I like the Silent Hill series. I wish I could say I love it. I adore Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3, and Silent Hill 4: The Room. However, I’ve enjoyed every entry aside from Shattered Memories and Book of Memories. Yes, I even found the time I spent with Homecoming and Downpour worthwhile.
But I can admit that all of the Silent Hill games have had their fair share of problems. I didn’t have as many issues as a lot of folks did with the more recent entries, but I did find certain elements annoying. I won’t argue with the claim that the series just isn’t what it once was. Will it ever be again? With a new Silent Hill most likely on the way, possibly with Hideo Kojima at the helm, I’m hopeful. I want to discuss a few changes I think would help the series immensely.
Better Stories, Better Characters
Remember Harry and Cheryl? James and Mary? Maria, Laura, and Eddie? Heather and Douglas Cartland? For fans of Silent Hill, those names are instantly recognizable. Now, try to remember characters from the following games. The Room is my favorite Silent Hill, so of course I can remember Henry, Eileen, and Walter, but I’m in the minority there. I can also recall Travis, Alex, and Murphy, but I’m grasping at straws now.
The series has been struggling with its identity for a while. The second and third games and The Room built off their worlds, delivering some of the most memorable narratives in video game history (anyone who has played Silent Hill 2 to completion and claims not to remember it is lying). The first game’s plot was absolutely ludicrous. Origins was interesting, but was more fan service than engrossing tale. Homecoming tried the approach attempted first by The Room, taking place for the most part in a setting outside of Silent Hill, which is fine, but it ultimately proved to be a confusing mess. Shattered Memories was intentionally confusing as proven by its twist ending, which was admittedly kind of cool.
The writers of Downpour got back to the heart of Silent Hill and delivered perhaps the best story in the series. They missed the boat on delivering a roster of memorable characters, but Murphy Pendleton’s journey through Silent Hill is a trip to remember. "Revenge is a long, hard road, Mr. Pendleton" is a line that still stands out to me. And Downpour provided awesome secret moments (the "Turn Back Time" side mission is one of my favorite video game scenes) and easter eggs to keep fans happy.
I hope the writers of Downpour return for the next game. They get it. They know they shouldn’t lay it on thick with the emotional moments (shame on you, Homecoming) so they’ll have more resonance. They also know they shouldn’t overindulge in "shock factor" bits or completely throw their story in the garbage. A Silent Hill plot should disturb psychologically, but also let the player know it’s headed towards a significant payoff. If the Downpour writers return next time with better characters and more focus, the next Silent Hill could be something special.
Also, it’s time for another female lead. Silent Hill is turning into Sausage Hill.
Every Silent Hill fan reading this is nodding right now. The Silent Hill games are not known for having great combat systems. The combat slightly improved each time between the first game and The Room, but then Origins came along and decided to incorporate breakable weapons (ugh) and quicktime events. Shattered Memories ditched any sort of traditional Silent Hill gameplay in favor of requiring players to run from and shake off meat monsters while navigating through bland labyrinthine environments. It seriously sucked.
Homecoming’s combat just kind of had a "meh" feeling to it; not too good, but not terrible or anything. It introduced melee combat that was different from anything else in the series up to that point. It was interesting, but wore thin quickly. The same could be said of Downpour, but it also included those two lecherous words: breakable weapons (breakable weapons are probably THE most antiquated design choice ever).
The gunplay in both games is kind of atrocious. Alex Shepherd can shoot perfectly in Homecoming, but for some reason aiming and firing a gun still feels sluggish. Downpour had Murphy aiming like he was a diabetic who had just been injected with four gallons of sugar water. It was supposed to be more survival horror-y and realistic, but it was just annoying.
Why can’t Silent Hill just get with the times? The Last of Us delivered an intense experience last year, complete with the sort of nerve-wrecking immediacy found in most survival horror games. The people who complained about its combat were being nitpicky mostly. Silent Hill could adopt its style and be all the better for it. If news came out that Naughty Dog is developing the next Silent Hill, I would be very excited.
"Konami: Ignore the insufferable fanboys who go out of their way to try and ruin everything in the gaming industry (they’re a dying breed anyhow)."
Konami just can’t seem to get a grasp on reality. Silent Hill shouldn’t be about gimmicks. Konami should stop trying to recapture the past. The past sucks. The old Silent Hill games suck now. It’s OK to accept change. Konami: Ignore the insufferable fanboys who go out of their way to try and ruin everything in the gaming industry (they’re a dying breed anyhow). Just make a damn great game and watch the love outweigh the hate by a gargantuan amount.
I’m no stickler for graphics. I much prefer Deadly Premonition to something like Killzone: Shadow Fall. But can you imagine what the town of Silent Hill will look like if Kojima and his Fox Engine become involved with the series? I practically salivate imagining it. What about Rockstar? Hell yeah. I don’t really care about how games look as long as they function properly, but it would be cool to see my favorite resort town competing with other visually impressive locales.
Neither Homecoming or Downpour looked too shabby on the last generation of consoles (Shattered Memories was pretty not pretty), but the former was filled with bugs, some of them game-breaking, and the latter’s framerate was just pathetic. These are issues that should probably not be present in the next game as well. Don’t let Silent Hill turn into Battlefield 4, Konami. Let’s have a smooth launch next time.
This is really a small gripe in the grand scheme of things, and it also applies to all the Silent Hill games from here on out. I liked that The Room and Homecoming were set in locations, South Ashfield and Shepherd’s Glen respectively, outside of Silent Hill itself. I would love to see the series take that risk again. Another game set in South Ashfield or Shepherd’s Glen would be great, but a new location would be divine. Why not another Silent Hill set in the past like Origins that explores the town’s history? Silent Hill is a series that go could anywhere.
I want Silent Hill to be better. I own almost every game in the series. I bought Silent Hill HD Collection even though I already own the second and third games. I’ve been waiting for that special connection I once had with Silent Hill to return again for a while now. I’ve felt a flicker of it here and there, but it’s nothing like it used to be. Still, my faith remains.
In my restless dreams, I see that town. Silent Hill. You promised me you’d take me there again someday, but you never did. Well, I’m alone there now…in our "special place"…waiting for you.