Google+

A new Silent Hill: Should we care?

Konami has apparently teased a follow-up to recent Silent Hills Homecoming and Shattered Memories, with more details apparently to be revealed at E3. As a fan of serious, intelligent horror, a few years ago nothing would have excited me more than this reveal. But these days I’m massively ambivalent. Here’s why…

 

Team Silent isn't involved. Again

Once more, a new Silent Hill game isn’t being developed by the original crew, Konami’s in-house Team Silent. The studio has been off the series since 2004’s slightly mis-firing Silent Hill 4, and is now working on separate projects within Konami. Thus, with Czech dev Vatra Games being given the reins, we have a new Silent Hill game being outsourced to an external developer for the fourth time in a row (Origins and Shattered Memories were made by the Climax Group, Homecoming came from Double Helix). It’s not necessarily bad news. In fact it could be amazing news, depending on this game’s direction. But the fact remains that  the game’s makers are a massively unknown quantity.

Now I’m not for a second doubting Vatra’s creditials or ability. Indeed, a quick look at the company’s site reveals a whole bunch of talent from the likes of 2K and Headstrong. But the fact is that with every Silent Hill game that is farmed out externally, the series gets further away from the minds that crafted it’s superb earlier entries. But of course, new blood can always make a positive difference. Remember when Nintendo gave F-Zero to Sega’s AM2? Brilliant move. But I’ll come onto that properly a little later on.

Silent Hill has lost its guiding light
(and sound)

Akira Yamaoka has recently left Konami and there’s barely any chance he’ll be involved in this game. There’s no getting around it. It’s a sad fact, but it has to be accepted. The Producer and Composer is a bona fide goddamn genius in the eyes of discerning horror fans, having arguably been instrumental in making the series (and in fact the movie) what they are.

Combining influences from David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti with that cold, detached abstraction that J-horror does so well, his thematic, visual and musical direction are what made the series such a special, unique and affecting experience. His role has diminished as the years have gone on, but the one thing we could always be sure of, no matter who was directly developing Silent Hill, was that his unique blend of aural dreams and nightmares would make the game feel right in some way. But he left Konami altogether in December 2009, meaning that the new title will be the first one made without any of his influence whatsoever. Yes, this worry could turn out to be naught but puristic moaning, but I can’t help fearing a repeat of the confused bloating that happened to Resident Evil after series creator Shinji Mikami left following Resi 4.

Silent Hill badly needs a reboot

Though however precious I might get about the old guard, the fact remains that another new Silent Hill needs a lot more than just them to really excite me now. At this point, the series is well into  Resident Evil territory, pre-Resi 4. Its fresh and daring tricks have become worn. Its innovations and unique features have become clichés. Simply put, however affecting it might still be on a superficial, sensory level, Silent Hill just isn’t as powerful as it used to be. And it used to be one of the most powerful series around.

If it’s going to continue, it needs a Resi 4. I’m not saying it should go all-out action. In fact it really, really shouldn’t. SH was always brainer and classier than Resident Evil. But it needs to recontextualise all the cerebral, emotional and visceral content that made it special. That’s the only way to freshen it up and give it back its impact. To be what it once was, Silent Hill cannot continue to be what it once was. Shattered Memories on the Wii was an interesting experiment in reworking the concept, and Homecoming wasn’t terrible, but it failed as a result of being too SH-by-numbers while simultaneously losing sight of the early games’ appeal, instead becoming a slightly confused Hollywood remix. 

Who knows? Maybe this new dev is exactly what the series needs. After all, the company’s manifesto is to make ‘a real impact by advancing visual and sound aesthetics on next-generation gaming platforms’, and that sort of thinking is a great start for a new SH. But it remains to be seen just how much freedom Konami gives the studio, and what kind of direction it will receive now that Yamaoka is out of the picture. Whatever happens though, as far as Silent Hill goes, the horse’s ghost is currently looking down begging us to stop punching its corpse. And I can’t help wondering whether a dignified burial is the best thing to do at this point. I’ll be ecstatic to be proven wrong though.

The big J-horror talent is elsewhere

The exciting thing about Yamaoka’s departure; the really, really exciting thing, is where he’s gone. Grasshopper Manufacture. Suda51’s uncompromisingly ideosynchratic, gleefully punk studio has more than proven its credentials with No More Heroes, and its co-production work on Fatal Frame IV has shown us that Suda certainly has the stones to do good horror as well.

And now Grasshopper is making a new horror game with EA. And Yamaoka is on board. And there’s another guy working with them too. This guy is called Shinji Mikami. He knows quite a bit about horror games. If there’s one game that J-horror fans need to be excited about, it’s that one. And whatever the new Silent Hill game does, it’s going to have to be a lot to distract my eyes from its direction. As I said above, maybe something completely new is a better idea than the rekindling of an old love, no matter how well it’s handled. But we shall see, friends, we shall see...

But what do you think? Are you and old-school Silent Hill junkie just dying for more? Are you excited by the idea of a change of direction? Or do you think we're better off moving on, and letting an old friend rest in peace? Whatever you think, let us know in the comments, or via Facebook and Twitter.

23 comments

  • The_Author - April 12, 2010 3:33 p.m.

    It won't be the same without Akira Yamaoka. In fact, Homecoming only felt like a Silent Hill game because of Akira Yamaokas awesome work with the music!
  • Imgema - April 12, 2010 3:51 p.m.

    I don't think giving F-Zero to Sega was a good move. I'm a huge fan of F-Zero X on N64 and i think that F-Zero GX is inferior. Sure, it has nice arcade style graphics but the controls aren't as good as X, the music is atrocious and the crappy FMVs made the game look silly. And what's with the casino level? Giving Starfox to Namco was another bad mistake. If you wanted to give an example of a good move you should mention Nintendo giving Metroid to Retro Studios. THAT was a good deal.
  • 2dboy - April 12, 2010 4:02 p.m.

    Nice article. The last two Silent Hill games that I have played didn't have the same impact the first three games had on me.
  • sveini22 - April 12, 2010 5:35 p.m.

    it is going to suck
  • Samael - April 12, 2010 5:40 p.m.

    Ohmycthulhu, I REALLY hope the next Silent Hill is good. Homecoming had some good ideas, but it was too stiff. I goota admit, I'm far more excited about this Grasshopper Yamaoka/Mikami game. Two great tastes that should taste great together.
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - April 12, 2010 5:47 p.m.

    I saw the trailer on Thursday at Konami's event. The only thing that kept me interested was the fact that the main character looked a LOT like James from Silent Hill 2. So much that it almost has to be him, and the tagline was "The Silence Ends, E3 2010." Could be it takes place after SH2, somehow the town isn't through with James. Or it could just be another dude who looks and dresses a lot like a character from their most popular entry.
  • DustyRooster - April 12, 2010 5:48 p.m.

    While Silent Hill 2 is the best of the series, nothing can beat the feeling of playing the first one, when it came out. I had never played anything like it. My friends and I gathered around the tv taking turns with the controller. That creepy chill when the world first turned evil, or when that extra elevator button appeared in the hospital, to the top floor, can't be beat!
  • Caio - April 12, 2010 5:49 p.m.

    I love the Silent Hill series as much as the next guy, and I agree it needs some innovation immediately. Shattered Memories was definitely an interesting change, with very different gameplay and some really neat features, even though some parts of it just plain sucked. So maybe a blend between the good bits of SM like the faster, more streamlined exploration (and less locked doors) and tense nightmare sequences and more classic staples of the series like the clever puzzles and the clumsy combat is in order. And about Yamaoka: his leaving splits my opinion. On one hand, I'm sad that future SH games may not have the awesome music I've come to expect from the series. On the Other hand, Suda 51 plus Yamaoka plus Mikami equals WIN.
  • TriggerHappyMongoose - April 12, 2010 6:26 p.m.

    Excuse me while I jizz in my pants..........OK. I'm very excited for the next Silent Hill. I've been a die hard fan since the first 1 on PS1 and was probably one of the few people who loved Homecoming. With that said, a reboot is indeed in order. But not a Resi style reboot either. Homecoming went a slight step in that direction and it faired very well (IMO) but going for full on action game style would seem alarmingly out of place for a Silent Hill game. All-in-all I'm holding my breath for this. I want Silent Hill to return to being a truly relavent franchise again.
  • adamasunder - April 12, 2010 6:54 p.m.

    This is just another example of a once proud series being dragged through the mud for a quick buck. Silent Hill was only going to remain relevant for a finite amount of time and outstayed it's welcome last generation. Any horror franchise in both films and games lose their intrigue and lustre that made the originals so effective over numerous entries. It's a minor miracle that the second one turned out so well when you look at the norm this way. The problems specific to Silent Hill is that it was not exactly state of the art in the gameplay mechanics department and was really mostly notable for the concept, story, characters and music. To make the game mechanically better and the combat more satisfying you have to forgo a lot of what made SH so good in the first place. Leave it as it is and most people will turn up their noses at prehistoric mechanics. Konami would have done better artistically to leave SH as a product of it's time so we can remember fondly what used to be. However money is the end game in this world and especially as Konami have yet to really get a firm grounding in this generation of hardware they're quite obviously going to keep pimping what sells. Personally I think Konami should leave it alone. It's been done to death and I don't think the initial concept and story has held up over the multiple iterations in the series. Just my two pence
  • adamasunder - April 12, 2010 6:57 p.m.

    By the way, good article....good site. Been coming here since the link from CVG started. First time poster.
  • gilgamesh310 - April 12, 2010 8 p.m.

    It's obvious that the series needs a reboot if it is to continue but in what direction is the question. A resi 4 type reboot is well out of the question but the shattered memories approach didn't really work either. A direct sequel that has james sunderland in it is a very ballsy thing to do but it might just work plot wise. As regards the gameplay I don't know what they can be done to spice things up at this stage. Maybe it can be in first person instead of third person but that beckons the question of how many weapons if any the player gets given. The last thing we would want is for it to turn into doom 3
  • Picnic1 - April 12, 2010 8:53 p.m.

    To imgema- F Zero GX was made by Sega using a modified version of the engine that they made Super Monkey Ball with. That game was also specifically made for the Cube (they only later ported it to other consoles). The Casino level may have been inspired by all kinds of things- Super Monkey Ball, the Casino Nights level from Sonic 2, arcade pinball machines in general. I never played the previous F Zero games but I agree that the game isn't amongst my favourite Cube games. It feels fast but clinical.
  • Imgema - April 12, 2010 10:08 p.m.

    Yeah i know, Sega loves casino levels in general, i just didn't expect to see something like that in a F-Zero game. Anyway about Silent Hill. I love the first 3 and i think Shattered Memories was at least better than the rest (including 4). The best Silent hill should have immersive and detailed environments like Shattered Memories while being as hellish as SH3, with a story similar to SH2. I have faith to new developers ever since Retro made the Prime series, but Akira's absence is kinda worrying...
  • Amnesiac - April 12, 2010 11:56 p.m.

    I agree that the series needs to be rebooted, or if not, dropped and left to die with some dignity intact. RE4 was fresh because it saw the series for what it really was at its core: A campy, Hollywood action game with plenty of cheap scares, and it ran with it. SH needs a developer who can do something like that for it.
  • RebornKusabi - April 13, 2010 1:44 a.m.

    *Strap yourselves in because this is gonna be a long one!* I love the "Silent Hill Trilogy"; Silent Hill 1 is a classic and I still constantly play it to this day, Silent Hill 2 is loved by many and has what some consider the best story line of them all and Silent Hill 3 is (in my opinion) one of the absolute BEST looking game on the PS2, hands-down. The sound and graphics of the third game is incredibly strong by last generation standards and it has, aside from SH1, one of the most atmospheric environments and varied locations of the entire trilogy. That and Heather was an incredibly unique protagonist for the series, first because she was a female in a male dominated genre and secondly because of her story and what she represented to the series' canon. With that said, I honestly cannot stand the 4th entry and to be quite honest, I consider it even worse than Homecoming! The story of 4 was LITERALLY the only good thing about that game and even then, it honestly wasn't all that fantastic. Origins was "So Okay, It's Average", the breakable weapon system was completely pointless, the enemy designs were derivative and the storyline was average. It had some cool elements ("Butcher" Travis being one of them) but ultimately it did nothing new and was completely tied down because of it's "prequel" status. Homecoming gets a lot of **** from people, and I can understand why. The monster designs didn't make any sense due to the whole "Monsters reflect the main characters psyche" concept and they decided to throw the incredibly sexualized nurses and BDSM monsters at you when they narrative and main character neither reflect that nor even call for it. The limited ammo thing was completely pointless because the series, contrary to what outsiders say, revels in combat and putting a limitation on said combat didn't make a whole lot of sense. Lastly, the story had some plot holes and even though the game makes (awesomely forward thinking) allusions to EVERY endings being canon, this didn't help keep a centralized story structure unfortunately. With that said, the story of Homecoming was actually fairly unique as far as the series is concerned and the plot twist was actually pretty clever for all of the people who hated the concept of having a protagonist that was also a "soldier". With all of that said, I have yet to play Shattered Memories and ironically have no desire to do so. It has nothing to do with the developers, I just dislike the "zero combat" philosophy of that one when the entire series, no matter how "lackluster" or "broken" the combat is to some, the series has always had a core "fight back" concept and to get rid of that to seem scary just doesn't jive with me. I love this series, though as I have gotten older have slowly drifted towards the Fatal Frame series, and would love for it to become relevant again but sadly, unless a developer gets behind this series and actually TRIES, it will probably always be considered "second" to Resident Evil and it's recent 80's action hero fantasy machismo bull**** that it's taken up recently. I love RE 4 and RE 5 as they are amazing action games but that's all they are to me, ACTION games. That's my two cents on the "Survival Horror drought". People complain that there isn't any scary games but most of them are too moronic and ADHD-enough to enjoy a slow, methodical game that tries to **** with you as much as the Fatal Frame series does... and that's sad. Don't complain when all of the games out there are shooters and action games because if you don't have the patience to enjoy a great horror game, than that really isn't mine or anyone else's fault... it's yours ; )
  • aperson789 - April 13, 2010 12:04 p.m.

    I NEEd a good new silent hill dangit! Ive been playing silent hill since number 2! Homecoming was alright, the wii one had a interesing concept but failed. Please I hope this is good!
  • philipshaw - April 13, 2010 12:11 p.m.

    If it turns out anywhere near as good as Silent Hill 2 I will be interested
  • joshx - April 13, 2010 4:19 p.m.

    I loved the last game Shattered memories, i think that's the way silent hill should go more realistic tell of a story the only lacking thing in that games was once the nightmares where over you'll never feel threatened, that's one of the things they should included even if they were cheap scares. But my favorite one is number 1 and then number 3 , maybe t was the time but i didnt felt 2 that much.
  • CreeplyTuna - April 13, 2010 6:52 p.m.

    im pissed because i have a copy of Silent Hill 2 i was really far through and i broke on me and i cant find another

Showing 1-20 of 23 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000