While PlayStation 3 owners are still waiting for the next Silent Hill in Blu-Ray form, fans of the ongoing survival/horror franchise have contented themselves with smaller iterations that have come in the form of PSN digital titles and games for Sony’s PSP. One of the most recent, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, released for the Wii on December 8 and it will be going portable early next year, much to the delight of handheld aficionados. And because the game originates on the less powerful Wii, the transition to the PSP should go off smoothly and we’re expecting a very tingly, creepy, spooky experience. Those of you who have been fans ever since the original Silent Hill showed up on the PS1 all those years ago will be satisfied, too: while Shattered Memories adopts a slightly new gameplay direction, the atmosphere and environment are unmistakably “Silent Hill.”
You will play as Harry Mason, who crashes during a nasty blizzard just outside the mysterious town known as Silent Hill. He is knocked unconscious due to the force of the impact and when he awakes, he discovers with growing terror the one thing a parent fears more than anything else: his daughter, Cheryl, is nowhere to be found. The blizzard has wiped out any sign of her passing and Harry believes she may have gone into the seemingly dead town, and of course, he embarks on his search. If you’re familiar with these games, you know this town is almost always devoid of anything resembling human life, and there’s often a heavy fog and unsettling sounds that toy with one’s sanity. There’s usually some sort of time/alternate dimension component as well and it’s once again evident in Shattered Memories: every now and then, everything will just freeze and the denizens of evil will suddenly invade the streets.
Now, here’s where things get interesting: when you play any Silent Hill, it’s almost always a very linear experience, although you can explore plenty. This new entry changes things up a bit as it introduces the concept of psychological profiling. As you progress, a psychiatrist will ask you certain personal questions and your answers will actually have an impact on Harry. For instance, he’ll ask you if you have a good home life or if you’ve ever been unfaithful in a relationship and depending on the answers, both characters and the environment can change. Basically, if the profile of yourself begins to resemble that of an immoral, almost depraved individual, you may be exploring even more questionable areas and be faced with questionable behavior and appearances of NPCs. It’s an excellent idea and one that fits well within the standard survival/horror parameters; after all, our brains are very susceptible organs and are responsible for generating the fear within. It’s all one big mind game and it’s typically more devious and dark than a Resident Evil adventure.
And of course, you won’t be utilizing the motion sensing that was found in the Wii version. Standard control is mapped to the analog nub and face buttons but remember, Harry won’t have any weapons at all so you’ll have to master movement fast. The lack of weapons may be seen as a definite downside for some, but Silent Hill has always tried to be authentic and even brutally realistic when it comes to human capability. Harry wouldn’t be carrying an uzi around in the first place and he’s no superhero, so of course he’s going to run from the horrific monsters that attack in the depths of night. To assist you in the process, the developers have implemented the now-familiar context sensitive button presses: in other words, a mini-sequence involving an attacking enemy makes you press the X button at the right time, and then maybe the circle button in order to escape. Still, we do wonder why Harry can’t just pick up a board with a few nails in it…sure, it might prove ineffective but at least it’s something. We understand the lack of weapons, though.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is scheduled to arrive on January 12, which isn’t far off. The week before, you’ll have to choose between Bayonetta and Darksiders on the PS3, but won’t you need a survival/horror experience to shake things up a bit? Variety is the spice of…you know.
12/22/2009 Ben Dutka