Title: Silent Hill
Platform: PSX, PSN
Reviewed on: PSX
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Horror
Players: Single player
Written by Whistler 2nd February 2014
15 years, 15 long years ago a small team within Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Team Silent graced the world with probably one of the most heart pounding horror games ever, Silent Hill.
While some crown it's successor Silent Hill 2 as the defining pinnacle of the series, the original will always hold a special place in the deep recesses of my conscious.
Silent Hill's tale has the player controlling one Harry Mason, who when driving at night to Silent Hill for a vacation with his daughter Cheryl swerves out of the way to avoid hitting someone on the road. Harry crashes and by the time he awakes it is already morning, a ominous fog has descended upon the town of Silent Hill, the streets are empty and Cheryl is nowhere to be found.
And so Harry's journey begins as he searches for his beloved adopted daughter while solving cryptic puzzles and battling the dark forces within the hellish town.
The core game mechanics revolve around exploration, some combat and puzzle solving, exploration is key to finding items and progressing through out the story which rewards (and sometimes punishes) the player for going off of the path to explore other areas often finding extra ammo or health drinks and even some items that will determine the outcome for one of the game's six endings.
While combat and the controls are arguably lacking it helped give that survival horror feel and almost adds an element of realism as much like modern games Slender, Amnesia and Outlast, you are just a regular joe with no experience in fire arms so using weapons feels like a mad struggle every time; Harry will run into walls and even run out of breath which added that little bit more to the horror charm.
Even the puzzles are a challenge, all whilst fearing for your life and holding onto every health drink, bullet and your trusty crowbar for dear life, the player must solve some rather cryptic puzzles from reciting a piano melody based on a poem, coloured block puzzles and of course your token key code puzzle.
Each of these were great mind teasers and added that little bit more of depth to the overall game play that even after completing the game could still pose a challenge.
While the graphics haven't stood the test of time much like most of the games from its generation, Silent Hill's imagery along with other elements still creates an amazingly surreal claustrophobic experience that'll have you turning the lights back on every time (as a fundamental rule, horror games should be played in the dark, preferably with a friend or partner of your choosing).
Unlike Capcom's Resident Evil which came 5 years before it, Silent Hill uses a fully 3D environment which really sets in that feeling that you're alone in this world. Interestingly team Silent managed a master-
During the 'normal' phases of Silent Hill the town is engulfed in a fog which pulled back the draw distance without damaging the visuals or the frame rate and in turn also gave for a very strong 'fear of the unknown' feel.
Just as you got use to the fog and it's many inhabitants the game then drops you in the deep end like a bad parent and presents to you, the 'Otherworld'.
The 'Otherworld' phase sees the town eclipsed by darkness where the player must use a small flash light to illuminate their path, much like the fog the darkness served the purpose of improving visual performance while at the same time presenting a truly horrifying experience.
Both phases gave their own flavour of horror and kept the player onguard as you never knew when (unless you used a guide or had already played the game) the switch over would occur again. This was complimented by the way the developers handle the camera angles, Silent Hill utilized a fully 3D 3rd person perspective but would switch to predetermined angles in scripted sequences for dramatic effect and to throw the player off. Truly the first time I remember playing Silent Hill (at the tender age of 7 no less), just as you run into an alleyway in pursuit of what is believed to be Cheryl, suddenly the camera flips to several different angles while you run down through twists and turns making you feel truly out of place.
All building up to that moment when the lights go out and you greeted with the first monsters of the game of which basically summed up my first playthrough of the game as it was sent to the bottom of my game's collection to hopefully never be unleashed upon me again (still watched my father play it every chance I got).
Truly there is never a dull moment to be had, while Resident Evil gave you save rooms and areas where you felt safe enough to turn your eyes away from the screen (of which I was grateful for these); Silent Hill never leaves you feeling safe besides possibly in the inventory screen. Through the empty streets, pitch black school halls or even hellish hospital floors you will be met with the games stellar soundtrack; composed by Akira Yamoaka, Silent Hill features a cold, dark and foreboding soundtrack with heavy industrial themes that gave a very alienating feel to the game.
Oddly I find trying to review the story rather difficult, while it focused more on a psychological theme and worse for words was good; the story is rather thin, granted it didn't need to be this thick mastermind plot filled with betrayal, love and hardships. The story is thin but gets the job done and was a nice step away from the standard action orientated horror games around at that time, however I did feel that the voice acting really did have a negative effect on the game. While granted voice acting at the time was still in it's early days for video gaming, but when compared to the voice acting in games like Soul Reaver, Discworld II and Metal Gear Solid, you can't help being rather harsh with Silent Hill considering these 3 games alone were all either released before or roughly around the same time each with stellar voice acting (but enough of them, this is a Silent Hill review).
But this is pretty much the only point I felt I could fault the game on;
with 15 years under its belt, Silent Hill is masterpiece of horror gaming that is still one of the defining standards to uphold to in the industry that also proved you could take the horror genre in a different direction for gaming. With a rough 7-
Balanced gameplay of exploration, puzzles and combat,
Great psychological horror.
Puzzles can get a bit too cryptic,
Somewhat clunky controls,
Robotic voice acting,
Most endings are hard to get without a walkthrough.
Final verdict ,
While visually is hasn't stood the test of time, Silent Hill still stands strong and holds a 9/10 in my books any day.