Everyone has heard of and recognizes Silent Hill as one of the classic game franchises that manages to scare the ever-loving out of you…or at least it used to. Creepy monsters, complicated characters, and outlandish stories kept us engaged and coming back for more…or at least it used to. Turning off the lights, cranking up the volume, and wrapping yourself up in a blanket set the perfect mood to be truly immersed in the game to the point where you’d jump at your own shadow…or at least it used to.
I have been a die-hard fan of the Silent Hill series since the very beginning and was instantly charmed by its sinister tones and bleak outlook of people’s darker emotions. Call me disturbed but I do love the depressing setting where there isn’t necessarily a “happily ever after” and you see the uglier side of people through thoughts, words and actions. Like everyone else, I have a dark side and I like to explore it every now and then through movies or games, and Silent Hill is a great way to express it. Having said that, it is highly debatable that after the original three games the series lost its steam at an unfortunately alarming rate.
For those of you who have not experienced the series first hand (shame on you), I’ll provide a little background. Each game stands on its own (with the exception of SH3) although there are references to each other in each game. The series is heavily inspired by horror writers (ie Stephen King), directors (ie David Lynch) and artists (ie Francis Bacon). The Silent Hill history is surprisingly rich and actually has a lot to do with each game in the series. The history is rife with coal mines, prisons, sacred Indian grounds and cults and are all addressed in the games and sometimes pivotal to the stories (check out the cosplay site visitsilenthill.com for more amazing info). Needless to say, whatever the true reason, the township of Silent Hill is haunted. Actually that’s an understatement; Silent Hill is an earthly version of your own personal hell. The town looks and acts differently to each person and is reflected in the games. It takes your deep dark secrets and sins and physically manifests them. The reason for this is unclear at best, but my opinion is that the town’s purpose is to punish you.
There’s a creed I personally believe when it comes to Silent Hill: it’s what you bring with you. For most of the characters (not all) they have a dark secret that they live with and the town “beckons” to them. Whatever the reason that drives them to go to Silent Hill, you can be sure the town has many tricks up its sleeve to amplify each person’s pain until they are ready to face it. In the mean time, the town will do its best to scare the crap out of you until you man up or drop into a fetal position and die, and this is where the series really shines.
The brilliance of Silent Hill (despite the crazy characters and story) is the sense of immersion. This series is dark, not just tonally but literally. It’s incredible how little your flashlight helps at times, not that it will necessarily save you from whatever lurks in said darkness. From jump scares to pure tension with no real release, even well lit rooms will leave you unsettled. Music plays a pivotal role as well. Any Silent Hill fan worth his/her salt knows composer Akira Yamaoka as a staple in the series. From unsettling metallic clangs to chilling string compilations to emotional piano pieces, there is much to be found in each game’s score.
Having said all that, I stated at the beginning I don’t feel that all this remains constant in the series. There are many reasons for this, whether it’s lack of consistency with the town story, character motivations, or just bad game design. For the rest of the month I will be posting reviews of each of the eight main games (excluding the PS Vita Silent Hill: Book of Memories as I have not played it), plus the HD collection. My first review will be posted soon. See you all then.