Silent Hill: Shattered Memories review
Silent Hill is one of those franchises whose sound makes it instantly identifiable. It isn’t like Mario or Metal Gear, Halo or Final Fantasy; this is a series that has layered every score – and many of its sound effects – with an eerie but recognizable tone. It’s a sound that has the capacity to strike fear in anyone. Since 1998, it has been used to perfection, even in the Silent Hill movie.
Shattered Memories, the Wii/PS2/PSP remake of the 12-year-old original, continues the series tradition of great audio. The voice-overs are a bit flawed (did you expect anything else?), and although the dialogue fluctuates between believable and unbelievably bad, the music and sound effects are diligently haunting. Even if Shattered Memories doesn’t scare you – it likely won’t – everything you hear will lead you to believe that you are playing a very scary game.
Regardless of how convincing the audio may be, the horror of Shattered Memories has some limits. As you can tell by the screenshots, the game is more than a remake. It’s more than what Capcom did with the Resident Evil remake, which was an upgrade of the graphics plus new puzzles and super-strong zombies that can run. Shattered Memories is, as frequently reported, a “re-imagining” of the original Silent Hill with “all-new twists.”
Translation: this isn’t the same game that scared the crap out of you more than 10 years ago.
From the beginning, Shattered Memories is a game that plays like it was intended to be a Wii exclusive. Since the PS2 version is without a motion control option, the developers were forced to shift every intriguing feature to the Dual-Shock 2. To move around the back of a police car, open car doors, roll down windows, open cabinets, pick up items, snap photos of ghostly images, ward off monsters, unhinge door locks – or perform any other basic function within the game – you will have to use a thumbstick.
Technically, this should be fine. Silent Hill players have been using a PlayStation gamepad from day one. But Shattered Memories wasn’t built for thumbsticks; it was built to be played with the Wii remote. Thus, almost every function in the game is a battle against a flawed (clunky!) controller scheme.
It’s important to note, however, that Parasite Eve (and a handful of others) proved that a good a story and a great soundtrack were all some of us needed to play through a game that delivered nothing but frustration. Shattered Memories fits that bill quite nicely. Its story isn’t as strong as PE (or the original Silent Hill, for that matter), but there are some interesting developments – such as a survey that expects the player to answer some very personal questions – that will make you wonder where the story is headed.
If you think it’s cold outside, wait until you play Shattered Memories. Instead of covering the world in darkness whenever evil forces take over, this iteration starts off by covering the game in ice.
Then, instead of giving the player a case full of weapons and ammunition – or better yet, putting limits on that ammunition to make the game challenging – Shattered Memories unveils its only form of combat: sprinting.
You can’t fight the monsters. You can’t kill the monsters. You have to run from them, jump over objects, slide under tables and pass through as many doors as possible until you finally reach the exit.
While this seems to fall in line with the direction of the film (whose heroine ran from danger at every turn), this in no way supports the Silent Hills of the past. Instead, it feels like an attempt to expand the franchise to the mainstream, specifically to the kinds of people who enjoyed the movie (who, based on my own unofficial research, had never played the games). If successful, this would be a great thing for the franchise; all good games could use more players. But in this case, the developers may have turned off the existing fan base in an effort to create a new one.
The most damaging thing of all, however, is that the chase scenarios aren’t scary. They’re a tad suspenseful, thanks to the game’s amazing audio. But the monsters look like crap, and the backgrounds are much too dated for a remake (wasn’t this version supposed to dwarf the original?). Slow down appears more frequently than monsters, and you won’t be able to walk through a door without watching the game stutter. It’s a lousy presentation that, when mixed with clumsy controls, will do nothing to strengthen the Silent Hill gaming community.
As an interactive story, Shattered Memories is deep and memorable. The music is unfathomable; if there’s ever been a composer who understands the true meaning of survival/horror music, it’s Akira Yamaoka. But unless you’re a newcomer searching for something that’s barely challenging and is only marginally horrific, Shattered Memories is best experienced as a one-time rental.