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Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 4 May 2010 16:00
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4. Use that psychological element

Before playing SH:SM, I assumed the psych testing thing would figure out what made me nervous and use that against me - trap me in a tiny room if I show claustrophobic tendencies, for example. But all Memories seems to do is reflect your personality directly. For example, if you display an obsession with sex, some of the characters wear sexier outfits. Surely this is something a sex obsessive would quite like, not be scared by.

I know it was part of the hype but I felt this element would have been more effective if it hadn't told me that I was being psychoanalyzed - I went through it paranoid about my actions and trying to predict what the game would take from the choices I made. As a result, Psycho Mantis unexpectedly calling me out for being a big save scumming bastard in Metal Gear Solid felt rather more unnerving.

5. Kill my dumb ass

I do like the whole "run away from enemies" concept. It's a third corner of the conflict-in-gameplay triangle - stealth fighting, direct fighting or evasion - that doesn't see much deliberate use. But as I said in the video, I didn't feel terribly threatened by the things chasing me. Personally I think being pursued by something unknown and amorphous but clearly hostile - see the first-person chase scenes from the Evil Dead movies or the sequence in SH3 where a red light pursues you down a corridor - would have been scarier, even more so if it felled you immediately with no quick-time-event escape route, and even more so if the thing actually killed you, rather than teleport you to the start of the section.

A lot of games have used alternatives to dying (as in Prey, Bioshock, the new Prince of Persia etc) because frequent autosaves ensure that dying is little more than a brief delay in games these days. But here's the thing: it's still dying. And above all else, especially in horror, the threat of death has to be real, and one that the player should want to avoid. It should look like death even if it doesn't have the effect. Getting your head popped off like a champagne cork and having to roll back the clock to before you made a bad decision still feels more like a failure than getting rescued by circumstance and continuing from the same moment in time. And lest we forget, gore heightens tension.

Don't get me wrong, the original Silent Hill games were far from perfect, and the attitude of the developers of sequels and remakes often seems to be to keep the imperfections as some kind of museum piece, refusing to change anything lest they be accused of dissing the franchise. Shattered Memories proves that developers Climax are willing to do what most aren't and go back to formula. But in re-rolling the dice, some of what made the original games so compelling was lost. I will definitely be interested in any future adaptations of the IP by Climax, as long as they toss a few more coins in the dismemberment budget next time.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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