Happy Tuesday, all! Last week, we rode a shape-shifting dragon into battle against an evil Empire.
This week's gonna be different, as rather than experiencing the freedom of flight, we now delve into a more primal emotion:
Silent Hill is a PS1 classic from gaming's Cretaceous period (1999). You play as Harry Mason, just an everyday guy, taking his daughter Cheryl to their favorite vacation spot, the small town of Silent Hill. Of course, things don't go as planned. Swerving to avoid hitting a girl in the middle of the road, Harry wakes up in his crashed car to find Cheryl missing. Thus, he sets out to find her in the suspiciously empty town of Silent Hill.
Gameplay wise, Silent Hill plays much like most 3D games of the PS1 era. The controls are commonly referred to as "Tank-like". That is, Harry moves forward according to HIS point of view when you move up. It's confusing, especially if you were to play it for the first time today, but it's functional enough, and you get used to it.
Combat with otherworldly, hellish creatures, like the one in the screenshot, is accomplished primarily through a lock-on system, aiming your weapon with a shoulder button and attacking with Square. You get a decent, if light, selection of weapons over the course of the game, ranging from a wood stick to shotguns and rifles. Like every great survival horror game, care must be taken to conserve ammo, as well as healing potions and medkits, as Harry can't take too much damage before dying.
One neat wrinkle in the game is the radio. Early on, Harry gets hold of a small pocket radio that emits white noise when monsters are nearby. At first, you might think, "Hey, that's not so scary, 'cause I can hear them coming." Well, you'd be wrong. Although you can turn the radio off, it's still creepy as hell when you hear the static get louder and louder-and you can't see where the monster is, because of all the fog.
That's another Silent Hill series staple. Due to system limitations of the day, Silent Hill is covered in extremely dense fog. This actually works it's way into the story as well, and helps unsettle the player as well. Because you never know what will come out of the fog next...
The radio, your flashlight (pretty much your only source of light for most of the game) and the fog are all staples of Silent Hill.
But fear is the biggest one. Silent Hill was compared to Resident Evil 2 back in the day, as they were both released within a year of each other. But while RE goes for more "BOO!" scares (and it's great for it) Silent Hill goes for a more psychological route. You are regularly unsettled throughout the whole game, wondering (mostly worrying) what you'll find around the next corner. There's a ton of uncomfortable imagery in this game, and it's not for the faint of heart. Particularly the school, which is creepy enough before it transforms to it's nightmarish "alternate" version. Most every environment in the game transforms. Including the hospital.
Just imagine waking up in a hospital room like this.
Silent Hill is definitely worth a revisit (or first try). It's disturbingly creepy, and has a well-written cast of characters that you genuinely feel for, even if the voice acting is sometimes far less than optimal. The graphics have aged a lot from 1999, so a lot of the game is blocky, but the art style and imagery still shine through. It's another great case for art over graphics. And the lighting is among the best of it's day. Dated, yes. But great.
You can check it out on PSN for ten bucks, I think. Also, there's a Wii/PS2 remake, but more on that some other time.
As always, hit the comments section!
Next week, we look at a recent indie gem, one that you should all play. One that made this writer's eyes water.