on 15 September 2011
Silent hill was one of the first games I bought for the original playstation back in 1999, and while I had bought about 2 other games for the console as well, this was the game I ended up playing more than any other...
The story sees a father by the name of Harry mason, whose wife died of an illness years ago. So he decides to go on a vacation with his 7 year old daughter Cheryl to the resort town of silent hill for a little time off work. But while driving there, he fails to spot a person crossing the road and steers in panic, resulting in him crashing the car into a gully on the brink of silent hill.
Harry wakes up in his car after the crash and finds that his daughter Cheryl has gone missing. So like any old loving father, he gets out of the car and starts looking for Cheryl...
I don't want to spoil too much of the plot, so I'll leave it there.
Silent hill is one of the most creepy and psychological experiences you'll ever play. In fact it is probably the scariest game of all time. Sure, the graphics are outdated and the voice acting is a bit monotone and wooden, but this does not detract from the scare factor one bit. In fact, I remember buying this game, and I couldn't even get a memory card to go with it, so I played through the entire game in one night with no saves, meaning that if I died once, it was back to square 1, and that just made the game even more chilling and suspenseful, knowing that there was no place I was safe being in. When I beat the game after many hours of sleep deprivation and suspense, I knew this was going to be a night to remember, a night of satisfaction, but most importantly, my first night in silent hill.
You can't call yourself a horror fan, or even a gamer, if you've never played the first (and best) silent hill for the ps1. It's one of those games you'll find yourself returning to time and time again to immerse yourself once again.
Even though it will never be as scary as my first playthrough, I still get the tingles up my spine when I hear that siren.........
on 24 November 2010
This is the first instalment of the Silent Hill series and even though it's over a decade old, it's still able to grip me in fear. The basic plot summary is: a man and his daughter stumble into the abandoned town of Silent Hill. The daughter, 7-year-old Cheryl, goes missing so Harry stumbles through the dark town on a quest to find her.
The graphics are, by today's standards, sub par, yet in a way I think they add a dark, gritty texture to the game that makes the world of Silent Hill seem almost dream-like (or should I say nightmare-like?) This is a game I have completed many times before, and each time I play, I realise something new, or figure something out about a character etc. It's a game with so much depth that you can play it multiple times and not get bored with it.
The characters are well-rounded. The voice acting is good, except for the actor who plays Harry Mason, as I think he is quite wooden, though in a way, this is good too because Harry speaks in such a monotone style of voice that you often wonder if he's just losing his mind. The plot is rather confusing but this is what Silent Hill is all about. It's a game that let's you come up with your own conclusion and theories, even if they may be way off the mark. There are multiple endings that you can achieve depending on how well you play the game and what you do within the game to unlock them.
The game play itself can be hard to get to grips with. It's easier to control Harry with the D-pad. Harry doesn't appear to aim at monsters so half the time you end up missing a monster and wasting ammo. Unless you want a really good rank at the end of the game, it's sometimes easier just to run, especially when you are outside and being pursued by a flying monster. Those are the hardest to kill, in my opinion. There are slower monsters roaming the corridors (the school, hospital) so these are much easier to kill with a stick or a metal pole and just as easier to shoot.
All in all, this is an awesome game that I will continue to play for years to come.
on 4 February 2011
The first game of one of the best franchises of all time!
This masterpiece was launched back in 1999 and people still still play it today and will continue to do so.
The game's storyline is amazing and twisted, like a true psychological survival horror should be, and will keep you hooked until the very end of the game.
The gameplay was easy to get used to and the game plays smoothly, altough you may bump into a wall every now and then, but nothing serious. It uses a 3rd person view for most part of the game and sometimes fixed camera view, wich really adds up to the survival horror experience. Weapons, both melee and firearms, are really easy to use and are balanced with the enemies' difficulty. Altough sometimes, it's better and safer to just run away.
Graphics and visuals are pretty good (considering the time of it's release). The sceneries, environments and music were very well done, by a great team of artists, and they all contribute to the "allways on the edge of the seat" feel.
Overall, this game is one of my favorites of all time. A classic survival horror game that should be on every fan of genre's shelf.
Horror video games are a strange animal, really. Specifically, how to approach them. If you give the user too little ability to act on things (to run, to fight, to explore) then you're basically make them watch a movie whilst pushing buttons now and again. But if you go too far and let them fight/run/affect things TOO much, then you're basically giving them an action game. Horror comes from helplessness, after all. The feeling of being overpowered, of not understanding what's going on and ergo how you can fight it. I think there's a tightrope to be walked in videogame land in order to get this right, and it's one that many don't manage to traverse all the way.
The Resident Evil series of games is hit and miss in this regard, but most would agree that in later instalments, it's fallen firmly onto the side of Action rather than Horror. There's few genuine scares, although you do get a sort of intensity from fighting giant creatures with shoddy weaponry, or running away when there's just too many bosses. But this isn't quite the same as the kind of horror tension you get from walking through dark virtual woods, never knowing what might happen next, or what you'll do when it does. If the answer is always "whatever comes out I'll just shoot it in the face with one of my 15 fully-loaded guns" then you've lost a step into Horror right there.
To be fair to Resident Evil, the threat here is a biological one, which whilst still scary, does give the option of "you can shoot it." It might be a big squishy tentacly thing that was once a small child, but it will still have some weakspot that you can empty your shotgun into. It's alive, in a way, so you can kill it. That in itself removes some degree of fear. One way around this is done expertly on The Last of Us, in which your fear comes not from "am I going to survive this?" (because again, you have guns aplenty) but rather "is the child I'm protecting going to survive it?" Your fear becomes a parental one, rather than a purely selfish one. And it works. The emotion, the voice acting, the fact that it's just bloody brilliant, makes The Last of Us one of the best survival horror games I've ever played.
But again. this is a very different type of fear. Watching over a small child whose death could mean the loss of humanity's last hope (play the game for full explanation of that! no spoilers here) is very different to the feeling of "I daren't open that locked door". For me as a rational and atheist adult, THAT fear is why I come to horror videogames. It's fun, it makes you feel like a ridiculous idiot, and it gets the heart pumping. It's like a rollercoaster, except you don't have to wait 45 minutes to start the fun (well, unless you're playing a game on the Xbox One and have to install it first.)
The best example for me of that irrational "whats around the next corner" fear, comes from the Silent Hill franchise. Now this is a series of games that I really do have a love/hate relationship with. In the 15+ years that I've been visiting that foggy little town, it's been everything from brilliant to s***e to not bad, to really good again. Apparently there's another one due on the current generation of consoles, but it's been cancelled and re-started so many times that it's probably currently residing in the same limbo land as Del Toro's Mountains of Madness film. I hope they're friends.
The premise of Silent Hill is not easily summed up in a punchy article like this. Suffice it to say it's a place where wierd s*** happens. It never looks like a particularly pleasant place at the best of times, it's always foggy and there's always wierd folk about, but every now and then the whole place "shifts" into a darker, Hellish version of itself that has you longing for the safety of the normal "still unpleasant but not as much" version. It's like the videogame equivalent of Barnsley before and after dark. Exactly why your character is visiting this place depends on which game you're playing. As I write this there's about 9, depending which titles you count as official or reboots or whatever. The very first game sees a father trying to find his daughter who is lost in the place, all the whilst beset by the various horrors that the town has to offer. Later games see protagonists who aren't so cut and dry, their motives not quite clear or perhaps not even quite so benevolent.
One idea introduced later in the games is that Silent Hill itself sits on some kind of "Nexus of Realities", meaning that there is no defined reality for the place. In other words it's a place where people's thoughts can manifest, but never, it seems, in a nice way. That's why the Cliver-Barker torture-porn-esque monsters look the way they do. You bring your own monsters to Silent Hill, but they stay long after you've left. So the faceless nurses (who are strangely appealing) are from someone who was scared of hospitals, the bound bodies swinging from ceilings are from someone who saw their father hang themselves, the twisted mangled corpses are from a soldier who lost his nut and killed some civilians in brutal ways, etc etc. Silent Hill takes your worst fears and regrets and makes them manifest. The older games also have some stuff about a cult and a demon trying to be reborn there through a human vessel, but that's rarely referenced once you get halfway through the series.
As with mostly anything that runs past a decade, the series suffers from having too many writers trying to put their own take on it, so trying to tie up the later stories and revelations with the first few games doesn't quite work. The movie adaptations (at least the first one) does a good job of forming a cohesive narrative that makes sense for the viewer, but the games as a collective whole never quite manage it. I played them through again recently, switching between various consoles as required, in the hope that without the gap of years between each game, the story WOULD flow better and make a full picture. Turns out, it doesn't. There's been too any chefs now, and you can't link together their offerings in any way that will taste nice. That's how you end up with loose explanations like "there's lots of Silent Hills", and other equally less-than-satisfying answers. I think the way around this is to take each game as a separate entity. Forget what happened before or after, just play the story as though it's the only that exists, and then its less annoying. Each one still leaves more unanswered questions than Lost did, however, so the irritation still persists.
I'm not going to go too far into the technical side of the Silent Hill games, but suffice it to say that fluid they aint. The graphics are usually 'ok' if not brilliant, but the control systems - even on the newer releases - always feels clunky and outdated. As though you're controlling an action figure for whom the thought of reloading a gun and walking at the same time is an abject impossibility. You persevere, though, because if you're a real gamer then you'll have had to endure much worse than this over the years.
The question raised is why keep returning to Silent Hill, when there's clearly such flaws with it? The answer to that is based on two things: scares and potential. The games actually provide more creepy, uncomfortable skin crawling moments than most other Horror games I'm aware of. Sure stuff jumps out and makes you jump, but that's not quite the same somehow. It's the protracted fear, the discomfort, that makes this title what it is. I also mentioned potential. It's a funny thing really, but I pick up every new Silent Hill title with that same hope each time. Maybe this will be the one. The one with good graphics and a good control system, with decent voice acting and not just the best effort they could get from whichever Japanese person in the office spoke English. Maybe the story will make sense and the dialogue won't be cheesey. Maybe it'll link back everything together and you'll go "ohhhh, I get it!".
It hasn't happened in 15+ years and 9 videogames, but nevertheless, I keep finding myself infront of that crumbling "Welcome to Silent Hill" sign, with my radio crackling and my torch battery running dangerously low.
Been there so many times now I feel that I ought to start walking tours.
"On your left we have some fog, and.......if you ignore the faces........some saucy nurses."