October is a colossal month of festivity for horror fans, from movies, games to books, and people look for ways to frighten themselves. So naturally, I invested my time into one of the most famed horror franchises, Silent Hill. I have always loved this franchise, and I have played most games in the series when I was a kid, oddly enough I had beaten, none or gotten too far, because as a kid I lacked fundamental puzzle-solving abilities needed to beat the games. Because of that most of this was new to me, so do these games stand the test of time?
So to start with, I experienced all of Silent Hill 1 and 2, and some of three. Graphically well, obviously, they don’t stand the test as they were late 90s and early 2000s games. However, that was never what Silent Hill was about, even though at the time they were very good graphically that wasn’t the focus, the focus was always the atmosphere. So that is what we really care about, and frankly, it holds up. One of the best features about Silent Hill, which only gets better throughout the series, is the interact-ability where your character comments on the environment. It is such a small thing of text at the bottom of the screen talking about rust that just immerses you more and creeps you out. So even though the graphics aren’t top notch by todays standards, the worldbuilding of the locations and overall vibes of them are.
I’m sure we all know of the story about how Silent Hill’s infamous fog was an accident and only for the limitations of the console hardware, and even though this has been said a million times, it’s worth repeating, it truly adds to the atmosphere of the environment, as you are always wondering what is lurking around the corner. The city designs itself are great. It amazed me to find that Silent Hill is rather than a creepy oddly designed video game town; it is laid out like a town that you would find in real life. Not everything is conveniently placed like other games, it is a real town with lots of houses and you could see people living here, unlike some modern games that have towns but lack real things like schools.
The story of the game is something I found myself not enjoying as much as I thought I would, to my surprise. Not that it is bad, but it is just uninteresting, at least in 1 and 3, in 2 it is VERY good. I always perceived Silent Hills stories, not having got too far in them, to be about people who end up in this town and it turns into their own personal purgatory and it is why the monsters are mostly based on their psyche, like how in Silent Hill 2 Pyramid Head represents James’ feelings that he needs to be punished. To my surprise, that is not really what Silent Hill about at its core. In two of the first three titles the main plotline is about a cult, to the games detriment, because to be frank the cult storyline just aren’t too interesting. That’s not me saying the characters suck as someone like Heather, the protagonist of Silent Hill 3, is a very good character; but the main cult plotline is just not that interesting. However, if you look at Silent Hill 2, the story is so much more interesting as it is more of a personal story about James.
How does the gameplay hold up? Surprisingly good as well! The game controls great; However, to confess I did not play on the original controls, so that’s probably my doing. I played these games on PC and used a mod to add gamepad support and programmed to controller buttons myself, which is what I would recommend you do as well as the HD Collection is notoriously bad and the best way to play would be with mods on PC, and you can also choose to not use the legendarily terrible tank controls. The menus, though, are still easy to navigate so no issues there. The games also have enemies littered throughout the town and several boss fights. The controls to aiming are dated, but overall combat is fun and holds up. Doesn’t really feel like a chore and you dread combat because of limited ammo and reward you with more resources if you explore the areas and maps. Most locations you visit are often very distinct and have a different feel and enemy so there is a lot of variety. One issue however is that Heather in Silent Hill 3 revisits some of same places James does in Silent Hill 2, which is odd since they are unrelated.
With all that into account, these games still stand the test of time. Are they really scary nowadays? Honestly no, but that doesn’t matter, these games aren’t really meant to scare you as evidenced as the little jump scares, they are meant to immerse you and unnerve you. This is because of the incredible atmosphere in each game it succeeds at doing and it is why they have aged so well despite the graphics. Even though graphics age, game design really doesn’t. The puzzles are still challenging yet not impossible if you put your mind to it, the loop of figuring out what to do along with the added customizability of the combat and puzzle difficulty (something that surprised me to see given that their more early games). The survival aspect of finding using your resources, the multiple endings for each game and replayability, the “horror” of the world of Silent Hill, it all adds into one great trilogy that despite its age really resonate into horror classics even all these years later.
So basically what I am saying is hey, these games are old, but they are still very much worth your time. If you are a horror fan and haven’t played them, then you need to find a way. Whether it being playing it on an old PS1 or PS2 or figuring out how to play them on PC, which I might add is a hard process as Konami hasn’t put in the effort to truly port these games and make them available to the modern audience, something which is truly shameful, but do yourself a favor and visit the town of Silent Hill as even 20 years later it is creepy.