To say I’ve boarded the Hype Train would be a tiny understatement with the announcement of a new Silent Hill game headed by Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. Add onto that Norman Reedus is taking the lead, and I’m left giddy with excitement. This could be the kick Silent Hill needs to be great again. 1 – 4 are the only Silent Hills I accept as being part of the series. Maybe this new one, called Silent Hills at the time of this writing, will kick start the franchise.
To me, Silent Hill was always about getting under your skin. Messing with your head. Disorienting you. The playable teaser they presented on the Playstation Store hits a lot of those notes. Playing through the player finds them self in an unremarkable hallway, if you ignore the fact it loops on itself. All of the doors except the one that loops are locked and an eerie news cast from a radio talks of a father butchering his family.
With each loop things in the hallway change, doors open and close, writing appears, sounds come and go. What seems to be a ghost even enters the fray. You need to figure out what the game wants you to do. This can leave the player feeling unnerved and confused. The player is forced to look closely at areas they may not want to (by pushing in the analog stick) and linger longer than is comfortable within the confines of the hallway.
This disorientation while being haunted by a malicious entity is a piece of what Silent Hill has been missing all these years. The new games seem to resort to jump scares and gore filled imagery; blatant in it’s attempts to frighten. The originals had characters that seemed off, tight camera angles to create a feeling of being closed in or used the same type of camera angles to make the player feel lost in a winding sea of fog and monsters. Alongside iconic moments, like Harry “dying” in the alley at the start of the first Silent Hill. They also had a clear theme to the horror, like guilt and sex in Silent Hill 2. Recent installments feel all over the place, just plunking down monster and level design with no real rhyme or reason. Cameras angles don’t feel purposeful anymore and in some cases actively ruin the experience. Characters are predictable and uninteresting.
With P.T almost everything felt just right. The disorientation, disturbing imagery and sound, using the tight confines of the hallway to force a first-person view camera into terrifying angles. The use of the zoom in feature reminded me of both Silent Hill and Fatal Frame. Two franchises that reveled in forcing the player into doing things they really didn’t want to. The use of the environment, changing with each loop, reminds me of my favourite part of Fatal Frame. You can (and will) experience different scares or imagery as you retread old ground.
Having Norman Reedus on board could turn into a huge boon. He’s a great actor and will hopefully bring that to bear. While Beyond Two Souls sucked so, so, hard a lot of people agreed there was some top notch acting involved that helped a lot in making it tolerable. If that same situation could occur, but with a good game, it could help elevate it to great status.
My only fear is it will be too “odd” rather than frightening. Metal Gear Solid is chock full of strange moments that work for me, but can pull you out of the moment, which is disastrous in a horror game. After seeing bits of The Strain, Guillermo del Toro’s latest t.v. series, it also has moments of “WTF” and not in a good way. I worry that quirk will end up not working well within a survival horror video game. Or the game itself will drag like the latter half of P.T. I don’t need another Amnesia (which is excellent I’m not trying to bring it down), with no combat and finicky “puzzles” with little clue as to what to do. Looking at you “break window, walk outside, get item”.
I want Silent Hill again. Awesome Silent Hill.