In 1999, Silent Hill came out for the PlayStation. At that point in time, the three available Resident Evil games were selling like hotcakes, and the then-young sub-genre of survival horror was just starting to explode. Silent Hill immediately became one of the benchmark horror series, all the more so because it was actually, genuinely scary.
Silent Hill's big innovation was to add a heavy psychological element to its gameplay. You weren't heavily armed or particularly competent; you were just a guy who was lost in an abandoned town and looking for his daughter. Most stages took place partially or entirely in the dark, with your pocket flashlight as both the only ready source of light and a big flashing beacon for any enemies in the area. You could probably win any fight you got into, but the soundtrack and level design went a long way toward convincing you otherwise. Silent Hill is very good at persuading you that there's something right around the corner that you cannot defeat, even if you have three guns and enough bullets to invade Guam.
Climax, the British development studio that made Silent Hill: Origins, is now attempting to "reimagine," as opposed to remake, the original Silent Hill. Shattered Memories is a complete ground-up reworking of the game for the Wii, and Climax guarantees that if you're familiar with the original game, Shattered Memories will have surprises in store for you.
The game apparently begins the same way as the original did. Harry Mason is driving into the lakeside resort town of Silent Hill for a vacation with his daughter Cheryl, but winds up crashing the car. When he wakes up a short time later in the wreck, Cheryl is gone.
He goes to look for her and finds out he's one of a very few people left in Silent Hill. The town has been abandoned, seemingly recently, and an unseasonable cold snap is burying the town in snow and ice. Worse, there are monsters lurking inside Silent Hill, and Harry is powerless against them. If they find him, all he can do is run.
The biggest departure from the original game in Shattered Memories is the complete absence of combat. Harry spends most of his time exploring the town, looking for clues that'll lead him to Cheryl. He'll never find a weapon. When monsters show up, all you can do is run away, ducking under tables and frantically looking for an escape route.
Harry doesn't even have an inventory about which to speak. Your two big tools in Shattered Memories are your cell phone and your flashlight, both of which are used almost constantly. You move Harry with the thumbstick and point the flashlight with the Wiimote, attempting to immerse the player in what Harry's doing. You need to extensively explore your surroundings at all times, using the Wiimote to manipulate the environment. Some of what was displayed at Konami Gamers' Day included overturning cups to find the key hidden inside and unlocking a store's back door by finding the nearby security system.
Harry's cell phone is an iPhone knockoff, containing a camera, voicemail, a notepad that lets you scribble on your map, and a method of saving the game on the go, among other things. The camera allows you to photograph any location in the game world, which may occasionally reveal things that the naked eye can't see, and the phone can be used to gather information or solve puzzles. Calling phone numbers you find in the game world may lead you further into the mystery. Most importantly, though, the trademark static of Silent Hill, which is traditionally produced by an old broken radio that the protagonist finds early on, is now produced by the phone. If you hear static, it means monsters are nearby, and you'd better get ready to run.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is currently in a pre-alpha state, and all that was shown at Konami Gamers' Day was an all-too-brief sample of gameplay. A lot of questions persist, and at this point, after the well-meaning but complete misfires of the "Silent Hill" movie and last year's Homecoming, fans could be forgiven for being cynical. Climax made Silent Hill: Origins, though, so they know more about this series than most other developers. Unfortunately, all that's left to do is wait and see.
More articles about Silent Hill: Shattered Memories