Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review #319: Silent Hill 0rigins

 Did they seriously go with 0rigins? With a 0? Seriously?
 After Silent Hill 4 Konami decided that the only direction they could take the franchise was backwards, and with that, I mean back in time. Taking place before the first Silent Hill, and developed by a different studio based outside Japan, Silent Hill 0rigins manages to capture the spirit of the franchise, and offers new insight into Silent Hill's sweetheart, Alessa. Even if it slightly contradicts a few events from the first game.

 Supposedly, you find out about a certain accident that saw a house burned down with Alessa inside during Silent Hill 1's story. Well, this game pick only a few moments before that fire, with Travis Grady stopping in the middle of somewhere to follow a little girl who leads him to the burning house. Travis, being the good guy that he is, rescues the girl and passes out, only to find himself inside Silent Hill. The roads are blocked, the girl is, supposedly, dead. And someone is guiding him somewhere. And like every good Silent Hill protagonist, Travis has his own demons to face, literally. I've read some people call the story a bit derivative of Silent Hill 2, which I didn't play in its entirety, but there's a Pyramid-head like enemy, and a few enemies that represent the same things they did for James. Still, I liked the story, I found it to be perfectly in line for the series, and I also really liked the enemy design and how it tied to Travis, particularly the Carrion enemies, who are reminiscent of a twisted take on Roadkill.
 Gameplay is standard Silent Hill fare(well, at least the couple I played, 2 and 3), having Travis go from area to area. Unlike, say Resident Evil, while the entire game takes place in Silent hill, each 'section', or 'level', or however you want to call it is clearly defined: The Hospital, The Sanitarium, the Theater and the Motel. Each level is one relatively long, self-contained area filled with puzzles and enemies. Each building also comes in two flavors, when Travis comes in front of a mirror, he will warp to the 'Mirror world' version of the stage, while the layout remains the same, enemy and item placement will be different, and certain doors that were locked before will now be open and vice versa. And that's the game's main mechanic, traversing both versions of an area in order to collect the information and items required to clear puzzles and then make your way to the boss. And to the game's credit, some puzzles can be rather hard. To the game's... discredit, however, unlike previous games, there's no difficulty toggle, so you'll have to deal with the same puzzle difficulty and enemy difficulty, which, y'know, I'm fine with it on practice, but I like it when games let you tailor the difficulty to your preferences.

 Now then, as for the combat... it's a bit of a mixed bag. Something that I really like with Silent Hill games is that melee is almost always a viable strategy. Not always the best or the most efficient, but it can get the work done. They went the extra mile in this one, Travis can PUNCH HIS ENEMIES TO DEATH. Travis. Can. Punch. His. Enemies. To. Death. Badass. Or you could turn off your flashlight and try to sneak or run your way through, but I digress. There's a reason for Travis' fists of death, close-range weapons actually break this time around. Not that it really matters, since there's hundreds of them, and Travis has infinite inventory space to carry typewriters, iron wrenches and even slabs of wood. Then there's also a large variety of long-range weapons... The game might seem hard, because enemies re very resilient, and the enemies start tough from the start, probably a byproduct of being on a handled, and therefore trying to have a more distilled, experience, but by the end of the game you'll be overflowing with healing items, guns and melee weapons.
 The game had a few audio issues, it seems like... either the voice samples lost quality or something, as you'll hear how certain parts of certain dialogues suddenly go up in volume and lose some sharpness. And while, most of the time, you can put the camera behind your back with the L button, there's a few forced fixed camera angles that will mess you up. Lastly, I played the PSP version, and sometimes it felt like... the audio disappeared when it shouldn't have? I'm not entirely sure though. That said, I've read that the PS2 version is a bit of a bugfest, so pick your console carefully.

 I loved Silent Hill 0rigins, I really did. It's almost surprising, considering how it came from a different development team, and on a handled device! Yet they managed to capture the feeling of the series perfectly. I found myself easily engrossed in the game, waiting for nightfall and dimming the lights, as to get the best atmosphere possible. It's not a perfect game, particularly if you compare it against Silent Hill 3 and 4, it doesn't have as many spooks, and the combat is a bit wonkier than on those games. But even then, all things considered, it's a game I enjoyed. A lot.
 7.5 out of 10



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