Silent Hill (Available exclusively on PlayStation)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Release Date: January 31st, 1999
PlayStation Network Release Date: September 10th, 2009
Parent Talk: Silent Hill was originally rated M for mature because of animated blood and gore, and animated violence. That remains true today. While the graphics haven’t aged all too well, the game still features some rather disturbing imagery, lots of blood, and an overall creepy environment that most adults find tough to play at night, while they’re all alone. This is certainly not a videogame for minors.
Plays Like: The tank controls made famous from Resident Evil are featured here, although the game separates itself from that legendary series by not resorting to cheap scares and actually gets inside your head and messes with your emotions. It was one of the very first games that challenged Resident Evil because it was so different, and gamers couldn’t stop thinking about the creepy setting long after they had completed the game.
Review Basis: I finished the game countless times upon its original release, and quickly blasted through it for this very review.
One note to make is that the video review is entirely made up of the very earliest portions of the game. I did this on purpose so as not to spoil any of the settings and environments for those who have never played the game before. Trust me, you’re going to want to experience the whole game for yourself.
Before continuing, did you know that Silent Hill was heavily censored for its release outside Japan? It’s true, even the North American version had many different elements changed so it would pass through the ratings board. Many of the enemies look like children with knives, and that just wouldn’t fly with the censor boards. In Europe the enemy designs were even more radically altered than the North American version. Ok that’s enough about censorship, let’s jump right into the game.
Atmosphere, it’s all about the atmosphere. Silent Hill operates on an entirely different playing field than Resident Evil because it doesn’t want to simply scare you with cheap tricks, it wants to mess with your mind. This is a physiological thriller more so than an action game. It succeeds, tremendously well. From the eerie sound effects, to the radio which omits static noise the closer you get to an enemy, the game is always reminding you that you’re not safe. From traveling through a fogy town, to the darkest depths of your imagination, Silent Hill, challenges you in ways very few other PS1 games did, and it’s for that reason why so much of the game has held up superbly.
The story is also the game’s biggest strength. It starts off with Harry and his daughter Cheryl making their way to the small town of Silent Hill to spend some time together on a little vacation. While driving a woman suddenly passes in front of them and Harry swerves out of the way, causing the car to flip and crash. When Harry comes to, he sees Cheryl in front of the jeep, through the thick fog that has enveloped the town. As he makes his way towards her she starts to walk off in the opposite direction. What’s going on, and why would she run away from her father? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Silent Hill.
+ The music and sound effects are truly what make this game. Akira Yamaoka did a wonderful job, and to think that he wasn’t the original composer, he was brought on after the original departed the project. With incredible industrial tunes, creepy melodies, and countless memorable sounds, Silent Hill’s soundtrackis considered a modern day classic.
+ While dated by today’s standards, the graphics do their job well. The town is completely covered in fog, but that’s ok as it allows the details in the buildings and environments to shine through. The grain effect also works extremely well in making the players feel uneasy. If you’ve got a weak stomach you might want to skip out on Silent Hill as it’s extremely gory, and there are plenty of disturbing images.
+ One of the more interesting aspects of Silent Hill are the multiple endings. I won’t give any away, but they give you an incentive to keep coming back and trying to do things slightly different each time you play.
+ Dynamic camera angles work extremely well. Unlike Resident Evil, the camera swoops and twists and turns as you make your way through alleys, corridors, and rooms. It can even be a little disorientating at times, which as the whole point to begin with.
+ The FMV cutscenes were simply gorgeous for their time, and while they do look somewhat pixelated today, they’re still impressive.
+/- You either get used to the tank controls, or you hate them for the duration of the game, simple as that. For people who started playing 3D games with the N64 and PS1, most don’t have too many problems adjusting to the controls, but that doesn’t mean they’re ideal. Combat, and exploration aren’t anywhere near as fluid as they are in today’s games, but for someone like me, I find that’s what heightens the game’s stress level and causes you to get sweaty palms within a few minutes of playing.
+/- The combat system feels much like the controls, mostly dated. Sure it works, you can knock back enemies with a pipe, or shoot them with your gun, but if the camera is moving around it can be difficult to pin-point exactly where you need to shoot.
– The voice acting shows no sign of emotion. The game would have been better suited for text-only dialogue.
While Silent Hill certainly shows its age, it remains a chilling experience. The thought of losing one’s daughter in a creepy town is enough to put you on edge, but having child-like creature attack you, limited lighting, and a very eerie setting help push you over the edge, and that’s what makes Silent Hill so special. Hopefully the developers of the reboot remember that, cheap scares don’t stay with you months or years after you finish a game. It has to take control of you, and really freak you out, and based solely on the interactive P.T. teaser, Kojima-san and del Toro appear to be on the right track. If you’re curious to see where this legacy of evil started, I encourage you to check out Silent Hill.
Final Score: 8.5/10