Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: November 13, 2007
Meanwhile, in the world of survival horror, Silent Hill Origins has changed almost completely.
It was playable last year at Konami's summer barbecue in San Francisco. There, it was heavily influenced by both Resident Evil 4 and the "Silent Hill" feature film, with the player's camera constantly mounted behind the protagonist, Travis O'Grady. The graphics were somewhat grainy, and Travis wielded a sledgehammer and shotgun with uncharacteristic skill for a Silent Hill character. At the time, the game was supposedly comprised of one-third new content, one-third content from the film, and one-third content from the first SH.
The game promptly went away for a while, and failed to appear at several subsequent Konami events. No one mentioned it. Rumors began to spread, many of which were nowhere near as entertaining as they probably could've been, until the game unexpectedly resurfaced at this year's E3.
Origins is now, oddly, a Silent Hill game. It reuses the controls and camera scheme from previous installments of the series, and even gives you the flashlight back; if you've played any of the last four games, you'll instantly be on familiar ground. (You won't be on comfortable ground, naturally. Silent Hill. You know.) The graphics have also dramatically improved, including a variety of lighting effects that are beyond what I thought the PSP was capable of. It looks roughly as good as, say, Silent Hill 2, with surprisingly emotive character models.
The story remains much the same, however. On his way into Silent Hill on a routine delivery, truck driver Travis O'Grady rescues a young girl from a burning house. The girl is badly injured, and Travis winds up at a local hospital trying to figure out who she is.
The girl is Alessa Gillespie. The fire she was in was set by her mother Dahlia. Travis doesn't know either of these things, or about the drug ring and religious cult that Dahlia runs out of Silent Hill. He does, however, know that the hospital's deserted and that a weird monster in a nurse's uniform just jumped him. Whether he likes it or not, Travis is now part of the beginning of the Silent Hill story, and must fight to survive.
Before he's done, Travis will have met most of the characters that made up the cast of the original Silent Hill, such as Dr. Kaufmann, the Gillespies, and Lisa Garland. Most of the questions that still remain about the events of the original game will be answered, or so Konami is willing to claim.
Unlike past Silent Hill protagonists, Travis will have to constantly search for weapons, as his melee weapons will degrade and eventually break as he wields them. He can also use his bare hands, but that's such a bad idea that I can't believe I'm mentioning it.
Travis, also unlike past protagonists, can control whether or not he visits the Otherworld: a parallel dimension of rust, blood, and darkness. Whenever Travis finds a reflective surface such as a mirror or window, he can opt to enter or leave the Otherworld. This should be useful for circumventing obstacles and solving puzzles.
The demo I played at E3 wasn't very long, but it was interesting nonetheless. After a couple of games where the Silent Hill series had been exploring new territory, Origins is now returning to the kind of gameplay that made the series famous. Unfortunately, the demo was incomplete, naturally, and didn't feature much in the way of the series' famous sound design. Hopefully, a more complete build will appear shortly.
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