System: PlayStation :: Rating: Mature :: Players: 1
Genre: Adventure :: Released: 24 February 1999
By Anthony Logan
The fear of blood tends to create the fear for the flesh.
The first line of text on a barren screen. Those words are quickly replaced by a charred picture of an adolescent girl. The opening video to Silent Hill is striking in its similarity to the beginning of a TV show, showing you the events leading up to the point that you take over in this PlayStation exclusive gem. This is a game that brings you into its world and disorients you, making sure that you have no true way to right yourself before throwing the next thing at you.
Silent Hill will not wow you in the graphics department. I said it. More and more, the focus of games is the graphics. This game's graphics are not anything to write home about. In fact, I would venture that the graphics are the weakest link in this game. Textures are muddy, objects aren't too terribly interesting, and the outdoors areas aren't breathtaking in the least. But, oddly enough, the graphics being weak aren't even enough to drag this game's score down. For all of the disdain about the graphics, there happens to be one thing, graphically, that the game has in it's favor. The flashlight.
Darkness is very scary. One of mankind's biggest fears is the unknown. Silent Hill manages to cover up some of its graphical flaws by using darkness as a gameplay device. Not to mention the fact that the flashlight actually has an effect on the scenery. If it isn't on, you don't see much in front of or behind you. In the dark, your suffer from decreased accuracy, you can't examine objects, and oftentimes, unless you're really paying attention, you'll run directly into enemies. The only plus to having your flashlight off is the fact that the enemies are sometimes unaware of your presence. You can almost get by them unscathed if you try not to make too much noise while trying to escape. Another aspect of the graphics that excels is the monster design. These beasts look like Clive Barker's wet dream. Huge flying dinosaur-like birds, hellish devil dogs, a giant lizard, a giant worm, and depending on which path you take through the game, a giant winged goat demon. Terrible beasts. Overall, the graphics are a drab package with a few shining points.
Something that truly influenced my opinion of Silent Hill is the sound design. This series is blessed to have the immense talent of Akira Yamaoka at the helm. His works are stunning in their beauty and they add to the overall package of Silent Hill. The sound is a very large piece of the overall atmosphere of the title. Atmosphere is vital to any Survival-Horror title, and Silent Hill's atmosphere is top notch. The sounds that bombard your ear throughout the game can scarcely be described. The entire game gives off this unnatural feel, from the inncessant pounding to the shattering of glass, that makes you feel like something is amiss at all times. A great soundtrack is key to any game, and I recommend Silent Hill's soundtrack to any avid music fan.
Silent Hill is played from your basic third-person perspective, and is hardly ever changed. That isn't to say that you can't use a first-person perspective, because you can, but only to look around. Silent Hill is not overly hard, nor is it a cake walk. The controls are a little different from the standard fare, with the introduction of a sidestep and the highly touted quickturn, which allows you to make a very fast 180 and head in the other direction. Very useful move. Other than that, the controls aren't any different than the typical RC car-like controls of other Survival-Horror entries. From a puzzle standpoint, Silent Hill is a breath of fresh air. The item-A to get in door-B format is not a heavy part of this game, though it is there, for the most part, the puzzles aren't overly annoying.
When it comes to the story of Silent Hill, the game does a very good job of giving you these layers that are constantly being peeled away until you know almost the whole of what is going on in this foggy tourist town. Basically, Harry Mason, a widowed writer, is taking a trip with his daughter, Cheryl. On the way into town, Harry has a huge wreck in his jeep, and Cheryl goes off into the town alone. It's up to Harry to find his daughter, and escape the town. But something is amiss in Silent Hill, and Harry and Cheryl are right at the center of it. This story just can't get any more right. The whole way through, I was at the edge of my patience just waiting for the next bit of information to answer the myriad of questions that will invariably occur to even the most brain-dead player. My only gripe is that the endings actually made for more questions, instead of answering them succinctly.
Overall, Silent Hill is a wonderfully executed entry into Survival-Horror annals. The graphics aren't the best, but the sound more than makes up for it. The gameplay in Silent Hill is average, with a few shining points, but the story makes up for the more drab points. This game is such a solid entry in the PlayStation library, and a Survival-Horror gem.
Final Score: 8.9 out of 10