What Made Silent Hill 2 Great and Why the Devs Don't Get It

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What Made Silent Hill 2 Great and Why the Devs Don't Get It

Silent Hill 2 was an exceptional game, but each incarnation since has left us wanting. Why don't the developers understand what made the game a hit?

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I'ma come out and say it. I don't want another Silent Hill 2. There's already a Silent Hill 2.

Also, I don't believe that you could conceivably do the 'the town is shaped by your psyche' story more than once in the series.

I'm gonna disagree all over the place here.

For the most part, Silent Hill 3 fits the mold you're asking for here, except they went on about the cult in it (and I guess it was technically a bit harder). It was still about Heather's inner demons (quite literally, as it turns out), it was atmospheric, it had monsterless sections, it didn't go for "fun" combat (although there was admittedly more of it, most of which could and should be avoided by mashing the Run key), and it didn't have quicktime events.

And indeed, I love it. It's the best Silent Hill. It's even significantly better than Silent Hill 2 (which is firmly in last place of the four Silent Hills I've played). Why do I feel this way, and why am I so alone?

If I had time to filter through the whole hour of it, I'd find a great Retsutalk podcast where Voidburger, a big Silent Hill fan, goes on a rant about the two different fandoms that Silent Hill is stuck trying to appease. She remembers when people didn't like Silent Hill 2 when it came out, complaining that the controls hadn't been improved, the story had abandoned the first game ("What about Harry and the baby!?"), the atmosphere wasn't as oppressive, there wasn't enough engaging combat, etc, etc. The problem is, the game DID attract a fanbase. So when Silent Hill 3 came along, fixing every last one of of these complaints with more frequent combat, more actually horrific imagery, a return to the original plotline, etc, the second group complained about that as well, wanting a return to the "some unrelated schmuck" storyline, less combat, less oppressive horror ("It's positively a cartoon!"), so Silent Hill 4 came out trying to address those complaints, and it's been a downhill spiral since then.

So we have two fandoms of the same franchise warring. No wonder they're "always screwing it up".

To be fair, I don't know why I'm so alone on the "Team Silent Hill 3" team, but I might just be on the wrong forum.

For instance, I don't want a return to the Silent Hill 2 formula. Silent Hill 2 was easy to detach from, didn't have any non-personal stakes, and I didn't relate to the main character at all. The secondary characters were interesting and I enjoyed them, but I didn't play as one of them. The "amazing atmosphere" did little other than annoy me, because it obscured my vision and didn't really do anything else. The story was pretty good, I guess, but again, I didn't relate to any of the characters except maybe the little kid. That's not a good thing. How can I care about someone's personal demons when they're completely removed from me? Maybe when I actually have a meaningful relationship I'll "get" it more, but as is, I was completely underwhelmed when I played it.

Silent Hill 3, however, had a brash and impulsive teenaged main character that I actually understood, facing personal demons and situations that I directly sympathized with, and it actually had an oppressive atmosphere that was worth a damn ("a dark room" doesn't have the same impact on me as "a dark room that is clearly alive"). It put a focus on fight-or-flight that I appreciated and responded to well. It was more spectacularly horrific, and a bunch of other small things that majorly jumped its quality over Silent Hill 2. No, it wasn't very subtle, but subtlety is overrated.

It's a good thing that Silent Hill 3 was the first one I played, because Silent Hill 2 wouldn't have made me a fan.

The devs might not understand what made the second one so beloved, but hey, neither do I. I'd take a new Silent Hill 3 any day.

I guess it always comes down to what the developer understands as horror. It could be that revolting and uncomfortable feeling induced by violent, loud and gory imagery, or that disturbing and panic inducing feeling from your mind simply not knowing what's happening and filling in the blanks with the worst it can come up with. I've never played Silent Hill 2, but it clearly went for the second version. I think in an interactive medium it's the most effective one, since you don't really have complete control of when and how the player will find your "horror setpieces" so you let them passively do most of the heavy lifting. However, it doesn't do great "trailers" to show off, so many developers go for the first version. It's not flashy enough. The down side is that for that "horror" to work you need heavily scripted and guided environments, which gameplay wise becomes limiting and boring.

For the record, I though the Sonic games 1 to 4 (or 3 extended, if you see Sonic and Knuckles as that) were great. They all shared the same design philosophy and overall feeling. It's aftwards that it all went weird. So it wasn't just one flash in the pan, it was a reliable construct that got levelled over the years.

This is a great article, Shamus, but the insanely hardcore Silent Hill fan that I am I have to comment on a few things, if you'll permit.

Shamus Young:
The longer we go on, the more it feels like the first one might have been an accidental masterpiece and the creators never understood why it worked in the first place.

That's because the "creators" aren't making the games anymore. The original developers of Silent Hill 1 through Silent Hill 4 was "Team Silent", and they were disbanded by Konami after the fourth game and the series was moved from Japan to western developers like Double Helix and Climax with only a scant few of the original team offering any contributions. You said as much with over a half-dozen developers, but that's the end and beginning of why the "magic" is gone. There ARE no creators left, and it was very much a product created by a unique team (they were outcasts from other Konami divisions) with a unique vision (they openly said they created the first with no intentions of making it accessible or profitable).

Silent Hill 3 and 4 remains very much beloved by the fanbase, especially SH3 though SH4's issues are due to level layout and not story, atmosphere, or creative spark. SH4 is actually one of the best stories in the series and fans know it.

That's the equivalent of making 10 Star Wars movies that all end with blowing up a different Death Star.

... Well, HALF the Star Wars movies end with a pilot blowing up a giant space base... and, yeah, it didn't get better than the first time.

Silent Hill was originally corrupted by a cult that was trying to bring about paradise on earth. Fine. That's serviceable enough as origin stories go. But most of the post-Silent Hill 2 games want to talk about, explain, or add to the cult story. It's like making all Superman stories flashbacks to Krypton. Who cares?

I do, but not in the way you might imagine.

The cult is important, but not essential, if that makes sense. Their presence is neither a positive or a negative, just another shadow of dark on a dark town. For the record, the cult did NOT create Silent Hill as we know it; Silent Hill birthed the cult. According to the lore and notes in the games, there was freaky stuff LONG before SH1 and Origins, long before even the cult in fact. The whole town used to be a "sacred place", and it warped over time (decades? centuries? millennium?) into an otherworldly slice of hell on earth. The movies got it so very, very wrong. Silent Hill isn't abandoned. It's not a ghost town. It has hundreds of inhabitants going about their day, living their lives... but like an onion, that's just the surface, the one most people see... and most of our "heroes" see the more rotten core as they peel back those layers.

The cult is just one layer. When used effectively, they can ADD to the mystery rather than spoil it. With the right touch, they can be an asset instead of a narrative crutch.

"Monsters? They look like MONSTERS to you?" That one line utterly turns the whole series on its head and plants an unshakable seed of doubt and confusion in your mind that never, ever, EVER goes away... THAT'S what the cult can do if they, like the monsters of the town, are used as tools to shape the insanity of the player's world.

I just want developers to wrap their heads around this idea and stop trying to scare me by making the game harder.

You sound just like my boyfriend, who posted something similar on Kotaku. A "game over" screen sucks you out of the game, rather than immersing you in it. It's a fine line between making players think they're going to die and actually killing them. The more you can keep them in the game world, the better.

You can do whatever you like with the combat. Just remember that it's not supposed to be "fun" to fight the monsters. Make sure the player doesn't feel strong, and that they spend most of their time anticipating fights instead of having them.

Seriously, you and my boyfriend should talk. You're practically of one mind on all of these things. Awesome fluid combat works for an action game, but not for a middle-aged father, a troubled artist, a grieving sales clerk, a frightened teenage girl, or any other "normal" person. Leave the military action to Resident Evil's heroes; but Silent Hill's characters aren't heroes; they're just broken people struggling to survive.

So it is completely insane to take this pristine interface and throw gaudy flashing colored Sony or Microsoft-branded icons over it. Please stop doing that.

Preach it. Dead Space 1 did this very well. I practically threw up when Dead Space 3 was brandishing "buy resources from Xbox Marketplace" messages in the game. Silent Hill kept the screen clean... and then Origin did QTEs and Downpour did Mass Effect morality buttons...

I'm willing to bet this will end up being another one of those "pretty good, but still nothing like Silent Hill 2" games.

Of course not, because there is only one Silent Hill 2. Even when they released the HD version, it STILL wasn't "THE" Silent Hill 2, with too many small changes and tweaks made by others that failed to understand what made the original great.

I once claimed that if video games were an art museum, Silent Hill 2 would be its Mona Lisa. It's mysterious, elegant, but also strange and not entirely accessible. It's a game that makes more sense on repeated playthroughs, laced with meaning in every monster, puzzle, and street corner. The "meat" of the game is not the gameplay, per se, it's in the world-crafting and character building... and it does that by creating enough to let your mind wander and form its own conclusions without spelling it out. It's subtle, dark, and shockingly adult, but it does all of this in such an insanely mature way that every other "Mature" game out there blushes in shame by pretending to be "M for Mature".

We have Silent Hill 2. We don't need another. We need a "Silent Hill 5". A game that takes the framework of Silent Hill 1-4 and doesn't discard it but build FROM it. People talk about SH2 more than SH1, NOT because SH2 is inherently superior or introduces anything new, but because it took every single element of SH1 and polished it (for the record, I prefer SH1... the final scene with Lisa suckerpunched me so hard I never really recovered and I still get quiet when I reflect on it).

SH2 wasn't even the most scary entry in the series, but it was easily the most balanced. It was an interactive exploration of a man's psychosis, depression, and coping with loss, stage by stage, and it was oddly beautiful. The game doesn't end with a screamer (like Dead Space), it ends with reflection, loss, and making an actual statement about the human condition in the confines of the horror genre. That's freakin' ART.

The creators stated their goals was to make the original game "like timeless literature" instead of following conventions. They succeeded. We need a team with the same approach.

Nothing is going to "surpass" Silent Hill 2... but we could use a few more games to stand alongside it.

I agree on the point about death being a fail state for the story. I was arguing with some people yesterday about failure in tabletop RPGs, and whether taking the PCs prisoner instead of killing them was a good idea. Personally, I think that there's a reason we tell stories about the survivor of horrific events, rather than the people who died; I care a lot more about Inigo Montoya hunting down the Six-Fingered Man because he failed to defend his father and failed to avenge him when he was a child, so the whole trajectory of his life was irrevocably altered.

I've been thinking about a hypothetical horror game set in a abandoned hospital where the villain is a mad surgeon and the protagonist is trying to escape with his buddies. If you get caught by the Doktor or his goons, you don't die; instead, you wake up back in the surgeon's lab with the corpse of your buddy Darren across the way and his hands stitched to your wrists. Each time you fail, either one of your friends dies or is horribly maimed, or the player character is horribly maimed (imagine a third-person camera that is subtly but constantly showing the thick bloodstains where your spine was exposed to the air. Death isn't the only way failure happens, but you desperately want to avoid failure.

lacktheknack:
snippy

Ha!
Though I agree we don't need another Silent Hill 2 but I'd never want another Silent Hill 3 either. I don't prescribe to the idea of having to relate to any character as I find it lazy but beyond that I don't like Teens :P
For me viewing something or playing a character that is alien is all the more interesting because it's discovering and developing an impression someone or thing you've yet to experience but for James technically any impression of him is correct because no one but the child are themselves. James isn't really fighting his inner demons as he IS the demon in question.

Anyway Silent Hill 2 had the best soundtrack of the series by far, some say it didn't fit but i'd argue that's the point.

Silent Hill 2 was more heart wrenching than scary which I class the first one more

You're right about the combat though, SH2's combat made the combat artificially tense

V4Viewtiful:
Anyway Silent Hill 2 had the best soundtrack of the series by far, some say it didn't fit but i'd argue that's the point.

but SH3 and SH4 100% OSTsssssssssss

(I'm actually listening to the 100% Silent Hill 4 soundtrack right now - it's pretty great, but I prefer Silent Hill 3's on the whole. Not that Silent Hill 2's OST is a slouch by any means.)

Thunderous Cacophony:
I agree on the point about death being a fail state for the story. I was arguing with some people yesterday about failure in tabletop RPGs, and whether taking the PCs prisoner instead of killing them was a good idea. Personally, I think that there's a reason we tell stories about the survivor of horrific events, rather than the people who died; I care a lot more about Inigo Montoya hunting down the Six-Fingered Man because he failed to defend his father and failed to avenge him when he was a child, so the whole trajectory of his life was irrevocably altered.

I've been thinking about a hypothetical horror game set in a abandoned hospital where the villain is a mad surgeon and the protagonist is trying to escape with his buddies. If you get caught by the Doktor or his goons, you don't die; instead, you wake up back in the surgeon's lab with the corpse of your buddy Darren across the way and his hands stitched to your wrists. Each time you fail, either one of your friends dies or is horribly maimed, or the player character is horribly maimed (imagine a third-person camera that is subtly but constantly showing the thick bloodstains where your spine was exposed to the air. Death isn't the only way failure happens, but you desperately want to avoid failure.

That's actually a nifty idea. Hell, something comparable to this happened in Outlast (even though is was a plot point and not a fail state), and I thought it was the most intense moment in the whole game (and you even saw the missing fingers when your hands came into view for the rest of the game!).

Personally I liked Silent Hill 1 over Silent Hill 2. I never managed to finish another Silent Hill game after that although I continued to collect them, strangely enough.

SH1 won for me by making an empathetic character who had clear motivations that I could understand and feel for, adding creepy but interesting characters, and playing with light, darkness, imagery and level design to scare me as worked at trying to find and solve the mystery of the main character's little girl.

SH2 added the internal demons idea, which was an interesting twist up there with "Would you kindly?", which I found interesting. But on the other hand it didn't deliver a lot of what I loved about SH1. It didn't manage to create a cast of interesting or empathetic characters, which is unsurprising considering they were all effectively psychophrenic from our narrator's perspective. My initial main goal was rather hard to relate to and if I controlled my character the way the game highly implied that I should (rushing forward, not taking care of myself, focusing on my dead wife), I got one of the worst endings. Add to it that it didn't help answer any of the questions I had from SH1, and I was left somewhat disappointed.

Personally I wonder if SH2's gimmick can be repeated with any game that has the name "Silent Hill". It's not unlike "Would you kindly?" or the color red. Once it's revealed you begin to understand everything and you go "Whoa" but when the next game comes out, you're looking for it, and you'll never get the "whoa" moment again.

lacktheknack:
Go Team Silent Hill 3! :D

Personally I think Silent Hill 3 is better than Silent Hill 2 in some ways, but not all of them. SH3 is my favorite of the bunch, so you're not alone there. :D

OT: I think SH2's atmosphere was perfect for the story that the game was trying to tell, and the same goes for SH3. I think that a lot of people miss that, and I think that having a huge and crushing atmosphere that SH2 had and putting that on SH3 would be a huge misstep since the tone wouldn't match the story.

The town was trying to teach James a lesson and reveal something about himself, and that's something that's totally relatable since we all have things to hide. With SH3, it's the cult going after Heather for things out of her control and her having to deal with it. I mean, she has to deal with birthing the cult's god, and I can't imagine that would be fun. I was seventeen at the time of actually playing it, so I connected with the story faster than I did in SH2 since that game didn't really give that 'AHA!' moment until close to the end. Not knocking it for that since it has a different way of telling the story.

I know some people don't like the cult aspect of the series, but it's kind of important. It's basically what made everything go to shit, and while it's not crucial to every SH story, you have to mention it somewhere. I think that's where the recent games fail since it seems like they're trying to re-write the origins story since it seems like they've all agreed that the cult was stupid and shouldn't be there. Fine, whatever. At least make an attempt that makes at least some sense. That and some reason they want to make another Silent Hill 2, and they really need to stop. It's what killed Homecoming for me since I knew before even playing the game what was going to happen to Josh.

Personally, as much as I liked SH 2, and I really do think some people need to stop obsessing over it since it's kind of hurting the series as a whole.

If that was all the criteria needed for being the next SH2, then Silent Hill: Shattered Memories would be the closest one:
- No cult
- Easy game
- Not a brawler (in fact, no combat whatsoever)
- No quicktime events (sorta)

The only thing that fails in this list would be the monsters and personal hell part. These change in appearance depending on your own actions, but tells you little about your character.

I don't know why, but in my head this article read in Yahtzee's voice, even though he didn't write it.

Recently I watched a couple videos of PT and it honestly never scared or even startled me. As someone who watches a lot of horror games it was basically all stuff I'd seen done before in those indie horror games. There were mildly disturbing parts but that's all they were, nothing made me jolt in my chair or put me on edge....it was just a lot of "ah yeah, this old trick".

Pink Gregory:
I'ma come out and say it. I don't want another Silent Hill 2. There's already a Silent Hill 2.

Also, I don't believe that you could conceivably do the 'the town is shaped by your psyche' story more than once in the series.

SO. MUCH. THIS.

P.T. has already demonstrated that both gentlemen are capable of doing a shit-in-your-pants game. It's subtle when it needs to be (something Kojima isn't known for) and it's flashy, without being distracting (also Del Toro's ideas are definitely present in some form or another). You can't actually die, but your progress can get slowed down to a crawl if a certain event happens, the worst thing that can happen is stepping back 15 seconds or less of your progress.

So yeah, in my humble opinion, if P.T. is any indication, it's definitely shaping up to be a delighfully disturbing little piece of interactive entertainment.

Here's my two cents:

I got into the Silent Hill franchise because of X-Play. They gave Silent Hill 3 a 5 out of 5, back when that meant something. So I picked it up and it terrified me pretty good. I liked the tie-back into the first game, even though I had never played it. There was enough information in the game for me to understand what was going on.
Anyway, I thought the game was great. Loved the atmosphere, and I kept hearing about how good 2 was. I picked it up, but I already knew the twist in the ending (it was impossible to avoid when researching the game so many years later), so that kind of kill part of my desire to play it. Plus, that game got under my skin. While Silent Hill 3 terrified me, Silent Hill 2 gave me literal nightmares to the point where I stopped playing. Haven't touched it since, though I mean to eventually.

I think Downpour ditched the whole cult thing and did the 'inner demons' story, but it sort of fell flat in a lot of places. I do think it was a decent entry though, and I enjoyed the idea that you could throw objects in order to get away from enemies. I think the game could have been better with a bit more polish.

Anyway, I would like to eventually see another great Silent Hill game, but I agree with a lot of this list. Focusing too much on the combat, or making it too action-y, is not helping. The atmosphere needs to come back. That sense of dread, even when you're nowhere near an enemy. That sense of complete and utter relief when you clear a boss and the world changes back to 'normal,' and even though things are still completely out of wack, you are glad to be back. These things need to come back before the rest of Silent Hill can fall into place.

Silent Hill isn't about monsters, it's about inner demons

No, it isn't. Silent Hill is about being stuck in someone else's nightmare. The idea is that monsters are supposed to be just as foreign to the main character as it is to us. It is only until you understand the 'villian' of game that you understand what these monsters could be and what they represent.

Nobody cares about the stupid cult

Silent Hill is about the cult, and it owes everything to the cult. What is the plot about in Silent Hill 1, 3, 4, Homecoming, Origins, and the two movies? The Cult. But no? The first time the series takes a departure from the cult, THAT is what Silent Hill should be about? I'm not saying they should all be about the cult, but what they shouldn't be is trying to re-make Silent Hill 2 over and over again and that's exactly what the devs (Tomm Hulett, Devin Shatsky) have been doing for the past 4 games.

You know what? I'm just gunna put this video in here, and despite it's 2 hours long, perhaps you can educate yourself on what Silent Hill is really about, and why games like Downpour and Homecoming were sacks of shit.

It sounds like you love Silent Hill 2 a little too much. While I agree on the gameplay points you made for the series everything you said about the story and character of Silent Hill just felt wrong.

And the whole personal demons thing, that was ONE TIME. Silent Hill 1,3, and 4 were not about the personal demons of the protagonist. I mean, yeah it was hell for them but not because they were bad people. Get over it, thats what made the other games so shit. They copied Silent Hill 2 in the respect and made the stories predictable, when players first saw the main characters little brother playing with a toy, not responding to his brothers cries and running off into the darkness everybody who knew anything about Silent Hill knew what the twist would be and its the same for every game after that. Making something new that builds off of the themes of Silent Hill would be better than just trying to surpass 2. It was a one time thing now make something to stand up with it like 3 did. I know many don't like 3 but almost every time they explain why it's not as good they always always say "Well it's about the cult this time and has occult imagery in it more, in 2 it was the inner demons and thats much more sad and scary". That's subjective but to dismiss 3 because it did not do things the way 2 did sends a very misguided message to the developers to make each game a copy of Silent Hill 2, what's worse is that they all had neither the skill nor talent to even come close to making a good imitation.

Given Kojima's history we know that Silent Hills will be the best Silent Hill game since 3, weather it can stand with the original trilogy is yet to be seen but at least we know he is a competent developer and it wont have bugs glitches or horrendous gameplay. His success as a storyteller is subjective but whatever we really don't know much about the plot anyways.

Silent Hill 2 is the amazing game? It was simply an extension of the greatness that was Silent Hill 1, which I considered one of the best designed horror games of all time. Because despite never playing it when I was young, despite the extremely outdated graphics trying to damage my interest, it still is able to scare me.

I'm a Silent Hill 3 fanboy but yeah I clearly see the general consensus about this series.

Silent Hill is not about personal demons. That has happened twice in the entire series (Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill Homecoming). Silent Hill Homecoming was intellectually offensive because of the shameless ripping off of Silent Hill 2's story. The heavy focus on combat and adding in the cultist bullshit was what drove it even further into the shit town department.

I think I agree with Yahtzee when he was speaking about Silent Hills on Let's Drown Out. There's little point in doing another Silent Hill 2 story because we know from the start that's it's all in the character's head and thus the surprise is taken away and we don't care. That's why I liked Silent Hill 3's approach to the monster design. It wasn't based around Heather, it was based around motherhood and sexuality (Heather was just the unfortunate person who was deemed to be the mother).

The last few points are kinda why I liked Downpour and Shattered Memories. In Downpour especially the combat is sticky and awkward, but you're not overly challenged by it and death is infrequent. In Shattered Memories it's just about shaking it out with a Wii Mote so you can keep running away.

Rainbow_Dashtruction:
Silent Hill 2 is the amazing game? It was simply an extension of the greatness that was Silent Hill 1, which I considered one of the best designed horror games of all time. Because despite never playing it when I was young, despite the extremely outdated graphics trying to damage my interest, it still is able to scare me.

I'm currently playing through Silent Hill 1 (well, now that I got myself a PS1 memory card anyway) and I have to say that while I'm not scared by this franchise (I just think they're good games with good pretty much everything but graphics and combat), Silent Hill 1 was the closest one to scaring me. I think there's something about the monsters and how some seem not interested while others try to hunt you down. It gives me the impression that this world is conflicted with even what it wants to do because Harry isn't the focused on person in this scenario.

gamegod25:
Recently I watched a couple videos of PT and it honestly never scared or even startled me. As someone who watches a lot of horror games it was basically all stuff I'd seen done before in those indie horror games. There were mildly disturbing parts but that's all they were, nothing made me jolt in my chair or put me on edge....it was just a lot of "ah yeah, this old trick".

That's not always the case, horror isn't just about scares but making you feel uncomfortable or just uneasy (wait, doesn't that mean the same thing). if either is achieved the horror works, Alien never scared me but it made me uncomfortable.

Sometimes its a matter of perspective but neither has to be right.

Silent Hill 2 is done.

The thing that developers are failing to understand is that you can't recreate an amazing experience. The best you can do is hearken back to Nostalgia.

Playing Silent Hill One first and then Two, what made the game revolutionary for me that it wasn't a Sequel to me. It brought about ideas that were more substantial to me than just "Spooky Town has my daughter"

It made "Spooky Town has a mind of its own and it's fucking with me"

Through my playthrough, I literally wondered if my Wife in the game was even real. So many conflicting ideas about what was happening made me wonder almost anything about the game. If these people (Eddie, Laura) are wrong and the town is showing them different things, why should I believe my thoughts are real? What if this was just a large game (no pun intended) for the jollies of the newly Sentient Silent Hill? That messed with my mind hardcore.

We can't be messed with like that any more. We have definitive answers of what happened (Thanks Silent Hill: The Room! YOU ARE TEARING ME APART!!!!). There is no more guessing. That's it.

When Developers set their sights to recreate, they look away from Innovate. That's what the Silent Hill Series did best, I feel. Resident Evil is where I cut my teeth on Survival Horror. Then Dino Crisis, Clock Tower, Parasite Eve... the stock trope of "There is a big bad thing, avoid it" of survival horror ran old. Silent Hill... Silent Hill 2 made everything feel new. Not Silent Hill 1, mind you. It was creepy, but I had the overall arc of get my daughter. From the get go of Silent Hill 2, the first thing you face is the question "How can I recently get a letter from my dead wife who passed on 3 years ago?"

Then questions and uncertainty and conflicting information drove you more and more to find out the truth while really being unclear what is it that you're actually seeing. That is an experience that I had once. It's an experience I do not know if I'll have again. That's why re-create needs to be put to rest, and now we need to innovate again.

Excellent write-up, except for the fact that you forget all post-SH4 developers (until now) have been small unknown western studios. It's not the original SH devs that don't understand SH, it's the newer ones. (Though I'll agree making 3 and a bit of 4 about that stupid fucking cult was a mistake on Team Silent's part).

I agree with all your points on what made Silent Hill 2 so amazing, but I don't want Silent Hills to be another SH2.

On the "inner demons" bit: it would be unbelievably dumb if Silent Hills made it about personal demons, because we're all expecting it. Especially if they undersand how to make good monster design, we could just take a look at the monsters and guess what horrible thing the protagonist has done to deserve getting Silent Hilled. I want the game to surprise me. Since it's (most likely) a complete reboot, they can do whatever they want too.

The rest of your points is perfect, though. Don't bring the fucking cult back, focus on atmostphere rather than difficulty, make combat a last resort thing you won't want to do, and lets QTEs die in a fire.

I'll be honest: I won Silent Hill 2, but until I read this I had no idea this was what it was about. It was all a big confusing blur to me, and I ended it without knowing what had happened. Maybe after playing the original I'd gotten a bad impression of the series: Silent Hill 1 purposely obfuscated its story and confused the player for the sole purpose of making things seem confusing. All I remember was "mysterious" characters flapping their gums and refusing to give me a straight answer to anything.

I agree with most of what Shamus has to say, but I feel a need to note a couple of things.

While the "nurses" in SH2 seem to be what's become iconic for the series, it's the "patients" that actually creeped me out. It's not the visual design, per se, but the way they move and the sounds that they make when they do- like some sort of wigged-out wind-up toy being filmed at a different frame rate than anything else, making them erratic, unpredictable and unreal. There are some decent monster designs throughout the series, but that's by far my favorite.

Also, given the history of Silent Hill that gets explained, I'm inclined to think of "Pyramid Head" as something a little more than simply a monster conjured out of James's unconscious. They're executioners out of some sort of strange Civil-War era prison. I certainly grasp that their presence is tied into his need to punish himself, but I also have to imagine that they could have taken another form if his presence was all there was to their existence.

...Which is not to say, having themselves become "iconic", that they haven't been handled in an incredibly ham-handed manner by other entries in the franchise.

As far as the combat goes, yeah, it wasn't hard, but it had a wonderfully sickening sort of "Oh, are you sure they're dead? Maybe you should hit them again. Yeah. Feel better about yourself, now, tough guy?" sense to it.

I'd like to point out that Silent Hill always had health bars, maps and ammo count... all you had to do to go check on them was hit pause. And with the exception of Silent Hill 4: The Room, which displays a health bar (complete with a power gauge and an on-screen inventory), every other game has been completely HUD-free. Likewise, the only game I recall having anything close to a QTE scheme was Silent Hill: Origins, and even that was pretty unintrusive. And last but not least... Silent Hill 3, 4 and Shattered Memories are good games. Not "as good" as SH2 and SH3 is somewhat bogged down by the cult thing, yes. But still good games.

Shamus you can get a look at what the Kojima/Del Toro team's style is going to look like through "P.T." or "Playable Teaser".

Here is a Let's Play of it if your interested

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B7rgDikl0k

Their style seems to be a little different, and their big finale was a rather obtuse puzzle that has some people concerned about where the game might be going. But basically you can see their take on Silent Hill there.

-

That said, on the subject itself I'm going to have to disagree with Shamus on most points. The overall storyline of Silent Hill revolves around that cult and the original empowering force they set loose (the primary manifestation of which is destroyed at the end of SH1). The beauty of where they went with this is that "Silent Hill" can manifest in different ways, it can be a psychological torment aimed at the people who wind up there, or it can be someone caught in someone else's psychological torment, or it can be general malevolence leftover from the energies gathered there. Silent Hill is basically a giant pit of darkness where it can be used to tell almost any kind of a story.

The thing about Silent Hill 2 is that it was developed largely before the game industry became concerned about being politically correct and not offending anyone or pushing things too far. When the PS-2 was new and the Demo for "Silent Hill 2" was released it got a lot of criticism because of the continued use of the rogues gallery from the first game, including the flayed killer kiddies, which you could bludgeon to death. SH2 was edited for the sake of moral crusaders screaming "oh think of the children" (literally), but a good portion of the storyline and set up remained more or less untouched. Later games in the series were apparently developed from a business perspective where they set out first and foremost not to offend anyone, and the result was to continually recycle the same basic stuff, and take as few risks as possible, turning it into a sort of kiddie spook house in video game form.

It should also be noted that some of the rogue's gallery from the first game was still recycled (after all, why wouldn't these creatures still be around?) and not as totally psychological as many people seem to think, what's more there is no real reason why what it drew from a specific person that worked, like say Pyramid Head (who is huge and intimidating) wouldn't be kept around the same way other monsters were. A lot of people not thinking things through and who overrate the second game, tend to be dismissive of the third+ game for re-using past elements without realizing that the second game reused them as well.

I honestly do not think combat is what hurts horror games, indeed, I find that not having combat in many cases actually tends to reduce the experience and the tension because it becomes increasingly silly, a forced stealth section or whatever is even worse than being able to kill a monster, and frankly if a monster has a physical prescence (ie it's not an intangible spirit or whatever) by rights you should be able to kill it. The trick is to make everything freaky enough where simply killing a monster doesn't change how messed up the whole situation is. The problem of course being that game developers don't want to take the risks in actually trying to do something creepy and bizzare enough to get horror-experience reaction from jaded fans... and really that's part of the factor as well, if you already played "Silent Hill 2" and are a genera fan, you've already become used to their brand of creepy, with nobody raising the bar due to already having slammed into complaints by moralists and not being willing to push ahead anyway, everything just kind of stayed at the same basic level and it's all become about re-presenting the same exact stuff.

At any rate, it remains to be seen if "Silent Hills" and "The Evil Within" will succeed in creating a new generation of high-budget horror games. A lot depends on whether they are made for horror fans, or if they are created for a general audience and setting out to do the expected things without offending anyone.

At any rate, as I pointed out above, if you want to see the new version of Silent Hills check out the link above (apparently P.T. is on PS-4). I used that particular let's play link because the final solution is in a second link under the video which shows that obtuse puzzle being solved (how you would ever figure that out is beyond me) and then the brief trailer that the whole playable teaser leads up to.

Evonisia:
That's why I liked Silent Hill 3's approach to the monster design. It wasn't based around Heather, it was based around motherhood and sexuality (Heather was just the unfortunate person who was deemed to be the mother).

To be fair, heavily using a terrifying rendition of motherhood and sexuality in a game featuring a 17-year-old girl is no accident.

One of the reasons I love SH3 so much is because it took a bunch of fears that I had as a teen (getting locked away from the rest of the world, getting lost and unable to find my way home, sexual maturation, being abused by my religious affiliation, etc) and played with them. SH3 struck really close to home with me, and I can't imagine that 16-year-old me was really much different than 17-year-old Heather.

Plus, well, most theories think the monster/world design WAS based around Heather, what with her

and all.

This makes some good points.

It also hints at why Silent Hills won't be the game we're looking for either. A film director, the least subtle writer in games, and a TV presence aren't going to fix the problems, they're just name recognition.

The Playable Teaser that was released had some good atmospheric horror elements in it, but the convoluted puzzle to "finish" the teaser turned into a checklist you had to focus on, which immediately makes the horror turn into an annoyance and takes you out of the game.

I was watching Kim and Hannah play it on Yogscast, and they enjoyed it up until they had to find a way to get to the end, which required looking up a list of tasks from the internet and searching for items and cues in game, so whenever the wife's goans started playing it annoyed them. Kim even got slightly frustrated at it and shouted "JUST SHUT UP, LADY!". It was funny, but demonstrates how quickly devs forget what makes good tension and horror.

lacktheknack:
Snip

Yeah it makes sense, though personally I think the monster design is based around sexuality and motherhood, and the world itself and the major encounters are built around Heather and her role in the plot, especially the prelude to the final boss

Well I say this in comparison to Pyramid Head being James' desire for self punishment or the Nurses representing his sexual frustration due to the illness. The penis/vagina hybrid monster probably wasn't meant to represent what happens to Heather early on in the game or her status later on. Though I guess the Nurses could be

And the missionary type monster is obviously meant to be like the boss from before when dribble dribble dribble.

But I won't go further into the list of monsters.

shiajun:
I guess it always comes down to what the developer understands as horror. It could be that revolting and uncomfortable feeling induced by violent, loud and gory imagery, or that disturbing and panic inducing feeling from your mind simply not knowing what's happening and filling in the blanks with the worst it can come up with. I've never played Silent Hill 2, but it clearly went for the second version. I think in an interactive medium it's the most effective one, since you don't really have complete control of when and how the player will find your "horror setpieces" so you let them passively do most of the heavy lifting. However, it doesn't do great "trailers" to show off, so many developers go for the first version. It's not flashy enough. The down side is that for that "horror" to work you need heavily scripted and guided environments, which gameplay wise becomes limiting and boring.

For the record, I though the Sonic games 1 to 4 (or 3 extended, if you see Sonic and Knuckles as that) were great. They all shared the same design philosophy and overall feeling. It's aftwards that it all went weird. So it wasn't just one flash in the pan, it was a reliable construct that got levelled over the years.

I personally do not think it has to be an either/or relationship between "violent, loud, and gory imagery" and "fear of the unknown" you can have both of those things together. I've already more or less explained where I think the series went wrong. I think a good part of the problem is they became afraid to upset people, which is sort of the point of horror games, and as a result it became "mommy horror" so to speak, full of recycled spook-house tropes that largely do the expected, but don't go out of their way to be especially shocking, most of the "original" stuff are things they had developed from the very beginning and keep-reusing.

I've always suspected a big part of why the game industry pronounced that survival horror was dead was because it realized it wouldn't be able to make good horror games without offending people, and giving the anti-video games movement more fuel. We're seeing an attempt to bring them back, due to the way indie developers have sort or resurrected them, but at the same time indie developers are small enough to not get much fire, and there is only so much they can do with their limited resources. In bringing back horror games to the big time, it remains to be see if the industry is going to be willing to push the envelope, and of course embrace a niche genera that by definition will never be for everyone and cannot be judged by the success of titles like "Call Of Duty".

That said, I think all of the "Silent Hill" games have had something going for them, and that even includes "Book Of Memories" but the quality does vary greatly.

Skops:

Silent Hill isn't about monsters, it's about inner demons

No, it isn't. Silent Hill is about being stuck in someone else's nightmare. The idea is that monsters are supposed to be just as foreign to the main character as it is to us. It is only until you understand the 'villian' of game that you understand what these monsters could be and what they represent.

You are in error.

Here is a link to the translation of the book of lost memories, the official guide to silent hill that was released after silent hill 3.

http://www.translatedmemories.com/

Here is a link to a page specifically saying you're wrong.

http://www.translatedmemories.com/bookpgs/Pg110-111.jpg

Only in the first one is the other world not the main protagonists (in the first three), and Alissa was not a villain.

As for 4, it was originally conceived as a non-silent hill game, but they decided to tack on the title and some superficial connections for name recognition.

In regards to that series you linked; I had started watching that series before but they kept getting stuff wrong. I know that they were wrong; the book say's so.

I like the bit about dying. Death in videogames is just annoying (unless it's somehow hilarious). Extra penalties for death are even more annoying. Quite often I find myself using easy difficulty in games because I just want to have fun and I don't need to die 10 times in a row to be scared, or feel the challenge or whatever.

But from what I hear, a lot, if not most, people aren't like that. Amnesia is scary for them because you cannot kill the dog (or whatever it is) but it can kill you easily. I'm scared in games because of the terror and suspense and stuff.

I guess we're in the minority here. Oh well, there are always difficulty settings, or at least should be.

Interesting point about dying and difficulty and immersion. Death certainly carries more meaning when it hasn't happened yet.

As Don Juan said, "It is not death that matters, but the fear of death." Of course, he was talking about something completely different and I'm going to go to bed now because it's been too long of a day and week.

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