The only Silent Hill game I have played all the way through was the first, but it truly was a masterpiece. It was one of the original game that used environments and ambiance as a character in it’s self. When you heard the sirens you knew shit was about to get real, and the blaring noise made your whole body tense up in anticipation of what was to come. The game did a great job of making you feel powerless, yet able to get through enemies without having to resort to running away. Many other games, such as the Clock Tower series, made you feel like you were worthless against enemies and struggling wasn’t really worth your time. Might as well restart because as soon as you are spotted you are going to die. While this is part of the draw to a Survival horror genre, it’s important to keep the player interested with gameplay, otherwise they might as well watch a movie.
Survivor Horror can be a unique genre, as it opens its self up to many different types of playing experience. Even an FPS can be a Survival Horror game, such as with F.E.A.R, where the player has full control of combat, but the experience can be mind bendingly terrifying. With the Silent Hill series, much like in Resident Evil, there are some favorite characters/villains that can make their way into the series. Pyramid head wasn’t in the game I expressly played, but he has such a neat feel that he’s been in the movies and a couple games. In this series the victims are always brought to the town of Silent Hill, a place that changes slightly based on what area you are thrust into, but players can find some familiar areas they have explored before in other games. This opens up an very unique situation, which I wish the developers would delve deeper in. Why not have cross storylines effecting at the same time, much like in Resident Evil 2 and 3, when Leon’s actions affected Jill’s game. Why not have whispers or flashes of past heroes in the current game? Now they may have done some crossing over, but I would really like to have explored this more to the point that it seems the games were planned out.
Watching the playthrough of Silent Hill: Downpour, I can’t help but notice the intricate level design in some of the areas, especially in the “Hell” worlds. When Murphy is sliding down and has to push himself out of the way of flying objects coming towards him, going through puzzle rooms, and having unique environments (such as the clock rooms) makes the game very appealing to me, but it’s bogged down by bad inventory management, slow combat and terrible save states. As a player I think it’s really important to give the player the ability to save frequently, as many of us have schedules that don’t allow us to just casually play a game for hours without worrying about the time. I digress.
With the new movie coming out I felt it was important to look at the series as a whole and figure out what makes the series so appealing. What is it about the town of Silent Hill that makes players want to go back? How do developers utilize or bastardize these sentimental feelings of the player and express their vision through the games? Building a franchise is one of the most difficult things to do, but when you have one, it’s almost as hard to keep that franchise alive. Sonic will always be an icon, but the games Sega has put out have not reached the potential financial success the originals had achieved. But games like Uncharted have only gotten more awards and loyal fans as the franchise has gone on. As a Game Designer I think about what makes a franchise successful or a failure, and with Silent Hill series I’m just not sure. There have been some pretty bad games in the franchise, but then there have been better ones then the first game. Obviously I still have much research to do, but I just wanted to share my musings.