Silent Hill (PS1)
Silent Hill (PS1)
Once you plop in the game, you're treated to a seemingly peaceful CG intro showing young widower, Harry Mason, on a tranquil late night drive with his seven-year-old daughter, Cheryl. The pair speed down the highway on their way to an aging resort town known as Silent Hill. But somewhere along the way, their trip is cut short as a young girl appears in the middle of the road, captured in the headlights of Harry's jeep. As Harry attempts to avoid hitting the girl, his car spins violently out of control and the world blurs. As Harry regains consciousness in the driver's seat of his wrecked car, he turns to check on his daughter only to find that she's missing. Where did she go? Welcome to Silent Hill, an adventure masterfully crafted by the use of sound, sight and even touch.
Played mainly like an adventure game and not an action title, Silent Hill neatly sidesteps any obvious aping of the RE series by taking a more literary turn into the world of horror. With an emphasis on character and storyline, Silent Hill prefers to appeal to gamer's imagination by limiting their vision to a small range of light surrounded by inpenetrable darkness or by jarring any grasp of reality that the gamer might have on what exactly is going on in the game. In fact it's the storyline's refusal to adhere to a formulaic premise, with Harry confronting apparitions, chasing down demons and puzzling over diabolic visions, that makes the game so incredibly unique. Chills and shivers aside, Silent Hill is one strange trip into nightmares left untouched by the more action-oriented gameplay of Resident Evil.
The most important factor of the game's immersive qualities ranges from Konami's depiction of Harry as a regular guy with whom gamers can identify with to the excellent use of ambient sounds to catch players offguard in their most vulnerable moments. Harry's plain appearance translates seamlessly into how he actually plays through the game. His aim is awful and his running pace, though quicker than most enemies, still keeps him only a heartbeat away from being mowed down by the demons running amok on the streets of Silent Hill. In fact, because of the limited amount of ammunition available in the game and Harry's inexperience with firearms, you'll find yourself evading enemies more often than confronting them. And this is one of the finest features in the game. Not only does this strengthen the adventure element in Silent Hill, but it also draws the player into the world of the game by mixing in enough realism into the madness.
On top of this feature in the game, Silent Hill also refuses to ease up on the game in regards to atmosphere and mood. Backed by an ambient soundtrack, the game features some masterful effects that are sure to have even veteran Racoon City warriors quaking in their boots. From the inexplicable sobbing of an unseen child in a blood-stained school hall to the loud rattling of an invisible "something" underneath the floorboards that you're standing on, the game never sinks into predictability. Imagine all of this while never quite being able to see past arm's length into the darkness. Equipped with only a pocket flashlight, Harry is forced navigate pitch-black areas where demons insist on lurking just outside of the range of sight. Often, you'll hear them before you can actually see them, pushing the tension factor in the game to white-knuckled heights.
But as masterful as Silent Hill is, it still can't claim perfection. In a completely 3D, polygonal real-time game environment, there are always going to be issues about control. Silent Hill slightly suffers from this. Maneuvering Harry in some of the game's tougher spots and getting him to go from dead stopped to run and back again can prove an exercise in frustration, especially when you find yourself trapped in a narrow hallway filled with murderous demons ? with only 15 rounds of Handgun ammo left.
Visually, the game remains grainier than what's expected of a PlayStation game released in the system's fourth year. But the overall look of the game, with its murky fog effects and clever use of lighting makes good use of the graininess adding to the atmosphere of dilapidation and decay throughout the game. In the face of Silent Hill's brilliant gameplay, these flaws only take so much away from the game and leaves us wondering how great the game will be on a next-generation system.