Review by MidgardDragon99
"The "re-imagining" of the survival-horror classic makes great leaps forward, no matter what anybody says."
I am a long time fan of the Silent Hill series. I loved Silent Hill 1 and 2, thought 3 was pretty great in the way it continued the story of 1, enjoyed Origins for what it was, and tolerated the quirkiness of 4 for the few good SH moments. Now comes Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, probably the most controversial departure for the series since SH4, but where SH4 failed to remember what Silent Hill was all about, Shattered Memories remembers all too well.
You see, the Silent Hill series isn't about monsters that jump out at you. It's not about the thrill of fighting off a thousand zombies with a shotgun, a la Resident Evil 4. It's about atmosphere (SH1) and psychology (SH2). Granted one of the flaws in this game is that the atmosphere building moments aren't as well-done, but it does manage to build up a fairly unique world, and although the chase sequences are my least favorite part of the game, the atmosphere of just wanting to find safety is definitely there in those.
The psychology, however, is the very basis for this game, and it's certainly the best psychological horror game we've seen since SH2 and James' wife issues. Not only is the story presented in such a way so as to slowly dole out psychological moments of terror that frame the story and have greater significance at the end of the game, but there is a reveal at the end that is just excellent and is easily on par with, well...Jame's issues in SH2 that we discover at the end of that game.
To delve into the specifics of the game a bit:
Game-play - The framing device of the therapy session is used to great effect, and is perhaps just as unsettling as the monsters and ghosts you encounter in main game-play. The exploration sections are also very well done, with the implementation of the cellphone being a high point. Sadly the chase sequences don't fair as well. I am a big fan of the series eliminating any pretense of combat altogether, because these are supposed to be average people, not soldiers. That said, the decision to only include the monsters in "chase" sequences that are essentially holding the analog stick and button-mashing was a bad one, clearly. The first time through I hated the chase sequences with a passion, and while it is good that they inspired dread, it was just for the wrong reasons. The worst part of these sequences is that they are separate from main game-play, and therefore whenever you are exploring you know you are always safe until you see a cut-scene and the world ices over. The second time through I simply remembered how these sequences played out before and simply ran as fast as I could, meaning they are mostly pointless upon replays.
Atmosphere/Graphics/Music/Ambiance - I'll simply include these all in one section. The atmosphere, which included great musical tracks, fog and/or other graphical methods of inspiring a sense of dread, isn't quite as accomplished here. The graphics are fine for a PS2 game, nothing new here (I'm sure they're downgraded from Wii but I don't care). The music still provides great ambiance when it is used, especially in sections such as Michelle singing "Always on my Mind".. But the other-world just isn't as terrifying here, and the ice works okay as a plot device for the other-world, but just isn't as great as the industrial or decaying worlds of SH1 and SH2.
Story Absolutely the meat of this game. The story is doled out in two parts, one in the therapy session where you are psychologically analyzed, and another in the exploration of Silent Hill and cut-scenes involved. These two sections unite in an amazing way in the ending that will leave you breathless, and anyone that spoils it should be ashamed of themselves. It's hard to talk about the story at length without spoiling the major plot twist, but I will say replaying the game a second time is infinitely more rewarding than replaying most games due to how much more sense everything makes due to the ending reveal.
Overall - Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a flawed masterpiece. The chase sequences were a poor implementation of the non-combat style, and the atmosphere isn't quite up-to-snuff with the best games in the series, but the story and re-playability more than make up for it. If you call yourself a fan of Silent Hill and truly believe this game isn't "Silent Hill" enough, then perhaps you have missed much of the point of the series. It was never about cults or the Silent Hill 1 versions of characters being the most important thing. It was always about being a psychologically disturbing game that terrifies below the surface rather than copying the jump scares and action sequences of other games, and yes, the town (to say that the town isn't actually in this game is a lie, as this is a re-imagining and thus any implementation of the town can be as different as it wants).. This game takes those concepts in a different direction, but not necessarily a bad one, and it pays off.
Score - 8.3/10
Story - 9/10
Music - 9/10
Game-play - 7.5/10
Atmosphere - 6.5/10
Graphics - 8.5/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 01/22/10
Game Release: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (US, 01/19/10)
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