Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Review #344: Silent Hill

 I'd look for a new vacation spot.
 This is it, this is the game that kickstarted the entire Silent Hill franchise, a survival horror series of games that focused on psychological horror over its more action-y rival, Resident Evil.

 Taking the role of Harry Mason, it's up to the player to find Cheryl, his daughter, after an accidental car crash into the town of Silent Hill. On his quest, Harry will come across a few of its inhabitants, all of whom have their own skeletons on their closets. To be perfectly honest, I found the story to be the game's weakest link, firstly, it's told in a very fragmented way, it's up to the player to piece together the events and how they correlate with each other, and secondly, because I didn't find the themes all too engrossing. That said, the environments and creatures are very well put together, it's a honest-to-goodness creepy game, even when taking into account just how much they have aged.
 The one thing that keeps being repeated over and over whenever someone talks about this game is how they turned the Playstation's weaknesses into strengths. And to be fair, they are a hundred percent correct. It's both oppressive and unnerving, being constantly surrounded by either fog or darkness, with only the aid of your radio, alerting you of nearby enemies, and your flashlight trying to explore the town of Silent Hill and its locales. Frankly, among the classic games, this is the one that has the best flashlight system, because you really do need the flashlight to explore your surroundings with ease, but the flashlight alerts nearby enemies, so you have to pick whether it's light you want or try to sneak by... Kinda. At least when it comes to the normal difficulty, the game is kinda easy. Most of the time, the best strategy is just to enter every room with your light turned off, kill everything in sight, and then turn it on and explore for supplies. It kinda kills the tension a bit once you figure out a working strategy. Not that it will help you on outdoor areas, as enemies are relentless and fast, you will either have to learn the particular tells of the different types of enemies in order to avoid their assaults or try to fight your way through.

 The controls work fairly well, while it uses the traditional 'tank' controls, the camera offers a mixture of locked camera angles, when the game wants you to look at something, and a loose camera that you can set behind your back by tapping or holding L2. It works really well. Unlike Resident Evil, Harry Mason is a decent fight, he can strafe, or shoot while walking backwards, and he is also a fairly decent close-rang fighter, melee weapons are a fair alternative. That said, there's a limited capacity for ammo, so you are encouraged to use your gun, lest all that ammo goes to waste.
 I hate to admit it, but most of the puzzles in the game gave me some trouble. I might've had to consult a FAQ once or twice... or even a couple more times, but I'm not admitting to anything. If you like to explore everything before moving forwards, like I do, it probably won't be an issue, but there's a lot of side information, and a sidequest of sorts, to find in order to obtain more pieces of the puzzle regarding the town's mystery, as well as the only way to earn the good endings. And, heck, rewarding is oftentimes rewarded, although supplies are a bit harder to find than in Silent Hill 2.

 I loved my time with Silent Hill. Sure, it's easily got the worst story among the classic games, and while everything in the game works decently, it's a bit clunkier, as it's to be expected. However, thanks to the Playstation's limitations, I think the flashlight mechanics work much better in this game, and the fog and darkness surrounding the player work even better than in subsequent games. Silent Hill is a classic, and age has got nothing on it.
 8.0 out of 10


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