With two movie adaptations under its belt, it’s no wonder that the survival horror series Silent Hill has attracted two Hollywood stars and one of the most well known and respected names in the gaming industry to collaborate in developing Konami’s tenth game of the series, Silent Hills.
To start, Norman Reedus, the star that plays fan-favorite Daryl Dixon in the hit AMC series The Walking Dead, will take the lead role as the main protagonist of Silent Hills. Hideo Kojima, the genius that created, directed, and wrote the renowned and beloved Metal Gear series, among other hit games, will put his mind together with award-winning writer, director, and producer Guillermo Del Toro. If I could pick a Hollywood writer and director to help create and direct the story of a horror game, Del Toro would be my pick. He was the man who wrote and directed Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), an award-winning dark fantasy movie that rests comfortably at #120 on IMDB’s Top 250 movies of all time. If you look at some of the creatures from some of his past films, his demonic-like creations are a perfect fit for a Silent Hill title.
When the first installment of the Silent Hill franchise was released on the Sony PlayStation in 1999, it completely redefined the survival-horror genre in gaming, and almost instantly became a cult hit. Just three years prior, the first installment of Resident Evil was released on the same system, and was the first game to coin the term ‘survival-horror’. I can say unabashedly that at the age of 16 in 1996, Resident Evil really gave me the creeps, and by 1998 when Resident Evil 2 came out, an even better game in my opinion, I was already hooked on this genre of gaming. The following year, Silent Hill introduced an industry-defining style of survival horror, removing the more common ‘B-movie’ elements seen in previous games of the same genre, focusing more on psychological horror and atmosphere.
Although both Resident Evil and Silent Hill were considered rivals, many gamers share a deep affection for both series. Sadly, after the masterpiece that was Resident Evil 4 (2005), the quality of the next several games in the series went downhill very quickly, as did Silent Hill after the third game. With both titles fitting into the survival horror genre, it’s important to take into account that their styles as survival horror games greatly differ. Resident Evil often used the ‘jump scare’ tactic (which was very effective), and the story arc for all of its games involve a virus that creates zombies, as well as other horrific creatures. Resident Evil 4 was a departure from the traditional settings of earlier installments, featuring a slick third-person camera viewpoint, and played more as an action-horror game. The superb level design, frightening atmospheric setting, as well as a wide variety of terrifying enemies are only just a part of what made RE4 one of the most highly rated games of the last decade.
Silent Hill is essentially based on the main protagonist’s journey through several dimensions, often getting stranded in the town of Silent Hill, which leads to a hellish and terrifying descent into some otherworldly domain full of terrifying creatures. One of Silent Hill’s psychological scare tactics involves the use of a radio at the start of the game, which emits static every time an enemy is nearby. Although an innocuous and seemingly helpful warning device, the radio actually adds to the tension of the game, as the character is made to feel extremely vulnerable against a variety of twisted, human-looking demonic entities that randomly appear and attack your character. On top of that, you are often forced to fight with only the makeshift weapons you can find (e.g., an iron re-bar, a lead pipe, a knife, or even a simple wooden stick). Firearms are only occasionally found, and with very little ammo to spare.
Nine more titles were released over the next 15 years, with Silent Hill: Downpour (2012) being the latest installment, but like many of its predecessors, it received mixed reviews. The series, although popular, has been struggling to churn out well-received titles since the 2003 release of Silent Hill 3. Most hardcore fans believe that Silent Hill 2 (2001) is the best game out of all nine, and I hold the same opinion. Silent Hill 2 is not a direct sequel to the first (Silent Hill 3 picks up where the first game left off), with an entirely different story and unrelated characters to the first game. Silent Hill 2 arguably broke what many at the time considered to be the ‘moral boundaries’ for console games, including many taboo subjects weaved into the main plot and character arcs. Nevertheless, Silent Hill 2, which was partially inspired by the psychological horror film Jacob’s Ladder (1990), became a smashing success, and is viewed by many fans of the genre as one of the scariest games ever made. It’s also the game that first featured ‘Pyramid Head’, a terrifying enemy that was also featured in both of the Silent Hill movies.
With great minds working on the next title and a seemingly healthy budget, Silent Hills just might be what fans of the series have been waiting for after a decade of disappointing titles.