Release Date: March 4, 2008
As a fan of the horror genre, I've never really been affected by scary images. However, after never playing any of the other Silent Hill games and deciding to give the PS2 port of Silent Hill: Origins a try, I'll never be the same again. After an hour of playing the title, I was freaked out so much that I didn't play anything for two days.
(OK, I just got busy with other things, but the game still gives me nightmares.)
The story of Silent Hill: Origins is a prequel to the original Silent Hill and revolves around a trucker named Travis who happens to drive by the town of Silent Hill. He spots a young girl in the middle of the road and goes to investigate. The girl disappears and leads him into town, where he comes across a burning building and hears screams from inside. After braving the fires and rescuing a scorched girl, he passes out and awakens in the misty atmosphere of Silent Hill. Now he must find out what's going on in this spooky town.
The game utilizes a dual-world feature that comes into play whenever Travis examines mirrors, which allow him to travel between the misty "real world" and the rusty, bloodstained "mirror world." Monsters appear in both worlds, so neither is really safe, but the mirror world is definitely creepier. The enemy variety ranges from twisted abominations to creatures that make you exclaim, "What the #%^* was that!" The bosses, while creepy are pretty creative but only require that you save all of your gun ammunition in order to defeat them. In short, the game is not for the faint of heart, but again, this series never has been.
Two problems that plague Origins are its clunky gameplay and terrible camera. The camera has a tendency to focus on you from the front or from the side, but never from the back. You have to manually adjust the camera by pressing the L1 button, but if you're in a narrow corridor, you won't be able to adjust the camera, so you'll be unable to see any incoming threats. It would be nice to be able to tweak the camera by using the PS2's other analog stick, but since this is a PSP port and the handheld doesn't have that luxury, I'll chalk that one up to wishful thinking. It's not a sign of a good horror game when fear is induced by your inability to see the monsters because of the bad camera.
If you manage to see the enemies, you can either fight them or try to sneak past them. The latter is more difficult if you leave Travis' flashlight on. Not only does the light make it easier to see in the dark, but it also makes it easier for the enemies to spot and attack you, despite many of them appearing to not have eyes of any kind. When enemies are nearby, Travis' radio will make a static sound that doesn't alert enemies of your whereabouts.
Combat involves holding down the R1 button and pressing the X button to attack. You can also charge up the weapon and deal more damage to the enemy. When the enemy is down, you'll have to let go of the R1 button and press X to deal a finishing blow, or else it'll get right back up. If a foe gets close to Travis, it may try to grapple him, and you can defend by correctly pressing the on-screen button commands that appear; failure to do so will result in taking damage. Travis can fight fairly well with his fists, but he can also find weapons throughout the game to aid him. All weapons have limited use; toasters and alcohol bottles are single-use weapons, while a piece of wood or a sledgehammer can be used multiple times before it breaks. As Travis fights and runs around, he'll become fatigued and be prone to danger. This can be fixed by finding a safe spot to rest or by drinking energy drinks that are found throughout the game. Likewise, health potions and medical kits can be found for restoring health.
In addition to combat, exploration is vital to finding resources and weapons to make it through Origins. You'll want to examine every square inch of the game world to find clues and keys. All of the locked, blocked, and otherwise inaccessible doors in every building make me feel like I'm wasting time trying to open every door, only to discover that a majority of them are unavailable. Despite that gripe, the exploration and puzzle segments are highlights of the title.
The story and creepy atmosphere is brought out by the fantastic audio in Origins. Character voices and sound effects are pretty good, and the music is definitely one of the best parts of the game, as it's really creepy and sets the mood. There were many times when I was really hesitant to move forward because of the creepy music. I usually connect creepy music with enemies, but in Origins, there are no enemies during these segments, so I'm wetting the bed over nothing.
Like the audio, the graphics are pretty good. It's amazing when you consider that this was on the PSP, but it's pretty standard for a PS2 game and not quite on par for current standards. Despite that, the environments, from the foggy streets of the town to the bloodstained rooms of the asylums, are pretty creepy. The lighting and shadow effects from Travis' flashlight are impressive, despite the small range of the light. All in all, the presentation values of the game are good for the capabilities of the system.
Fans of survival horror and the Silent Hill series will enjoy Silent Hill: Origins, while others will be turned off by its morbid nature. If you don't have a PSP and didn't get the chance to check out the title a year ago, now's your chance. While the game doesn't do anything amazing to innovate the genre or the series, it's still a decent value for the $30 price tag.
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