To kick off and intensify the spooks of October, my next few contributions to the Lorian will be horror-game-centric. I’ll be covering some of what I believe to be the finest of horror-genre video games.
To begin, I want to talk about one of my all-time favorite video game franchises, the “Silent Hill” series. While I would love to prattle on and on about the greatness of the entire series, I regretfully admit that there are far too many games to cover in a single article (plus, not all of them are worth mentioning).
The main series is comprised of eight titles, released between 1999 and 2012. That number is matched by the spin-offs and compilations of the series, which began their releases in 2001. There have also been two films and thirteen other items of miscellaneous media produced over the years. “Silent Hill” is a huge franchise.
My first “Silent Hill” experience was with the second title of the series, known quite simply as “Silent Hill 2.” Classified as a survival horror video game, “Silent Hill 2” was developed by Team Silent and published by the infamous Konami. Its North American release during the fall of 2001 made the game available for the big systems: PlayStation 2 and Xbox. It is worth noting that, though a high-definition remastered collection of “Silent Hills 2 and 3” was for the more modern PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 systems in 2012, the HD collection is not worth your money. It simply does not do either of the games justice.
The game opens up to the magnificent profile view of a dirty bathroom urinal, where the camera pans up to introduce our protagonist, James Sunderland. James, the game soon reveals, is on the outskirts of the town of Silent Hill, where he is headed to meet his deceased wife. Sounds pretty crazy, right? The “norm” we all are used to becomes nonexistent in Silent Hill, and the state of norm the game establishes will continue to decay as the player trudges on. Fighting his way through the town, James is tasked with solving puzzles and challenging nightmarish monsters standing between him and the truth. Along the way, he encounters other characters who were similarly “drawn” to the town, the circumstances of their arrival slowly clearing up with through the game. I won’t spoil anything; the psychological Olympics this game forces its players through is honestly all the fun of it.
One of the most interesting gameplay mechanics has to be the use of the broken radio. A staple item in the “Silent Hill” series, the radio produces nothing but static or silence. However, if active, the intensity of the radio static varies based on the proximity of James to threatening monsters. Though the game tends to be silent save for the occasional static, there is not enough I can say about the game’s soundtrack. Composed by Akira Yamaoka, the essence of the game itself is captured flawlessly. The tunes haunt and lament, utterly completing the atmosphere.
The game is dark and disturbing. Released in 2001, it is not pretty as far as graphics go, but the game pulls itself together fairly well. The incessant fog you may no doubt notice concealing a fair amount of the player’s sight may have been included mostly to keep players from noticing graphical errors. But honestly, it just adds to the unsettling atmosphere in the seeming-ghost town.
All of this creates a very ideal gameplay opportunity. While far from perfect, the game draws the player in the same way Silent Hill does its victims. It is dark and has increasingly dark themes, certainly not meant for those light of heart or stomach. Rated Mature for audiences aged seventeen and up, it takes more than a bit of courage to get through the game. It requires tenacity and the will to challenge oneself both mentally and emotionally. Do NOT play this game if you have found yourself susceptible to offense toward controversial subjects and graphic interpretation; Silent Hill will not sit well if you find that subject matter particularly triggering.
I love the game. It’s horrifyingly wonderful and definitely worth giving a proper shot. I give it the highest esteem in the horror genre, and can only hope others might give it the time it deserves. I assure you that it makes one of the best experiences for a bit of Halloween preparation. Keep it spooky, Duhawks.