Do you hear the radio static? It’s getting louder and louder as you walk forward. Your flashlight illuminates the room, but you still feel uncomfortable about your surroundings. Whispers and footsteps surround you, but no one is there. The building then starts to decompose. Monsters start to appear and the music gets louder, making you run for your life; you try to exit the building as soon as possible. You exit the building, but the thick fog limits your vision, making you feel uneasy.
This Memories segment will be a little different from the previous ones. Instead of focusing on one game, this one will focus on a series. It was originally going to be about Silent Hill 2 due to its magnificent story, but the other installments were too good to ignore – well mainly the first and third one. They all brought something to plate and made them stand out from other horror games.
The Silent Hill (SH) games have excellent, mature stories in them (except for Origins and Homecoming) which sets them apart from other horror franchises. The game that really wowed me in terms of narrative was Silent Hill 2; it had an incredible charm embezzled within it. Once you analysis and decipher the plot, you’ll notice how deep, mature and wonderful the story is. I hail it as one of the best stories in a video game.
James, the main character, goes to Silent Hill to search for Mary, his wife who died three years ago due to an illness. A letter from his dead wife told him to meet her at Silent Hill which motivates him to go there. James’ is a mysterious person at first as we know nothing of him; his personality starts to unravel as you progress.
He meets Maria, a person who looks very similar to his wife, but she gets repeatedly killed by Pyramid Head; miraculously, she comes back to life every time. This didn’t make sense to at first, but when I got to the shocking plot twist, it all made sense.
In a hotel room, James sees a video tape of him suffocating his wife with a pillow. That’s right; the main character is a murderer. What I, along with many, came up with Pyramid Head killing Maria is that James is being forced to watch ‘his murder of his wife.’
In fact, Silent Hill summoned him to face his inner-demons; he faces a few bed-like monsters with a figure lying on the bed which represents Mary.
There are a lot more that I haven’t covered like the non-playable characters and female monsters. The game’s plot is deep, twisted and fantastic.
One of the most remarkable things about the series is that the actions you take affects the game’s ending. Homecoming did a brilliant job on the alteration of the ending. It introduced the series to the dialog option where the player can choose the dialog, and some options will affect the game’s ending. Some games don’t have a true ending, so it leaves you pondering which one is the logical one – it’s a great feature.
If there’s one thing the Silent Hill does best, it’s the atmosphere. Both the fog and fixed camera-angles limits your visibility, and every building you enter is dark; your only source of light is the flashlight. Accompanying it are some of the best and scariest levels in a horror game. The first ‘Otherworld’ level in the series was the school, and it was filled with little creatures and corpses nailed to the wall which really made me feel uneasy. What happened to this place, and why is the building made of rusted metal?
The two levels that made me sleep with a nightlight were the prison and hospital levels. It seems to be a standard to have a hospital level in SH. Imagine being in a dark hospital filled with disturbing nurses, slowly walking towards you with a knife or gun. No matter how great their bodies were, I wanted to be far away from them. Upon entering the hospital in SH3, I heard loud breathing from the nurses and my radio going crazy. Yes; two nurses were right near the entrance, and I struggled to make my way forward.
In the prison level in Silent Hill 2, loud footsteps and grunts surrounded me. I checked to my right, left and behind me, but no one was there. It terrified me, and I wanted to finish the level as soon as possible. Along with the jail cells, there were other places that got into my head like the mannequin and storeroom. Instead of making cheap scares like having a dog jump out from a window, Silent Hill takes advantage of its levels to get inside your mind and make you feel petrified.
Akira Yamaoka, the music composer for the Silent Hill series, does a fantastic job with the music. Silent Hill is mainly composed of rock and piano tunes. Some tunes featuring vocalist Mary Elizabeth may be too out there for a horror game, but it’s fantastic and relaxing; the ones without vocals perfectly sets the mood when something shocking happens. When the Otherworld arrives, expect to hear loud banging or eerie music – making you fear for your life; Yamaoka does wonders on frightening you with his work.
Along with the soundtrack, it makes you feel uneasy with its sound effects: heavy breathing, footsteps, whispers and rustling metal. All you’ll hear are your footsteps and your radio going static crazy every now and then with faint sounds like glass breaking or something falling. The series excels with its sound direction.
Out of all the horror games I’ve played, nothing comes close to Silent Hill in terms of theme, atmosphere and sound. Not only does it make you feel like you’re in danger with its controls and music, but it gets inside your mind with its twisted story and environments. The latest two games were disappointing in the narrative aspect, but one can only hope for another deep, twisted story like Silent Hill 2.