Silent Hill 4 was the last official Silent Hill game released by members of the original Team Silent. After they were disbanded in 2005, Konami decided to continue the series with a parade of Western developed Silent Hill games. I don’t really have that much to say about the majority of them, so I’m compiling them into one review.
Silent Hill Origins (2007)-
Silent Hill Origins was the first non-Team Silent made Silent Hill title (Unless you count the Silent Hill visual novel on the GBA, but since I’m allowed to leave my house without supervision from mental hospital orderlies, I don’t.) Origins was developed by Climax Studios, a developer best known for… Releasing an Xbox live Arcade game that was unanimously panned by everybody. Well, if Konami was good at making decisions, they wouldn’t be hated by pretty much everyone these days. Origins was originally released for the PSP and later ported to the PS2 like many PSP games were. The story is literally the origin story of the cult and of Silent Hill itself, so it’s like they were purposefully trying to offend my tastes. The story is ok I guess, but I don’t like the main character and he has no reason to be in Silent Hill. The gameplay is lame. They tried to create this system where you can pick up pretty much any item in the world and use it as a weapon. Admittedly, this is a cool idea, especially for a survival horror game, but it’s not well executed. It makes an already not very scary game an even less scary one when you always have a billion weapons to use; albeit it is unintentionally hilarious hitting monsters over the head with the hundred TVs you have shoved down your pants. The environments are generic and there’s a lot of repetition and backtracking, possibly due to the limitations of the system. Akira Yamaoka returns for the soundtrack which is nice, but it’s mostly remixes of older songs and the original pieces aren’t really all that memorable. Overall, Origins is just not up to the standards that the original devs had set for the series, and not a great start for the series post-Team Silent.
Silent Hill: Homecoming (2008)-
Silent Hill Homecoming is probably my least favorite console game in the series. Developed by Double Helix games, Homecoming’s story is that Alex Sheppard returns from war to his home town of Shepard’s Glen, to find the city in disarray and his brother missing. Alex as a character annoys me. His character traits including being a soldier, being a soldier and being a soldier. He’s a one dimensional character which sucks because the idea of “Silent Hill” being a metaphor for returning from war and having something as familiar as your own hometown become strange and out of sorts as you reacquaint with civilian life is actually a pretty clever idea; one that merrily sailed over everybody at Double Helix’s head as they decided to do what every Western Silent Hill game does which is rip off Silent Hill 2. Seriously, why are there sexy nurses in this game? They were only in Silent Hill 2 because they were symbolic of James’s lustful thoughts. Why are there sexed-up nurses in Alex’s version of Silent Hill, was he mentally traumatized in an infirmary next to the cantaloupe stockpile? This is the problem with basically every western Silent Hill game. They seem to think that Silent Hill is just a troubled person going to a spooky town in search of a loved one. But Silent Hill 4 isn’t that, and it’s certainly more Silent Hill than any of the games that are trying to replicate 2. But it’s not bad enough that the game tries to copy Silent Hill 2, there’s just an absolutely obnoxious amount of fan service. Fan service in games is fine as long as it’s not too intrusive, but why is Pyramid Head in this game for any other reason than fan service?
The gameplay is fine but the dodge-rolling in combat is fucking stupid. I get that Alex is a soldier and not somebody who is completely clueless when it comes to combat like the majority of Silent Hill protagonists, but it doesn’t make it any less stupid of a thing to put into a Silent Hill game. I like some of the boss design and the game is at least a bit creepy at points, but nowhere near as scary as it needs to be. Overall, Homecoming is pretty par for the course when it comes to the Western SH games. It’s just a bad version of 2 with worse characters and story, and it’s just not particularly scary.
Silent Hill Downpour (2011)-
Silent Hill Downpour is an improvement over Homecoming, but that’s not really saying that much. This time we follow the story of Murphy Pendleton, a prisoner with a name that was voted in high school as the least likely one for a hardened criminal to have. His daughter is kidnapped and killed and after killing her murderer, Murphy is sent to jail. While being transported there, the vehicle crashes and he must escape through the town of Silent Hill. Already I have a problem with the plot because it does the same thing Silent Hill Origins did where the main character has literally no reason to be in Silent Hill, therefore the story feels incredibly forced. Silent Hill isn’t really a town, it’s an idea, or a symbolic representation of one’s internal struggles. There was no reason that James Sunderland was in Silent Hill other than the fact that he had nothing else to live for other than getting to see his dead wife again and make amends. It’s what makes the story so powerful. There’s nothing keeping Murphy from turning around and going literally anywhere else. And what is it about Silent Hill that attracts naïve dorks with dark secrets anyway? The moment to moment gameplay is probably the best in the series. It actually has a decent version of the system that Origins was going for, but it’s better executed this time.
The biggest problem with Downpour is that it just isn’t scary. Another thing that Western Silent Hill games are obsessed with is this “other world” where you just have to run from something you can’t kill. In Downpour though, these often make you control your character going down a slide, which is something straight out of a Super Mario game and not in the least bit scary. But the biggest reason it’s just not as chilling as the previous games is that the enemies are humans. I know I’ve complained about the human element making the older games less frightening to a frankly annoying degree, but the enemies in this game are literally just dudes. Yes, their faces are fucked up, but who cares, they’re still just humans, and not fighting unnatural monstrosities in a Silent Hill game is like having Ted Kaczynski as your Secret Santa. The game ran like absolute trash on launch, and once again, a Western Silent Hill game tries to ape Silent Hill 2 without understanding the strengths that made that formula work. This was also the first and only main series Silent Hill game that wasn’t scored by Akira Yamoaka, and while the soundtrack is good, it feels like the rest of the game which is to say a bad knockoff of the better games in the series. Downpour would maybe be better received if it was an original IP and not a Silent Hill game, but I doubt it.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories (2012)-
I’m not even going to dignify this one with a review.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (2009)-
Silent Hill Shattered Memories was released for the Wii in 2009 and was ported to other consoles later, but the Wii version is almost universally considered the definitive version. Shattered Memories is a remake/reimagining of the original Silent Hill game. It starts off in a psychologist’s office where you flash back to Harry Mason’s time in Silent Hill. The story basically follows the same story beats as the original up to a point, his car crashes and his daughter is lost and he must find her. What I really like about this game is that it actually has the surreal, dreamlike nature of the Japanese Silent Hill games, which is something that the other post- Team Silent games never really effectively recaptured. I actually like the story in this game quite a bit. It removes the cult plot element that really held the original back in my opinion, and instead replaces the whole thing by making Silent Hill a metaphor for struggling with coping with the loss of a parent. The (admittedly predictable) twist that you actually play as Harry’s daughter makes Silent Hill as a concept way more interesting than it just being a town where a creepy cult is conjuring spooky things.
The gameplay is really where Shattered Memories drops the ball a bit. The atmosphere is fantastic in some parts, and it looks great considering the limitations of the Wii’s hardware. But, because the only time you can actually die is in the stupid “other world” where you are forced to run from enemies, it means you never have to fear anything as long as the game hasn’t transported you to the other world. I genuinely don’t understand this choice, because there are moments where the atmosphere is really amazing, and if they had just put a few enemies here and there to keep you on your toes, I would absolutely have no problem putting the game up there with the Japanese Silent Hill games, well, it would still be below all of them, but still. I get that because it was on the Wii, they probably wanted a more casual experience, and thus didn’t want to add real combat, but it sucks because the game would be much better if it had just managed to actually be scary. Everything else is there. The story is good, and finally not just a bad version of remaking SH 2’s plot, and I actually prefer it in many ways to the original’s plot. The game does this really cool thing where it actually psychoanalyzes you as you complete the therapy sessions in the game, and uses that information to subtly change the game. Granted, there aren’t really any big changes from what I can tell, but it’s a cool idea, and the puzzles in the game are really clever. Yamaoka’s soundtrack is brilliant and beautiful and it is that cherry on top that finally makes it truly feel like Silent Hill again. I just wish that they hadn’t decided to do the stupid other world thing. This game also has one of the best “gag” endings in the entire series. Overall, I would recommend Shattered Memories as long as you don’t expect the game to actually scare you, which is a huge hurdle for a horror game to get around, but I still think it’s worth giving a shot if you want to dig out the ol’ Wii and try out some new games.
Well that’s it. I’ve reviewed every Silent Hill game. Thanks for reading my month-long Halloween retrospective about one of my favorite series in gaming. I will be taking a break for a few short days and then I’ll be doing the same thing for all the 3D Mario games to celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary.