Review by BBOYChaioth
"A New Experience"
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Review (PSP/PS2)
Hello, and welcome to part 7 of my Silent Hill Review Series. This review is coming substantially further behind the other reviews than normal, but Shattered Memories is probably the most different and varied installment in the series and as such, needed to be played with some heavy scrutiny, and also I had to replay both the PS2 version and the PSP version. Now, when playing this game, it is CRUCIAL that any person who has played the original Silent Hill completely throw out any pre-conceived notions that they may have. As advertised, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, hereafter abbreviated to Shattered Memories, is a reimagining of Silent Hill, the first installment in the series. Unfortunately though, many people jump to the conclusion that it's a remake of the first and should be this current generation Silent Hill, but it is not. So, throw that idea out now.
Shattered Memories is the work of previous developer Climax, who developed Silent Hill Origins, but trust me when I say the formula of the game does NOT feel reused. Although in the hands of a previous developer, Climax does a great job of creating a game that is fantastically different from its last project in Silent Hill, not only in story, but in gameplay, and the overall experience. For those who are familiar with the original Silent Hill, get ready to hear the only aspect of similarity between that and Shattered Memories the story. The backdrop of the Silent Hill story is the foundation of Shattered Memories, and oddly enough, despite the story being the same, the game is incredibly different. Keep in mind it is simply the story that is the same, not its execution, and definitely not its embellishment of certain details. So, let's take a look at the story in some depth and go into the first main section of the review.
STORY 10/10: I played the original Silent Hill a few times over in my lifetime and I love the premise of the story. The protagonist, Harry Mason, is driving through Silent Hill when he sees an apparition of a little girl in front of his car and swerves to avoid hitting her, leading to the car accident that sets the whole story in motion. Being knocked out, he awakens to find his daughter Cheryl, who had been in the car with him, missing. He then embarks on a quest through the town of Silent Hill to find her, facing some of his worst fears and spiraling into his personal Hell along the way. Let me point out again that what I just said is the ONLY similarity between the original Silent Hill and Shattered Memories. And it is after this car accident opener that Shattered Memories picks up.
With Shattered Memories being a reimagining of the original installment, players should expect to experience something different. One of the key differences with this installment is that the game plays you as much as you play it. You might be thinking wait, I don't have buttons and a joystick, and a game is not a person so it can't play me, but trust me, it does. There are several intermission style scenarios that you will play through, taking place in the office of Dr. Kaufmann, a psychologist. Who you are playing from the viewpoint of is a mystery, only showing that you are a patient. These sequences will give you a series of tasks to accomplish, and there are limitless ways to accomplish them, as each person goes about solving a problem or expressing themselves differently. These tasks will directly affect several things in the game ranging from the way characters look, to the way they act, to the monsters you will encounter, to the environments you will traverse, and ultimately the game ending. The only advice I can give you as a reader is to answer honestly to the questions asked as you play the game. You will realize that the game's story strikes you so much harder when it connects with you better, and it will when you are honest.
The actual story in Shattered Memories is tough to review, honestly it is. I can sit here and tell you about the quest for Cheryl all day, but there is only so much you can stand to listen to. The reason that the game got a 9/10 for story is because I absolutely love how it evolves to fit the player, and with the player having free choices throughout the whole game, they can make their own and experience the game as it would appeal to them most. How cool is that? How many games give you that flexibility past character creation and a few quick time choice events? Not many, and I can barely think of one off the top of my head. Shattered Memories was an absolute joy to play through multiple times, and most everybody who plays it with an open mind will find their niche with it as well.
GAMEPLAY 7/10: Something to keep in mind is that the story and the gameplay often intermingle as one aspect of the game. In Dr. K's office is the best example of this. There is a lot more to this game in terms of gameplay, not simply just go here, get that, go there, open door, beat monster, go to other place. Sure, there is a decent amount of walking around and interaction with many different things, but it is definitely not as linear as many of the Silent Hill games tend to be. With that said, don't expect Shattered Memories to be a free-roam experience void of consequences. Actually, remember me saying that the Dr. K sequences impact the experience in-game? Well so does your choices and focus in game. Take a look at sexually suggestive posters on the wall a lot? Then you might find yourself facing monsters with feminine features.
One of the biggest things that has been changed here is that the game now follows an Over-the Shoulder view for almost the whole duration of the game, making it have a more realistic feel. This also gives way to the player seeing only in front of Harry, and with an emphasis on aiming the flashlight in a particular direction to see, it's pretty interesting to feel how responsive the controls are and just how realistic the game lends itself to be. The graphics need to be improved and crisper, but one area where they excel and make the game hit home, is the lighting effects and shadowing from the flashlight. Good job here.
Another key aspect of gameplay that make Shattered Memories unique is the fact that the game is lacking any kind of combat as we know it. So to make up for that, the developers decreased the threat level slightly. Now, monsters will only appear in the Otherworld (more on the Otherworld later) which is somewhat good and somewhat bad. It does create a sense of security which is absent in all of the other installments, which will appeal to less hardcore Silent Hill players, and probably more-so to newcomers of the series. However, to those that have played these games, and are looking for the hardcore scare of being on edge all the time, you won't find it here. Where you will find a considerable hike in the anxiety level is when the Otherworld takes over.
The Otherworld takes on yet another interpretation in Shattered Memories, which is pretty well foreshadowed on the FRONT OF THE BOX. If you are unsure what it looks like, go to the Home or Data page on this site for Shattered Memories and you can see for yourself. As anyone who has played a Silent Hill game knows, the Otherworld takes on a form to best represent the protagonist's personal Hell, and forces them to live amongst their worst fears and visions. Often times, these worst fears of the protagonist will also haunt the player as well. So, in Shattered Memories, we see the first introduction of the Otherworld, completely void of any previous influences, this time taking the form of an Icy Hell. For the most part, the Otherworld will take the forms of bloody, rusty shells of the real world, but not here. Ice will protrude from the very ground and create a maze for the player to traverse through. But I said earlier there are enemies in the Otherworld, right? And I also said there's no combat, right? So then how is one supposed to deal with these enemies?
The short answer is a simple one word RUN!!! The long answer, however, is that you can't, and you have to run from every enemy in the game. This is the quintessential feeling of helplessness that should be felt in every single survival horror game on the map. The question on your mind when playing a real survival horror game should be How am I going to live? not Where can I find some ammo? and you'll find yourself asking the latter quite often. Now there are some things in these Otherworld chase sequences that are designed to help, such as being able to pull down bookcases to help stall the pursuers, or being able to hide in a locker. But I will just say, nothing is permanent, so stay on your toes.
GRAPHICS 6/10 (PS2); 8/10 (PSP): Why Climax didn't give the extra effort and make this a longer game and on a next-gen console (I'm not counting Wii, I mean on 360 or PS3) I will never know, as it certainly has the potential. And what's more, the game was released in late 2009, well after the prime of the PS2 era. That said, I saw huge problems in the PS2 version, just the same as I did on Silent Hill Origins, especially compared to Wii and PSP. It boggles my mind that Climax has done this twice in a row with both of the games they have developed for the franchise. On the Wii, the game looks acceptable, but the PS2's graphics potential is a decent amount higher than Wii, and Shattered Memories works to nowhere near that potential games that are 5 and 6 years old look better. On the PSP, however, I will definitely cut the game some more slack. The game on the PSP looks like a console version stuffed onto a 4 screen which is a great thing. It is not good the other way around like was the story with Origins. In both cases, however, the portable version looks leaps and bounds better.
AUDIO 10/10: This game receives a 10/10 for audio on each of the systems that I am reviewing. I was blown away this time around. For those that have read any of my reviews, you know that I rave about Akira Yamaoka's musical genius and all of his soundtracks, and will continue to do so, as his music alone can make my hair stand on end and send a chill down my spine. But, surprisingly, it has been overshadowed for the first time in franchise history, in my opinion, by the voice acting. All of the characters that Harry encounters, Cybil, Lisa, Dhalia, Michelle, and Dr. K (although Harry doesn't actually encounter him) are all so realistic. You can actually hear the emotion in their voices, the conversations are incredibly fluent, and it leads one to believe they are actually interacting with a real person, especially Dr. K, which one will find out within minutes of the game. I was amazed, and thoroughly enjoyed all of the audio within the game.
OVERALL 8.25/10 (PS2); 8.75/10 (PSP): Climax did a good job rolling out their interpretation of one of the greatest games in existence. There are definitely areas that are open for improvement, and do need it. Would I say I want Climax developing another Silent Hill? Eh maybe. I'd much rather see another developer put their own spin on it, especially considering that Climax had 2 chances, and delivered a good game, but fell short of the great mark. Overall, I would definitely recommend Shattered Memories to anyone, fan or newcomer alike for a good experience and one that does a great job captivating interest and emotion. I think that the platform Shattered Memories stands on is sturdy, and can afford to see improvement, but it's fine on its own as well. So give it a shot.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/07/11
Game Release: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (US, 01/19/10)
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