Dragon’s Den Halloween Month: Silent Hill
Still Frightening After All These Years
Welcome to another retrospective review on a title known to be one of the most scary franchises to date, but with one small difference. I have never played a Silent Hill game. So not only will this be a retrospective, it will also be a completely blind review. So does this old Playstation (One) title still hold up even after all of these years? Click below to read more and we’ll find out.
We begin with our protagonist, Harry Mason, driving along the road so that he and his daughter Cheryl can go on vacation. Due to the immense fog, Harry nearly runs someone over and gets into a wreck and finds himself in an unfamiliar town to find that Cheryl is missing. As you walk along the small area you start in, you begin to find stains of blood that leads to a chain link fence and you are suddenly assaulted by monsters and die. Harry then wakes up to find himself in a nearby bar and meets a police officer named Cybil whom also doesn’t know what’s going on in this empty town but it seems that there’s more going on than what was thought to be in the abandoned town of Silent Hill. So it falls to Harry Mason to not only find his daughter, but also find a way to escape Silent Hill before the monsters can kill you.
For a Playstation (One) title, the graphics with the settings can be both detailed and muddied at the same time in very many places. You can find yourself unnerved by the sights of blood along the floors and walls of the varying sections of the game, but at the same time it’s hard to see or read anything else unless it was important enough for you to notice. When anything important enough to read comes across your way, you need to examine it and it’ll bring you to a separate screen. But with that said, anything the game wants to draw your attention to can be horrifying. Combine this with the constant unnerving music that plays makes it so that you never feel safe, even when you’re in a room with no enemies. When the music really begins to amp up in its creepiness, you jump at the fear that something is about to jump at and kill you.
The gameplay was a little hit and miss with me. The entire game takes place with you exploring Silent Hill in a thick fog that makes you unable to see past a couple of feet, making you constantly check your map (in a separate screen) which halts progress very often unless you know the area by heart. I feel that if there was a mini-map at the corner of the screen, it wouldn’t be so bad. It’s a small annoyance, but it will add up as you continue to lose your way. As with Resident Evil (One), you move via what’s known as ‘tank controls’. What this means is that you only use the left and right directions to turn and the up direction to move forward. This mixed with any form of combat in which most hold the shoulder button and attempt to hit an enemy with a knife or axe with the X button. I say attempt because it’s difficult for any melee action to connect most times, even when you’re right in front of them. Thankfully, any gun you acquire will automatically aim at the enemy and connect as you shoot them. But even then it just becomes easier for the player to avoid any and all enemies by running past them as it lessens risk of being hurt and you save your ammo. I can also appreciate how they made ammunition very limited unless you explore the town for extra ammo and healing items.
The enemies can be very threatening under the right circumstances. If you’re in an enclosed area with four enemies running up to you and all you have is a knife, the danger is known immediately and you must find a way past them. Sadly though once you have a firearm with ammunition to spare, any standard enemy is laughable at the most as long as there is not a large group running after you. What I find questionable of how an enemy hurts Harry is that some will run up and hug him. I find this questionable as most enemies have a knife or some form of slashing weapon, but grappling you can cause damage and possibly kill you. It’s a small thing to mention again but it still bothered me nonetheless. The designs of each enemy was hit and miss with me personally. You have zombie-like dogs attacking, small babies with knives, some aerial type enemy, undead nurses and doctors, and more. The aerial enemies can be threatening as they can still catch up to you as you run and damage you, unless you zig-zag your way from point A to point B. But again, it’s very easy to avoid just by running around the enemy as a majority are very slow. There’s only one standard enemy that became annoying was another enemy that would jump at you making monkey-like noises. Even with a firearm, the ‘monkey-man’ can push you to the ground and almost kill you. I keep making vague descriptions of some of the enemies, but that’s because outside of maybe a weapon or clothing, many others are not detailed in any way, making them less threatening still. This applies to some of the bosses, because outside of the first and last boss of the game, each one is a non-threatening concept that you can just laugh at.
With all of this said, I still had a great time playing through this game for the first time and I was even able to get the best ending. Although I didn’t like the lack of detail on a lot of the enemies, it more than made up for it with details on the setting as you venture into alternate versions of buildings, having to walk on bloodied chain link fences. The puzzles can legitimately stump you and you feel great as you find the solution. The combat was very clunky when it came to anything to do with melee, but using firearms to auto-aim at the enemy and shoot them down was satisfying. Silent Hill still holds up today despite its problems as it can still tell a good story (albeit predictable at places and voice acting aside), a character to relate to in his mission to rescue his daughter, and horrifying music to accompany you the entire way as you venture through the town. If you’ve never played a Silent Hill title, this is still a great place to start if you’re interested in looking into the franchise.
+Story -Clunky Melee
+Easy to Relate to -Lack of Detailed Enemies
+Firearms -Laughable Bosses
+Rewarding to Explorers -Hurtful Hugs?
+Horrifying Music -Lack of Mini-Map
+Unnerving to the End