Silent Hills: Silence in the Distance

Apr 27, 2015 by

P.T. game image

The Silent Hill series remains one of my favorites. Once Team Silent was no longer in charge of the development of the series, several Western developers tried and mostly fumbled when it came to producing new Silent Hill games. If you haven’t played Silent Hill through Silent Hill 4: The Room, please get yourself copies and play through them. Silent Hills, announced last year via P.T. (Playable Teaser) as a project from Hideo Kojima’s team and Guillermo Del Toro, looked to have the potential to return the series to its more nuanced, strange, creepy charm.

The nature of which horror games succeed has also shifted over the years to a more action-based crop of challenging games, and even roguelikes. Bloodborne is popular among both critics and players right now, with its concept designed around challenges to players’ skill and habits, and an expectation of many likely deaths before succeding. For a game like Silent Hill 3, dying wasn’t something you were supposed to keep doing over and over, were sometimes mysterious ways you could die, including a push from a mystery entity onto subway tracks and a room with a giant mirror that looks innocent for a moment or two before the room you’re in begins to fill up with bloody tendrils with squishy sounds, as all begins to look like the other version of the world –except in the mirror, where the reflection remains clean, except for your own reflection, which also eventually freezes in place and stops copying your movement. And then you die.

One of the things that initially drew me to the Silent Hill series was the average, everyday person as protagonist drawn into a horrific other world. I played things backwards, since Silent Hill 3 was the most recent at the time, I played that one first and was instantly hooked. Silent Hill 2 followed and became one of my all-time favorite games. While Silent Hill 3 is a direct sequel to Silent Hill and spoiled a few things about the original, it was still worth playing. And still is today if you haven’t.

Silent Hill 4: The Room wasn’t initially conceived as a Silent Hill game, and this is notable, but it still succeeds in keeping key elements like the average protagonist and a sense of creeping dread and horror. After Silent Hill 4, the series went to Western developers that tried to make it more action-oriented, as well as spread to other platforms. It’s not that these were all terrible games. Some of them did retcon or reference the previous games a bit heavily, but there were two main things that bothered me as a series fan. The everyday, average protagonist was replaced by someone combat ready (though in the case of Silent Hill: Homecoming, we find out that the military vet really wasn’t one). Additionally, the developers tried to ape the Silent Hill film. The games began to look like Silent Hill: The Movie: The Game.

An average person, someone without military, police, or other form of combat training, dropped into a mysterious horrible world, having to face a world of creatures he or she is unprepared for, terrified by, and must learn how to survive and unravel what the hell is happening is scarier by default. That sense of helplessness is the best foundation for a horror game, and the series lost sight of that.

P.T. (though I have only watched, not played it myself due to the lack of a PlayStation 4) seemed to toss that aside in favor of something mysterious and, yes, scary, again. While actor Normal Reedus was attached to presumably play the protagonist of Silent Hills (that last S still bothers me), there was no reason to immediately leap to the conclusion that his character would be some combat-ready, trained badass. Despite Reedus being well-known for his role of crossbow-wielding Daryl on The Walking Dead, the actor has shown range in his roles and is capable of playing a character with layers. I hoped we’d get to see that in the mix of influences both Japanese and Western (filtered through a Japanese team) that Silent Hill initially brought to the table and that which made the series special in its first several installments. Having both Kojima and Del Toro aboard didn’t hurt my anticipation levels either.

When P.T. was released last year and players uncovered the Silent Hills teaser, like most series fans, excitement was inevitable. Recently, the game’s fate was put in jeopardy due to an apparent creative fallout between Kojima Productions and Konami. As of this past weekend, news that P.T was being pulled from PlayStation store as well as quotes from Del Toro and his associates seem to indicate Silent Hills will never get off the ground. Konami then confirmed that Silent Hills would never be made. I wonder if those of us who have waited for a return to form for the series might never get it. Although the company claims to be dedicated to the series, at this point, it’s like a fiery love that faltered to embers, found a spark, but is now back to a faint glow.

 

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