Silent Hill, PlayStation

This infamous survival horror game is the first game in the Silent Hill series and was developed and published by Konami in 1999. It is considered to be one of the best video games ever made by those who’ve played it.

Silent Hill follows Harry Mason, a regular guy on vacation who is searching for his missing adopted daughter in the fictional American town of Silent Hill. The game is played from a third-person viewpoint and is characterised by its atmospheric fog and darkness effects that are used to hide the console’s limitations when it comes to draw distances in 3D-rendered environments.

Harry soon discovers that all is not well in Silent Hill. Not only is the place as creepy as hell, but it’s also swarming with terrifying monsters. Thankfully an encounter with a friendly female cop provides him with a handgun and therefore a means to protect himself. A portable radio found early in the game alerts Harry to the presence of nearby monsters with bursts of static. As well as fighting monsters Harry can also run from them, and that is often the best course of action as gun ammunition is relatively scarce. Since Harry is just a normal guy he cannot take much damage from monsters and also gasps for breath after sprinting.

The story in Silent Hill focuses on psychological horror and fear of the unknown, and uses dramatic camera angles and sweeping movements to accentuate the in-game tension. Sound effects also play a big part in raising the tension and combat with monsters is quite frequent and seemingly random. Initially you’ll encounter skinless dogs and flying bat-like things that will attack you, and when you get into the school area you’ll then start to encounter slow-moving, knife-wielding “demon babies” that will latch onto you if they’re close. Which is damned creepy, and even fatal if you don’t shake them off.

You’ll occasionally find maps of each area, which are extremely useful and are even annotated for you by the game, to show important areas. Puzzles are mostly key-finding exercises – at least initially – and you’ll also start to find clues written in blood that seem to foreshadow some kind of occult mystery that you need to uncover. That is: if you want to find out what happened to your daughter.

Silent Hill‘s gameplay is slow and tense. Initially there are few places that you can call ‘safe’ and making progress is not easy if you’re playing blind for the first time. Finding important items means keeping your eyes peeled for objects that stand out from the gloom. Eventually, though, you’ll gain a foothold and start to assemble enough first aid kits and health potions to keep you going, and the rabbit hole you go down literally becomes darker and weirder…

Although it’s obvious to draw parallels between Silent Hill and Resident Evil (both by Konami), Silent Hill I’d say is the more serious and chilling of the two. The 3D environments, camera movements, sound effects, and atmospheric lighting give the game a more frightening edge over Resident Evil – at least the early Resident Evils – which I found to be more kitschy than this. And although Silent Hill now looks primitive, compared to its sequels (and modern survival horror games ), it still plays well enough today to warrant a visit. Especially if you’ve never played it before. The only aspect of the gameplay that I found was an issue was that you can’t turn while running. You have to stop running, turn, then continue running, which is a problem, but one that you can easily get used to.

The game has four different endings (two ‘bad’ and two ‘good’ endings), plus a fifth ‘joke’ ending where Harry is abducted by aliens, so definitely has a re-playability factor. The first three Silent Hill games all have ‘New Game Plus’ modes and hidden ‘joke’ endings.

Silent Hill spawned a series of sequels and spin-offs and also a 2006 feature film. Silent Hill 2 was released in 2001, Silent Hill 3 in 2003, and Silent Hill 4: The Room in 2004 – all for the PlayStation 2. A re-imagining of Silent Hill was released for the PS2 and PSP in 2009, called Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

Silent Hill series on The King of Grabs: Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3, Silent Hill 4: The Room, Silent Hill: Origins (PSP), Silent Hill: Origins (PS2), and Silent Hill: Homecoming.

More: Silent Hill on Wikipedia
More: Silent Hill series on Wikipedia

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