Title: Silent Hill
Developer: Team Silent, Konami
Game Type: PS One Classic
Download: 293 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
I thought long and hard about what I wanted my first video review of a PS One Classic to be. Based on some feedback I’ve gotten on my YouTube channel and the very horror-central theme I’ve got so far this month, I decided it couldn’t be anything less than a survival horror title. The genre is a little scarce on the Vita, but the PS1 did have its fair share of horror titles and its disposal. I’ve reviewed a few of them already, personally points towards the Resident Evil franchise.
While the Vita community has been more than eager to dive into next week’s release of Resident Evil Revelations 2 for the Vita and PlayStation TV, I’ve been diving into a lot of the other horror games available on the Vita, like the Corpse Party and Silent Hill games. So, as you wait for more horror for your Vita, here is what many gamers still believe to be the greatest horror game ever made. I present my retro review of the PS1 Classic, Silent Hill!
*Do note that in North America, you must download Silent Hill to a PlayStation 3 system and then transfer it over to your Vita or PSTV via Content Manager to be able to play it
Harry Mason is driving with his daughter towards a long-needed vacation in the resort town of Silent Hill. Just outside the town, he sees what appears to be a young girl in the road and swerves, leading to a crash. Awakening with no sign of his daughter, he ventures into the town to search for her. It doesn’t take him long to realize that all is not well in the small town of Silent Hill. He is soon assaulted by disturbing images and bloody, horrific monsters that have an eye out for his blood.
The story of Silent Hill is practically Survival Horror 101. Harry’s mission across the town’s various locations bring him in contact with many people, from a stranded police officer, religious fanatic, and a young nurse working at the nearby hospital. As Harry continues to fight through the horrible images being thrown at him, he discovers more and more about his own involvement in the happenings of the town, and that his vacation trip may not have been as accidental as he originally thought.
Silent Hill is a 3D survival horror game with combat and puzzle elements thrown into the mix. While Resident Evil, at the time of this era, was focusing more on combat with puzzle elements, Silent Hill took the route of putting a bigger emphasis on exploration and puzzle-solving and less on gunning down every enemy that you see. As such, it is a horror game with combat and puzzle elements.
Progression of the game has you transitioning from wandering the streets of Silent Hill to exploring and puzzle-solving in notable landmarks which could almost be compared to dungeons of sorts. The streets of Silent Hill are traversed almost in a sandbox fashion. You will be running around a huge open town with a lot of ground to cover, though many streets will be blocked, making it harder to get lost or off track from your goal. You’ll have a map with you and most of the time you’ll have markers on where you need to go, so you shouldn’t be wandering aimlessly unless you just want to explore.
The landmarks will be a matter of exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat. There are enemies around on the streets, but are much more apparent and in greater numbers inside each location. You’re going to encounter a lot more enemies inside Midwich Elementary or Alchemilla Hospital than the streets at that point of the game’s plot. But the main goal will be going from room to room, trying to find items and key items to be able to open doors and get to the end of the area to find more story to propel you forward to your next location.
When you’re inside an area, there are two different versions of the area you will have to explore. A staple of the Silent Hill series is that the town can transition from its normal incarnation into the “Otherworld”, which a much more desolate place that looks like it came from a nightmare. Each area you go to will have two variations and, unlike Silent Hill Origins, you have no control over these transitions. The Otherworld is also more associated with the inner plot of the game and will have the more drastic plot progression.
The atmosphere of the game brings us to why Silent Hill is considered such a scary title, even in today’s world. Rather than Resident Evil that pits zombies at you at every corner, Silent Hill ops for atmosphere that is scary rather than rooms that are scary. The amount of lighting in the Otherworld and in the draw distance/fog and snow out on the streets work to the game’s advantage. This is mostly done through the radio.
When the radio starts to emit static noise, you know there’s an enemy nearby. But, you don’t know where they are, or what kind of enemy it is. It could be a harmless shadow spirit wandering the wall across the room, or it could be a skin-less mutilated dog mere inches behind you about to pounce on top of you, or a puppet nurse about to stab you with a knife. This atmosphere is kept throughout the entire game and provides a chilling atmosphere where you are nearly always on edge whenever you’re in a dark corner and that radio starts up.
Those chilling factors have not aged, either I’ve played through this game a dozen times over the years, and while playing on my Vita, I still found myself on edge and jumpy as I went through certain sections of the game. Even if you know what’s coming, the game still has areas that can surprise and spook you, especially if you wear headphones to get the full atmosphere.
Overall, Silent Hill isn’t an incredibly long game. If you know exactly what you’re doing, the game can be cleared in about 3-4 hours. If it’s your first try and you do not use a walkthrough or guide, your first trek through Silent Hill could take you several hours, if not longer. There is also replay value in the form of unlockable weapons and several different endings you can achieve.
One thing to note is that Silent Hill was designed to use a controller and has controls for all four triggers. If you’re playing on a PlayStation TV, this won’t be a problem. If you’re on a Vita and don’t have the Slim Model’s L2/R2 grip, this could be a problem, depending on what you want to do. R1 and L1 are used to strafe and R2 and L2 are used with camera-movement and aiming your weapon. What I did was redirect R2 and L2 at L and R and didn’t worry about strafing, as it isn’t required in any part of the game.
Movement is done with the D-Pad or Left Analog Stick, which I prefer the latter. The D-Pad makes the controls feel like the tank controls from the original Resident Evil titles. The Analog Controls work like this in base form, but allow a much more comfortable movement field. You don’t have to stop to turn like with traditional tank controls, which is a really nice and useful aspect of the game.
As before, the Trigger-2 buttons control your camera and aiming. The X button is used to fire your weapon or interact with objects. Triangle pulls up your map, and Circle will toggle your flashlight on and off. Finally, Select will pull up the customization menu to look at your items and equip different weapons.
The visuals of Silent Hill didn’t look bad at the time and they still don’t look terrible now. There is a bit of a blur from the transition to the Vita and PSTV, but it still looks competent for a PS1 horror game. There aren’t any noticeable, huge drops in presentation when you’re playing through the game. It’s mostly noticeable through the occasional CG scene.
The only other thing I’ll say about the presentation is that the camera is very shaky when you use L2 to go to your secondary camera mode. This is to help you see directly in front of Harry, but when you use it in some rooms, the camera shakes a lot.
The rest of the presentation goes to the audio, which is really nicely done. In each area, you’ve got a lot of heart-pounding music to keep you on edge, especially when you’re in the Otherworld. Team Silent did well in almost every category in the original game to make it a scary game that was not only scary then, but remains scary even now, 15 years later.
Silent Hill is what began one of the most iconic horror franchises in gaming history. On the downside, the visuals did get hit on the transition to the Vita and the camera remains shaky during alternate sequences. Outside of this is a game that strived to win out the horror genre of its time, and still has the elements to make you tense and jump at the slightest noise.