Game title: Silent Hill
Genre: Survival Horror
ESRB Rating: Mature
Release date: January 31, 1999
Overall rating: 8.5
It is difficult to do a proper review of a game from the Playstation era. A lot of time has past since then. Technology has advanced quite a bit in the 13 yearas since this games release. A number of other games have come out in its genre that really improve on the overall format, so looking at it through modern eyes will date it quite a bit. However, Silent Hill was an amazing game when it was brand new, and it is well worth playing to this day for more than just historical value and c ontext. This is still an excellent survival horror game and experience.
Gameplay - 8.5
When Team Silent started development for this game, they were charged with creating a Hollywood experience that was similar to Resident Evil. No one was taking the project seriously, and they decided to change the direction. Instead of having big Hollywood horror moments like Resident Evil, they chose to go for a more psychological horror feel that takes a lot of inspiration from things like HP Lovecraft and the movie The Fog from director John Carpenter. I am glad they did because we got a better game as a direct result of this.
From a gameplay standpoint, the controls are very similar to Resident Evil. This game has the same tank control style that that series has, but it makes a major change that really helps you navigate the game easier. This game has a button to control the camera. While it would be better to let the second analog stick rotate the camera, being able to adjust it to be behind you at most points of the game is a really big help in controlling the character. That aside, you can run, shoot and use items and activate buttons to do things like open doors.
In typical old school survival horror fashion, the game has various puzzles that you have to solve as you travel thoughout Silent Hill. None of them are all that challenging or all that obtuse, but they are still there. There, also, seem to be less of them than there are in the Resident Evil titles. This title is more focused on fighting and running from enemies, and you will do a lot of that.
There are two worlds in Silent Hill that you will be thrown back and forth between as you navigate the town, and they feel and look very different. It really lends variety to the environments. You will, also, get maps that will be marked to show where you have been. This is a huge help with navigation, especially since everything in this game is covered in a thick fog. The fog was put into the game to mask the draw distance due to the limitations of the Playstation, but it works to the games advantage. It adds to the atmosphere.
The game makes two other major changes to the controls and gameplay. You can move while aiming your gun. This makes it much easier to avoid enemies attacks, and it is much less frustrating as a direct result of that. The last change is the inventory. While there is a limit to how much ammo you can hold for your individual guns, there is no limit to how many items you can have in your inventory. This means that there is no inventory management at all. You do not need to run to safe rooms to store items. Neither style is truly better, and it is all personal preference about which one you prefer.
Graphics - 7.0
This is the hardest part of the game to judge. This is a playstation game. The system was woefully underpowered in comparison to PCs when this game was released. For reference, Quake 3 was released later the same year. Graphically, Silent Hill cannot touch that title. Having said that, for a Playstation game, this was pretty good looking. It ran smoothly. There is no way this is going to look good by modern standards. Gamers today might even call it flat out ugly, so how do I judge a 3D game this old? 2D games age much better graphically. That is certain.
As we previously established, this game is not good looking by modern standards. You can play it on the Playstation 3 upscaled to HD, and this will make the game look sharper than the original with better colors, especailly through HDMI. This is how I played through it for this review. It is, also, how I would recommend playing it to get the best audio and visual experience out of this. If you can look past this, you will find a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable sirvival horror game.
By the standards of the original Playstation, however, this was an excellent looking game. The environments were packed with detail, and everything looked appropriately run down. That sounds negative, but it isn't. Silent Hill is an abandoned town that is filled with monsters, and it looks like it. The character models were good looking for the time, as well. The creature designs are excellent and creepy. The look of everything really adds to the top notch atmosphere of the game.
Sound - 9.5
This is where the game really shines bright. Play this game with a great stereo, and you will be rewarded. Play it with good headphones, and you will be rewarded. Whatever you do, do not play it with TV speakers. You are depriving yourself of the games best feature. The sound design is absolutely amazing. It is some of the best sound that the original Playstation had to offer, and it is the main reason that this game is creepy to this day.
The music in this game is not traditional music in any sense of the word. There is little to no melody here, and it is all made up of a large compilation of weird and creepy noises repeated in erratic patterns. It is designed to make you feel uncomfortable, and it accomplishes this in spades. The environmental effects such as the noises the monsters make, the creeking of doors, the crackling of the radio as monsters approach and your own footsteps really work to create an incredibly thick and completely hopeless atmosphere that would just about anyone paranoid. Team Silent crafted a masterpiece in this regard.
The reason that the sound design is not perfect is the voice acting. It is not laughably bad like the original Resident Evil, so it is a step up in that regard. Having said that, it is not particularly great at times, and it sucks at others. The best voiced character is Dahlia Gillespie, one of the characters that you get to know over the course of the game. At the worst of times, the characters can sound bored. They can sound ininterested in the story they are portraying and almost as if they are just there for a paycheck. It is not flat out aweful, but it is not good, either.
Story - 8.5
In Silent Hill, you play as Harry Mason. He was out driving with his daughter when a strange girl stepped in front of his car. He swerves to miss her, and he crashes his car. It turns over on its side, and he wake up some time later. his daughter is missing, and he finds himself in the fog covered town of Silent Hill. He climb out of the car and wonders off into the fog to look for his daughter. As he begins to wonder, he notices that this town is abandoned and that the town seems to hide a much darker secret.
The story is another very bright spot for this game. It starts off very simple. It is just a guy searching a town for his lost daughter, but it will continually get more and more complex and twisted. There is a lot to it, and it is lovecraftian in how it plays out and how it ends. It is, also, vague at times. It intentionally leave you in the dark on a number of things, similar to the movies of John Carpenter. Being a fan of both HP Lovecraft and John Carpenter, I quite enjoyed this story.
This game kind of plays out like a horror mystery or something. You are looking for your daughter, and it leads directly into trying to figure out how two versions of the town exist and exactly what is going on. The deeper you get into the plot, the more insane and almost nonsensical it gets. It is strange. It is uncomfortable. It is creepy, and it is awesome. This game presents you with an excellent psychological supernatural horror story.
Replay Value - 9.0
This game, also, does a great job of giving you plenty of reasons to replay it. Upon your first time completing it, you will unlock additional weapons and items that you can use on a second playthrough. There are four endings with a fifth hidden ending that serves as a joke. There are multiple difficulty settings to try the game on, and you open up an additional difficulty mode that you only unlock after beating the game. This game gives you penty of reasons to play through it multiple times. It will spend a lot of time in your Playstation.
Final thoughts -
Do yourself a favor and find a way to play this game, if you have not. It is an excellent survival horror game that advanved the genre in a number of ways. It tells an interesting story. The sound design is absolutely amazing, and it takes a very different approach to horror and story telling from Resident Evil. This gives it a very different feel and keep it from being just a Resident Evil rip off. This game is awesome, and I highly recommend checking it out.
Gameplay - 8.5
It is archaic in comparison to modern survival horror games, but it is still fun. It improves the formula in a number of ways.
Graphics - 7.0
They are quite dated by modern standards, but they were great in their day.
Sound - 9.5
This is some of the best sound design on the original Playstation. Play this game with a good stereo or headphones. You are depriving yourself if you do not.
Story - 8.5
What seems simple tuns out to be a lot more psychological, supernatural and complex. It is great.
Replay Value - 9.0
There are is an additional game mode. There are multiple endings, and there are unlocakble weapons. This will stay in your system for a while.