Silent Hill Origins - further impressions

Aug 21, 2007

By now, it’s pretty obvious that if you wind up in thick fog staring at the “Welcome to Silent Hill” sign, then it means you’ve an unresolved skeleton or two in your closet. Nobody stumbles upon the town by accident, and that’s exactly why we expect trucker Travis Grady is harbouring a guilty secret. He begins the game pursuing a girl he thinks he’s knocked over, which eventually leads him to the town’s dreaded hospital - home to many a familiar monstrous nurse who display an appalling bedside manner.

The grizzled Grady might act the innocent, but he’s clearly had to take care of himself in the past. Your first weapon is a hammer, quickly followed by a pistol, a portable TV and a pipe, all of which he’s pretty adept with. When one of these breaks or runs out of ammo, he’s handy with his fists too, and isn’t afraid to put the boot in either with a grisly stomp-to-the-head finishing move when an enemy is writhing on the deck.

As gruesome as many of the scenes are - and there are some particularly nasty and surreal moments in the hospital - Origins works brilliantly as a survival horror game because of the terrific lighting and sound - the only way to truly appreciate it is with the lights off and a pair of headphones on. The creepy atmosphere can get so intense, that even the simple act of using Grady’s torch to sweep every corner of a room becomes a terrifying ordeal at the prospect of something jumping out at you or hearing a sudden burst of sound.

In other words, the game has lost nothing in translation from PS2 to PSP, and has arguably gained a little extra due to the intimacy you get from using the handheld. Elsewhere, it’s business as usual in terms of the fetch-and-carry puzzles, the ambiguous dialogue, the switching between two realities to unlock doors and find items, and the constant checking of maps as new openings and impassable areas are marked off on them. It can be as maddening as it is intriguing when you get stuck with no apparent clue as to what to do next, though Silent Hill fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Incredibly, Origins will be the first survival horror on the PSP, but once it proves this type of game can be done just as well on a handheld, we suspect it won’t be the last.