort of thing, you know.)
But one thing SH2 didn’t have was more exploration of James’ fellow travelers in hell; Eddie and Angela. Now, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about Eddie. I don’t like him, I find him ultimately pointless (there are so many better ways they could have presented the “What if…?” questions that Eddie serves to embody), and I took a savage glee in blasting him away in the slaughterhouse. Which, I suppose, might have been the point. But Angela intrigues me. Both for who she is and what she represents – that being an “innocent” of sorts, trapped in Silent Hill more because she believes herself guilty than for any actual wrongdoing. Showcasing that Silent Hill is a prison you make for yourself, that you choose for yourself, not an automatic “You’re bad, now go to hell.” Similar themes were explored (to a degree) in Downpour (as Murphy – canonically, at least, since you have some options on how you want it to play out – is ultimately a good man, who has tried not to hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it), but Angela really sums up the lost innocence angle, and her bipolar fits are incredibly enjoyable to watch.
But the best scene with Angela takes place towards the end of the game. James is nearly to his goal – the room he shared with his deceased wife, where all secrets will be revealed and he may just yet “meet her” as she promised in her (admittedly imaginary) letter. Eddie’s quest is over, stopped via shotgun to the face at the hands of James. But Angela is stuck, repeating the same actions again and again, unable to resolve her private hell, unable to move forward. At one point, James has to save her from her own personal demons, represented by her abusive, rapist father, only for her to scurry off again.
Then comes the big moment.
James finds Angela in the hotel, with everything ablaze. Quite a contrast to the way the place has appeared thusfar. In the dialogue that follows, you learn that this is Angela’s version of Silent Hill. An inferno where she endlessly searches for her lost family and is constantly tortured by her father. And she does what we, as players, refuse to do in the guise of James: She gives up. She walks into the fire. Like Eddie, it serves as another interesting “What if…?” moment, a potential future for James; but it’s also strangely touching, and makes me want to cry for her. Her last remark, tossed out almost offhand as James comments on the surroundings, is great: “You see it too? For me, it’s always like this.” She sounds almost bored, completely shut off from human emotion; she also sounds unbelievably tired. And then she goes. (If you want to see the whole scene, it’s right here. Sorry for using the HD version; I know the voices are less impressive, but it’s all I could find.)
That moment stunned me. It punched me right in the feels, almost as hard as the eventual revelation that waits for James just beyond that stairwell. And I loved it.
Fast forward to the Xbox rendition of my favorite shiny (yes, at the time it was my favorite game. Metal Gear Solid 3 had yet to appear on scene.) Restless Dreams was rumored to have additional scenarios, leading to all sorts of fan speculation as to what they might be. In the end, we got “Born From A Wish,” where we get to play Maria for a bit as she “constructs” herself to be James’ ideal, learns to hate him, and helps an old ghost move on. I wasn’t fond of it; only played it twice (once on the PS2 Greatest Hits edition, just to see it, and once on the HD Collection because it gave me a Trophy.) But one of the juicier tidbits was the possibility of getting to play through as Angela and Eddie, see their visions of Silent Hill.
I wanted that so badly. Like I said, Eddie can stuff it, but I still think it might have been more interesting than the Maria scenario we did get, and it might have even expanded on his character in ways that made me care about him a little, or at least look at him as something other than a simple plot device. But I would gladly have paid $50 for the chance to watch Angela’s descent into suicidal madness, to the point where walking up those stairs seemed like a good idea. Maybe even have the chance to save her somehow (after all, SH games typically have multiple endings, even if the canon ones are usually, at best, pyrrhic victories.) Now, if SH2 came out today, I’m sure we’d have gotten that at some point (the siren song of $10 DLC packs is just too great to ignore for developers, and alternate characters in a mostly-already-existing engine and world are quick and dirty ways to get it; just look at Infamous: First Light. No, really, look at it. It’s awesome.) We never got that chance, sadly. (But, thankfully, we never got the Laura scenario that some folks swore would be there, so I guess maybe it’s a wash?) Thus leaving the possibility of Angela’s redemption my one great unrequited game love.
What about you folks? What game or character left you begging for more, maybe even dangling the possibility in front of you only to snatch it cruelly away? Drop your thoughts in the box below!