Published on October 5th, 2012 | by Waven0
A Month of Fog: Silent Hill 1 Retrospective
Around this time of the year I always love diving back into my favourite survival horror series, Silent Hill. Though I’ve played other horror series, Silent Hill is the one that I keep going back to, to get the shit scared out of me. So this month I’m going to be reviewing the entire series (except for the arcade and mobile games since I’m not in Japan and can’t get them) including the first movie and Revelations which will be out at the end of the month.
Silent Hill 1 is the first instalment of the series (obviously). It was released in 1999 for the PS1, so right off the bat the game has a lot of age and that shows in some aspects. The number one thing about this and every other Silent Hill game is the story it tells, and Silent Hill 1 is no exception. We start our story as a young writer named Harry Mason and his daughter, Cheryl who are taking a nice midnight drive on a highway somewhere. A girl walks out in front of Harry’s car; Harry swerves to miss her and drives right into a hydro poll. When Harry comes to Cheryl is gone, leaving Harry alone on the outskirts of Silent Hill and like any good Father, he goes into to town to find his daughter. Harry doesn’t know of the horrors that await him in the dark, foggy town of Silent Hill. He finds himself in a dark alley that seems to get darker as he follows it until finally, it’s as if he steps into a whole new world of blood and steel. Harry realizes what he must face to find his daughter and instead of turning around and going home he presses on to find her.
The gameplay itself is actually rather awkward to get used to. It’s set up in 3rd person and you handle like a shopping cart. The real kicker with the controls is the combat if you can even call it that. This is the most awkward combat system I’ve ever encountered in a game but strangely enough it works. We aren’t playing as a big macho man who knows how to use every piece of rubble as a weapon; we play as a writer who looks like he doesn’t exorcize much so it makes sense that the combat is the way it is. You hold down L1 and R1, smash the square button and pray to god your lead pipe is hitting something. I know people are already thinking “What’s to point of bad combat in a survival horror?” Well I’m going to say this now and I know I’m going to be saying this a lot this month. The point of survival horror is to SURVIVE! It doesn’t matter how many games you play. The first instinct when you are in a horror scenario isn’t to grab a conveniently placed assault rifle, it’s to either find ANYTHING you can use as some sort of weapon or run your ass off. And in this game series (with one exception) it feels like that kind of situation. Combat is awkward and half the time you want to avoid it at all costs. There are guns in the game but ammo is scares and you run out in no time, considering it takes a clip and a half to kill 1 enemy.
Now the enemies in the game change depending on your location. Everyone knows about the nurses in the hospital but no one really gets the significance of them. You see, there is a lot of symbolism in the Silent Hill series, some more subtle than others. In Silent Hill 1 we run into a wide array of enemies, some are very understandable for the locations but others are just like “What the hell is that?” It was the first game, so it’s kind of excusable. The biggest problem I found with the enemies wasn’t the difficulty of fighting them (Easy mode is for pussies) it was that some of them seemed like they were trying to give Harry “Sexual Favours”. The kids in the school grab you in a way where their head is between your legs and that just looks awkward. Then of course there are the nurses who look like they’re trying to feel you up. I wasn’t sure what the developers where going for here but it was really weird.
One of my favourite parts of these games was the endings. Each is jam packed with a minimum 3 endings and Silent hill 1 had 6. Getting each ending is determined on how you play the game, and there’s usually one or two you can’t get until the second play through but are well worth the effort. The endings usually go as follows: a good ending, a bad ending, a really good ending, a really bad ending and a UFO ending. The UFO ending is the developer’s way of making a joke about the game itself, saying that everything was set up by aliens. They are hilarious and are a lot of fun to get. There is also usually another secret ending you can get on the second play through that tends to be really strange. It all depends on how you play the game.
The only other problems the game had were those you would expect from a PS1 game. The graphics are terrible, the voice acting sucks, the cut scenes are laughable but once you get past that (and trust me it’s not hard) Silent Hill 1 is an amazing game and a hell of an experience. I would highly recommend it, but not as much as Silent Hill 2.
As an added tid-bit did you know that the fog in Silent Hill was put in because the game couldn’t render environments fast enough?