Today, I'm focusing on the Silent Hill series.
A series that got in early on the survival horror game and one that Konami seemed to keep it's hands off of through the first several.
Silent Hill's foggy town was often used to sell the PlayStation 2. It's demonic scenes and story line kept large portions of the mainstream away from it. It's influence has spread to both games and film, becoming more than a Resident Evil clone. Silent Hill is a survival horror pillar that will forever be talked about in video game history.
Silent Hill (1999)
I was desperate for Resident Evil clones in 1999. I couldn't get enough of this newly coined Survival Horror genre.
Sometime in late 1998, I got a demo disk with the Official PlayStation magazine that just had a three or four minute teaser for a game called Silent Hill with this haunting guitar playing over this Texas Chainsaw Massacre looking rural house.
I needed it immediately.
A few months later, OPM's demo contained a fully playable version of the school. The sound of the cockroaches scratching across the floor, the muted whines of the demon children with knives, the radio scratching built tension in my neck.
And then I got the game and it was everything I wanted. A huge town to run around. Cults, murder, devious creatures.
There's nothing more satisfying than completing the best ending or cheating the system and shooting all of your ammo except one bullet before entering the final boss fight. And this also introduced the now staple, UFO ending.
Silent Hill 2 (2001)
Silent Hill 2 was the game to convince me to plop down the money on a PlayStation 2. My local Babbages had the demo on repeat that showed James popping up in the bathroom mirror, the mannequins, and a quick flash of the cavalcade of characters stuck in their own personal hells.
It's still hard for me to get through this game because it just affects you on such an emotional level. I never want to see when all is revealed about how James' wife died. I usually get to the bowling alley and then stop.
Silent Hill 3 (2003)
Silent Hill 3 is this weird game that sort of lives out in the ether. I loved it. But only 4 years after the first Silent Hill, this game was filled with fan service. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems weird.
This is also the first and only Silent Hill game where you play as a teenage girl instead of an adult male. It was interesting, until it wasn't and you realized they were treating her exactly as if they would have an adult male. Give her a pistol, shotgun, metal pipe... doesn't matter, girls got game.
This game contains still one of the most disturbing scenes I've ever seen in a game. You find out that Heather, the protagonist is pregnant with the demon god. So she does what most teenagers with an unplanned pregnancy does, she aborts the crap out of that baby.
So that's disturbing in it's own right, but then one of the cult members swallows the demon fetus whole so that she can birth him. And it works. The demon is born and it's messed up man.
Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004)
Seems weird that there would be another Silent Hill game so quickly. Well, that's because this wasn't supposed to be a Silent Hill game. They shoe-horned some Silent Hill like stuff into another horror game that was being worked on.
The room is interesting. It tried some new things. Ultimately though, they padded the game out by making you do all of the same things a second time. I've never finished this game. By the time this came out I was in college and didn't have time for tedium.
Silent Hill: Origins (2007)
They said, "yeah, the hospital was scary, let's do that again... but how about we do a mental hospital from the early part of the century."
I wish there was a way for me to play this on a modern console. I would love to give it another play through.
Silent Hill: Homecoming (2009)
I liked Homecoming. It felt different but familiar. There were new horrific creatures. But the thing it failed at was following through on the horror. They had a creepy story and creepy family, but they must have taken inspiration from Call of Duty because this was a combat filled nightmare.
I ended up getting all the achievements in this game, but it wasn't fun. The monsters on hard were bullet sponges. When you had to rely on melee, you had to cheese it and get the enemy caught on geometry.
I remember one day I spilled gas all over my work clothes and had to go home to change. I decided to take a break while I was at home and play some Silent Hill. It was the section in the sewers before you entered the police station. There was this big, meaty looking enemy. I spent 10 minutes slowly whacking at him with a pipe one hit at a time when he would come to the corner of the room I was cowered in. I had no health and it was the only way to proceed. I wasted my entire break from work on this bastard.
I played through it so many times that by the end, I would manage about a 2:30 speed run.
Silent Hill Shattered Memories (2009)
This was supposed to be a reimagining of the first game. It has some interesting ideas. A psychologist will periodically ask you questions and based on your answers the game changes.
If you lean too far toward anger or depression, things get darker, harder. If you lean toward a sexual degenerate, you're met with seductresses in the cut scenes.
I was really interesting because there was no combat in the game. I liked being able to explore Silent Hill and not worrying about fighting. It's basically the walking simulator for Silent Hill.
However, every time the tornado sirens sounded and you went to the dark world, you were put into an area that you had to sprint through, knocking items down to block enemies, and just run. These parts weren't fun. They weren't suspenseful. They were mostly frustrating. You were dealing with terrible camera angles where you had to switch back and forth between what's in front of you and what's behind you. The enemies usually caught you when you were caught on geometry.
Silent Hill Downpour (2012)
Downpour probably got the most crap from reviewers out of any Silent Hill game. It currently sits
with a 68% Meta-critic.
I can see why. There were glitches galore. There were several achievements that wouldn't pop for me. I remember being stuck in a parking lot where a gate that was supposed to open after I killed some enemies never opened and I had to reload my save.
It's a shame though. Downpour is probably the creepiest and most suspenseful of the Silent Hill games since the third one. There's a great idea, great level design, pretty good story that is held back by it's technical inabilities.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories (2012)
Book of Memories shared nothing with Silent Hill except vague art design that looked like it. I had it, I played it, I got bored, and I sold it. There's nothing more to say about this dungeon crawler.
Likely, we'll never see Silent Hill again. Konami wants little to do with the video game industry and when they do want to do something with it, they are hiring as cheaply as possible to get it out the door and make a little money.
Instead, we are treated to smaller studios, taking ideas from Silent Hill and making them their own. Maybe it's for the best. I can't help but think about what we could have if Team Silent got together for one more wild ride.