I can’t believe I am doing this.
After a long minute where I stare up at the ladder to Ravenholm I enlist my sister, hereafter known as Hobbit, to bear witness for this leg of the game. It’s nice to have someone watch your back, even if they silently sit in judgment of you for the entire time.
I’M JUST TRYING TO TURN A CORNER WITHOUT SCREAMING, HOBBIT.
Okay, time out: we need to have a Come To Jesus/No Your Godfather is Legit Dead, Harry © moment.
I took no pictures in this chapter. None. My ability to snap still-screens is inversely related to the proximity of a hell creature making its way for my face.
Instead, I have taken some stills from a very helpful YouTube playthrough (he-yo GamingReviews) and made small illustrations of my experience. (This is why it took me three fucking months to put this up. Well, that and I got really into RPG horror games. Don’t judge me.)
“You could,” I can hear you think, “just play though it again and take the photos.”
I am never playing though this chapter again. Ever.
So I manage to get up the ladder to Ravenholm with my flashlight on and my gun ready. I wish I had watched people play this more so I could remember exactly when the zombies come at you. The twisty-turny hallway of the wood shack of horrors doesn’t help my anxiety.
Next we go through Jed Sawyer’s quaint shed of blades and blood where we meet a friend:
It’s okay. I didn’t really want to sleep tonight.
Then the fun begins.
I make the rookie mistake of favoring my guns over my gravity gun. I’m of the ‘spray and pray’ persuasion so it’s much more satisfying to mow these creatures down than to neatly bisect them and deal with the potential aftermath.
This would be the only time I wish HL2 was more like Dead Space.
I discover when you use the gravity gun you can make zombies blow up. Shocking, right? No one’s ever thought of this before. Especially since the developers give you five in each room. I begin to lug around these large, unwieldy barrels. I tend to get stuck in doorways and run into walls. Then I run into a hoard of the vile creatures.
“You need to back up,” Hobbit tells me.
What’s worse is when I sometimes do hit them and they only catch on fire. Then they start that horrific shrieking – that mangled, terrified groaning in which you can hear the words “Oh, God” and “Help me.” I skitter around the room as they follow me.
I love Father Grigori. Have I mentioned that? I know we haven’t met him yet, but I love him for these useful little creations that eliminate the zombies while I stay a nice distance away, out of reach. Like I’ve said before: if I’m in a zombie apocalypse I’m just going to get a crossbow, park myself in a tree, and wait it out.
I break through a boarded up doorway and freeze, listening hard for the noise that will confirm some other freakish thing heard my crowbar.
“I can’t do this,” I tell Hobbit as I look out at an alleyway. “Why am I doing this?”
Actual question: why is this whole place covered in blood when the zombies only spurt green puss as you shoot/maim/kill them? Shouldn’t they be spurting some red stuff too, to account for all the wall decoration?
Also: WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DARK HALLWAYS IN THIS PLACE?
The noises in this game freak me out. I spend most of my time hovering outside of doors, listening for head crabs.
There really is something behind there and I jitter across the room, shrieking.
“You’re going to run out of bullets,” Hobbit complains.
There is, a little further on, a secondary alley to go down.
“You’re low on health,” Hobbit pipes up.
Yeah, fuck that shit.
I’m not bothered about my health in this chapter. I mean, let’s be real for a moment: the biggest threat to my survival are my attempts to survive.
At one point I can hear them moaning inside the next room. I wring my hands.
“Why do I have to go this way?” I whine to Hobbit, knowing there is no chance of evasion.
“You can do this,” I tell myself. “What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? They scare you shitless and you accidentally blow yourself up? Been there, done that.”
Strangely heartened, I get them with an explosive canister and my hand gun.
“Did you see that?” I yelp, repeatedly smacking Hobbit on the shoulder. “Did you see that?”
“Yes!” she protests.
“Ha!” I point at her, “Ha!” I point at the screen. I am a god among men, a terminator in a sea of easy targets. I will demolish, I will divide, I will conquer–
A head crab flies at my face.
Well, it was good while it lasted.
And then I see them in the distance, running on rooftops, sounding like congested elephants.
I make it to the roof where Grigori tosses me a shotgun. See? Love that guy. Crazy as a fucking hatter, but still…
Spray and pray, people. Spray and pray.
The drain pipes begin to shake. I quietly swear under my breath. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’d be loudly incanting with a long list of four-letter words, but it seems a little weird to drop the f-bomb around your kid sister.
I instead settle on the extremely clever phrase: “Mother-freaking monkeys!”
I’ve got to say, I’m getting better at this – not technically, I’m still dropping barrels when I should throw them – but I’ve definitely gotten better at handling the whole “terrifying potato tries to mate with my head” phobia.
I think this is also what happens when you survive a week of an apocalypse.
That said, you know in a game when you get a shitload of ammo and health you are in for it.
I very rapidly apply shotguns to faces.
EVERYONE ABANDONED ME, FATHER. THAT’S HOW.
He suggests I put my soul in the hands of Jesus, but I’ve got other religious affiliations.
I’m sorry. It gets me every time.
I cheer when I finally shoot a quick zombie right in the conker. Shotguns are the best. End of story.
I find my way to another motherload of supplies and Grigori sends over a cart, which means I’m about to be swarmed.
“Do you want to play?” I innocently offer to Hobbit.
Ok, here we go – I can see the end in sight. It is a sweet, distant thing, filled with antlions, sand and other more-annoying-than-actually-scary stuff. Come to me, you over-grown insects!
But first, a graveyard. Lovely.
We blow things up, which I enjoy, and then Father Grigori lets me out of Ravenholm. You sir, are my hero.
Never have I been happier to see a creepy mineshaft.
When we plummet into the deep, murky water I turn to Hobbit.
“What do you think is in here?” I ask her with a sly glance, but she only gives me a very unimpressed look. I can’t win.
I am running, running toward sweet salvation – I am free! No more. I did it! I cackle gleefully. I’m pleased as punch to be out of that hellhole–
I’M SUPPOSED TO BE SAFE, YOU FUCKER.
I need a break.