For three years in the late '90s, Resident Evil ruled as the top survival horror series. In 1999, however, Capcom's rotten-fleshed franchise would meet its biggest competitor when Konami unleashed Silent Hill on the original PlayStation. What fans of survival horror got was a game that offered its own spin on the genre. It complimented Resident Evil quite well, but it delivered different types of chills. On this edition of GameZone's 31 Games of Halloween, we're going to take a nostalgic trip back in time and revisit the original Silent Hill.
If old school survival horror is perhaps a bit too serious for your tastes, be sure to check out our last entry, where we talked about the comedic Banjo-Kazooie.
Why it stands out
Despite the fact that some players have their reservations and consider Silent Hill a Resident Evil clone, the fact of the matter is that both games are actually quite different, especially thematically. While Resident Evil goes in a cheesy B movie direction with its zombie themes, Silent Hill offers up a more psychological experience. The dark environments and occult themes give it a Japanese horror movie vibe that was fresh in the '90s and remains interesting to this day.
In true survival horror fashion, Silent Hill makes you feel like a helpless victim in a horrid, dismal world. Darkness surrounds you with every step you take, and you never know when an enemy's going to appear. All you have to crack the darkness before you is a flashlight, which doesn't provide nearly enough lighting to make you feel safe.
In addition to all of the horrors you encounter, Silent Hill is very much a game about mystery. There are plot twists, “WTF?!” moments, and multiple endings to keep you engrossed in the mad, dreary town of Silent Hill for some time. Like the psychological horror film genre this game draws its inspiration from, the story here isn't quite what it seems.
You can't talk about Silent Hill without mentioning its stellar soundtrack, though. Composer Akira Yamaoka gained notoriety for his work on the series, and it was this first installment where he showcased exactly what he was capable of. The music of Silent Hill is a tremendous mix of styles and genres, ranging from industrial to ambient and all the way to electronic. It's a superb collection of sounds and themes that are still memorable among fans of the series to this day.
Is it scary?
The mood of Silent Hill makes for some truly terrifying moments. The dark ambiance is incredibly eerie, and being stuck in a town that's seemingly growing darker and darker fills you with a sense of hopeless urgency. The fact that the entirety of this game is shrouded in mystery also makes for some unsettling feelings.
Unlike the characters of Resident Evil, who are trained in firearms combat, you take on the role of a regular dude named Harry. This guy has no gun skills, and he's never encountered the horrors he finds in Silent Hill. This makes the game more challenging, and it adds a sense of realism to the whole thing. There's no reason a guy like Harry would ever have to fire a gun in his everyday life, so the fact that he isn't exactly an expert marksman is both fitting and refreshing. Oh, and scary, of course.
But Silent Hill isn't just perfect moodiness and shooting inexperience. No, the game is legitimately scary due to the monsters it throws your way. One example is the Mumbler. These grotesque abominations are a hideous sight to behold, and hearing as they make disturbing growling noises the moment they notice you creates an uneasiness within you. Possibly even creepier, however, are the Grey Children, creatures that look like monstrous kids. These are particularly disturbing, and they were even left out of the Japanese and European versions of Silent Hill due to their resemblance to actual children.
Why play it on Halloween?
Silent Hill is one of those classic games that's absolutely perfect for Halloween. Like an old school slasher flick, retro zombie movie, or creepy psychological horror movie, you can't go wrong with this game. Its mechanics don't feel as refined as they once did, but even then, it's still great. If anything, the slightly aged gameplay may just make you feel even more distraught as you tread the unforgiving town of Silent Hill.
New copies of the game for the PSOne can go for a pretty high price online, so if you don't care much about owning the physical disc, you can opt for the PlayStation Network version. If you're in the mood for survival horror on Halloween and want something with occult, supernatural, and psychological themes, Silent Hill is a great throwback to the genre and a fine choice for the creepy October holiday.
Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.