Shadow of Phoenix

Respect for Games

Shade’s Review of Silent Hill

Posted on this site: Thursday, March 24, 2022

Originally published on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at https://shadevideogames.blogspot.com/2014/11/shades-review-of-silent-hill.html

During the week of Halloween this year, I played Silent Hill 1-4.
When I was a teenager, I loved playing all four games (one Silent Hill a day) for four days straight during summer breaks from school.
I have played these games so many times it’s ridiculous.
After writing about my impressions of the upcoming Silent Hills as well as just finishing these games for the umpteenth time, I thought I would write a blog on each game.
I also hope to write plot analyses of the games in the near future.
I will write about the western Silent Hill games soon when I get the chance to play them again.
As for now, I will focus on the original four games starting with the first Silent Hill.
In this post, I will give some information on Silent Hill 1, I will briefly talk about my experience with the game, and provide my of review for it.
I will also not provide many plot details in case someone who has not played Silent Hill reads this review.
 
Silent Hill was released for the original PlayStation in 1999, and published by Konami.
It was developed by a creative team at Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo (KCET) that Silent Hill fans call Team Silent.
According to the short Making of Silent Hill video (I will post the link below), Team Silent had 15 people working on Silent Hill including Keiichiro Toyama (Writer and Director), Hiroyuki Owaku (programmer; writer of SH2&3), Masahiro Ito (creature designer), Takayoshi Sato (character designer & CGI creator), and Akira Yamaoka (sound director & music).
In an article from Polygon (I will also post the link below), Toyama says that he was influenced by stories of occults and UFOs, and David Lynch films in creating Silent Hill.
He did not think the game could be considered horror, and was surprised when people that played it found it scary.
It is definitely a scary game, and the start of a wonderful series.
Silent Hill is the game that not only made me a big fan of this and the next three games, but it got me into the survival horror genre.
 
I received Silent Hill as a Christmas gift a year or two after it was released.
I was around 12-13 at the time, and I was too scared to play it.
A family member ended up playing it first so I watched them play.
Just watching the game being played made me uncomfortable.
I would close my eyes or hide behind a pillow when I thought something bad would happen.
One scare in particular scared us half to death.
I will not say which one it was in case anyone reading this has not played Silent Hill.
 
It took me a long time to play the game myself.
I would start playing it, but I would get too scared and shut it off.
After a few tries, I finally built the courage to play the entire game.
The game still made me uncomfortable, and I would have to take breaks from being scared.
Once I finished the game, I realized how much I enjoyed it.
Not only was it very successful at scaring me, but it was very fun to play.
The story was intriguing even though I did not understand what was happening at time, and what exactly the nightmare was due to the story being presented like a puzzle.
The fact that the story was not easy to follow made me even more fascinated with Silent Hill.
I didn’t replay the first game until after I played Silent Hill 3.
After playing Silent Hill 4, I played Silent Hill 1 and its sequels over and over because I enjoyed them so much.
That is my experience with Silent Hill 1, and now I will give my review of the game.
 
The game itself plays very similarly to old school Resident Evil.
Like Resident Evil, Silent Hill uses tank controls.
Tank controls is the term used for a control scheme in which the directional buttons move the character in the same direction no matter the camera angle.
Up on the d-pad/left analog stick always moves the character forward, down moves the character backward, and so on.
Some people hate tanks controls.
I found them to be difficult at first as well.
Once I got used them, I realized how well they work especially in a game where the camera angles are constantly changing.
The only problem I still have is that Harry (the character you control) seems a little difficult to control when he’s running.
He always seems to hit the walls when I have him run.
Due to this, I only have Harry run when he’s in the streets of Silent Hill, or I’m trying to get away from enemies.
 
The camera angles give the game a cinematic feel.
At some points such as running down a street or a hallway, the camera angle can be switched to move behind Harry by pressing L2 on the default control layout.
Other times, the camera will be fixed on a door, an object, or just to show the player which direction to go.
Nowadays, most games have button prompts to tell players which door to open and what items can be taken.
I think using camera angles is a more artistic way of showing players where to go and important items to pick up.
 
Silent Hill has combat, which involves using firearms and melee weapons to kill monstrous enemies.
To fight enemies, the player holds R2 to draw the weapon equipped, and presses the X button shoot (if a firearm is equipped) or strike the enemy (if a melee weapon is equipped).
Harry also carries a flashlight and a radio.
The flashlight helps Harry and the player see in the darkness, and the radio emits static when enemies are nearby.
It’s very hard to see anything in the thick fog or when the town is dark.
When it is dark and the flashlight is off, Harry cannot see to look at a map, unlock a door, or pick up an item.
But, having the flashlight on can attract enemies to Harry.
The radio lets the player know when enemies are close even though they can’t be seen.
Not only does this alert the player to be prepared, but the radio static itself can become frightening because the player knows that a monster that can’t be seen is getting close.
Not being able to see what is coming close to you is very frightening.
 
There are no HUDs (Heads Up Displays).
Everything including Harry’s health indicator, weapons, items, and options is in a pause menu inventory.
That’s one of the things I love about the gameplay in Silent Hill.
There is nothing on the screen to distract players.
The only downside is that you have to remember to check your health status especially if Harry has been hit a few times.
 
I remember some people claiming that Silent Hill is a rip-off of Resident Evil.
I never understood that claim because Silent Hill is nothing like Resident Evil.
The only thing that Silent Hill has that is similar to Resident Evil is gameplay with the tank controls, camera angles, no HUDs, and pause menu inventory.
Silent Hill was using the gameplay standard at the time set by Resident Evil, and it was used by many other horror games during the 5th and 6th console generations.
That does not make Silent Hill a rip-off of Resident Evil.
Silent Hill and Resident Evil have more differences than similarities.
 
A big difference is that Silent Hill focuses more on psychological horror than survival horror.
Resident Evil is survival horror due to limitations in health items, ammunition, and inventory space.
The items you can’t carry with you (which will be a lot) can be kept in item boxes throughout the game.
It makes players think about what items they should have with them.
Silent Hill is categorized as survival horror, and you do have to worry about dying.
But, it is more focus on psychological horror.
 
There are an abundance of health items.
If you play hard mode, though you might be using more of those health items.
Ammunition is not too much of a worry unless, again, you play hard mode, and you don’t increase the ammo count in the extra options menu.
There are several melee weapons such as the kitchen knife, steel pipe, etc.
Of course using melee weapons means that you have to come in close range with enemies, which can lead to Harry taking more damage.
The inventory space in Silent Hill is unlimited.
There is no place to store items nor is there a need to because Harry carries everything.
That does seem unrealistic, but so does Jill or Chris carrying weapons, herbs, and other items in their pockets.
 
Silent Hill is more psychological horror due to the atmosphere, sound effects, and horrifying environments.
Jump scares are few and far between.
It is more about constantly anticipating something to happen.
The music and sound effects can make players feel on edge.
It plays on the fear of the unknown.
For example, a crash may be heard that can scare players (scared me the first few times), but you have no idea where the noise came from or what caused it.
 
The environments are always shifting from normal (fog and snow) to dark to nightmare, and the cycle repeats.
The shifting in the environment makes it seem unpredictable especially during the first playthrough.
It usually takes something to trigger the shift such as when Harry uses three keys to unlock the backdoor of a house, and the town becomes dark when he goes through the door.
I found the nightmare to be very disturbing with the blood and rust walls, grated floors, and disfigured bodies.
It made me want to get the hell out.
Harry questions reality throughout the game, and it makes players question what is real and what is just a dream.
 
There is a lot to the storyline of Silent Hill.
I will save most of the details for my plot analysis.
It begins with Harry driving his daughter Cheryl to the resort town of Silent Hill for a vacation.
A female motorcycle cop passes Harry on the highway to the town.
Moments later, Harry passes the cop’s abandoned motorcycle, and the cop is nowhere to be found.
He then sees what looks to be a person walking in the road, and Harry turns the wheel in a panic causing the jeep they’re in to run off the road.
He later wakes up, and finds that Cheryl is gone.
He goes to look for her in the foggy town of Silent Hill.
 
Lastly, the game has good replayability.
There are three difficulty levels: easy, normal, and hard.
There are five endings to achieve depending on players’ actions during the game.
A statistics results screen is shown after the credits giving the players a star rating based on the time it took to beat the game, number of deaths, endings achieved, etc.
The statistics can be an incentive for players to attain a better star rating.
Afterwords, players can save their results to play Next Fear on their second playthrough.
Next Fear has extra items and weapons based on the endings accomplished.
It’s also the next level up in difficulty.
If a player plays on easy the first playthrough then Next Fear will be on normal, and so forth.
I think the puzzle-like presentation of the storyline adds to the replayability as well.
It certainly made me replay it over and over so I could I figure out the story through character dialogue, memos, and images within the game.
 
I think this is a great place to end the review.
I love Silent Hill.
I don’t have anything bad to say about the game.
The only criticism I have is the clunky controls with Harry running into walls at times, but the next two games improve on it.
I have the played the game so many times that I’m not scared of it anymore, but I still love the game due to the creativity of Team Silent.
I don’t like giving number ratings so I won’t do that.
I will say that anyone who loves horror games and especially Silent Hill, Silent Hill 1 is definitely worth keeping forever.
For anyone who has never played Silent Hill 1, but has played other Silent Hill games or liked the Silent Hills P.T. demo then don’t hesitate to buy a used copy.
A digital version is also available for PS3 and PSP through the PlayStation Store for $6.