My Silent Hill Video Game Reviews
In my restless dreams I see that town...
In anticipation of the new Silent Hill: Downpour video game coming out in 2011 (and the 3D movie sequel in 2012), I've decided to offer my input on the video game franchise up until now. I'm not really a big gamer but I am a huge fan of this series. Here's what i thought of each game...
Silent Hill (1999)
The fear of blood tends to create a fear for the flesh...
Synopsis: In the first installment of the horror gaming franchise you take on the role of Harry Mason, a single father vacationing with his young daughter on their way to the resort town of Silent Hill when they swerve off the road and crash to avoid hitting a young woman who appeared in the road. When he regains consciousness he finds that his daughter is missing from the car. He then begins his search of the seemingly abandoned town that has been enveloped in an eerie fog and has become home to a variety of deformed and ghostly creatures. He must now survive the town that has literally become a hell on earth if he wants to save his daughter and escape with his life.
Monsters: The monsters in his game range from skinless dogs to fetal ghosts to giant insects. The first monsters you encounter kind of pop out of nowhere a little unexpectedly and it's pretty unnerving, especially since you have no way to defend yourself. They can be pretty disturbing despite the Play Station 1 graphics.
Disturbing/Bizarre Factor: This being the first game in the series doesn't get too out there compared to some of the sequels, but introduces to the world of Silent Hill. It had to remain a world we could somewhat in some obscure way relate to; just a dilapidated old town that transforms into a hellish world of blood and rust.
Overview: This is the game that introduced us to the nightmare world of a tortured child and it does deliver on all levels. It manages to scare, disturb and intrigue all at once. It keeps you playing and makes you want to keep coming back to the nightmare town that stays with you long after you've finished playing.
Silent Hill 2 (2001)
The Silence Is Broken...
Synopsis: Four years after the death of his wife, James Sunderland receives a mysterious letter in the mail from her beckoning him back to their "special place" in the town of Silent Hill where they used to vacation as newlyweds. Confused, he goes to the town only to find it a run down and empty version of the resort town he remembered. He runs into a few other people in the town who seem lost as well. He searches this foggy town (which has now become infested with deformed humanoid creatures) for what he hopes is his wife while uncovering secrets that may be better left buried.
Monsters: This game, in my opinion, has the best monsters of the entire series. For the most part they are humanoid, unlike the animal-esque and bug-like creatures of the first game, and are pretty disturbing, with creatures looking like a woman wrapped in skin, mannequin legs attached to the top half of a human, and one of the most well known Silent Hill creatures: the bloody faceless nurses. This game also introduced the monster "Red Pyramid" aka Pyramid Head, which has been hailed as the most disturbing villain in video game history.
Disturbing/Bizarre Factor: Besides the monsters you encounter, the town itself has become somewhat different in it's transformation from the light to dark world, this time more subtle, where throughout most of the game it doesn't actually physically change so much as just become night and at a couple parts the building you're in just suddenly becomes a more rundown and decayed version of it's previous self. There are however some bizarre locations that have seemed to have sprung up, including an underground labyrinth. The game experience itself is pretty disturbing, since many of the monsters are female and seem to be in pain or tortured and you must beat them to death. You also meet a slutty version of your wife who you must help through the town and a little girl who doesn't seem to notice anything wrong with the town.
Overview: This is and will probably be my favorite Silent Hill game. None of the others have been able to give me that feeling of despair and desolation i got from this game, as well as the feeling of seeing the bizarre monsters for the first time. There's no question why this game has been labeled as the scariest game of all time.
Silent Hill 3 (2003)
If you think it's scary being lost, just wait 'til you're found...
Synopsis: A teenage girl named Heather is at the mall one day when she suddenly realizes it has become abandoned and the everyday mall she was used to has slowly transformed into a hellish labyrinth of blood and decay...and creatures straight from a twisted nightmare. As she tries to escape and get home she realizes the world she once knew has corroded into a hell she can't understand. It seems the world of Silent Hill has come to her home and is trying to lure her back for reasons related to her past that she was never aware of...
Note: This is the game the movie sequel is based on.
Monsters: The monsters in this game are pretty disturbing, like more extreme versions of the creatures from the previous two installments. They range from bloody bandaged dogs, to tall or giant bloated humanoids, to flying screeching torsos with kinfe-like appendages.
Disturbing/Bizarre Factor: Since this game is a direct sequel to the first installment, the town is pretty much a higher resolution version of it's original version, but with more disturbingly bizarre imagery. Both Heather's hometown and the town of Silent Hill transform into horrifying world of bloody decay and include some pretty twisted scenes which include several obscured shots of a faceless man in a robe sometimes with an armless woman in disturbing positions, as well as life sized dolls and mannequins strewn about as well as random photos of women's faces on the walls.
Overview: This game is relatively scary, probably the scariest in the series. It doesn't have the whole abandoned, alone feeling you get from the second game but it makes up for it with it's always disturbing atmosphere. Definitely worth a visit if you want to be scared senseless.
Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004)
It's the room that confines me.
Synopsis: A young man named Henry waked up in his apartment from a rather disturbing nightmare to find that his front door had been chained and bolted from the inside, which he doesn't remember doing. His only means of escape is through a portal-like hole that has appeared in his bathroom wall...a hole that mysteriously leads to Silent Hill. He must make the dangerous journey through the hole that takes him to different parts of the town if he wants to escape from his apartment which is becoming increasingly more haunted.
Monsters: This is the first Silent Hill game where you have to fight ghosts as enemies. About half of the enemy encounters are these creepy ghosts and they can not be killed, however some can be pinned down with a special weapon. There are some monsters as well. The monsters in this game are the most diverse, ranging from rotted dogs with long tongues, to leeches and fungus, to giant two-headed cloaked beasts with white baby-like faces.
Disturbing/Bizarre Factor: The game gets pretty weird, both with the town and with the hauntings in the apartment. The first place you go to through the portal is a subway station which, besides having it's share of monsters, has some giant worm like creature snaking through it. It doesn't end there as you encounter an eerie little boy, bug-like mannequin parts strewn about, and a gigantic disembodied head of a girl in a hospital room. The hauntings in your apartment have a wide variety of manifestations including decapitated corpse heads floating outside the window, screaming infant faces embedded in the walls, and a corpse-like ghost crawling out of the wall.
Overview: Of all the games, this is the most different since this wasn't originally going to be a Silent Hill game. That being said, I found this game pretty creepy and disturbing, but it just didn't feel like Silent Hill. It is good game in itself and worth a play but it's not one of my favorites.
Silent Hill Ørigins (2007)
The nightmare begins.
Synopsis: Taking place before the first game, Silent Hill Ørigins follows Travis Grady, a trucker passing through the town on a delivery swerves off the road to avoid hitting a girl running across the street (sounds familiar). He chases after her but instead finds a burning house. Hearing screams from inside he rushes in to find a burned little girl which he manages to pull from the house but he passes out right after. He later awakens in Silent Hill. He searches for clues as to the whereabouts of the child he rescued but instead is confronted with bizarre creatures and a ghostly little girl in a school uniform, while skeletons from his past begin to surface.
Monsters: The monsters from this game aren't as original as the previous games. It seems that they decided to reuse monsters from Silent Hill 2 such as the straight-jacket monster and the faceless nurses since they were made popular by the Silent Hill movie that had just come out. There are also some pretty huge regularly encountered monsters that are better to just avoid.
Disturbing/Bizarre Factor: There aren't really any scenes that are relatively bizarre in this game since it was the first Silent Hill game that wasn't developed by the original Japanese team so it wasn't as creative, there wasn't anything too visually unexpected.
Overview: Since this was originally a PSP game there isn't anything too unique about this game. It has a pretty interesting plot although not too original and is fun (mostly) to play but I just didn't get much out of it. It just kind of tried followed the Silent Hill formula. The main complaint I had was it seemed like the plot was developed by someone who wasn't too familiar with the original Silent Hill story since some plot points don't match up and ideas got mixed up.
Silent Hill Homecoming (2008)
Synopsis: Alex Shepherd returns home after being released from a military hospital to find that his younger brother had gone missing and that his father disappeared looking for him. Upon arriving in his hometown of Shepherd's Glen he finds the town shrouded in fog and ash and learns that many of the townsfolk have gone missing, but instead many hideous creatures lurk about. He sets off to find his brother and while doing so he uncovers a secret linking his town to Silent Hill and he realizes he needs to go there to uncover the mystery surrounding his brother's disappearance as well as about his hometown itself.
Monsters: Some of the monsters in this game were pretty good and did their job of freaking me out, while some others were just kinda there. I particularly liked the Schisms which look like naked corpse-like men hunched over with what look like the head of a hammerhead shark split down the middle with teeth and blade like ends where the eyes usually go (see pictures), and the Smogs which look like blistering and smoldering corpses with no arms that spew smoke and embers. There were a couple creature designs that were ripped right out of the movie (ie the Nurses and Pyramid Head), probably to get fans of the movie that weren't originally game players interested. This is also the first game where you encounter normal humans as common enemies.
Disturbing/Bizarre Factor: This being an American made game it lacked the outlandishly bizarre imagery from the Japanese games, but it did have it's moments. There are a couple moments where you have to cut through walls of skin and jagged teeth to proceed, as well as some twisted scenes in the hellish world.
Overview: Despite the fact that this game was very heavily based on the Silent Hill world from the movie it does have a pretty interesting plot, although somewhat predictable if you've played the other games. However I didn't like how Americanized it was; it seemed a bit too "survival horror" and not enough "psychological horror" compared to the other Silent Hill games, and the protagonist is a skilled fighter so you don't get that feeling of panic as often. I found it enjoyable, just don't expect too much.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (2009)
"You can't fight them, daddy. You have to RUN!"
Synopsis: In this re-imagining of the original game, Harry Mason awakes from a car crash to find his daughter missing, so he begins roaming his snowed in hometown of Silent Hill (not abandoned this time) searching for the whereabouts of his daughter only to discover the town has suddenly developed a nasty habit of freezing over and becoming infested with small, skinny, featureless monsters that relentlessly try to run at, grab, and smother Harry, and he has no choice but to run for his life.
Monsters: The creatures in this game, called Raw Shocks, start off looking like lanky featureless children that run and grab Harry and overpower him if not shaken off. Depending on the player's actions, the monsters gradually change appearance throughout the game. There is no way to fight these creatures, you're just forced to run.
Disturbing/Bizarre Factor: The town itself looks pretty normal until it freezes over, then it becomes a bizarre wonderland disturbing ice sculptures and otherworldly landscapes.
Overview: This is a complete re-imagining of the original game so it's very different, but I thought it was very good. It's much more of a heart-pounder since you can't fight the monsters and you must run until it's safe but if you make a wrong turn you may easily become overpowered. The final reveal at the end also took me by surprise. This is the first Silent Hill game that observes and evaluates the players actions and changes it's appearance ant plot accordingly so it can be replayed over and over with different results. I highly recommend this game to any Silent Hill fan or fan of horror gaming in general, just don't expect the Silent Hill we're used to.