Silent Hill… Released at a time where Resident Evil was moving from survival horror into more action/set-piece realms of gaming, Silent Hill decided to eschew all of that, and carve it’s own path to greatness.
Comparing it to Resident Evil
Might seem an odd thing to start with, but highlighting the differences between the two helps to empthasise how great Silent Hill actually is.
Puzzles: Silent Hill actually has proper puzzles, ones you actually have to think about. No crate pushing, no move a statue onto a grate. Actual brainteasers that’ll have you scratching your head!
It’s actually pretty hard: Ammo is fairly scarce, and you will need to learn and master the melee weapons. The gun aim is pretty woeful, and melee weapons are not exactly easy to use either. It all makes sense though, Harry, the protagonist is just a normal bloke, so him being shit with a weapons makes sense.
Right, ok. Silent Hill looks like shit. Sorry it does, it has not aged well. The fogging covers this up, and in the hell/alternate Silent Hill the darkness covers it up, but god, it looks like ass when visible.
Silent Hill was one of the first games I knew to use fogging, but it is probably the only game that does it well. But it still looks like shit.
The cutscene graphics are actually pretty amazing though, and are probably the best cutscene graphics on the PS1.
How the hell do I explain this in such a short amount of space…
Errrrrr, Harry is going on holiday, car crashes, Cheryl goes missing, Harry looks for Cheryl, weird cult shit happens, turns out really REALLY culty shit went on, and you attempt to save Cheryl.
It is a really clever story, and a lot of the details are fairly incidental to the main quest, but if you explore and investigate things you’ll get all the clues that explain the full story.
Silent Hill being a 3rd person survival horror you can pretty much guess how it plays, but for those that never played it. You run around, fumbling in the dark, stumbling from clue to clue, until you solve a puzzle and advance. The puzzles are actual “proper” puzzles too. The first “puzzle” is your standard, “hey, go and get these keys”. The second puzzle you read a bleak, obscure bit of text about birds. Then, on the piano, you type the order of these birds on the BROKEN keys.
First flew the greedy Pelican,
eager for the reward.
White wings flailing.
Then came a silent Dove,
flying beyond the Pelican,
as far as he could.
A Raven flies in,
flying higher than the Dove.
Just to show he can.
A Swan glides in to find a peaceful spot
next to another bird.
Finally, out comes a Crow,
coming quickly to a stop, yawning and then napping.
Who will show the way?
Who will be the key?
Who will lead to the silver reward?
Solve that without using a guide the first time (as a 15 year old)!
You know in Resident Evil, or pretty much any game with boss fights that the room proceeding a boss will be full of ammo/health? Not Silent Hill…
Seriously, I had to reload my game from the motel section because I got to Samael with zero health packs. I had to do the last hour of the game again, and only managed to save myself 4 health packs. Which, on hard, was just enough. You also get no warnings over an incoming boss, unless you know the game, they just sort of appear. It makes for a more intense game, as you have to plan in advance. You’re never just given the things you need for a certain section. You really need to explore, and ferret around for the stuff you need.
Silent Hill has 5! FIVE! For PS1 era this was amazing, and they are proper endings with differences. In Resi 1 you get the same Chopper scene, with no differences, except there are a few more bodies in the room. In Silent Hill the ending is fundamentally changed by your actions, and this is awesome!
The final ending, is a joke. Once you have completed the game, you can go to a convenience store, and get the channelling stone, use this in 5 preordained places, and you’ll be kidnapped by aliens. It is pretty funny. The game just ends.
As mentioned, the graphics are pretty poor, and it can be very hard to see what you’re doing.
The control scheme is a somewhat bastardised version of the Resident Evil tank controls, to be honest, I like that you can walk and shoot/attack, but the controls do feel sloppy until you get used to it, and your turning circle is shopping trolley-esque.
I thought I’d hate Silent Hill coming back to it, but father time hasn’t been too harsh on the core game, and that core game is pretty fantastic.
The graphics are terrible, there is no skirting around this, but there is so much more going on than other survival horrors from this era.
Silent Hill really is a must for all gamers.
Cons: Looks like arse, controls are a bit crappy at times