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Gaming

The Rise and Fall of Silent Hill

– by Andrew Charlton

 

Silent Hill. We think of it as one of the greats in the horror genre; one of the most terrifying series to the see the half-light of a foggy day. But really, how many good games have there been in the series?

Sadly, not as many as we like to think.

The first Silent Hill was successful, but it’s not the first one that comes to mind when most people think of the series. Good but not stellar, it set the themes of occultism, nightmarish other worlds and connections to other gods that have followed the series ever since.

It was Silent Hill 2 that made the series a household name. Pyramid Head, the fog — all metaphors about coping with grief rather than real physical threats. The game moved away from the first Silent Hill in some ways; much of what happens is in James’ head, the monsters are expressions of his own grief. Initially released in 2001, its storytelling was a level above anything the gaming world had ever seen before.

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Though it was well-received, the third game can be seen as the beginning of the end.

While it’s known for its competent story, Silent Hill 3 failed to really innovate anything. It was riding on its laurels and people criticised the shortness of the game.

Despite the criticisms, Silent Hill 3 is still remembered fondly by many people, the game was good after all. Silent Hill 4 was where things truly began to go south.

It’s known for being the weirdest game in the series, or at least one of them. You never actually go to Silent Hill after all, the whole game takes place in the protagonist’s apartment and the tunnels he travels through. You can take this as them trying to respond to the lack of innovation by ditching much of the old formulae: the radio was gone, as was the flashlight and the — up to this point —traditional UFO ending. But still, the game was well received, despite being criticised for not feeling like a Silent Hill game.

Then there was Origins, which took place before the very first Silent Hill. This is actually one of the two I’ve finished. Originally made for the PSP, you took the role of a trucker who found his way into Silent Hill.

Silent Hill: Downpour

This game was well-liked for being a look in to the past of Silent Hill, however, people disliked its straightforward nature. The story, gameplay, and monsters — appearing from previous games — all came together to make it a bit of a lackluster experience.

Homecoming was more action-based, with a war veteran as the main character, but it moved away from the psychological horror of the series.

Shattered Memories was a retelling of the original Silent Hill and is entirely psychological, with the player only ever able to run and hide from enemies. With all enemies looking the same though, it lost the wonderful creativity and terror that filled each and every antagonist in other games.

Downpour had amazing potential with a wider scope and new gameplay styles inspired by Dishonored and Heavy Rain. But bugs, technical issues and huge flaws in its design stopped the game from achieving greatness. But, a lot of people seemed to love it after a patch that fixed many of the issues. So who knows, maybe it was on the right track.

This takes us finally to the sad story of P.T and the Silent Hills. P.T is one of the most terrifying things in gaming as a whole, and it was only the demo. Silent Hill looked primed to recapture our love for this ailing series, with Guillermo Del Toro and Hideo Kojima working together on the project. Then Kojima and Konami fell out, and the game was cancelled as Kojima left the company, and Konami did its best to leave gaming.

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With Konami spouting their disinterest in games (even though they’re making MGS: Survive) who knows if we’ll ever see another Silent Hill. Maybe someone will buy the rights from them? Perhaps even Sony will buy them just to have Kojima on the project again.

We can hope, because even if its popularity and the success of its games ebbs and flows, it would be a damn shame to see Silent Hill disappear into the mist.

 

Photo credits: idigitaltimes, playstationlifestyle, static-secure, wikimedia

 

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