Review by _Shuyin_
This is a revolution of the mind
=Introduction to the Series=
Silent Hill, the brother of Resident Evil, has always been a big name when discussing the genre "Survival Horror" in video games. And while Resident Evil focuses more on scaring you physically, Silent Hill focuses on scaring you psychologically.
The Silent Hill series started off with Silent Hill on the PS1 which told the story of a young author, Harry Mason, recovering from a car accident which occured on the way to resort town Silent Hill - only to discover his daughter was missing. Not wanting to spoil the game, I will only say that the game quickly became known as one of the scariest games of that time and quickly grew into a series of sequels and prequels. At the time of SH4, the series took a different route than the usual formula in hopes to try something new to the series. It's end result was a "love it or hate it" deal. Personally, I felt the game's story was one of the best I've ever experienced while the new gameplay mechanics did more bad than good to the existing one.
Silent Hill eventually would spawn Silent Hill 0rigins and Silent Hill Homecoming. The former going back to the style of the classic games while the latter took a more Next-Gen approuch like Resident Evil 4 had did for the series. The reviews vary for these games, however I personally didn't care for 0rigins while I fell in love with Homecoming. To each their own, I suppose.
Now a new Silent Hill game has been released for the Wii, PS2 and PSP - Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Did it take the approuch of 0rigins and return to the classic style of Silent Hill? Nope. Did it take the Homecoming approuch and continue the Next-Gen theme? Nope.
Shattered Memories is described as a "re-imagining" of Silent Hill 1. What does this mean? Is this a remake of the first game? Not at all. In fact, the only thing this game shares in common with SH1 are the names of the characters, some locations and - ofcourse - the town of Silent Hill itself.
So what does this mean? How did this game fair out? Well, as a big fan of all things Silent Hill, here is what I thought:
= Storyline =
Simply put, the storyline to this game is insane. And what I mean by this is that its so completely unpredictable that you never will you guess how the game will conclude itself. It kept me surprised almost constantly and almost made me feel like I was losing my mind. If you've ever watched films like Jacob's Ladder or Vanilla Sky, you'll understand the psychological depth I'm talking about. In comparison to previous games, I would say its a much deeper version of Silent Hill 2's psychological journey.
The game begins with Harry Mason, who only shares his name with the protagonist of SH1, having gotten into a car accident on his way home (which is in Silent Hill this time) with his daughter Cheryl. He wakes up and begins his search for her within the darkness of winter. What happens after that? You find yourself on the couch of a therapist's office. From here you will be asked a number of questions ranging from simple (do you drink?) to more personal (are you a virgin?).
While these questions seem pointless, they actually greatly effect the way the game will be played out. How the characters look and act depends soley on how you answer the questions and how you behave in-game when controlling Harry. The game will weave between Silent Hill and the Therapist Office several times throughout the game, making the player experience this game on a much more personal level.
In short, I was very impressed with the depth of this game and how personal they made the experience. Believe me when I tell you that you've never experienced a game like this before.
The gameplay is very simple and can easily be mastered within moments. This time the game focuses on the reality that Harry is an ordinary man. There will be no Handgun or Pipe to obtain in this game. Actually, there won't be a single weapon you can obtain to defeat the creatures lurking in the snow.
However, this isn't as scary as it seems. These demons will ONLY appear when the game shifts to the "Otherworld (which refers an iced-over look as opposed to the traditional blood and rust look) in which the player is expected to run the the exit while evading these creatures. However, Harry isn't without his wits and is able to hide inside lockers and under tables to try to throw off the pursuing monsters. He can also throw off any monster than manages to grab him with a touch of a button, and also can acquire a Flare that can keep the demons away as long as it's lit (since these creatures are ice-themed). However, these are rather rare and far between. Luckily, the penalty for being beaten by these enemies is simply having them carry you to an earlier point in the Otherworld Sequence, where Harry will rise to his feet and able you to try again. You have infinite continues and its simply a process of trail and error.
Outside of these Otherworld segments, Harry is equipped with the traditional flashlight and an incredibly helpful Cellphone The Cellphone will be your best friend in this game. It can take pictures (up to 10 can be saved), play voicemail, allow you to read text messages, provide you with a Map and can, ofcourse, allow you to make phonecalls. The world of Silent Hill is littered with phone numbers - all that are callable. I reccomended calling everyone you come in contact with.
Harry is also able to interact with the enviroment much more in this game. For example, you will sometimes find yourself in the backseat of a car. Here you are able to unlock doors, roll down windows, switch seats, open the glove compartment - anything you can do in an actual car. This is experienced in First Person mode and really makes you feel like you're in an actual car.
In short, Shattered Memories delivers a very immersive gameplay experience that presents a great balance of calm exploration and paniced chase sequences which truly puts the player in the shoes of Harry Mason.
Silent Hill has always been known for its haunting soundtrack created by the brilliant Akira Yamaoka and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and this game is no exception. The music in this game is depressingly beautiful and everything you expect a Silent Hill game to have. No complaints.
As the game is on PS2, the graphics naturally don't look as beautiful as to what a game on the PS3 or X360 would look like. But for a PS2 game the game is very beautiful and feels, like PS2 beauty queen Metal Gear Solid 3, that its pushing the PS2 hardware to the limit.
Unlike previous games in the series, the game only has a single difficulty level. However, because the only enemies are experienced in the Otherworld Chase Sequences, this is understandable. So when referring to the difficulty, you are truly referring to the enemy AI and the chase themselves. Like previously mentioned, Harry has a few tactics to evade the enemies. However, they run much faster than you and will open doors to try and catch you. Also, despite being able to hide in/under objects, stay under there long enough and the enemies will sniff you out.
If you've played Haunting Ground then you should have a similar idea of how this works. But in exchange for the canine Hewie, Harry is given the pleasure of limited time of being chased (as opposed to it happening at anytime in HG) and a much more forgiving price of failure (simply being taken to the beginning of the chase sequence with no game progress removed, as opposed to a complete Game Over & Load Game).
=Replay Value =
Because this game is based purely on how you answer the therapist's many questions and how you cause Harry to interact with many things, there are many outcomes of how the game will play out. Characters will change costumes to reflect your choices (example: Cybil, a police officer, can either wear a complete SWAT outfit or a more feminem outfit with her cleavage on display) and even change their attitudes (one playthrough they can be really nicer, and another could have that same person behave either really seductive or a complete... witch).
The game also features the series-trademark of containing many different endings which drastically differ from eachother. I would be near impossible to have one playthrough go exactly the same way as another.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was beyond what I had expected from this game. The psychological depth to this game is amazing and the lengths it goes to immerse the individual player to make the gamea very personal experience is nothing short of incredible. Shattered Memories has become one of my favourite games overnight and I cannot stress enough that people need to play - scratch that - EXPERIENCE this odyssey the constantly has you searching for the line between reality and fantasy.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (US, 01/19/10)
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