Review by Menbailee
"Could one of the PS2's final releases also be one of its most brilliant?"
Seldom does a putative remake breathe such originality into a genre. The original Silent Hill drove forward the possibilities for creating an experience of horror through a video game. The first sequel, Restless Dreams, departed from the original in bold enough ways to drive forward the genre's capacity for psychological storytelling. Shattered Memories qualifies as the first Silent Hill since then to accomplish the same, and it does so by re-imagining the original's concept from the ground up.
Although you can connect this story with the other Silent Hill games if you want to, it stands on its own. Do not expect a rehash of familiar gameplay elements, a directly connected plot, or least of all a direct remake of the original. Do expect psychological horror which adapts and responds to your own particular anxieties.
You begin as Harry Mason searching for your daughter, who is missing from the back seat after a car crash. I'm avoiding giving more away about the story or characters: they are worth experiencing for yourself. In scenes spliced between the main action, you sit in the office of an overbearing and unsympathetic therapist. The answers you provide him palpably affect the world you encounter. The themes and ending shape themselves around what you as a player reveal as your own fears or insecurities. I have known this game's finale to send more than one thirty-something male into tears--for different reasons and with a different ending according to the person.
As one of the PS2's final releases of substance, Shattered Memories benefits from a decade's lessons in how to use the console's hardware effectively. Your flashlight plays off corners and shapes in detailed shadows, and the characters convey a range of feeling through expression and body language. Most environments look impressive and convincing, doubly so when you realize that they change depending on your decisions, and triply so when you watch the entire landscape twist and bend around you. The visuals don't beat the most impressive seen on the console, but they're good.
Stop the presses: a survival horror game features good voice acting. In contrast to earlier titles that deserved notoriety for strikingly awful voice acting, the cast of Shattered Memories sounds convincing in a surprisingly wide range of emotion. Like every Silent Hill before it, Shattered Memories makes effective and subtle use of music and sound to create a creepy atmosphere.
You will spend the game divided between two activities: investigative exploration and running like hell. You cannot fight whatever is hunting you. You can only run. This was a risky decision by the developers, and for creating sense of vulnerability and terror, it works. My one complaint would be the absence of a difficulty selector: my girlfriend also loved the game but found a few sequences difficult to accomplish.
I find more intuitive controls slightly difficult to imagine. The left stick controls movement. The right stick controls which direction you point your flashlight. In comparison with the Wii release, some may find the Wiimote's direct control of the flashlight more immersive, whereas others (myself included) prefer the PS2's conventional buttons during chase sequences.
As for replayability, the game molds itself around you in ways that step beyond the multiple endings that have become standard in games. The game is brief but deserves to be played more than once.
Even if Shattered Memories isn't for you, it's unarguably unique. It is for people who enjoy psychological horror and experimentation in interactive storytelling. As you can hypothetically finish the game in one day, I recommend it as a rental to any discerning player and as worth buying for anyone who wants one of the PS2's last great releases in her collection.
(I would give only a handful of games a perfect rating of 10. I refrain from rounding this up on Gamefaqs only because praise that recognizes flaws feels more sincere.)
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/14/10
Game Release: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (US, 01/19/10)
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