Survival/horror, one of those lesser seen genres in the gaming industry today, is often enjoyed as an immersive experience where you would need to rely on saving ammo, when to fight & run away, & solving puzzles which required some creative thinking to overcome. Introduced by Alone in the dark (1992) & made popular by Resident Evil (1996) it has since then found different ways to incorporate itself into various mechanics & play styles.
However as games like Capcom's Resident Evil focus more around the gunplay & action segments of survival/horror, sometimes ones that are best remembered are the ones that grip you with an atmosphere & storyline that draws you into its world & leaves you wondering. No other game I feel has done this better then Konami's Silent Hill series.
Gamers were first introduced to this way back game on January 31, 1999. At that time the PlayStation was at its peak & Capcom was well known for pioneering this genre with the massive success of Resident Evil. However Konami who was well known for action oriented games like, Contra, Castlevania, & Metal Gear Solid at the time had yet to venture into this fairly new genre. However that would all change with the arrival of this game.
Silent Hill is a disclosed little resort town somewhere in the wilderness of America, while mostly visited in the summer season, & mostly closed down in the fall & winter seasons, However Harry Mason, A widowed father has an act for taking late vacations. As he drives on the cliff side freeway leading towards Silent Hill with his 7 year old daughter Cheryl napping in the passenger seat, its late at night prior to there arrival. The road is also quite dark as well, all seams peaceful when suddenly some unknown figure runs into the middle of the road. Harry trys to steer out of the way in time but he's driving too fast & sways off the road. Harry awakens to discover its morning out, but there's a thick fog out & its snowing, he turns to notice the seat where Cheryl was sitting to be empty & the passenger door left wide open! Where could she have gone?[/i][/size]
As you could guess you'll have to go on a search through the town of Silent Hill, however things get a lot more intense as you progress as you play the game, you begin to follow what looks like a little girl in the distant fog around street corners & into the back ally of a neighborhood, where at the end you discover a large massacred body, your worry for her well being raises you then progress into another ally behind some tall buildings.
When suddenly you hear sirens go off in the distance. Then the light disappears, you light your lighter to discover the snow is now rain. You continue down this now dark alley past through what looks like a maze of chain link fences to discover to shortly discover the decomposed corpse of a person strung up on the fence like a crucifixion.
Then you find yourself surrounded by what appear to be horribly deformed little people holding knives that are short enough to look like children, you try to run but are overrun as they continuously stab at you. You then appear to have died when you wake up in what appears to be a diner, where you meet our second protagonist a police officer lady named Cybil.
At this point is when the game really begins as you'll get a Hand gun from Cybil as defense a defense against the strange creatures that wander the streets, you also get a knife as a secondary defense, a pocket light for seeing in the dark, & a radio that makes static when enemy's are nearby.
Other weapons later on include a Steel Pipe, a Small Axe, an Emergency Hammer, a Shotgun, & a Hunting Rifle. While all sound pretty basic they definitely get the job done.
Progression through the town one might think would be simple, though with broken streets, skinned dogs & demon terradactyls chasing you, & 3 major part's of the town to explore, it's no easy task.
The puzzle solving aspect was also an ingenious one as answers were often hidden within creepy messages or freakish poems. However the real draw of silent hill was its scary presentation, throughout special locations you'd find the world shifting from what one could conceive as reality to a metallic nightmare world made up of some of the creepiest foregrounds humanity could conceive. Your arrival to this alternate reality would be signaled by the siren in the distance, followed by a fading transformation of the landscape, the after the experience fading back to reality, making the player wonder what was if this was real or some sort of mad delusion.
Though many questions would race through the players head during venture through Silent Hill. Where did these weird creatures come from, what happened to so many of the towns roadways, why does this abnormal fog embed the town, why were all the cars & telephones dead, & most of all what happened to all the people living in this town. It was just a strange & surreal setting, not to mention it had such a well crafted story with characters you really felt like you cared about, sort of like Metal Gear Solid.
But what also added the atmosphere of Silent Hill was its unique music score, provided by Konami music composer Akira Tamaoka, who also worked on the music for other Konami titles like Sparkster, & Snatcher, & would continue to provide the music for many of the future Silent Hill games. Now one could argue that music isn't all about how good a game is, but for a game that runs on its frightening atmosphere, it takes the right touches at the right places to really let into the experience.
But what also added to the experience was that it could end more than one way. Yes depending on the certain things that were done in the game there were 5 possible endings you could get.
(a joke ending)[/align]
I wont spoil anything about the plot or how to get each ending for those actually want to play the game, but this does add to the replay value of the game as you can play again to try & figure out how to get one of the other endings, plus on your second playthrough there were unlockable items & weapons such as, the Chain Saw, the rock drill, the gasoline tank (used to power either chainsaw or rock drill, but can only choose 1) the Channeling Stone, the Katana, & the Hyper Blaster. Though each time you beat the game the difficulty would raise. As there were 3 to choose from at the start, Easy, Medium, & Hard. So using your unlockable items meant also having to get better at the game.
Though I encourage anyone who wants to play, not to look up how to get the ending or items online, as it might take away from the experience the first time through, plus its more fun to figure things out on your own.
Now while there would be dozens of other Silent Hill games released over the year, & a movie adaption (which is surprisingly better than most game to movie adaption's) the series would never reach the peak of popularity that the Resident Evil series has. (even though like Resident Evil, Silent Hill has its share of fans) However there's no denying that it has done alot for the survival/horror genre & remains one of my favorite games of all time.
Now while some of its sequels are also worth checking out, mainly 2&3. I would recommend those who are new to investing there time & money into finding & playing the original first, as its stands the test of time as a unique experience very few can replicate.