+ Amazing score
+ Replay Value
– Murky/grainy graphics
Platforms available: PlayStation One
Platforms Reviewed: PlayStation One
Silent Hill is one of the big hitters when ‘survival horror’ is mentioned, in fact you can consider this game as one of key constructs of the titles we see today. Alone in the Dark (1992) is considered the forefather of survival horror, the game allowed players the option to fight or flight from hordes of enemies. Next in line was Resident Evil (1996) Capcom officially used the term ‘survival horror’ upon its release, the title received praise for its puzzles, rationing of items and controls – It became a commercial success.
In the golden age of survival horror many games came around, but one that would take the genre that one step further was the release of Silent Hill in 1999. Initially dubbed as a clone of Resident Evil, Silent Hill proved itself different from the rest of the survival horror crowd.
Boasting the most famous fog in gaming history, it dawned on players that this title was definitely made up of something else and something very sinister.
You follow the story of Harry Mason who is driving with his daughter, Cheryl, to the town of Silent Hill for a family holiday. Whilst driving Harry swerves to avoiding hitting a girl who appears in the middle of the road. The pair crash and become unconscious. Upon waking Harry finds that his daughter Cheryl is missing, much to his despair. Harry’s 7 year old daughter had either been taken or had left the crash scene for no apparent reason. And so, the mystery adventure begins.
What immediately stood out for the character of Harry Mason, is that he is your average bloke, a distraught parent looking for his daughter. Unlike the characters in Resident Evil, Harry has little to no experience with combat or weapons and this could only add to the tension of walking into the unknown being unarmed and unskilled. Harry Mason became a video-game every man, most could identify with him. Harry’s character reflects into the game play of the title; the aim was awful and his running was just a little faster than an enemy hunting you down. There is little ammunition to protect yourself in this game, so you will often find that you are evading enemies rather than confronting them head on. This added realism to the game, amongst its nightmarish setting.
A key element to Silent Hill’s many praised qualities was the atmosphere. Silent Hill creeped on you and rather fantastically. From the over-bearing fog, ambient soundtrack and eerie creaks in the night, it offered a lot more atmospherically than its rival Resident Evil. It was chilling to hear the sounds of a young girl screaming inside a blood-stained school and the creaking floorboards beneath your feet, but were they floorboards? Or a lurking demon nearby. If anything, what would push the terror to new heights was the fact you would hear the enemies before they would suddenly pounce on you.
In Silent Hill almost everything had a purpose, it caused the player to search every corner of the map – provided you were quick enough to figure that purpose out. If you didn’t you’d probably die.
However, Silent Hill was, and is, not a perfect horror title. Although the controls added to Harry’s amateur skills, it proved quite frustrating at times and very clunky and this would prove costly in the end. It’s also fair to say that the graphics were rather coarse in appearance which was not pleasing to the eye. However, these very minor negatives ironically complimented the game’s story and atmosphere, they didn’t greatly affect the game in any way.
Silent Hill also provides excellent replay value with four different endings to discover. You will certainly push yourself to white-knuckled terror trying to get all of the endings.
Overall, Silent Hill paved a new way for the horror game. It re-defined the meaning of terror and pushed the boundaries of psychological fear. Silent Hill paved the way for many titles we have seen and see today, such as: Outlast, Fatal Frame and Allison Road.
For this classic title our rating is: