Silent Hill 1 Review and Synopsis

Synopsis: Silent Hill tells the story of a man searching for his lost daughter in a bleak tourist town. As Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl were driving down the road, a dark, ominous figure appeared in the vehicle’s headlights. Harry tried to avoid it; he swerved out of the way but lost control of the car and crashed. coming to, Harry stood up from the wreckage and took a look around. It was the spot of their vacation destination, only something was seriously wrong. There were no pedestrians or cars around; he was seemingly alone and his daughter was missing. It was snowing – something seemingly impossible during the summer months and the air was filled with a thick, dense fog.

Much like the Resident Evil series, Silent Hill is played from a third-person perspective in a world emphasizing on elements of horror and fear. It focuses on realistic character controls — Harry runs and acts like an average person; he’ll get tired after constantly running around and begin to breathe heavily. Because most people lack the knowledge of operating firearms, Harry has an inaccurate aim meaning he often misses his target.

Unlike other survival horror games (circa 1999), Silent Hill takes place in a seemingly real town — road signs and park benches are strewn about on each sidewalk and the buildings are modeled with names and window dressings. Instead of rummaging around through biochemical laboratories and big mansions, Harry will search for his daughter through an elementary school, a hospital and the town’s many streets.

While walking down the various roadways, caution must be practiced — horrific creatures are lurking about; hellhounds are ready to pounce on you, flying and seemingly skinned pterodactyls hover around, and little mummified babies with knives are prepared to end Harry’s life. Fortunately, he has been supplied with a pocket radio that emits noise and static when an enemy is approaching — will you run or will you face the unknown terror?

What started off as a vacation has turned into a nightmare…one that Harry may never wakeup from. Enjoy your stay in Silent Hill.

Review:
It starts off as an innocent family vacation. Along with his daughter Cheryl, Harry Mason planned a little getaway to a beautiful vacation spot located in the town of Silent Hill. While driving at night, an unknown figure shambles out onto the road and stands in front of Harry’s car; upon noticing it, he began swerving to avoid collision but loses control of his jeep and careens off the road. Recovering from the state of unconsciousness, he realizes his daughter is missing and everyone in the once peaceful town has vanished without a trace. As Harry, it is up to the player to find Cheryl and discover what has happened to the town.

Welcome to Silent Hill.

Silent Hill was to be Konami’s answer to the now (circa 1999) widely popular genre of survival horror games, a genre that was founded by Alone in the Dark and Capcom’s Resident Evil series. While it may be in the same vein as the latter game, their first attempt has taken the genre to a whole new level of dimension and depth.

Within a matter of minutes, a few things are instantly realized about Silent Hill. For one thing, your character isn’t some sort of superhero or ace police officer; he’s just an ordinary everyday person. Harry is average in almost every way — he wears jeans and a brown blazer rather than a suit of Kevlar body armor. He wasn’t blessed with an infinite supply of oxygen; run too much and he’ll begin breathing heavily just like any average person would. The developers did an incredibly great job with the character — we can actually identify with this guy.

Secondly, the atmosphere and surroundings are completely inspired, moody and dark. The snow is falling constantly and unlike a lot of games, the flakes actually hit the ground and disappear. In an attempt to give players a feeling of claustrophobia and a foreboding terror, the fog is so thick that it’s impossible to see more than ten feet into the distance.

Additionally, every nook and cranny of the town has been realistically modeled and detailed giving the impression of being in an actual deserted town. As you maneuver Harry around, you’ll come across abandoned cars and mailboxes — very nice touches to an already impressive amount of detail. The immersion factor is on full blast with Silent Hill because of the previous statement combined with a trule 3D setting; it feels more alive than Resident Evil ever did.

The third thing players will notice is the absolutely amazing, and downright terrifying, soundtrack. In all honesty, the music is hellish — instead of traditional horror film music (transforms, creepy strings), this game makes use of heavily distorted industrial noise and horrifying ambient static. Combined with the aforementioned things, this is one of the aspects that makes the world of Silent Hill such a genuinely intense and scary experience. It throws your nervous system on a weak sheet of ice and keeps it there even after playing.

Because of the survival horror boundaries Silent Hill revolves around, the gameplay is fairly similar to the Resident Evil series; your quest is to save Harry’s daughter by solving complex puzzles and finding clues. Unlike the above game, there is a bit more exploration found within the small town — clues, ammunition and other things are laying around waiting to be picked up. Of course, there are plenty of monsters to deal with; because your character is only an average guy, you can choose to run away from the hideous critters or fight them.

There are four different endings and each time through you’ll discover things missed previously. It all depends on how the game is played; by rushing through, you’ll miss a lot of key items and get a bad ending. If proper effort is taken and exploration and thinking is practiced, the reward will be much greater. Adding incentive to the replay value, there are subtle changes when replaying it (different events and weapons).

The only time Silent Hill stumbles is in the controls department. While not terrible, it will take some time getting used to Harry’s movements. He moves around like a truck; this doesn’t help when running from enemies. Some of the camera angles are a bit iffy, but fortunately, there is a “search” view that allows you to manipulate it a bit.

In the end though, Silent Hill is a truly magnificent work of art. Some Resident Evil fans may be turned off by the persistent 3D world and naturally slower-paced action and gameplay, but for anyone looking for a genuinely terrifying experience combined with a unique, gripping story and immersive atmosphere, this is the game for you.

Graphics

While the texturing is a bit grainy, the dynamic lighting and fog effects, enemy and character animations, and general atmosphere are gorgeously detailed and realistic. The in-game mapping system is also quite good and offers players a good feel of where they are.

Sound

The soundtrack features some really ambient selections as well as some strait-up noise tracks. It is some of the best sounding material I have ever heard in a video game of this caliber (survival horror). The sound effects are also quite impressive and dynamic.

Enjoyment

Silent Hill is a highly enjoyable game thanks to realistic character interaction, depth and creepy atmosphere and imagery. The controls can be a pain sometimes but it’s not enough to spoil the experience.

Replay Value

Because there are over four different endings depending on how you play the game, there is quite a bit of replay value. Also, it’s a wise decision to replay the game again to patch up any rough spots of the story you may have missed the first time through.

Documentation

The manual covers everything from the back-story and characters to how to play the game.

Written by: Brent

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