Silent Hill is a Japanese horror gaming franchise published by Konami and created by Keiichiro Toyama. The gaming based franchise has proven to be a well received, spawning eleven games and two movies up to date.
The games of the franchise are heavily influenced by psychological horror. The players’ characters of each game are ordinary people who have to fight and survive their way through horrific environments, obstacles and enemies. The game’s setting mainly revolves around the fictional American town, Silent Hill, named after the series of the same name.
As a person who has played Silent Hill 2 and 3, seen the first Silent Hill movie, and seen gaming playthrough footage of the original Silent Hill and Silent Hill 4, I can offer a somewhat small opinion on the Silent Hill franchise.
My first experience playing Silent Hill 2 and 3 was to put it simply amazing. I loved the atmosphere it created. I remember watching James looking into the mirror to find out the answers to why his dead wife would contact him three years after her death. I loved how Heather would have sort of a premonition of the future where she would get killed in a theme park and to later wake up in the normal world at a restaurant. I loved how the game would make me less brave as I controlled a character that had no military experience or wasn’t a big sized muscular killing machine.
When it comes to the scare factor, Silent Hill games aren’t the type just to give you a cheap scare or to gross you out by bombarding you with incredible amounts of splattering blood and grotesque violence. Although there are some instances where the monsters you face are there to scare you based on their visual representation, it is mainly all psychological.
The main characters you play in the game are like everyday ordinary people. They don’t move at lightning speed or wield big sized rocket launchers and have biceps that could put a body builder to shame. They are just normal human beings with normal human capabilities.
In my opinion, the people who designed these Silent Hill games were quite creative. There are a lot of nice touches that you can see in these games that you rarely see anywhere else. Like In Silent Hill 2 if you stand in certain areas of the game, which you assume is safe, without moving a monster would sneak up behind you out of nowhere and attack you. Or like in Silent Hill 3 where Heather reaches a room with a giant mirror and the entire room slowly becomes more gorier to the point where Heather is horrified and recoils at the sight while her reflection freezes in one spot and gets engulfed in the gore.
So I guess the main question on everyone’s mind is when talking about this horror gaming franchise is, is it scary? To be honest it is an aquired taste. Now I know what you are thinking. This horror based gaming franchise has spawned eleven games and two movies. Certainly a franchise with such accomplishments must be scary!
The reason for my opinion, as absurd as it sounds, comes in three.
First reason, when I first played Silent Hill 2 and 3, I was not happy at the moment and feeling really down. When I played through the games I found myself being entertained, not by the fear but by fascination. I’m pretty sure there is no actual research why I felt that way based on my emotions at the time but I wasn’t scared. Just amazed at how well the game placed me into a unique world. Not that I am bragging that horror doesn’t scare me. It does. It’s just that at the time when I first played it I didn’t feel the same way that an ordinary person would feel when playing such games.
Second, this is a true story. When I first introduced my friend to Silent Hill 2 he said, to many who are fans of the game who might find this surprising, even almost offensive, is that he found it boring. Why did he feel this way? I remember showing him the opening moments of Silent Hill 2 where James Sutherland had to travel down a path surrounded by thick fog. He found it boring because it was just one ordinary slow moving guy moving down a path for a few minutes with nothing happening. Then when the action started he thought the combat was lame. I rememeber staring at the television screen at some naked monster with no arms that looked like a dried up prune vomiting on the player. The fact that it was set on the lowest difficulty didn’t help either. The difficulty was set to the lowest as my friend never played such a game before. The monster would keep vomiting with minimal damage on James and my friend would look at me with a facial expression that you would see from a movie goer who just watched a lame movie.
The third reason really isn’t an opinion based on the series as a whole but mainly focuses on the first Silent Hill. Like I mentioned before, the heart of this game is the atmosphere it sets. One of the contributing factors for this type of atmosphere are the visuals. When looking at the footage of the original Silent Hill I couldn’t help but feel that I wasn’t intimidated by this Playstation One version than I would compared to the Playstation 2 and later consoles. What I’m trying to get at is the graphics. Silent Hill 2 and 3 were on Playstation 2 and had great visuals. Silent Hill 1 didn’t really appear that scary not because the creators weren’t good at making good visuals. It was simply a matter of graphics quality. At least in my opinion.
Although the games of the Silent Hill franchise come off as serious horror aimed at scaring the pants off of you there are moments where you can take a break from it all and just have fun. There are joke endings. There is also a part in particular in Silent Hill 3 when you can dress up Heather in a fairy costume and make her kill enemies with her “sexy beam”.
Silent Hill games are very environmentally focused. Relying on visuals and sounds to create an atmosphere for the player.
The sounds from the Silent Hill games are a real treat. The music that is played is suitable to the scenes and the sounds of the monsters are highly convincing. And also it is not just the sound it is also the lack of sound, suitably placed in certain moments to give an extra chill down your spine.
Those who have played the games of the Silent Hill series may find the games themes and the atmosphere it creates to be quite unique. Games like Doom and Quake focus on excessive gore and grotesque disturbing visuals where as Silent Hill games focus on the psychological aspect of fear, creating claustrophobic rusty surroundings and enemies that resemble the themes that the game makes their player go through.
Speaking of the themes. The monsters you face in the Silent Hill series aren’t some run of the mill enemies that are just there to look scary and shock you. The monsters play towards the themes of the game being played. For example in Silent Hill 3 Heather comes up against a type of monster that resembles a fetus only walking around with legs, a representation of the birth of a cult deity which becomes clearer once you reach the end of the game.
The stories of the Silent Hill games I played and watch aren’t disappointing. You could tell a lot of deep thought went into it. There are also some aspects of the plots of the games that I found interesting. For instance I like how in Silent Hill 2 the town is supposed to be ridden with horrific monsters and environments yet James manges to encounter normal looking people in the town.
Some people may find the games of this franchise replayable due to the multiple endings and personal challenges like only fighting with melee weapons or turning off your radio so that you don’t hear the monsters coming at you. I personally never really found any motivation to play these games over and over again. For me doing so is like watching episodes of a television drama series. You know what is going to happen so you aren’t taking off guard or amazed by the relevation that happens. That is not to take anything away from the games of the franchise. Although I only played through Silent Hill 2 and 3 once I thorougly enjoyed it.
So what was the experience of playing and seeing these games like for me? I enjoyed it. After playing and seeing these games from the series you cannot help but raise your hands and clap at a job well done. A lot of creativity was invested into these games.
For a bunch of games that are based on psychological horror I must say I am impressed. Although my experience with the franchise is limited I thoroughly enjoyed playing and watching the games I could. I found the Silent Hill franchise to be completely above using cheap scares. Did I find it scary? At the time not so much but if you were to tell me to play it again in my current state I would still be hesistant out of fright. Even with knowing what would happen throughout the games plot. Although I personally found the Silent Hill games entertaining some may find a different opinion. The atmosphere of the Silent Hill games I played and saw created an amazing atmosphere through visuals and sound, even lack there of. The story implemented into the Silent Hill games appear to be well thought as well as the themes of the games as well. Are there scarier game franchises out there that can match or surpass Silent Hill? Probably. If you want you can try the Fatal Frame series. Overall I am glad I played Silent Hill 2 and 3 and watched footage of the original Silent Hill and Silent Hill 4. It was a great experience and I highly recommend those who haven’t played the games of Silent Hill to try them.
Article by Winston