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Konami just held a press event in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and it unveiled a trailer for what is supposed to be the next Silent Hill.
The teaser showed a blonde haired man walking on a beach in the middle of a dense fog (Silent Hill already!). He looks around, confused, and suddenly gets ambushed by creatures. The trailer goes black as they begin their attack. (thanks to IGN for the news!)
Konami officially said that more news would be coming at E3 this June.
I am both excited, and worried. I have been a fan of Silent Hill since the first (and the first video game to make me pause the game out of fright, turn the lights on, and breathe in and out deeply for five minutes before continuing). And if you read the forums, the junkies will tell you that you're not a true Silent Hill fan if SH 2 is not your favorite…of course, it so happens that Silent Hill 2 IS my favorite. I remember having deep talks and conversations with my friends on the meanings of the endings, the story lines, and all of the metaphors and symbolism featured in the game. Silent Hill 3 picked up where 1 left off, and I was blown away by the dark, depressing and gory atmosphere and settings. Some settings seemed to "come alive" by pulsing and vibrating with your every step. Silent Hill: The Room was a departure from the norm of previous Silent Hill games, but a welcome one because it still scared you. Even in your apartment, which was supposed to be safe and secure from evil began to change and distort to the point where NO WHERE in the game was safe.
And then something happened…Konami thought it a good idea by shipping the name to an American developer. Was that a bad decision? That's up for debate.
Silent Hill Origins was ok…better than I expected for a PSP survival horror game, but I got to admit that the inventory menus and the weapons system was god awful. The story line was corny, and didn't have much of a bang to the ending (something the first four had).
Then Homecoming came…and they thought "COMBAT!" This was a different development house than the one that did Origins. Graphics were good, but it tried to copy SH 2 too much with its "psychological-it's-all-in-my-head" theme. Which is a good plot to go by, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't shocking enough. I wont spoil the ending for either 2 or Homecoming here, but I wasn't as shocked and blown away after beating Homecoming than 2. And the combat (thought I forgot!?) was good, but it has NO place in a SH game. SH is survival horror. If I want to play a game where I have the CAPABILITIES OF BEATING MONSTERS EXPERTLY, I will play God of War, or Gears. NOT Silent Hill.
Then Shattered Memories came out. A GREAT concept…the game plays different depending on what choices you make, and what questions you answer in a quiz (really, they quiz you and test you). Depending on how you play, what you look at, and how you answer questions, some of the NPCs react to you differently, talk to you differently, dress differently, and even your own clothes can change. Even items you pick up, messages you receive on your phone, are all different depending on how you play.
But ice? Ice. When the world changes around you after things turn all sorts of messed up (nightmarish), things are SUPPOSED to turn deathly, bloody and rusted, not…icy. It had such promise too!
Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of Silent Hill, and I like whatever they put out (the movie was actually REAL good I think). But what the series desperately needs is a rebooting of sorts. We need to get back to what truly is the essence of fear. Not just a fear of monsters, or "jumpy scenarios."
So what is fear? Fear is:
Being in an unknown place, even though you've been there before. And in that unknown place you are thankful to meet people, but they are not to be trusted and do not help you in any way. Fear is being ALONE. Fear is not knowing the answers till the very end, with no clues to guide you. And when that answer comes in the end, it all makes sense. Or maybe it still doesn't? Fear is having a slew of questions with no answers. Fear is being helpless, unable to help those around you that desperately need it. Fear is watching people die in front of you, helpless, instead of you yourself dying over and over again. Fear is being pursued not only by enemies and monsters, but by dark secrets, dark memories purposely forgotten. Fear is revisiting a past you wanted to forget. Fear is confronting those past memories. Fear has no happy ending. Fear does not end with a rainbow at the end. Fear is losing someone, something. Fear is trying to find that someone/something, with the constant thought of you not being able to find them at all. Fear is death. Fear is pain (not just physical pain, but emotional pain).
If it seems that I closely related Silent Hill 2 and Shattered Memories in the previous paragraph, you are right. Those two games caught the essence of fear, and what it is that TRULY scares the character, and the player. The next Silent Hill needs to personify what fear is. The developers (hopefully) sat down and talked about subconscious fear and what it is that truly scares people, instead of just "let's give this monster a gory looking face." Fear is RUNNING from something, not diving head first into it. Fear is unwillingly finding something you WANTED to forget, or being thrust with something you never wanted. Fear is being overwhelmed by disorder, not just in "gory looking monsters," but in strife and challenge.
Imagine yourself as a kid…being afraid of the dark basement, or the closet when the lights go out. What are you afraid of in there? The boggie man? An axe murderer? OK, now, describe what they look like. You can't can you? Every child fears the boggie man at some point in their life, but can never present a physical description of it. It is fear of the unknown, fear of what you CAN'T see, versus what is in front of you.
Fear of not being presented with the answers right away, and a fear of what doesn't seem right, surely IS not right. And how do we do this?
Present a flawed character; not just physically, but mentally and emotionally flawed. He/she is not an expert in anything, they are just a simple "run-of-the-mill" character with no special skills. The average American person, so to speak. You cannot present all of their flaws in the beginning, it must be developed over time throughout the story. The story presents its challenges, and the character is tested, and most, if not always, FAILS. Fear is failure, not success (or fearing failure). This character is either thrust into something they don't want to be in (a storyline that has an outside, worldly cause and effect), or is thrust into something they were trying to forget. Or even a distortion of their vision and how they perceive things. Fear is a mental disorder (it is, look it up), so we wan't to instill fear INSIDE your head, versus outside your head.
The journey will present itself with challenges, most of them failures and most of the witnessing failure, death, chaos, distorted reality, gore (possibly), disorder, questions, and sadness. And in the end comes sadness. Death. Depression. Loneliness. Despair. True fear is that no matter the outcome, it will not be a good one, or a happy one. Instead, it will be either a bearable sad or unhappy ending, or a truly horrific and terrible ending. Most often than not, death is NOT the only end, and in a true fearful ending, living with nightmares instead of being released from them is a fate worse than death (just ask Kratos).
If they can nail that down, then we can have a groundbreaking horror game, whether it be the next Silent Hill, or a brand new IP. I know our technology is limited, but we cannot stifle the creativity of developers out there. Technology today needs to be pushed, and we have great examples already of implementing different types of fear into gamers today. We need to revisit those, and explore new ways to do so.
So in conclusion: What scares you? What do YOU truly fear? How can there be a truly scary video game in YOUR eyes?