Though it wasn’t the first in the genre, for years Resident Evil was known as THE survival horror game. A few companies made Resident Evil clones in hopes of cashing in on this hot new genre, but they all fell short of reaching the success of Resident Evil...Then along came Konami with a little game called Silent Hill, and suddenly Resident Evil had itself some competition.
While the gameplay itself is very similar, the one thing that sets Silent Hill apart from Resident Evil is the way that it scares you. While Resident Evil generally relied on things jumping out of nowhere to provide the scares, Silent Hill is much more psychological. A lot of the time, you’re scared when nothing is actually there...But the music suddenly began to play a menacing tune, so you’re tense and ready for something to jump out at you. Sometimes the music leads to something actually being there, other times it’s just there to put you at unease. It’s stuff like this that creates the scares in Silent Hill, not a dog jumping through a window.
The story of Silent Hill is pretty good...You take the role of Harry Mason, who was headed to the quiet town of Silent Hill to vacation with his seven-year-old daughter, Cheryl. During the drive there, Harry sees a young woman in the road, swerves out of the way, and passes out. When he comes to, Cheryl is missing, and he sets out to find her. Upon some searching, he finds that the town is nearly deserted and that it’s now populated by various nightmarish creatures and that the real world likes to merge itself with a horrific alternate reality, which Harry must also venture through in order to find his daughter.
The puzzles in the game are also pretty well done. There are one or two that rely more on guessing than actually thinking to solve it, but the majority of the puzzles are fun little riddles that actually make you think, but aren’t too difficult to prevent you from advancing on in the game after devoting a little brainwork towards them. The only real problem with them is that some of them just seem out of place...Not so much that they ruin the enjoyment of the game, mind you, but enough where some may have you scratching your head as you try to figure out how this puzzle relates to the game.
Graphically, Silent Hill looked fairly impressive for its time. The fog that blankets most of the game both adds to the atmosphere and cleverly hides the graphical limitations within the game, so it’s a nice little touch. Most of the environments are pretty detailed...There’s never really a time while you play that you feel as if the designers slacked off when creating the various locations. As far as audio goes, it’s mostly there to help create the psychologically creepy atmosphere within the game. There’s the threatening music I mentioned earlier in the review that can be used as an example. Also, a good example is the radio that you pick up in the beginning of the game. The radio makes noise when enemies are nearby, which can lead to uneasy moments, but is also an essential item to keep you alive within the game; if you hear the radio make noise, make sure you’re armed and/or ready to run for it. Background music only plays during certain times in the game, otherwise you’re playing in silence...And it works well. There are also voice-overs....But they’re horrible. Absolutely horrible. Overall, though, the audio isn’t anything fancy, but it does the job it was meant to do.
Silent Hill, with this first entry in the series, solidified its place as a top contender for the survival horror crown. While it was hard not to compare it to Resident Evil back when it was released, it quickly proved that it was very much its own game once gamers began to play...And with five different endings and several secret items and weapons to discover, many gamers played it again and again to find them all. If you’re a Resident Evil freak and absolutely loved the first few games in the series before it became more action and less adventure, then you’ll probably love the similar, yet different experience that Silent Hill gives you. If you’ve never played a survival horror game, then this is a nice place to start. Either way, your first trip into Silent Hill will be one nightmare that you’ll be glad that you entered.