First and foremost I do not get scared very easily. I particularly enjoy horror movies and horror video games alike. Not long ago my girlfriend bought me a copy of one of my all-time favorite horror games, Silent Hill. I would imagine a good lot of video gamers have at least heard of this game or perhaps one other Silent Hill title. The whole franchise started back in 1999 when Konami (maker of the Metal Gear Solid series) released Silent Hill for the Sony PlayStation. The gaming community was already in-tune with the Resident Evil series, however, this game took horror video gaming to a new level. Many argue that Silent Hill revolutionized the way a video game can take you into the depths of Hell itself and leave you turned inside out.
The game story begins with the protagonist, Harry Mason, and his daughter, Cheryl, are driving to the town of Silent Hill, Maine for a vacation. In an instant, a little girl standing in the middle of the road catches Harry’s optic and he is forced to swerve to avoid hitting her. The vehicle spins wildly out of control and crashes. From here, Harry gains consciousness and notices that Cheryl is no longer in the vehicle. He steps out of the wreckage and begins to look for her and realizes he is in Silent Hill. This is where the player assumes control of Harry. As he explorers he notices that the town seems to be almost abandoned. He also notices the weather is cold, snow is falling, and fog is growing ever-thicker. Suddenly, a small silhouette resembling a young girl appears in the fog. Believing her to be Cheryl, Harry follows her into some alleys and he begins to notice darkness following ever quickly. The screaming sounds of World War II air-raid sirens begin to blare as Harry continues through the alleyways, gates, and fences. Once he reaches a dead end, he notices something hanging on one of the fences. After closer examination, Harry realizes it is a mutilated corpse and he is in fact standing in blood. Out of the darkness multiple monstrosities emerge and attack Harry seemingly killing him. Harry then awakes in a small diner. There he makes contact with a young female police officer named Cybil. Cybil hears Harry out about his situation and cannot provide an explanation for what is going on. She gives you her pistol and heads off to get reinforcements.
This is when the game truly begins. From here Harry will need to go through Hell (literally) and high-water to save his daughter and unravel the mystery behind Silent Hill. Along the way he will meet a few residents of Silent Hill, each disturbing in their own way and will travel through various complexes of the town such as a school and a church. Throughout the game, the player needs to complete various puzzles and often figure things out for themselves. It is this ambiguity that makes the game such a fun challenge. The ambiguity runs deeper as to how the plot is to unfold, not much information is given to the player and he/she will need to think deeply to try to unravel the mystery of the town for themselves.
This method of self-problem solving is best coupled with the character of Harry himself in so far that the player will feel as if they are in Harry’s shoes so to speak. The character of Harry is a pretty average Joe. His stamina is not spectacular, his aim with firearms could use some work, and when he speaks, he is down to earth and easy for players to identify with. With this identification comes the feelings of being trapped in Silent Hill trying to survive. To add said feelings Konami sadistically adds certain aspects into the game to make players struggle to survive.
For example, ammunition is not easy to come by, and with Harry’s average aim, I ran out of ammo pretty quickly. This left me wandering the streets scavenging hoping to find at least a couple more bullets for the challenges ahead. The most honorable aspect of this game is that it is designed to freak the player out. As I walked through the school within the game I could hear little girls crying in the distance, fences rattling, moaning, and something behind the walls and in the ceiling. Often, I would hear enemies before I could see them and this left me on the edge of my seat, wide-eyed, and my knuckles turning white from holding the controller tightly. The style of the gameplay is something worthy of praise.
Although I revere this game as a masterpiece, it is not perfect of course. One of Silent Hill’s rougher areas is within its controls in so far that is difficult to maneuver Harry at times. As I ran through the school, I reached a dead-end in a hallway which was a home to multiple monstrosities. In tight spots like these, it is somewhat difficult to get Harry to go from full speed forward to a quick turnaround and full speed to the opposite direction. At times I felt like I was controlling a statue as Harry’s posture seems to stay pretty stiff, especially when he turns. One other imperfection is the graphics to a point. Despite the game being released four years after the PlayStation launched, the graphics are grainier than most would expect. However, the grainy appearance does go extremely well with the essence of decay throughout the game, as does its brilliant use of lighting. Coupled with the aforementioned lighting techniques of hiding nightmares in the shadows is the game’s ambient soundtrack and audio effects which usually leave the hairs on the back of my neck standing upright.
Because of Silent Hill’s suspenseful story line, adrenaline-producing gameplay, and eerie sounds and visuals, it is worthy of being put on a pedestal and has a good replay value. The game has six different endings (one of them is a comical one) based on actions the player takes during the game and how he/she makes choices involving some of the other characters in the game. This game is not the average shooter or the average horror title. It brings combat challenges, puzzles, and fingernail-biting suspense to the player while leaving them with a path to deep nightmares. If you have played Silent Hill please feel free to post below your thoughts on it. If you have never played Silent Hill, I can assure you of one thing. After you play this game, you will never see fog the same way again.