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SILENT HILL: ORIGINS (aka SILENT HILL: ZERO) (PlayStation Portable/PlayStation 2)
Release: November 6, 2007 (North America) December 6, 2007 (Japan) October 26, 2007 (Europe)
This horror prequel marked a significant change in the Silent Hill series, being the first entry to be handed over to a western developer. Initially given to Climax Studios’ North American branch—where the game took much influence from Capcom’s Resident Evil 4— issues with the project eventually lead to the company handing the development reins over to Climax U.K., who cobbled together the final version released in 2007. Origins stars trucker Travis Grady in the late 1970s prior to the events of the original Silent Hill, where he finds himself rescuing a young Alyssa Gillespie from a burning house—an event which would act as the catalyst to the nightmarish conditions in the original Silent Hill. Again, the Otherworld takes centre stage, but this time you are able to transition between realms via mirrors dotted throughout the landscape, while Grady is now able to brawl with foes in a game of fisticuffs, though melee and firearms are still at the forefront of combat.
Origins didn’t abandon its Resi 4 inspirations entirely at Climax U.K., though, as QTEs also slip into the action if you are grappled by an enemy, allowing you to extricate yourself from their grasp without injury—although it works both ways, mind. While the series had cut ties with Team Silent, music maestro Akira Yamaoka still returns to weave his magic once again for Origins and would remain as chief composer for many games to come. Yet, despite the shift in development studios, Silent Hill Origins is as true to the series’ established paradigm as any of its predecessors, and remains one of the most popular post-Team Silent endeavours, though the PlayStation 2 port released a year can’t hold a candle to its PSP counterpart. Think Silent Hill is less pant-soiling on a smaller screen? Think again.
SILENT HILL: THE ARCADE (Arcade)
Release: July 25, 2007 (Japan) 2008 (Europe)
A House of the Dead-style shoot-’em-up is about as rapid departure from the quintessential Silent Hill experience as you can get, but that’s exactly what Konami did back in 2007 with this curious light gun romp. The game sees a group of students investigating the local legend of the ill-fated Little Baroness, a steamer that foundered in Toluca Lake back in the 1910s and was briefly mentioned in a Silent Hill 2 newspaper clipping. 21-year-old Eric, grandson of the captain of the Little Baroness, is the game’s lead protagonist, and is joined by a group of fellow college chums as they venture into the foggy town and find it infested with malevolent creatures.
Soon enough, the group ends up being attacked, and it’s up to Eric and his female companion, Tina, to remedy the situation with hot lead as you investigate a series of classic Silent Hill locations, such as Brookhaven hospital and more. Ever wondered what would happen if Silent Hill met SEGA’s venerable zombie shoot-’em-up franchise? The Arcade pretty much is your answer. While not exactly your typical Silent Hill adventure, The Arcade was never given a home console port, so if you find yourself able to play one, it’s probably best to give it a go all the same.
SILENT HILL: HOMECOMING (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360/PC)
Release: September 30, 2008 (North America) February 27, 2009 (Europe) (Japan release canceled)
The debut Silent Hill for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Homecoming perpetuated the series’ new-found desire for outsourcing development to western companies, as well as attempting to cater to more mainstream action fans. Developed by Double Helix Games, Homecoming was a standalone adventure that introduced a new slew of characters, chief among which includes the Alex Shepherd, a 20-something former soldier who acts as the game’s protagonist. Homecoming explores the nearby town of Shepherd’s Glenn and its connection to the series’ demonic town, specifically the resident’s act of appeasing Silent Hill’s gods by sacrificing a child of the family every 50 years. Aside from a wealth of new locations—all of which are coated in the perennial fog that plagues Silent Hill itself—the central district of town makes a return, as does a revamped Alchemilla Hospital.
Double Helix’s take on combat is the closest yet to a modern action-adventure rendition of the series. There’s the over-the-shoulder camera for starters, allowing you to target specific body parts and weak points, while melee combat has also received something of an overhaul. Given Shepherd’s military history, players can now execute an array of fancy maneuvers to dodge foes and counterattack. Western influence also creeps into the creature designs, with many enemies—notably Pyramid Head and the Nurses—sharing aesthetical similarities with the 2006 movie adaptation of Silent Hill by Christophe Gans.
SILENT HILL: SHATTERED MEMORIES (Wii, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2)
Release: December 6, 2009 (North America) March 25, 2010 (Japan) February 26, 2010 (Euorpe)
Climax returned to the series with Silent Hill: Shattered Memories in 2009, a re-imagining of the original horror classic that proved quite a departure from the 1999 groundwork. The most significant change is that Shattered Memories eschews any form of combat, with players forced to escape and hide form foes—this time taking the form of humanoid creatures known as Rawshocks—rather than face them directly. Harry Mason once again takes centre stage, albeit in a vastly overhauled incarnation sporting glasses who explores a chilly Silent Hill that becomes encased in ice during the Otherworld transitions. More interestingly, players start off their journey in a psychiatrist’s ward, where they are presented with a series of seemingly arbitrary questions (how much do you drink, do you engage in any sexual fetishes, etc) which ultimately shape how Mason reacts to characters throughout his adventure.
The core cast return, though their roles have altered since the original game. For example, Dhallia is now a sultry, 20-something compared to the cult-obsessed old hag she was portrayed as in 1999’s Silent Hill. Mason is also far more tech-savvy than he was in the first game, now wielding a smartphone he can use for various purposes, such as GPS tracking, phone calls, and taking snapshots of items in the environment. These changes resulted in a far more survival horror feel to the proceedings, and Shattered Memories was among the best-received western titles to date; however, its ‘chase’ sequences attracted some criticism for becoming too repetitive, and some pockets of fans lamented the lack of authentic combat.
Shattered Memories also showed up on PS2 and PSP, though it has to be said the original Wii version remains the most compelling edition to play.
SILENT HILL: DOWNPOUR (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)
Release: March 13, 2012 (North America) November 8, 2012 (Japan) March 29, 2012 (Europe)
Konami handed development of the latest core title to now-defunct Vatra Games, who cobbled together the pseudo-sandbox offering, Silent Hill: Downpour in spring 2012. Unlike the linear-focused Silent Hill games of old, Downpour offered a more open environment for players to explore, introducing side quests for the first time in the venerable scare-’em-up franchise. Players controlled newcomer Murphy Pendleton, a convict who finds himself stranded in the foggy streets of Silent Hill after his prison transport bus crashes on the outskirts of town. Vatra offers a whole new, previously unexplored area of the eponymous town to investigate, and there’s far more emphasis on visiting the winding streets, alleyways, and surrounding woodland. In an attempt to elongate the game’s replay value, Downpour also introduces branching dialogue and multiple endings, giving you more incentive to tackle the horrors of Silent Hill at least half-a-dozen times if you want to have a gander at everything the game has to offer.
While the game was met with mixed reviews, Downpour enjoyed praise from long-time fans for its return to the more traditional survival horror experience. Exploration was pushed to the forefront of the action, with ammunition and healing items a rare commodity. Sadly, the creature design was among the most heavily criticized component of Downpour, lacking the ingenious spark of Team Silent’s monstrosities, instead proving decidedly generic by comparison. Nonetheless, we found the game to be a compelling horror romp.
SILENT HILL: BOOK OF MEMORIES (PlayStation Vita)
Release: October 16, 2012 (North America) February 14, 2013 (Japan) November 2, 2012 (Europe)
The second handheld outing in the multi-million selling horror franchise, Book of Memories is a PlayStation Vita-exclusive top-down romp that marks a rapid departure from past Silent Hill games. The game isn’t strictly part of the main canon; rather, it’s a spin-off of sorts, with players able to explore various rust-covered, blood-drenched locations with various non-descript characters, who are fully customizable. The object? Trundle through each room, dispatching foes using melee or firearm-based weapons, encountering a few cerebral-based challenges along the way. Book of Memories is notable for introducing multiplayer for the first time in the series, allowing gamers to team up together to take down the malevolent forces of Silent Hill. If anything, the game has more in common with dungeon crawlers like Diablo than Silent Hill, as you’ll be picking up tons of loot and upgrading your weapons and items along the way. There’s even a shop where you can purchase essential supplies from.
So, there we have it. 15 years of pant-soiling antics, courtesy of Konami, Team Silent, and numerous other developers who have weaved their magic within the malevolent, twisted world of Silent Hill.
With the upcoming Silent Hills looking to reboot the franchise under the watchful eye of Hideo Kojima in the not-too-distant future, you can be sure you’ll be reaching for the underwear drawer for many years to come.
Let us know your favorite Silent Hill moments below!