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Silent Hill (PlayStation) artwork

Silent Hill (PlayStation) review

"But when a well made horror game beckons you to advance further, dread replaces your enthusiasm. You wonder at what traps could be waiting, or what new grotesque menace could be lurking in the shadows waiting to unzip your torso and feast on your corpse. You advance further, counting your ammunition and health restoration items and hoping it will be enough."

Silent Hill asset

There is joy in advancing through a well made game. The allure of added adventure, new sights, greater challenges, and unveiling more of the plot is too much to deny. A truly great game beckons you, and you answer with an enthusiastic sprint towards what awaits you.

But when a well made horror game beckons you to advance further, dread replaces your enthusiasm. You wonder at what traps could be waiting, or what new grotesque menace could be lurking in the shadows waiting to unzip your torso and feast on your corpse. You advance further, counting your ammunition and health restoration items and hoping it will be enough.

And somehow, there's beauty in this--moving forward despite fear and uncertainty only so you can scare yourself further. If horror is beauty, then consider Silent Hill the Venus of its kind.

Silent Hill wastes no time. After the opening cut scene, you plunge into a dense fog to follow the elusive silhouette of your daughter. Not a soul stirs in the town, almost as though it were evacuated. Yet you know somehow that there's something waiting for you in the fog. The beck leads you down a long twisted alley and through narrow walkways into a basketball court. There you find your first sign of civilization strung up, horribly mutilated and partially decayed. You turn to escape only to find yourself surrounded by pale child-like figures holding knives. Before you can get far and fast away, they descend upon you and drain your health.

You survive the onslaught and wake up in a different location. It's then you realize that this was Silent Hill telling you that it had allowed you to live. This was nothing more than a warning, and if the game wanted to it could kill you on a whim.

From there, you take to the streets to find your lost daughter. You cut through the fog, exploring city streets and abandoned homes and stores for clues and items to help you survive. No matter where you run, you'll hear a horrid screech emanate from an old radio that you find early in the game. This is a warning that something dreadful is drawing near, and that you either need to prepare for battle or run like hell. It won't be long before you hear leathery wings of a pterodactyl-like creature flap through the air, or the unmistakable tick-tack of a mutant dog's claws on the ground, or the mumbling of a crazed simian demon. Failure to elude or defeat them and they'll make a snack of you.

No matter where you run, the beasts will find you. Mangled nurses shamble towards you in the dark halls of a dilapidated hospital, giant cockroaches nibble on your ankles in the musty sewers, and deep within the bowels of a hellish school waits an immense reptilian beast that can kill you with a single body-crushing bite. But you are not without a means of offense. Search carefully to find various guns and melee weapons that can provide an advantage in battle. However, Harry is not a commando or a hardened soldier. Combat is as simple as it gets, and most attacks cause a very little damage. All the better to keep the fear going. If Harry were more enabled, we'd lose our sense of fear--Silent Hill's bread and butter.

One must consider when it's wise to use a gun, as ammunition is limited. You can't purchase it at a shop or find it on a monster's corpse; the total amount that can be found in the city is finite. The same goes for healing items. Conserve or perish; that is the law of survival. And with that, all of those monstrous beings are much more monstrous. You're in constant fear that whatever resources you have aren't enough, and that makes Silent Hill all the more terrifying. You have to make your shots count, hope your melee attacks don't miss, and know when exactly to use a healing item so as not to waste it.

Your last hope is your sanity, and you'll feel that wane as you see the sights in Silent Hill. From the basic dark crawlspaces to irrational Stygian depths, you will crawl into areas and wish you didn't have to. Reality shifts at different points, and the town takes on the appearance of a giant boiler room tended by a serial killer--complete with hanging bits of flesh and mysterious corpses aplenty. Sounds, both distant and close, keep you paranoid as you lurch around every corner. Is that knocking noise a random object or a blood-hungry beast approaching? Even when enemies are not present, Silent Hill can still effectively scare you.

In the middle of it all is very little explanation behind what's going on. No one knows why there are dingy old additions to buildings that shouldn't logically be there. No one knows why there are incongruous structures jutting out from the walls, ceiling and floors. No one knows why most of the doors in Silent Hill won't open (and you perhaps should be thankful for that, because heaven knows what could be behind them). H.P. Lovecraft said it best: that the oldest and strongest emotion is fear, and that the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

And what is the reward for it all? Multiple endings, unlockable items, and more clues to just what the hell is going on. Even after you've finished Silent Hill, it'll beckon you to come back and lose your mind again. It's a great title that deserves further replay and the occasional nostalgic look back. It's just a shame that as the series progressed that it became less and less terrifying and exciting. It could be that the magic was only enough for two games, or it could be that Konami added more explanations that took the fun out of the fear.

Regardless, Silent Hill remains the king of survival/horror. If you're a horror fan who still hasn't experienced this macabre masterpiece, then there's no better time than now.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 14, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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overdrive posted October 14, 2011:

I really have to buy a used copy of this (and the second) sometime. It's been too long since I've played them and this review goes to the heart of why I loved them so much (this being the "fear of the unknown" and the second being more "the enemy lies within") and think they're probably the best survival horror games out there.
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True posted October 14, 2011:

The first one is for sale on the PSN. Not sure about XBLA, though.
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Masters posted October 14, 2011:

I think only PSN, as only Sony has the PSOne Classics download section.
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overdrive posted October 14, 2011:

It's not on XBLA. If it was, I'd have made it a drunk purchase at some time or another. Like I did with Symphony of the Night...even though I own the PS version. Still wondering why I did that...
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 14, 2011:

Thanks, OD!

I just checked the Amazon prices. Unopened copies are running an insane price, and used ones are going for just over $22. SH2 is much cheaper.

I actually paid the around full price for this one, about $40. Mere months later, it became a "greatest hits" title.
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SamildanachEmrys posted October 15, 2011:

Nice work conveying the tension of playing Silent Hill. The first game is still the only one I've played, but my memories of it are fond, if frightened, ones. My overriding memory is wrestling with the question of whether to switch my torch on and attract attention, or hide in the darkness but have no idea what I'm getting into, just disturbing sounds closing in around me.

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